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MARIA FATIMA JAPITANA V. ATTY. SYLVESTER C. PARADO, AC No.

10859, January
26, 2016
Offenses committed:
1.Notarizing without an existing notarial commission;
2. Dishonesty when he testified in court that he had a notarial commission when he notarized the
subject document;
3.Despite not personally knowing the persons who executed the documents he relied on the
presentation of CTCs alone as evidence of identity.

Sec. 2(b), Rule IV of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice requires the presentation of a competent
evidence of identity, if the persons appearing before the notary public I not personally known to
him.

Section 12, Rule II of the same rules defines competent evidence of identity as:
“At least one current identification document issued by an official agency bearing the photograph
and signature of the individual; or
“(b) the oath or affirmation of one credible witness not privy to the instrument, document or
transaction, who is personally known to the notary public and who personally knows the
individual, or two credible witnesses neither of whom is privy to the instrument, document or
transaction who each personally knows the individual and shows to the notary public a
documentary identification.”

Penalty: Suspended from the practice of law for two (2) years and permanently disqualified from
being commissioned as notary public.

ANGELITO RAMISCAL AND MERCEDES ORZAME V. ATTY. EDGAR S. ORRO, AC No.


10945, February 23, 2016

Facts:
Respondent, having been paid his fee, handled the complainants’ case at the RTC and got a
favorable decision for his clients. On appeal to the CA, upon being paid P30,000.00 as additional
fees acceded to the complainants’ request to prepare their appellee’s brief. Later on, the CA
reversed the RTC decision but respondent did not inform the complainants who learned about it
fro their neighbors. When complainants were able to communicate with the respondent, the latter
asked for P7,000.00 to file an MR at the same time telling them that such motion would already
be belated. The complainants paid yet they later on found out that the MR was not filed resulting
to the finality of the decision of the CA and consequentially the loss of their 8.479 hectares property
worth approximately 3.3 M pesos.
Ruling:
The lawyer’s oath states that: “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 to
the courts as to my clients.” If he violates the oath, he contravenes the CPR particularly Canon 17,
Rules 18.03 and 18.04:

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

Canon 18 - A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence.
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.
The relationship of the lawyer and the client is imbued with trust and confidence from the moment
that the lawyer-client relationship commence, with the lawyer being bound to serve the clients
with full competence, and to attend to their cause with utmost diligence, care and devotion.
To accord with this highly fiduciary relationship, the client expects the lawyer to be always mindful
of the former’s legal affairs. As an essential part of their highly fiduciary relationship, the client is
entitled to the periodic and full updates from the lawyer on the developments of the case. The
lawyer who neglects to perform his obligations violates Rule 18.03 and 18.04 of Canon 18 of the
CPR.
Penalty: Suspension from the practice of law for 2 years with a stern warning that any similar
infraction will be dealt with more severely.

ENGEL PAUL ACA v. ATTY. RONALDO P. SALVADO, January 26, 2016, AC No. 10952

Facts:
Atty. Salvado enticed the complainant to invest in his business with a guarantee that he would be
given a high interest rate of 5% to 6% every month; the latter was also assured of a profitable
investment due by the former as he had various clients and investors. Because of said assurances
complainant made an initial investment which yielded an amount equal to the amount invested
plus interest as promised. Respondent then induced complaint to invest with prom uses of higher
rates of return. As consideration of complainant’s further investments, respondent issued several
post-dated checks in the total amount of P6,107,000.00 representing the principal amount plus
interest. However, upon presentment, when due, complainant was shocked to learn that said checks
were dishonored as these were drawn from insufficient funds or closed account.
Ruling:
Xxx Promoting obedience to the Constitution and the laws of the land is the primary obligation of
lawyers. When respondent issued the worthless checks, he discredited the legal profession and
created the public impression that laws were mere tools of convenience that could be used, headed
and abused to satisfy personal whims and desires.

Respondent’s refusal to answer complainant’s demands; trying to make the complainant believe
that he was no longer residing at his given address demonstrate lack of moral character to satisfy
the responsibilities and duties imposed on lawyers as professionals and as officers of the court.

The only issue in disciplinary proceedings against lawyers is the respondent’s fitness to remain as
a member of the Bar.

Respondent is guilty of violating Rule 1.01 Canon 1 and Rule 7.03 of the CPR and suspended from
the practice of law for a period of two years.

