You are on page 1of 29

A.C. No. 4585.

November 12, 2004]

MICHAEL P. BARRIOS, complainant, vs. ATTY. FRANCISCO P. MARTINEZ, respondent


DECISION
PER CURIAM:

This is a verified petition[1] for disbarment filed against Atty. Francisco Martinez for having been
convicted by final judgment in Criminal Case No. 6608 of a crime involving moral turpitude by
Branch 8 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Tacloban City.[2]
The dispositive portion of the same states:
WHEREFORE, this Court finds the accused Francisco Martinez guilty beyond reasonable doubt
of the crime for (sic) violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 charged in the Information. He is
imposed a penalty of ONE (1) YEAR imprisonment and fine double the amount of the check
which is EIGHT THOUSAND (8,000.00) PESOS, plus payment of the tax pursuant to Section
205 of the Internal Revenue Code and costs against the accused.[3]
Complainant further submitted our Resolution dated 13 March 1996 and the Entry of Judgment
from this Court dated 20 March 1996.
On 03 July 1996, we required[4] respondent to comment on said petition within ten (10) days
from notice. On 17 February 1997, we issued a second resolution[5] requiring him to show cause
why no disciplinary action should be imposed on him for failure to comply with our earlier
Resolution, and to submit said Comment. On 07 July 1997, we imposed a fine of P1,000 for
respondents failure to file said Comment and required him to comply with our previous resolution
within ten days.[6] On 27 April 1998, we fined respondent an additional P2,000 and required him
to comply with the resolution requiring his comment within ten days under pain of imprisonment
and arrest for a period of five (5) days or until his compliance.[7] Finally, on 03 February 1999, or
almost three years later, we declared respondent Martinez guilty of Contempt under Rule 71, Sec.
3[b] of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure and ordered his imprisonment until he complied with
the aforesaid resolutions.[8]
On 05 April 1999, the National Bureau of Investigation reported[9] that respondent was arrested in
Tacloban City on 26 March 1999, but was subsequently released after having shown proof of
compliance with the resolutions of 17 February 1997 and 27 April 1998 by remitting the amount
of P2,000 and submitting his long overdue Comment.
In the said Comment[10] dated 16 March 1999, respondent stated that:
1. He failed to respond to our Resolution dated 17 February 1997 as he was at that time
undergoing medical treatment at Camp Ruperto Kangleon in Palo, Leyte;
2. Complainant Michael Barrios passed away sometime in June 1997; and
3. Said administrative complaint is an offshoot of a civil case which was decided in respondents
favor (as plaintiff in the said case). Respondent avers that as a result of his moving for the
execution of judgment in his favor and the eviction of the family of herein complainant Michael
Barrios, the latter filed the present administrative case.
In the meantime, on 11 September 1997, a certain Robert Visbal of the Provincial Prosecution
Office of Tacloban City submitted a letter[11] to the First Division Clerk of Court alleging that
respondent Martinez also stood charged in another estafa case before the Regional Trial Court of
Tacloban City, Branch 9, as well as a civil case involving the victims of the Doa Paz tragedy in
1987, for which the Regional Trial Court of Basey, Samar, Branch 30 rendered a decision against
him, his appeal thereto having been dismissed by the Court of Appeals.
In the said Decision of Branch 30 of the Regional Trial Court of Basey, Samar,[12] it appears that
herein respondent Atty. Martinez offered his legal services to the victims of the Doa Paz tragedy
for free. However, when the plaintiff in the said civil case was issued a check for P90,000 by
Sulpicio Lines representing compensation for the deaths of his wife and two daughters, Atty.
Martinez asked plaintiff to endorse said check, which was then deposited in the account of Dr.
Martinez, Atty. Martinezs wife. When plaintiff asked for his money, he was only able to recover a
total of P30,000. Atty. Martinez claimed the remaining P60,000 as his attorneys fees. Holding that
it was absurd and totally ridiculous that for a simple legal service he would collect 2/3 of the
money claim, the trial court ordered Atty. Martinez to pay the plaintiff therein the amount of
P60,000 with interest, P5,000 for moral and exemplary damages, and the costs of the suit.
Said trial court also made particular mention of Martinezs dilatory tactics during the trial, citing
fourteen (14) specific instances thereof. Martinezs appeal from the above judgment was dismissed
by the Court of Appeals for his failure to file his brief, despite having been granted three thirty
(30)-day extensions to do so.[13]
On 16 June 1999, we referred[14] the present case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)
for investigation, report, and recommendation.
The report[15] of IBP Investigating Commissioner Winston D. Abuyuan stated in part that:
Several dates for the hearing of the case were scheduled but none of the parties appeared before
the Commission, until finally it was considered submitted for resolution last 27 June 2002. On the
same date respondent filed a motion for the dismissal of the case on the ground that the
complainant died sometime in June 1997 and that dismissal is warranted because the case filed by
him does not survive due to his demise; as a matter of fact, it is extinguished upon his death.
We disagree with respondents contention.
Pursuant to Section 1, Rule 139-B of the Revised Rules of Court, the Honorable Supreme Court or
the IBP may motu proprio initiate the proceedings when they perceive acts of lawyers which
deserve sanctions or when their attention is called by any one and a probable cause exists that an
act has been perpetrated by a lawyer which requires disciplinary sanctions.
As earlier cited, respondent lawyers propensity to disregard or ignore orders of the Honorable
Supreme Court for which he was fined twice, arrested and imprisoned reflects an utter lack of
good moral character.
Respondents conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude (estafa and/or violation of BP Blg.
22) clearly shows his unfitness to protect the administration of justice and therefore justifies the
imposition of sanctions against him (see In re: Abesamis, 102 Phil. 1182; In re: Jaramillo, 101
Phil. 323; In re: Vinzon, 19 SCRA 815; Medina vs. Bautista, 12 SCRA 1, People vs. Tuanda, Adm.
Case No. 3360, 30 Jan. 1990).
WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is respectfully recommended that respondent Atty.
Francisco P. Martinez be disbarred and his name stricken out from the Roll of Attorneys
immediately.
On 27 September 2003, the IBP Board of Governors passed a Resolution[16] adopting and
approving the report and recommendation of its Investigating Commissioner.
On 03 December 2003, respondent Martinez filed a Motion for Reconsideration and/or
Reinvestigation,[17] in the instant case alleging that:
1. The Report and Recommendation of the IBP Investigating Commissioner is tantamount to a
deprivation of property without due process of law, although admittedly the practice of law is a
privilege;
2. If respondent is given another chance to have his day in court and allowed to adduce evidence,
the result/outcome would be entirely different from that arrived at by the Investigating
Commissioner; and
3. Respondent is now 71 years of age, and has served the judiciary in various capacities (from
acting city judge to Municipal Judges League Leyte Chapter President) for almost 17 years prior
to resuming his law practice.
On 14 January 2004, we required[18] complainant to file a comment within ten days. On 16
February 2004, we received a Manifestation and Motion[19] from complainants daughter, Diane
Francis Barrios Latoja, alleging that they had not been furnished with a copy of respondents
Motion, notwithstanding the fact that respondent ostensibly lives next door to complainants
family. Required to Comment on 17 May 2004, respondent has until now failed to do so.
The records show that respondent, indeed, failed to furnish a copy of said Motion to herein
complainant. The records also show that respondent was given several opportunities to present
evidence by this Court[20] as well as by the IBP.[21] Indeed, he only has himself to blame, for he
has failed to present his case despite several occasions to do so. It is now too late in the day for
respondent to ask this court to receive his evidence.
This court, moreover, is unwilling to exercise the same patience that it did when it waited for his
comment on the original petition. At any rate, after a careful consideration of the records of the
instant case, we find the evidence on record sufficient to support the IBPs findings.
Under Sec. 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, 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 admission to practice, or for a willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court,
or for corruptly or willfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority to do
so.
In the present case, respondent has been found guilty and convicted by final judgment for
violation of B.P. Blg. 22 for issuing a worthless check in the amount of P8,000. The issue with
which we are now concerned is whether or not the said crime is one involving moral turpitude.
[22]
Moral turpitude includes everything which is done contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good
morals.[23] It involves an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private duties which a man
owes his fellow men, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right
and duty between man and woman, or conduct contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good
morals.[24]
In People of the Philippines v. Atty. Fe Tuanda,[25] where the erring lawyer was indefinitely
suspended for having been convicted of three counts of violation of B.P. Blg. 22, we held that
conviction by final judgment of violation of B.P. Blg. 22 involves moral turpitude and stated:
We should add that the crimes of which respondent was convicted also import deceit and violation
of her attorney's oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility under both of which she was
bound to "obey the laws of the land." Conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude might not
(as in the instant case, violation of B.P. Blg. 22 does not) relate to the exercise of the profession of
a lawyer; however, it certainly relates to and affects the good moral character of a person
convicted of such offense[26] (emphasis supplied)
Over ten years later, we reiterated the above ruling in Villaber v. Commission on Elections[27] and
disqualified a congressional candidate for having been sentenced by final judgment for three
counts of violation of B.P. Blg. 22 in accordance with Sec. 12 of the Omnibus Election Code,
which states:
SEC. 12. Disqualifications. Any person who has been declared by competent authority insane or
incompetent, or has been sentenced by final judgment for subversion, insurrection, rebellion, or
for any offense for which he has been sentenced to a penalty of more than eighteen months, or for
a crime involving moral turpitude, shall be disqualified to be a candidate and to hold any office,
unless he has been given plenary pardon or granted amnesty. (emphasis supplied)
Enumerating the elements of that crime, we held that the act of a person in issuing a check
knowing at the time of the issuance that he or she does not have sufficient funds in, or credit with,
the drawee bank for the check in full upon its presentment, is a manifestation of moral turpitude.
Notwithstanding therein petitioners averment that he was not a lawyer, we nevertheless applied
our ruling in People v. Tuanda, to the effect that
(A) conviction for violation of B.P. Blg. 22, imports deceit and certainly relates to and affects the
good moral character of a person. [Indeed] the effects of the issuance of a worthless check, as we
held in the landmark case of Lozano v. Martinez, through Justice Pedro L. Yap, transcends the
private interests of the parties directly involved in the transaction and touches the interests of the
community at large. The mischief it creates is not only a wrong to the payee or holder, but also an
injury to the public since the circulation of valueless commercial papers can very well pollute the
channels of trade and commerce, injure the banking system and eventually hurt the welfare of
society and the public interest. Thus, paraphrasing Black's definition, a drawer who issues an
unfunded check deliberately reneges on his private duties he owes his fellow men or society in a
manner contrary to accepted and customary rule of right and duty, justice, honesty or good morals.
[28] (emphasis supplied)
In the recent case of Barrientos v. Libiran-Meteoro,[29] we stated that:
(T)he issuance of checks which were later dishonored for having been drawn against a closed
account indicates a lawyers unfitness for the trust and confidence reposed on her. It shows a lack
of personal honesty and good moral character as to render her unworthy of public confidence.
[Cuizon v. Macalino, A.C. No. 4334, 07 July 2004] The issuance of a series of worthless checks
also shows the remorseless attitude of respondent, unmindful to the deleterious effects of such act
to the public interest and public order. [Lao v. Medel, 405 SCRA 227] It also manifests a lawyers
low regard for her commitment to the oath she has taken when she joined her peers, seriously and
irreparably tarnishing the image of the profession she should hold in high esteem. [Sanchez v.
Somoso, A.C. No. 6061, 03 October 2003]
Clearly, therefore, the act of a lawyer in issuing a check without sufficient funds to cover the same
constitutes such willful dishonesty and immoral conduct as to undermine the public confidence in
law and lawyers. And while the general rule is that a lawyer may not be suspended or disbarred,
and the court may not ordinarily assume jurisdiction to discipline him for misconduct in his non-
professional or private capacity, where, however, the misconduct outside of the lawyer's
professional dealings is so gross a character as to show him morally unfit for the office and
unworthy of the privilege which his licenses and the law confer on him, the court may be justified
in suspending or removing him from the office of attorney.[30]
The argument of respondent that to disbar him now is tantamount to a deprivation of property
without due process of law is also untenable. As respondent himself admits, the practice of law is
a privilege. The purpose of a proceeding for disbarment is to protect the administration of justice
by requiring that those who exercise this important function shall be competent, honorable and
reliable; men in whom courts and clients may repose confidence.[31] A proceeding for suspension
or disbarment is not in any sense a civil action where the complainant is plaintiff and the
respondent lawyer is a defendant. Disciplinary proceedings involve no private interest and afford
no redress for private grievance. They are undertaken and prosecuted solely for the public welfare,
and for the purpose of preserving courts of justice from the official ministrations of persons unfit
to practice them.[32] Verily, lawyers must at all times faithfully perform their duties to society, to
the bar, to the courts and to their clients. Their conduct must always reflect the values and norms
of the legal profession as embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility. On these
considerations, the Court may disbar or suspend lawyers for any professional or private
misconduct showing them to be wanting in moral character, honesty, probity and good demeanor
or to be unworthy to continue as officers of the Court.[33]
Nor are we inclined to look with favor upon respondents plea that if given another chance to have
his day in court and to adduce evidence, the result/outcome would be entirely different from that
arrived at. We note with displeasure the inordinate length of time respondent took in responding to
our requirement to submit his Comment on the original petition to disbar him. These acts
constitute a willful disobedience of the lawful orders of this Court, which under Sec. 27, Rule 138
of the Rules of Court is in itself a cause sufficient for suspension or disbarment. Thus, from the
time we issued our first Resolution on 03 July 1996 requiring him to submit his Comment, until 16
March 1999, when he submitted said Comment to secure his release from arrest, almost three
years had elapsed.
It is revealing that despite the unwarranted length of time it took respondent to comply, his
Comment consists of all of two pages, a copy of which, it appears, he neglected to furnish
complainant.[34] And while he claims to have been confined while undergoing medical treatment
at the time our Resolution of 17 February 1997 was issued, he merely reserved the submission of a
certification to that effect. Nor, indeed, was he able to offer any explanation for his failure to
submit his Comment from the time we issued our first Resolution of 03 July 1996 until 16 March
1999. In fact, said Comment alleged, merely, that the complainant, Michael Barrios, passed away
sometime in June 1997, and imputed upon the latter unsupported ill-motives for instituting the
said Petition against him, which argument has already been resolved squarely in the
abovementioned IBP report.
Moreover, the IBP report cited the failure of both parties to appear before the Commission as the
main reason for the long delay, until the same was finally submitted for Resolution on 27 June
2002. Respondent, therefore, squandered away seven years to have his day in court and adduce
evidence in his behalf, which inaction also unduly delayed the courts prompt disposition of this
petition.
In Pajares v. Abad Santos,[35] we reminded attorneys that there must be more faithful adherence
to Rule 7, Section 5 of the Rules of Court [now Rule 7, Section 3] which provides that the
signature of an attorney constitutes a certificate by him that he has read the pleading and that to
the best of his knowledge, information and belief, there is good ground to support it; and that it is
not interposed for delay, and expressly admonishes that for a willful violation of this rule an
attorney may be subjected to disciplinary action.[36] It is noteworthy that in the past, the Court
has disciplined lawyers and judges for willful disregard of its orders to file comments or
appellants briefs, as a penalty for disobedience thereof. [37]
For the same reasons, we are disinclined to take respondents old age and the fact that he served in
the judiciary in various capacities in his favor. If at all, we hold respondent to a higher standard for
it, for a judge should be the embodiment of competence, integrity, and independence,[38] and his
conduct should be above reproach.[39] The fact that respondent has chosen to engage in private
practice does not mean he is now free to conduct himself in less honorable or indeed in a less than
honorable manner.
We stress that membership in the legal profession is a privilege,[40] demanding a high degree of
good moral character, not only as a condition precedent to admission, but also as a continuing
requirement for the practice of law.[41] Sadly, herein respondent falls short of the exacting
standards expected of him as a vanguard of the legal profession.
The IBP Board of Governors recommended that respondent be disbarred from the practice of law.
We agree.
We come now to the matter of the penalty imposable in this case. In Co v. Bernardino and Lao v.
Medel, we upheld the imposition of one years suspension for non-payment of debt and issuance of
worthless checks, or a suspension of six months upon partial payment of the obligation.[42]
However, in these cases, for various reasons, none of the issuances resulted in a conviction by the
erring lawyers for either estafa or B.P. Blg. 22. Thus, we held therein that the issuance of
worthless checks constitutes gross misconduct, for which a lawyer may be sanctioned with
suspension from the practice of law.
In the instant case, however, herein respondent has been found guilty and stands convicted by final
judgment of a crime involving moral turpitude. In People v. Tuanda, which is similar to this case
in that both respondents were convicted for violation of B.P. Blg. 22 which we have held to be
such a crime, we affirmed the order of suspension from the practice of law imposed by the Court
of Appeals, until further orders.
However, in a long line of cases, some of which were decided after Tuanda, we have held
disbarment to be the appropriate penalty for conviction by final judgment for a crime involving
moral turpitude. Thus:
1. In In The Matter of Disbarment Proceedings v. Narciso N. Jaramillo,[43] we disbarred a lawyer
convicted of estafa without discussing the circumstances behind his conviction. We held that:
There is no question that the crime of estafa involves moral turpitude. The review of respondent's
conviction no longer rests upon us. The judgment not only has become final but has been
executed. No elaborate argument is necessary to hold the respondent unworthy of the privilege
bestowed on him as a member of the bar. Suffice it to say that, by his conviction, the respondent
has proved himself unfit to protect the administration of justice.[44]
2. In In Re: Dalmacio De Los Angeles,[45] a lawyer was convicted of the crime of attempted
bribery in a final decision rendered by the Court of Appeals. And since bribery is admittedly a
felony involving moral turpitude (7 C.J.S., p. 736; 5 Am. Jur. p. 428), this Court, much as it
sympathizes with the plight of respondent, is constrained to decree his disbarment as ordained by
Section 25 of Rule 127.[46]
3. In Ledesma De Jesus-Paras v. Quinciano Vailoces,[47] the erring lawyer acknowledged the
execution of a document purporting to be a last will and testament, which later turned out to be a
forgery. He was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of falsification of public
document, which the Court held to be a crime involving moral turpitude, said act being contrary to
justice, honesty and good morals, and was subsequently disbarred.
4. In In Re: Disbarment Proceedings Against Atty. Diosdado Q. Gutierrez,[48] Atty. Gutierrez was
convicted for murder. After serving a portion of the sentence, he was granted a conditional pardon
by the President. Holding that the pardon was not absolute and thus did not reach the offense itself
but merely remitted the unexecuted portion of his term, the court nevertheless disbarred him.
5. In In Re: Atty. Isidro P. Vinzon,[49] Atty. Vinzon was convicted of the crime of estafa for
misappropriating the amount of P7,000.00, and was subsequently disbarred. We held thus:
Upon the other hand, and dealing now with the merits of the case, there can be no question that the
term moral turpitude includes everything which is done contrary to justice, honesty, or good
morals. In essence and in all respects, estafa, no doubt, is a crime involving moral turpitude
because the act is unquestionably against justice, honesty and good morals (In re Gutierrez, Adm.
Case No. 263, July 31, 1962; Bouvier's Law Dictionary; In re Basa, 41 Phil. 275-76). As
respondent's guilt cannot now be questioned, his disbarment is inevitable. (emphasis supplied)[50]
6. In In Re: Attorney Jose Avancea,[51] the conditional pardon extended to the erring lawyer by
the Chief Executive also failed to relieve him of the penalty of disbarment imposed by this court.
7. In In Re Disbarment of Rodolfo Pajo,[52] a lawyer was charged and found guilty of the crime
of falsification of public document for having prepared and notarized a deed of sale of a parcel of
land knowing that the supposed affiant was an impostor and that the vendor had been dead for
almost eight years. We ruled that disbarment follows as a consequence of a lawyer's conviction by
final judgment of a crime involving moral turpitude, and since the crime of falsification of public
document involves moral turpitude, we ordered respondents name stricken off the roll of
attorneys.
8. In Adelina T. Villanueva v. Atty. Teresita Sta. Ana,[53] we upheld the recommendation of the
IBP Board of Governors to disbar a lawyer who had been convicted of estafa through falsification
of public documents, because she was totally unfit to be a member of the legal profession.[54]
9. In Victoriano P. Resurreccion v. Atty. Ciriaco C. Sayson,[55] a lawyer was disbarred for having
been convicted of estafa by final judgment for misappropriating the funds of his client.
In this case as well, we find disbarment to be the appropriate penalty. Of all classes and
professions, the lawyer is most sacredly bound to uphold the laws. He is their sworn servant; and
for him, of all men in the world, to repudiate and override the laws, to trample them underfoot and
to ignore the very bands of society, argues recreancy to his position and office and sets a
pernicious example to the insubordinate and dangerous elements of the body politic.[56]
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Francisco P. Martinez is hereby DISBARRED and his name is
ORDERED STRICKEN from the Roll of Attorneys. Let a copy of this Decision be entered in the
respondents record as a member of the Bar, and notice of the same be served on the Integrated Bar
of the Philippines, and on the Office of the Court Administrator for circulation to all courts in the
country.
SO ORDERED.