SPOUSES JONATHAN AND ESTER LOPEZ v. ATTY. SINAMAR LIMOS, AC No. 7618,
February 2, 2016

Facts:
Complainants while living abroad engaged the services of respondent as counsel in connection
with their intention to adopt a minor child. In consideration therefore, complainants paid
respondent the sum of P75,000.00. After a few months, complainants came back to the Philippines
for a two-weep stay to commence the filing of the adoption case before the proper court. However,
despite payment and submission of all the required documents to respondent, no petition was filed
during their stay. Around 7 months later, complainants through Jonathan’s employer received
respondent’s letter requesting that complainants be allowed to come home to the Philippines to
appear and testify in court for the adoption case she purportedly filed on behalf of complainants
indicating therein the docket number and the court. Thus, complainants returned to the Philippines
only to find out that:
A) the docket referred to a petition for the declaration of the presumptive death of another person
filed by another lawyer; and
B) respondent had yet to file a petition for adoption on their behalf.

Complainants then, withdrew all their documents from respondent’s custody and hired another
lawyer to handle the filing of the adoption case; demanded the return of P75,000.00 given as legal
fees. Respondent, however, refused to return the amount demanded retorting that as a standArd
operating procedure, she does not return “acceptance fees.”

Ruling:
1.Respondent committed a flagrant violation of Rule 18.03, Canon 18 of the CPR when she failed
to file the petition for adoption despite payment.
Canon 18 - A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence.
Rule 18.03 - A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in
connection therewith shall render him liable.
2. By failing to return the amount representing the legal fees, she violated Rules 16.01 and 16.03
of the CPR as well as Canon 16.
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 16.03 - A lawyer shall deliver the funds and property of his client when due or upon demand.
3. By misrepresenting to the complainants that the adoption proceedings had already been
commenced even providing a false docket number, acts of deception were committed in violation
of the following:
Canon 1 - A lawyer shall uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect
for the law and legal processes.
Rule 1.01 - A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.

4. By disregarding the directives of the Investigating Commissioner to attend the mandatory


conference and submit a position paper, respondent violated the following:
Canon 11 - A lawyer shall observe and maintain the respect due to the courts and to judicial officers
and should insist on similar conduct by others.
Canon 12 - A lawyer shall exert every effort and consider it his duty to assist in the speedy and
efficient administration of justice.
Rule 12.04 - A lawyer shall not unduly delay a case, impede the execution of a judgment or misuse
court processes.
Penalty: Suspended from the practice of law for a period of 3 years effective upon the finality of
the decision with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts will be dealt with
with more severely.

CHERYL E. VASCO-TAMARAY V. ATTY. DEBORAH Z. DAQUIS, AC No. 10868, January


26, 2016.

Facts:Leomarte Tamaray intended to file a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage against
his wife, complainant herein, and engaged the services of respondent. Respondent, then, informed
the complainant that such petition was filed before the RTC of Muntinlupa City. However,
respondent made it appear that complainant, not her client, was the petitioner, forged the
complainant’s signature, signed as “counsel for petitioner” but used her client’s address not the
complainant’s who transferred residence after separating from her husband, thus, complainant
never received any court process.

Ruling:
1. By pretending to be counsel for complainant, respondent violated:
Canon 1 0- A lawyer shall uyphold 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.

2. By allowing the use of a forged signature on the Petition which she prepared and notarized,
respondent violated:
Canon 7 - Aa 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 10 - A lawyer owes candor, fairness and good faith to the court.
Rule 10.01 - 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 misled by any artifice.
“Respondent’s act of allowing the use of a forged signature on a petition she prepared and notarized
demonstrates a lack of moral fiber on her part. Furthermore, allowing the use of a forged signature
on a petition filed before a court is tantamount to consenting to the commission of a falsehood
before courts, in violation of Canon 10.
3. Respondent failed to protect the interests of her client when she represented complainant who
is the opposing party of her client the husband, Leomarte Tamaray, thus violating:
Canon 17 - A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he shall be mindful of the trust
and confidence responses in him.
4./ By entering her appearance as counsel for the complainant even though she was engaged as
counsel by the husband, Leomarte Tamaray, respondent did not violate:
Rule 15.03 - A lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests except by written consent of all
concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts or representing conflicting interests because
while her services were engaged by the husband, there was no proof on record that she was engaged
as counsel by the complainant.
Penalty: Respondent is DISMISSED for violating Canon 1, Rule 1.01, Canon 7, Rule 7.03, Canon
10, Rule 10.01 and Canon 17.
The charge for violation of Canon 15 (A lawyer shall observe candor, fairness and loyalty in all
his dealings and transactions with his client.) and Rule 15.03 - A lawyer shall not represent
conflicting interests except by written consent of all concerned after a full disclosure of the facts.)
was dismissed.