[A.C. No. 3319. June 8, 2000]


LESLIE UI, complainant, vs. ATTY. IRIS BONIFACIO, respondent.

DECISION

DE LEON, JR., J.:

Before us is an administrative complaint for disbarment against Atty. Iris Bonifacio for allegedly
carrying on an immoral relationship with Carlos L. Ui, husband of complainant, Leslie Ui.

The relevant facts are:

On January 24, 1971 complainant Leslie Ui married Carlos L. Ui at the Our Lady of Lourdes
Church in Quezon City[1] and as a result of their marital union, they had four (4) children,
namely, Leilani, Lianni, Lindsay and Carl Cavin, all surnamed Ui. Sometime in December 1987,
however, complainant found out that her husband, Carlos Ui, was carrying on an illicit
relationship with respondent Atty. Iris Bonifacio with whom he begot a daughter sometime in
1986, and that they had been living together at No. 527 San Carlos Street, Ayala Alabang Village
in Muntinlupa City. Respondent who is a graduate of the College of Law of the University of the
Philippines was admitted to the Philippine Bar in 1982.

Carlos Ui admitted to complainant his relationship with the respondent. Complainant then visited
respondent at her office in the later part of June 1988 and introduced herself as the legal wife of
Carlos Ui. Whereupon, respondent admitted to her that she has a child with Carlos Ui and alleged,
however, that everything was over between her and Carlos Ui. Complainant believed the
representations of respondent and thought things would turn out well from then on and that the
illicit relationship between her husband and respondent would come to an end.

However, complainant again discovered that the illicit relationship between her husband and
respondent continued, and that sometime in December 1988, respondent and her husband, Carlos
Ui, had a second child. Complainant then met again with respondent sometime in March 1989 and
pleaded with respondent to discontinue her illicit relationship with Carlos Ui but to no avail. The
illicit relationship persisted and complainant even came to know later on that respondent had been
employed by her husband in his company.

A complaint for disbarment, docketed as Adm. Case No. 3319, was then filed on August 11, 1989
by the complainant against respondent Atty. Iris Bonifacio before the Commission on Bar
Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (hereinafter, Commission) on the ground of
immorality, more particularly, for carrying on an illicit relationship with the complainants
husband, Carlos Ui. In her Answer,[2] respondent averred that she met Carlos Ui sometime in
1983 and had known him all along to be a bachelor, with the knowledge, however, that Carlos Ui
had children by a Chinese woman in Amoy, China, from whom he had long been estranged. She
stated that during one of their trips abroad, Carlos Ui formalized his intention to marry her and
they in fact got married in Hawaii, USA in 1985[3]. Upon their return to Manila, respondent did
not live with Carlos Ui. The latter continued to live with his children in their Greenhills residence
because respondent and Carlos Ui wanted to let the children gradually to know and accept the fact
of his second marriage before they would live together.[4]

In 1986, respondent left the country and stayed in Honolulu, Hawaii and she would only return
occasionally to the Philippines to update her law practice and renew legal ties. During one of her
trips to Manila sometime in June 1988, respondent was surprised when she was confronted by a
woman who insisted that she was the lawful wife of Carlos Ui. Hurt and desolate upon her
discovery of the true civil status of Carlos Ui, respondent then left for Honolulu, Hawaii sometime
in July 1988 and returned only in March 1989 with her two (2) children. On March 20, 1989, a
few days after she reported to work with the law firm[5] she was connected with, the woman who
represented herself to be the wife of Carlos Ui again came to her office, demanding to know if
Carlos Ui has been communicating with her.

It is respondents contention that her relationship with Carlos Ui is not illicit because they were
married abroad and that after June 1988 when respondent discovered Carlos Uis true civil status,
she cut off all her ties with him. Respondent averred that Carlos Ui never lived with her in
Alabang, and that he resided at 26 Potsdam Street, Greenhills, San Juan, Metro Manila. It was
respondent who lived in Alabang in a house which belonged to her mother, Rosalinda L.
Bonifacio; and that the said house was built exclusively from her parents funds.[6] By way of
counterclaim, respondent sought moral damages in the amount of Ten Million Pesos
(Php10,000,000.00) against complainant for having filed the present allegedly malicious and
groundless disbarment case against respondent.

In her Reply[7] dated April 6, 1990, complainant states, among others, that respondent knew
perfectly well that Carlos Ui was married to complainant and had children with her even at the
start of her relationship with Carlos Ui, and that the reason respondent went abroad was to give
birth to her two (2) children with Carlos Ui.

During the pendency of the proceedings before the Integrated Bar, complainant also charged her
husband, Carlos Ui, and respondent with the crime of Concubinage before the Office of the
Provincial Fiscal of Rizal, docketed as I.S. No. 89-5247, but the same was dismissed for
insufficiency of evidence to establish probable cause for the offense charged. The resolution
dismissing the criminal complaint against respondent reads:

Complainants evidence had prima facie established the existence of the "illicit relationship"
between the respondents allegedly discovered by the complainant in December 1987. The same
evidence however show that respondent Carlos Ui was still living with complainant up to the latter
part of 1988 and/or the early part of 1989.

It would therefore be logical and safe to state that the "relationship" of respondents started and
was discovered by complainant sometime in 1987 when she and respondent Carlos were still
living at No. 26 Potsdam Street, Northeast Greenhills, San Juan, MetroManila and they,
admittedly, continued to live together at their conjugal home up to early (sic) part of 1989 or later
1988, when respondent Carlos left the same.

From the above, it would not be amiss to conclude that altho (sic) the relationship, illicit as
complainant puts it, had been prima facie established by complainants evidence, this same
evidence had failed to even prima facie establish the "fact of respondents cohabitation in the
concept of husband and wife at the 527 San Carlos St., Ayala Alabang house, proof of which is
necessary and indispensable to at least create probable cause for the offense charged. The
statement alone of complainant, worse, a statement only of a conclusion respecting the fact of
cohabitation does not make the complainants evidence thereto any better/stronger (U.S. vs.
Casipong and Mongoy, 20 Phil. 178).

It is worth stating that the evidence submitted by respondents in support of their respective
positions on the matter support and bolster the foregoing conclusion/recommendation.

WHEREFORE, it is most respectfully recommended that the instant complaint be dismissed for
want of evidence to establish probable cause for the offense charged.

RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED.[8]

Complainant appealed the said Resolution of the Provincial Fiscal of Rizal to the Secretary of
Justice, but the same was dismissed [9] on the ground of insufficiency of evidence to prove her
allegation that respondent and Carlos Ui lived together as husband and wife at 527 San Carlos
Street, Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa, Metro Manila.

In the proceedings before the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline, complainant filed a Motion to
Cite Respondent in Contempt of the Commission [10] wherein she charged respondent with
making false allegations in her Answer and for submitting a supporting document which was
altered and intercalated. She alleged that in the Answer of respondent filed before the Integrated
Bar, respondent averred, among others, that she was married to Carlos Ui on October 22, 1985 and
attached a Certificate of Marriage to substantiate her averment. However, the Certificate of
Marriage [11] duly certified by the State Registrar as a true copy of the record on file in the
Hawaii State Department of Health, and duly authenticated by the Philippine Consulate General in
Honolulu, Hawaii, USA revealed that the date of marriage between Carlos Ui and respondent Atty.
Iris Bonifacio was October 22, 1987, and not October 22, 1985 as claimed by respondent in her
Answer. According to complainant, the reason for that false allegation was because respondent
wanted to impress upon the said IBP that the birth of her first child by Carlos Ui was within the
wedlock.[12] It is the contention of complainant that such act constitutes a violation of Articles
183[13] and 184[14] of the Revised Penal Code, and also contempt of the Commission; and that
the act of respondent in making false allegations in her Answer and submitting an
altered/intercalated document are indicative of her moral perversity and lack of integrity which
make her unworthy to be a member of the Philippine Bar.

In her Opposition (To Motion To Cite Respondent in Contempt),[15] respondent averred that she
did not have the original copy of the marriage certificate because the same was in the possession
of Carlos Ui, and that she annexed such copy because she relied in good faith on what appeared on
the copy of the marriage certificate in her possession.

Respondent filed her Memorandum [16] on February 22, 1995 and raised the lone issue of
whether or not she has conducted herself in an immoral manner for which she deserves to be
barred from the practice of law. Respondent averred that the complaint should be dismissed on
two (2) grounds, namely:

(i) Respondent conducted herself in a manner consistent with the requirement of good moral
character for the practice of the legal profession; and

(ii) Complainant failed to prove her allegation that respondent conducted herself in an immoral
manner.[17]

In her defense, respondent contends, among others, that it was she who was the victim in this case
and not Leslie Ui because she did not know that Carlos Ui was already married, and that upon
learning of this fact, respondent immediately cut-off all her ties with Carlos Ui. She stated that
there was no reason for her to doubt at that time that the civil status of Carlos Ui was that of a
bachelor because he spent so much time with her, and he was so open in his courtship.[18]

On the issue of the falsified marriage certificate, respondent alleged that it was highly incredible
for her to have knowingly attached such marriage certificate to her Answer had she known that the
same was altered. Respondent reiterated that there was no compelling reason for her to make it
appear that her marriage to Carlos Ui took place either in 1985 or 1987, because the fact remains
that respondent and Carlos Ui got married before complainant confronted respondent and
informed the latter of her earlier marriage to Carlos Ui in June 1988. Further, respondent stated
that it was Carlos Ui who testified and admitted that he was the person responsible for changing
the date of the marriage certificate from 1987 to 1985, and complainant did not present evidence
to rebut the testimony of Carlos Ui on this matter.

Respondent posits that complainants evidence, consisting of the pictures of respondent with a
child, pictures of respondent with Carlos Ui, a picture of a garage with cars, a picture of a light
colored car with Plate No. PNS 313, a picture of the same car, and portion of the house and
ground, and another picture of the same car bearing Plate No. PNS 313 and a picture of the house
and the garage,[19] does not prove that she acted in an immoral manner. They have no evidentiary
value according to her. The pictures were taken by a photographer from a private security agency
and who was not presented during the hearings. Further, the respondent presented the Resolution
of the Provincial Fiscal of Pasig in I.S. Case No. 89-5427 dismissing the complaint filed by Leslie
Ui against respondent for lack of evidence to establish probable cause for the offense charged [20]
and the dismissal of the appeal by the Department of Justice [21] to bolster her argument that she
was not guilty of any immoral or illegal act because of her relationship with Carlos Ui. In fine,
respondent claims that she entered the relationship with Carlos Ui in good faith and that her
conduct cannot be considered as willful, flagrant, or shameless, nor can it suggest moral
indifference. She fell in love with Carlos Ui whom she believed to be single, and, that upon her
discovery of his true civil status, she parted ways with him.

In the Memorandum [22] filed on March 20, 1995 by complainant Leslie Ui, she prayed for the
disbarment of Atty. Iris Bonifacio and reiterated that respondent committed immorality by having
intimate relations with a married man which resulted in the birth of two (2) children. Complainant
testified that respondents mother, Mrs. Linda Bonifacio, personally knew complainant and her
husband since the late 1970s because they were clients of the bank where Mrs. Bonifacio was the
Branch Manager.[23] It was thus highly improbable that respondent, who was living with her
parents as of 1986, would not have been informed by her own mother that Carlos Ui was a
married man. Complainant likewise averred that respondent committed disrespect towards the
Commission for submitting a photocopy of a document containing an intercalated date.

In her Reply to Complainants Memorandum [24], respondent stated that complainant miserably
failed to show sufficient proof to warrant her disbarment. Respondent insists that contrary to the
allegations of complainant, there is no showing that respondent had knowledge of the fact of
marriage of Carlos Ui to complainant. The allegation that her mother knew Carlos Ui to be a
married man does not prove that such information was made known to respondent.

Hearing on the case ensued, after which the Commission on Bar Discipline submitted its Report
and Recommendation, finding that:

In the case at bar, it is alleged that at the time respondent was courted by Carlos Ui, the latter
represented himself to be single. The Commission does not find said claim too difficult to believe
in the light of contemporary human experience.

Almost always, when a married man courts a single woman, he represents himself to be single,
separated, or without any firm commitment to another woman. The reason therefor is not hard to
fathom. By their very nature, single women prefer single men.

The records will show that when respondent became aware the (sic) true civil status of Carlos Ui,
she left for the United States (in July of 1988). She broke off all contacts with him. When she
returned to the Philippines in March of 1989, she lived with her brother, Atty. Teodoro Bonifacio,
Jr. Carlos Ui and respondent only talked to each other because of the children whom he was
allowed to visit. At no time did they live together.

Under the foregoing circumstances, the Commission fails to find any act on the part of respondent
that can be considered as unprincipled or disgraceful as to be reprehensible to a high degree. To be
sure, she was more of a victim that (sic) anything else and should deserve compassion rather than
condemnation. Without cavil, this sad episode destroyed her chance of having a normal and happy
family life, a dream cherished by every single girl.

x..........................x..........................x"

Thereafter, the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines issued a Notice of
Resolution dated December 13, 1997, the dispositive portion of which reads as follows:

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby ADOPTED and APPROVED, the Report
and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in 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, the complaint for Gross Immorality
against Respondent is DISMISSED for lack of merit. Atty. Iris Bonifacio is REPRIMANDED for
knowingly and willfully attaching to her Answer a falsified Certificate of Marriage with a stern
warning that a repetition of the same will merit a more severe penalty."

We agree with the findings aforequoted.