NEMESIO FLORAN AND CLARIDAD FLORAN v. ATTY. ROY PRULE EDIZA, AC No.
5325, February 9, 2016

The Court found that Atty. Ediza guilty of violating Rule 1.01, Canon 1, Canon 15 and Rule 18.03
of Canon 18 of the CPR.
In its decision the Court:
1. Suspended respondent from the practice of law for 6 months;
2. Ordered him to return to complainants the 2 sets of documents he misled them to sign; and
3. Ordered him to pay complainants the amount of P125,463.38 representing the amount he
deceived them into paying him with legal interest until fully paid.

Subsequently, respondent filed a Manifestation of Compliance (on Order of Suspension) together


with a sworn statement attesting that he desisted from the practice of law for 6 months.
The Court deferred action on his manifestation and required him to:
(1) submit certifications from the IBP local chapter where he is a member and the office of the
Executive Judge where he practices his profession, both stating that he had desisted from the
practice of law during his suspension period;
(2) show proof of payment to complainants of P125,463.38 plus legal interest, and the return of
the 2 sets of documents that he misled complainants to sign and for the complainants to manifest
whether respondent had already paid the amount and returned the documents.

However, complainants informed the Court that respondent had not paid any single centavo and
neither had he returned the documents.
Noting the manifestation, the Court ordered respondent to show cause why he should not be
disciplinarily dealt with or held in contempt and to comply with the decision.
In a manifestation, respondent claimed that he had no intention to defy the Court’s authority or
challenge its orders, that he had served his suspension but asked the Court to consider that the two
sets of documents were merely fictional. He also claimed that he was at a loss as to which
“documents” the Decision was referring to because the same were supposedly not alleged with
particularity. He also alleged that due to the ambiguity about the “documents” the judgment was
incomplete and unenforceable. Moreover, Atty. Ediza claimed that the alleged lack of due process
in the administrative proceeding rendered it void in its entirety and consequently even the order to
pay the sum should be stricken off.

In its resolution, the Court disregarded the explanation of respondent and reiterated the original
resolution for compliance by the latter.
After the complainants wrote the Chief Justice for immediate resolution of the case and
information as its status, the Court required respondent to show cause why he should not be
disciplinarily dealt with or be held in contempt for failure to comply with its decision.
Compliance then again wrote the OCJ reiterating Atty. Ediza’s failure to comply with the Court’s
directives and manifested that it has been 17 years since the dispute began.
Respondent then filed a Compliance with a Motion to Reopen/Reinvestigate the case.
The Court denied the MR for lack of merit and again required respondent to comply.
After 4 years since the Court promulgated its decision and several resolutions ordering the
respondent to comply, the latter continued to defy and disregard the orders from the Court.

Ruling:
The intentional delay and utter refusal to abide with the Court’s orders constitute a great disrespect
of the Court and violates:
Canon 12 - A lawyer shall exert every effort and consider it his duty to assist in the speedy and
efficient administration of justice.
Rule 12.04 - A lawyer shall not unduly delay a case, impede the execution of a judgment or misuse
Court processes.
He had previously been found guilty of violating the CPR and suspended from the practice of law
but despite his suspension he is once again demonstrating that not only is unfit to stay in the legal
profession for failure to protect the interests of his clients but is also remiss in following the dictates
of the Court, which has administrative supervision over him
Penalty:
Disbarred.

MYRNA M. DEVEZA v. ATTY. ALEXANDER M. DEL PRADO, AC No. 9574, June 21, 2016
Facts:
Respondent deceived the complainant by making her sign the deed of sale and making her believe
that he would pay in full the balance of the purchase price after he had the document notarized.
Despite several demands, however, respondent did not fulfill his obligation.
Ruling:
Respondent violated Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 and Canon 7 of the CPR.
Penalty: Suspended from the practice of law for 5 years with a warning.