The practice of law is a privilege. A bar candidate does not have the right to enjoy the practice of
the legal profession simply by passing the bar examinations. It is a privilege that can be revoked,
subject to the mandate of due process, once a lawyer violates his oath and the dictates of legal
ethics. The requisites for admission to the practice of law are:

a. he must be a citizen of the Philippines;

b. a resident thereof;

c. at least twenty-one (21) years of age;

d. a person of good moral character;

e. he must show that no charges against him involving moral turpitude, are filed or pending in
court;

f. possess the required educational qualifications; and

g. pass the bar examinations.[25] (Italics supplied)

Clear from the foregoing is that one of the conditions prior to admission to the bar is that an
applicant must possess good moral character. More importantly, possession of good moral
character must be continuous as a requirement to the enjoyment of the privilege of law practice,
otherwise, the loss thereof is a ground for the revocation of such privilege. It has been held -

If good moral character is a sine qua non for admission to the bar, then the continued possession of
good moral character is also a requisite for retaining membership in the legal profession.
Membership in the bar may be terminated when a lawyer ceases to have good moral character.
(Royong vs. Oblena, 117 Phil. 865).

A lawyer may be disbarred for "grossly immoral conduct, or by reason of his conviction of a crime
involving moral turpitude". A member of the bar should have moral integrity in addition to
professional probity.

It is difficult to state with precision and to fix an inflexible standard as to what is "grossly immoral
conduct" or to specify the moral delinquency and obliquity which render a lawyer unworthy of
continuing as a member of the bar. The rule implies that what appears to be unconventional
behavior to the straight-laced may not be the immoral conduct that warrants disbarment.

Immoral conduct has been defined as "that conduct which is willful, flagrant, or shameless, and
which shows a moral indifference to the opinion of the good and respectable members of the
community." (7 C.J.S. 959).[26]

In the case at bar, it is the claim of respondent Atty. Bonifacio that when she met Carlos Ui, she
knew and believed him to be single. Respondent fell in love with him and they got married and as
a result of such marriage, she gave birth to two (2) children. Upon her knowledge of the true civil
status of Carlos Ui, she left him.

Simple as the facts of the case may sound, the effects of the actuations of respondent are not only
far from simple, they will have a rippling effect on how the standard norms of our legal
practitioners should be defined. Perhaps morality in our liberal society today is a far cry from what
it used to be before. This permissiveness notwithstanding, lawyers, as keepers of public faith, are
burdened with a higher degree of social responsibility and thus must handle their personal affairs
with greater caution. The facts of this case lead us to believe that perhaps respondent would not
have found herself in such a compromising situation had she exercised prudence and been more
vigilant in finding out more about Carlos Uis personal background prior to her intimate
involvement with him.

Surely, circumstances existed which should have at least aroused respondents suspicion that
something was amiss in her relationship with Carlos Ui, and moved her to ask probing questions.
For instance, respondent admitted that she knew that Carlos Ui had children with a woman from
Amoy, China, yet it appeared that she never exerted the slightest effort to find out if Carlos Ui and
this woman were indeed unmarried. Also, despite their marriage in 1987, Carlos Ui never lived
with respondent and their first child, a circumstance that is simply incomprehensible considering
respondents allegation that Carlos Ui was very open in courting her.

All these taken together leads to the inescapable conclusion that respondent was imprudent in
managing her personal affairs. However, the fact remains that her relationship with Carlos Ui,
clothed as it was with what respondent believed was a valid marriage, cannot be considered
immoral. For immorality connotes conduct that shows indifference to the moral norms of society
and the opinion of good and respectable members of the community.[27] Moreover, for such
conduct to warrant disciplinary action, the same must be "grossly immoral," that is, it must be so
corrupt and false as to constitute a criminal act or so unprincipled as to be reprehensible to a high
degree.[28]

We have held that "a member of the Bar and officer of the court is not only required to refrain
from adulterous relationships x x x but must also so behave himself as to avoid scandalizing the
public by creating the belief that he is flouting those moral standards."[29] Respondents act of
immediately distancing herself from Carlos Ui upon discovering his true civil status belies just
that alleged moral indifference and proves that she had no intention of flaunting the law and the
high moral standard of the legal profession. Complainants bare assertions to the contrary deserve
no credit. After all, the burden of proof rests upon the complainant, and the Court will exercise its
disciplinary powers only if she establishes her case by clear, convincing and satisfactory evidence.
[30] This, herein complainant miserably failed to do.

On the matter of the falsified Certificate of Marriage attached by respondent to her Answer, we
find improbable to believe the averment of respondent that she merely relied on the photocopy of
the Marriage Certificate which was provided her by Carlos Ui. For an event as significant as a
marriage ceremony, any normal bride would verily recall the date and year of her marriage. It is
difficult to fathom how a bride, especially a lawyer as in the case at bar, can forget the year when
she got married. Simply stated, it is contrary to human experience and highly improbable.

Furthermore, any prudent lawyer would verify the information contained in an attachment to her
pleading, especially so when she has personal knowledge of the facts and circumstances contained
therein. In attaching such Marriage Certificate with an intercalated date, the defense of good faith
of respondent on that point cannot stand.

It is the bounden duty of lawyers to adhere unwaveringly to the highest standards of morality. The
legal profession exacts from its members nothing less. Lawyers are called upon to safeguard the
integrity of the Bar, free from misdeeds and acts constitutive of malpractice. Their exalted
positions as officers of the court demand no less than the highest degree of morality.

WHEREFORE, the complaint for disbarment against respondent Atty. Iris L. Bonifacio, for
alleged immorality, is hereby DISMISSED.

However, respondent is hereby REPRIMANDED for attaching to her Answer a photocopy of her
Marriage Certificate, with an altered or intercalated date thereof, with a STERN WARNING that a
more severe sanction will be imposed on her for any repetition of the same or similar offense in
the future.

SO ORDERED.

EN BANC

JOSELANO GUEVARRA,
Complainant,
versus

ATTY. JOSE EMMANUEL


EALA,
Respondent.

A.C. No. 7136

PUNO, C.J.,
QUISUMBING,
YNARES-SANTIAGO,
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,
CARPIO,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CORONA,
CARPIO MORALES,
AZCUNA,
TINGA,
CHICO-NAZARIO,
GARCIA,
VELASCO, JR., and
NACHURA, JJ.
Promulgated:
August 1, 2007

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

DECISION

PER CURIAM:
Joselano Guevarra (complainant) filed on March 4, 2002 a Complaint for Disbarment[1] before
the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Committee on Bar Discipline (CBD) against Atty. Jose
Emmanuel M. Eala a.k.a. Noli Eala (respondent) for grossly immoral conduct and unmitigated
violation of the lawyers oath.

In his complaint, Guevarra gave the following account:


He first met respondent in January 2000 when his (complainants) then-fiancee Irene Moje (Irene)
introduced respondent to him as her friend who was married to Marianne (sometimes spelled
Mary Ann) Tantoco with whom he had three children.

After his marriage to Irene on October 7, 2000, complainant noticed that from January to March
2001, Irene had been receiving from respondent cellphone calls, as well as messages some of
which read I love you, I miss you, or Meet you at Megamall.

Complainant also noticed that Irene habitually went home very late at night or early in the
morning of the following day, and sometimes did not go home from work. When he asked about
her whereabouts, she replied that she slept at her parents house in Binangonan, Rizal or she was
busy with her work.

In February or March 2001, complainant saw Irene and respondent together on two occasions. On
the second occasion, he confronted them following which Irene abandoned the conjugal house.

On April 22, 2001, complainant went uninvited to Irenes birthday celebration at which he saw her
and respondent celebrating with her family and friends. Out of embarrassment, anger and
humiliation, he left the venue immediately. Following that incident, Irene went to the conjugal
house and hauled off all her personal belongings, pieces of furniture, and her share of the
household appliances.

Complainant later found, in the masters bedroom, a folded social card bearing the words I Love
You on its face, which card when unfolded contained a handwritten letter dated October 7, 2000,
the day of his wedding to Irene, reading:

My everdearest Irene,

By the time you open this, youll be moments away from walking down the aisle. I will say a
prayer for you that you may find meaning in what youre about to do.
Sometimes I wonder why we ever met. Is it only for me to find fleeting happiness but experience
eternal pain? Is it only for us to find a true love but then lose it again? Or is it because theres a
bigger plan for the two of us?
I hope that you have experienced true happiness with me. I have done everything humanly
possible to love you. And today, as you make your vows . . . I make my own vow to YOU!

I will love you for the rest of my life. I loved you from the first time I laid eyes on you, to the time
we spent together, up to the final moments of your single life. But more importantly, I will love
you until the life in me is gone and until we are together again.

Do not worry about me! I will be happy for you. I have enough memories of us to last me a
lifetime. Always remember though that in my heart, in my mind and in my soul, YOU WILL
ALWAYS

. . . AND THE WONDERFUL THINGS YOU DO!


BE MINE . . . . AND MINE ALONE, and I WILL ALWAYS BE YOURS AND YOURS ALONE!

I LOVE YOU FOREVER, I LOVE YOU FOR ALWAYS. AS LONG AS IM LIVING MY


TWEETIE YOULL BE![2]

Eternally yours,

NOLI

Complainant soon saw respondents car and that of Irene constantly parked at No. 71-B 11th Street,
New Manila where, as he was to later learn sometime in April 2001, Irene was already residing.
He also learned still later that when his friends saw Irene on or about January 18, 2002 together
with respondent during a concert, she was pregnant.

In his ANSWER,[3] respondent admitted having sent the I LOVE YOU card on which the above-
quoted letter was handwritten.
On paragraph 14 of the COMPLAINT reading:

14. Respondent and Irene were even FLAUNTING THEIR ADULTEROUS RELATIONSHIP as
they attended social functions together. For instance, in or about the third week of September
2001, the couple attended the launch of the Wine All You Can promotion of French wines, held at
the Mega Strip of SM Megamall B at Mandaluyong City. Their attendance was reported in Section
B of the Manila Standard issue of 24 September 2001, on page 21. Respondent and Irene were
photographed together; their picture was captioned: Irene with Sportscaster Noli Eala. A
photocopy of the report is attached as Annex C.[4] (Italics and emphasis in the original;
CAPITALIZATION of the phrase flaunting their adulterous relationship supplied),

respondent, in his ANSWER, stated:


4. Respondent specifically denies having ever flaunted an adulterous relationship with Irene
as alleged in paragraph 14 of the Complaint, the truth of the matter being that their relationship
was low profile and known only to the immediate members of their respective families, and that
Respondent, as far as the general public was concerned, was still known to be legally married to
Mary Anne Tantoco.[5] (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

On paragraph 15 of the COMPLAINT reading:

15. Respondents adulterous conduct with the complainants wife and his apparent abandoning or
neglecting of his own family, demonstrate his gross moral depravity, making him morally unfit to
keep his membership in the bar. He flaunted his aversion to the institution of marriage, calling it a
piece of paper. Morally reprehensible was his writing the love letter to complainants bride on the
very day of her wedding, vowing to continue his love for her until we are together again, as now
they are.[6] (Underscoring supplied),

respondent stated in his ANSWER as follows:

5. Respondent specifically denies the allegations in paragraph 15 of the Complaint regarding his
adulterous relationship and that his acts demonstrate gross moral depravity thereby making him
unfit to keep his membership in the bar, the reason being that Respondents relationship with Irene
was not under scandalous circumstances and that as far as his relationship with his own family:

5.1 Respondent has maintained a civil, cordial and peaceful relationship with [his wife] Mary
Anne as in fact they still occasionally meet in public, even if Mary Anne is aware of Respondents
special friendship with Irene.

xxxx

5.5 Respondent also denies that he has flaunted his aversion to the institution of marriage by
calling the institution of marriage a mere piece of paper because his reference [in his above-quoted
handwritten letter to Irene] to the marriage between Complainant and Irene as a piece of paper was
merely with respect to the formality of the marriage contract.[7] (Emphasis and underscoring
supplied)

Respondent admitted[8] paragraph 18 of the COMPLAINT reading:

18. The Rules of Court requires lawyers to support the Constitution and obey the laws. The
Constitution regards marriage as an inviolable social institution and is the foundation of the family
(Article XV, Sec. 2).[9]

And on paragraph 19 of the COMPLAINT reading:

19. Respondents grossly immoral conduct runs afoul of the Constitution and the laws he, as a
lawyer, has been sworn to uphold. In pursuing obsessively his illicit love for the complainants
wife, he mocked the institution of marriage, betrayed his own family, broke up the complainants
marriage, commits adultery with his wife, and degrades the legal profession.[10] (Emphasis and
underscoring supplied),

respondent, in his ANSWER, stated:

7. Respondent specifically denies the allegations in paragraph 19 of the Complaint, the reason
being that under the circumstances the acts of Respondent with respect to his purely personal and
low profile special relationship with Irene is neither under scandalous circumstances nor
tantamount to grossly immoral conduct as would be a ground for disbarment pursuant to Rule 138,
Section 27 of the Rules of Court.[11] (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

To respondents ANSWER, complainant filed a REPLY,[12] alleging that Irene gave birth to a girl
and Irene named respondent in the Certificate of Live Birth as the girls father. Complainant
attached to the REPLY, as Annex A, a copy of a Certificate of Live Birth[13] bearing Irenes
signature and naming respondent as the father of her daughter Samantha Irene Louise Moje who
was born on February 14, 2002 at St. Lukes Hospital.

Complainants REPLY merited a REJOINDER WITH MOTION TO DISMISS[14] dated January


10, 2003 from respondent in which he denied having personal knowledge of the Certificate of
Live Birth attached to the complainants Reply.[15] Respondent moved to dismiss the complaint
due to the pendency of a civil case filed by complainant for the annulment of his marriage to
Irene, and a criminal complaint for adultery against respondent and Irene which was pending
before the Quezon City Prosecutors Office.

During the investigation before the IBP-CBD, complainants Complaint-Affidavit and REPLY to
ANSWER were adopted as his testimony on direct examination.[16] Respondents counsel did not
cross-examine complainant.[17]

After investigation, IBP-CBD Investigating Commissioner Milagros V. San Juan, in a 12-page


REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION[18] dated October 26, 2004, found the charge against
respondent sufficiently proven.
The Commissioner thus recommended[19] that respondent be disbarred for violating Rule 1.01 of
Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility reading:

Rule 1.01: A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct
(Underscoring supplied),

and Rule 7.03 of Canon 7 of the same Code reading:

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. (Underscoring supplied)

The IBP Board of Governors, however, annulled and set aside the Recommendation of the
Investigating Commissioner and accordingly dismissed the case for lack of merit, by Resolution
dated January 28, 2006 briefly reading:

RESOLUTION NO. XVII-2006-06


CBD Case No. 02-936
Joselano C. Guevarra vs.
Atty. Jose Emmanuel M. Eala
a.k.a. Noli Eala

RESOLVED to ANNUL and SET ASIDE, as it is hereby ANNULLED AND SET ASIDE, the
Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner, and to APPROVE the DISMISSAL of the
above-entitled case for lack of merit.[20] (Italics and emphasis in the original)

Hence, the present petition[21] of complainant before this Court, filed pursuant to Section 12 (c),
Rule 139[22] of the Rules of Court.
The petition is impressed with merit.

Oddly enough, the IBP Board of Governors, in setting aside the Recommendation of the
Investigating Commissioner and dismissing the case for lack of merit, gave no reason therefor as
its above-quoted 33-word Resolution shows.

Respondent contends, in his Comment[23] on the present petition of complainant, that there is no
evidence against him.[24] The contention fails. As the IBP-CBD Investigating Commissioner
observed:

While it may be true that the love letter dated October 7, 2000 (Exh. C) and the news item
published in the Manila Standard (Exh. D), even taken together do not sufficiently prove that
respondent is carrying on an adulterous relationship with complainants wife, there are other pieces
of evidence on record which support the accusation of complainant against respondent.

It should be noted that in his Answer dated 17 October 2002, respondent through counsel made the
following statements to wit: Respondent specifically denies having [ever] flaunted an adulterous
relationship with Irene as alleged in paragraph [14] of the Complaint, the truth of the matter being
[that] their relationship was low profile and known only to immediate members of their respective
families . . . , and Respondent specifically denies the allegations in paragraph 19 of the complaint,
the reason being that under the circumstances the acts of the respondents with respect to his purely
personal and low profile relationship with Irene is neither under scandalous circumstances nor
tantamount to grossly immoral conduct . . .

These statements of respondent in his Answer are an admission that there is indeed a special
relationship between him and complainants wife, Irene, [which] taken together with the Certificate
of Live Birth of Samantha Louise Irene Moje (Annex H-1) sufficiently prove that there was indeed
an illicit relationship between respondent and Irene which resulted in the birth of the child
Samantha. In the Certificate of Live Birth of Samantha it should be noted that complainants wife
Irene supplied the information that respondent was the father of the child. Given the fact that the
respondent admitted his special relationship with Irene there is no reason to believe that Irene
would lie or make any misrepresentation regarding the paternity of the child. It should be
underscored that respondent has not categorically denied that he is the father of Samantha Louise
Irene Moje.[25] (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Indeed, from respondents ANSWER, he does not deny carrying on an adulterous relationship with
Irene, adultery being defined under Art. 333 of the Revised Penal Code as that committed by any
married woman who shall have sexual intercourse with a man not her husband and by the man
who has carnal knowledge of her, knowing her to be married, even if the marriage be subsequently
declared void.[26] (Italics supplied) What respondent denies is having flaunted such relationship,
he maintaining that it was low profile and known only to the immediate members of their
respective families.

In other words, respondents denial is a negative pregnant,

a denial pregnant with the admission of the substantial facts in the pleading responded to which
are not squarely denied. It was in effect an admission of the averments it was directed at. Stated
otherwise, a negative pregnant is a form of negative expression which carries with it in affirmation
or at least an implication of some kind favorable to the adverse party. It is a denial pregnant with
an admission of the substantial facts alleged in the pleading. Where a fact is alleged with
qualifying or modifying language and the words of the allegation as so qualified or modified are
literally denied, it has been held that the qualifying circumstances alone are denied while the fact
itself is admitted.[27] (Citations omitted; emphasis and underscoring supplied)

A negative pregnant too is respondents denial of having personal knowledge of Irenes daughter
Samantha Louise Irene Mojes Certificate of Live Birth. In said certificate, Irene named respondent
a lawyer, 38 years old as the childs father. And the phrase NOT MARRIED is entered on the
desired information on DATE AND PLACE OF MARRIAGE. A comparison of the signature
attributed to Irene in the certificate[28] with her signature on the Marriage Certificate[29] shows
that they were affixed by one and the same person. Notatu dignum is that, as the Investigating
Commissioner noted, respondent never denied being the father of the child.

Franklin A. Ricafort, the records custodian of St. Lukes Medical Center, in his January 29, 2003
Affidavit[30] which he identified at the witness stand, declared that Irene gave the information in
the Certificate of Live Birth that the childs father is Jose Emmanuel Masacaet Eala, who was 38
years old and a lawyer.[31]

Without doubt, the adulterous relationship between respondent and Irene has been sufficiently
proven by more than clearly preponderant evidence that evidence adduced by one party which is
more conclusive and credible than that of the other party and, therefore, has greater weight than
the other[32] which is the quantum of evidence needed in an administrative case against a lawyer.

Administrative cases against lawyers belong to a class of their own. They are distinct from and
they may proceed independently of civil and criminal cases.
. . . of proof for these types of cases differ. In a criminal case, proof beyond reasonable doubt is
necessary; in an administrative case for disbarment or suspension, clearly preponderant evidence
is all that is required.[33] (Emphasis supplied)

Respondent insists, however, that disbarment does not lie because his relationship with Irene was
not, under Section 27 of Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court, reading:
SEC. 27. Disbarment or 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 admission to practice, or for a willful disobedience appearing
as an attorney for a party to a case without authority so to do. The practice of soliciting cases at
law for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or brokers, constitutes
malpractice.

The disbarment or suspension of a member of the Philippine Bar by a competent court or other
disciplinatory agency in a foreign jurisdiction where he has also been admitted as an attorney is a
ground for his disbarment or suspension if the basis of such action includes any of the acts
hereinabove enumerated.

The judgment, resolution or order of the foreign court or disciplinary agency shall be prima facie
evidence of the ground for disbarment or suspension (Emphasis and underscoring supplied),

under scandalous circumstances.[34]

The immediately-quoted Rule which provides the grounds for disbarment or suspension uses the
phrase grossly immoral conduct, not under scandalous circumstances. Sexual intercourse under
scandalous circumstances is, following Article 334 of the Revised Penal Code reading:

ART. 334. Concubinage. - Any husband who shall keep a mistress in the conjugal dwelling, or,
shall have sexual intercourse, under scandalous circumstances, with a woman who is not his wife,
or shall cohabit with her in any other place, shall be punished by prision correccional in its
minimum and medium periods.

x x x x,

an element of the crime of concubinage when a married man has sexual intercourse with a woman
elsewhere.
Whether a lawyers sexual congress with a woman not his wife or without the benefit of marriage
should be characterized as grossly immoral conduct depends on the surrounding circumstances.
[35] The case at bar involves a relationship between a married lawyer and a married woman who
is not his wife. It is immaterial whether the affair was carried out discreetly. Apropos is the
following pronouncement of this Court in Vitug v. Rongcal:[36]

On the charge of immorality, respondent does not deny that he had an extra-marital affair with
complainant, albeit brief and discreet, and which act is not so corrupt and false as to constitute a
criminal act or so unprincipled as to be reprehensible to a high degree in order to merit
disciplinary sanction. We disagree.

xxxx

While it has been held in disbarment cases that the mere fact of sexual relations between two
unmarried adults is not sufficient to warrant administrative sanction for such illicit behavior, it is
not so with respect to betrayals of the marital vow of fidelity. Even if not all forms of extra-marital
relations are punishable under penal law, sexual relations outside marriage is considered
disgraceful and immoral as it manifests deliberate disregard of the sanctity of marriage and the
marital vows protected by the Constitution and affirmed by our laws.[37] (Emphasis and
underscoring supplied)

And so is the pronouncement in Tucay v. Atty. Tucay:[38]

The Court need not delve into the question of whether or not the respondent did contract a
bigamous marriage . . . It is enough that the records of this administrative case substantiate the
findings of the Investigating Commissioner, as well as the IBP Board of Governors, i.e., that
indeed respondent has been carrying on an illicit affair with a married woman, a grossly immoral
conduct and indicative of an extremely low regard for the fundamental ethics of his profession.
This detestable behavior renders him regrettably unfit and undeserving of the treasured honor and
privileges which his license confers upon him.[39] (Underscoring supplied)

Respondent in fact also violated the lawyers oath he took before admission to practice law which
goes:

I _________, having been permitted to continue in the practice of law in the Philippines, do
solemnly swear that I recognize the supreme authority of the Republic of the Philippines; I will
support its Constitution and obey the laws as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted
authorities therein; I will do no falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court; I will not
wittingly or willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit, nor give aid nor
consent to the same; I will delay no man for money or malice, and will conduct myself as a lawyer
according to the best of my knowledge and discretion with all good fidelity as well as to the courts
as to my clients; and I impose upon myself this voluntary obligation without any mental
reservation or purpose of evasion. So help me God. (Underscoring supplied)
Respondent admittedly is aware of Section 2 of Article XV (The Family) of the Constitution
reading:

Section 2. Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be
protected by the State.

In this connection, the Family Code (Executive Order No. 209), which echoes this constitutional
provision, obligates the husband and the wife to live together, observe mutual love, respect and
fidelity, and render mutual help and support.[40]

Furthermore, respondent violated Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility
which proscribes a lawyer from engaging in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct,
and Rule 7.03 of Canon 7 of the same Code which proscribes a lawyer from engaging in any
conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law.

Clutching at straws, respondent, during the pendency of the investigation of the case before the
IBP Commissioner, filed a Manifestation[41] on March 22, 2005 informing the IBP-CBD that
complainants petition for nullity of his (complainants) marriage to Irene had been granted by
Branch 106 of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, and that the criminal complaint for adultery
complainant filed against respondent and Irene based on the same set of facts alleged in the instant
case, which was pending review before the Department of Justice (DOJ), on petition of
complainant, had been, on motion of complainant, withdrawn.

The Secretary of Justices Resolution of January 16, 2004 granting complainants Motion to
Withdraw Petition for Review reads:

Considering that the instant motion was filed before the final resolution of the petition for review,
we are inclined to grant the same pursuant to Section 10 of Department Circular No. 70 dated July
3, 2000, which provides that notwithstanding the perfection of the appeal, the petitioner may
withdraw the same at any time before it is finally resolved, in which case the appealed resolution
shall stand as though no appeal has been taken.[42] (Emphasis supplied by complainant)

That the marriage between complainant and Irene was subsequently declared void ab initio is
immaterial. The acts complained of took place before the marriage was declared null and void.[43]
As a lawyer, respondent should be aware that a man and a woman deporting themselves as
husband and wife are presumed, unless proven otherwise, to have entered into a lawful contract of
marriage.[44] In carrying on an extra-marital affair with Irene prior to the judicial declaration that
her marriage with complainant was null and void, and despite respondent himself being married,
he showed disrespect for an institution held sacred by the law. And he betrayed his unfitness to be
a lawyer.
As for complainants withdrawal of his petition for review before the DOJ, respondent glaringly
omitted to state that before complainant filed his December 23, 2003 Motion to Withdraw his
Petition for Review, the DOJ had already promulgated a Resolution on September 22, 2003
reversing the dismissal by the Quezon City Prosecutors Office of complainants complaint for
adultery. In reversing the City Prosecutors Resolution, DOJ Secretary Simeon Datumanong held:

Parenthetically the totality of evidence adduced by complainant would, in the fair estimation of
the Department, sufficiently establish all the elements of the offense of adultery on the part of both
respondents. Indeed, early on, respondent Moje conceded to complainant that she was going out
on dates with respondent Eala, and this she did when complainant confronted her about Ealas
frequent phone calls and text messages to her. Complainant also personally witnessed Moje and
Eala having a rendezvous on two occasions. Respondent Eala never denied the fact that he knew
Moje to be married to complainant[.] In fact, he (Eala) himself was married to another woman.
Moreover, Mojes eventual abandonment of their conjugal home, after complainant had once more
confronted her about Eala, only served to confirm the illicit relationship involving both
respondents. This becomes all the more apparent by Mojes subsequent relocation in No. 71-B,
11th Street, New Manila, Quezon City, which was a few blocks away from the church where she
had exchange marital vows with complainant.

It was in this place that the two lovers apparently cohabited. Especially since Ealas vehicle and
that of Mojes were always seen there. Moje herself admits that she came to live in the said address
whereas Eala asserts that that was where he held office. The happenstance that it was in that said
address that Eala and Moje had decided to hold office for the firm that both had formed smacks
too much of a coincidence. For one, the said address appears to be a residential house, for that was
where Moje stayed all throughout after her separation from complainant. It was both respondents
love nest, to put short; their illicit affair that was carried out there bore fruit a few months later
when Moje gave birth to a girl at the nearby hospital of St. Lukes Medical Center. What finally
militates against the respondents is the indubitable fact that in the certificate of birth of the girl,
Moje furnished the information that Eala was the father. This speaks all too eloquently of the
unlawful and damning nature of the adulterous acts of the respondents. Complainants supposed
illegal procurement of the birth certificate is most certainly beside the point for both respondents
Eala and Moje have not denied, in any categorical manner, that Eala is the father of the child
Samantha Irene Louise Moje.[45] (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

It bears emphasis that adultery is a private offense which cannot be prosecuted de oficio and thus
leaves the DOJ no choice but to grant complainants motion to withdraw his petition for review.
But even if respondent and Irene were to be acquitted of adultery after trial, if the Information for
adultery were filed in court, the same would not have been a bar to the present administrative
complaint.

Citing the ruling in Pangan v. Ramos,[46] viz:


x x x The acquittal of respondent Ramos [of] the criminal charge is not a bar to these
[administrative] proceedings. The standards of legal profession are not satisfied by conduct which
merely enables one to escape the penalties of x x x criminal law. Moreover, this Court, in
disbarment proceedings is acting in an entirely different capacity from that which courts assume in
trying criminal case[47] (Italics in the original),

this Court in Gatchalian Promotions Talents Pools, Inc. v. Atty. Naldoza,[48] held:

Administrative cases against lawyers belong to a class of their own. They are distinct from and
they may proceed independently of civil and criminal cases.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. Resolution No. XVII-2006-06 passed on January 28,
2006 by the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines is ANNULLED and SET
ASIDE.

Respondent, Atty. Jose Emmanuel M. Eala, is DISBARRED for grossly immoral conduct,
violation of his oath of office, and violation of Canon 1, Rule 1.01 and Canon 7, Rule 7.03 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility.

Let a copy of this Decision, which is immediately executory, be made part of the records of
respondent in the Office of the Bar Confidant, Supreme Court of the Philippines. And let copies of
the Decision be furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and circulated to all courts.

This Decision takes effect immediately.

SO ORDERED.

[SBC Case No. 519. July 31, 1997]

PATRICIA FIGUEROA, complainant, vs. SIMEON BARRANCO, JR., respondent.


RESOLUTION
ROMERO, J.:

In a complaint made way back in 1971, Patricia Figueroa petitioned that respondent Simeon
Barranco, Jr. be denied admission to the legal profession. Respondent had passed the 1970 bar
examinations on the fourth attempt, after unsuccessful attempts in 1966, 1967 and 1968. Before he
could take his oath, however, complainant filed the instant petition averring that respondent and
she had been sweethearts, that a child out of wedlock was born to them and that respondent did
not fulfill his repeated promises to marry her.
The facts were manifested in hearings held before Investigator Victor F. Sevilla in June and July
1971. Respondent and complainant were townmates in Janiuay, Iloilo. Since 1953, when they
were both in their teens, they were steadies. Respondent even acted as escort to complainant when
she reigned as Queen at the 1953 town fiesta. Complainant first acceded to sexual congress with
respondent sometime in 1960. Their intimacy yielded a son, Rafael Barranco, born on December
11, 1964.[1] It was after the child was born, complainant alleged, that respondent first promised he
would marry her after he passes the bar examinations. Their relationship continued and respondent
allegedly made more than twenty or thirty promises of marriage. He gave only P10.00 for the
child on the latters birthdays. Her trust in him and their relationship ended in 1971, when she
learned that respondent married another woman. Hence, this petition.
Upon complainants motion, the Court authorized the taking of testimonies of witnesses by
deposition in 1972. On February 18, 1974, respondent filed a Manifestation and Motion to
Dismiss the case citing complainants failure to comment on the motion of Judge Cuello seeking to
be relieved from the duty to take aforesaid testimonies by deposition. Complainant filed her
comment stating that she had justifiable reasons in failing to file the earlier comment required and
that she remains interested in the resolution of the present case. On June 18, 1974, the Court
denied respondents motion to dismiss.
On October 2, 1980, the Court once again denied a motion to dismiss on the ground of
abandonment filed by respondent on September 17, 1979.[2] Respondents third motion to dismiss
was noted in the Courts Resolution dated September 15, 1982.[3] In 1988, respondent repeated his
request, citing his election as a member of the Sangguniang Bayan of Janiuay, Iloilo from 1980-
1986, his active participation in civic organizations and good standing in the community as well as
the length of time this case has been pending as reasons to allow him to take his oath as a lawyer.
[4]
On September 29, 1988, the Court resolved to dismiss the complaint for failure of complainant to
prosecute the case for an unreasonable period of time and to allow Simeon Barranco, Jr. to take
the lawyers oath upon payment of the required fees.[5]
Respondents hopes were again dashed on November 17, 1988 when the Court, in response to
complainants opposition, resolved to cancel his scheduled oath-taking. On June 1, 1993, the Court
referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and
recommendation.
The IBPs report dated May 17, 1997 recommended the dismissal of the case and that respondent
be allowed to take the lawyers oath.
We agree.
Respondent was prevented from taking the lawyers oath in 1971 because of the charges of gross
immorality made by complainant. To recapitulate, respondent bore an illegitimate child with his
sweetheart, Patricia Figueroa, who also claims that he did not fulfill his promise to marry her after
he passes the bar examinations.
We find that these facts do not constitute gross immorality warranting the permanent exclusion of
respondent from the legal profession. His engaging in premarital sexual relations with
complainant and promises to marry suggests a doubtful moral character on his part but the same
does not constitute grossly immoral conduct. The Court has held that to justify suspension or
disbarment the act complained of must not only be immoral, but grossly immoral. A grossly
immoral act is one that is so corrupt and false as to constitute a criminal act or so unprincipled or
disgraceful as to be reprehensible to a high degree.[6] It is a willful, flagrant, or shameless act
which shows a moral indifference to the opinion of respectable members of the community.[7]
We find the ruling in Arciga v. Maniwang[8] quite relevant because mere intimacy between a man
and a woman, both of whom possess no impediment to marry, voluntarily carried on and devoid of
any deceit on the part of respondent, is neither so corrupt nor so unprincipled as to warrant the
imposition of disciplinary sanction against him, even if as a result of such relationship a child was
born out of wedlock.[9]
Respondent and complainant were sweethearts whose sexual relations were evidently consensual.
We do not find complainants assertions that she had been forced into sexual intercourse, credible.
She continued to see and be respondents girlfriend even after she had given birth to a son in 1964
and until 1971. All those years of amicable and intimate relations refute her allegations that she
was forced to have sexual congress with him. Complainant was then an adult who voluntarily and
actively pursued their relationship and was not an innocent young girl who could be easily led
astray. Unfortunately, respondent chose to marry and settle permanently with another woman. We
cannot castigate a man for seeking out the partner of his dreams, for marriage is a sacred and
perpetual bond which should be entered into because of love, not for any other reason.
We cannot help viewing the instant complaint as an act of revenge of a woman scorned, bitter and
unforgiving to the end. It is also intended to make respondent suffer severely and it seems,
perpetually, sacrificing the profession he worked very hard to be admitted into. Even assuming
that his past indiscretions are ignoble, the twenty-six years that respondent has been prevented
from being a lawyer constitute sufficient punishment therefor. During this time there appears to be
no other indiscretion attributed to him.[10] Respondent, who is now sixty-two years of age, should
thus be allowed, albeit belatedly, to take the lawyers oath.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby DISMISSED. Respondent Simeon Barranco, Jr. is
ALLOWED to take his oath as a lawyer upon payment of the proper fees.
SO ORDERED.