ARNOLD PACAO v. ATTY. SINAMAR LIMOS, AC No. 11246, June 14, 2016

Complainant’s wife was charged with qualified theft by its former employer BHF Pawnshop and
during the preliminary investigation the respondent appeared as counsel for the latter. After the
case was filed before the RTC of Mandaluyong City, the complainant initiated negotiations with
BHF, through the respondent, for a possible settlement. Complainant and respondent then met
where the latter represented that she was duly authorized by BHF. After a series of negotiations,
respondent relayed that BHF is demanding the sum of P530,000.00 payable in full or by
installments. Further negotiation led to an agreement whereby the complainant would pay an initial
amount of P200,000.00 to be entrusted to respondent, who will then deliver to the complainant a
signed affidavit of desistance, a compromise agreement, and a joint motion to approve compromise
agreement for filing in court.
Subsequently, the complainant gave the initial amount of P200,000.00 to Atty. Limos, who in turn,
signed an acknowledgment receipt recognizing her undertaking as counsel of BHF. Respondent
failed to comply with his obligation under the agreement. Even then, she still sought to get from
the complainant the next installment amount ij accord with the agreement but the complainant
refused.
Later, the complainant met with a representative of BHF who informed him that Atty. Limos was
no longer BHF’s counsel and was not authorized to negotiate any settlement nor receive any money
in behalf of BHF. Complainant also learned that BHF did not receive the P200,000.00 initial
payment.
Complainant demanded from respondent for the return of the initial payment but the latter refused.
So this administrative proceeding was initiated thru a complaint filed by complainant. The IBP
Commission on Bar Discipline required Atty. Limos to file an answer but she did not.
Ruling:
First the Court noted that respondent had already been twice suspended from the practice of law
for 3 months each. In one case for receiving attorney’s fees of P20,000.00 plus miscellaneous
expenses but failing to perform her undertaking with her client and in the second case, for
obtaining a loan from her client and issuing postdated checks despite knowledge of insufficiency
of funds.
The foregoing factual antecedents demonstrate her propensity to employ deceit and
misrepresentation. It is not too farfetched for the Court to conclude that from the very beginning
respondent had planned to employ receipt on the complainant to get hold of a sum of money.
She failed to present convincing evidence or any evidence for that matter to justify her actions
thus, failing to demonstrate that she still possessed the integrity and morality demanded of a
member of the Bar. She even was indifferent to the complaint was made obvious by he
unreasonable absence from the proceedings before the IBP. Such disobedience is a gross and
blatant disrespect for the authority of the Court.

Penalty: Disbarred considering the serious nature of the instant offense and in light of respondent’s
prior misconduct which grossly degrades the legal profession.

FLORA C. MARIANO v. ATTY. ANSELMO ECHANEZ, AC No. 10373, May 31, 2016.
The respondent notarized 4 different documents without a notarial commission.
By misrepresenting in the said documents that he was a notary public for and in Cordon, Isabela,
when he was not he committed falsehood.
He failed to attend the mandatory conference before th Commission on Bar Discipline and to
submit a verified position paper as required.

Penalty:
Suspended from the practice of law for 2 years and barred permanently from being commissioned
as Notary Public.
The Court stressed that notarization is not an empty, meaningless and routine act. It is invested
with substantive public interest that only those who are qualified or authorized may act as notary
public. It must be emphasized that the act of notarization by a notary public converts a private
document into a public document making that document admissible in evidence without further
proof of authenticity. A notarial document is by law entitled to full faith and credit upon its face,
and for this reason, notaries public must observe with utmost care the basic requirements in the
performance of their duties.

DIONNIE RICAFORT v. ATTY. RENE O. MEDINA, AC No. 5179, May 31, 2016

Facts:
Complainant’s tricycle allegedly sideswiped respondent’s car. Respondent alighted from his car
and confronted complainant. Respondent allegedly snapped at complainant saying “Wa ka
Makaila sa aka?” (Do you not know me?) Respondent proceeded to slap complainant, and then
left.

Ruling:
In disciplinary proceedings against lawyers, a lawyer is presumed to be innocent of the charges
against him or her. He or she enjoys the presumption that his or her acts are consistent with his or
her oath. Thus, the burden of proof still rests upon the complainant to prove his or her claim.
The required burden of proof is preponderance of evidence or evidence that is superior, more
convincing, or of “greater weight than the other.”

The respondent is found to have violated:


Rule 7.03 0f Canon 7 of the CPR which provides: “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.”
By itself, the act of humiliating another in public by slapping him or her on the face hints of a
character that disregards the human dignity of another. Respondent’s question to complainant,
“Wa ka Makaila sa ako?” (Do you not know me?) confirms such character and his potential to
abuse the profession as a tool for bullying, harassment, and discrimination.
This arrogance is intolerable. It discredits the legal profession by perpetuating a stereotype that is
unreflective of the nobility of the profession. As officers of the court and of the law, lawyers are
granted the privilege to serve the public, not to bully them to submission.
Good character is a continuing qualification for lawyers. This Court has the power to impose
disciplinary sanctions to lawyers who commit acts of misconduct in either a public or private
capacity is the acts show them unworthy to remain officers of the court.
Disciplinary proceedings against lawyers are Sui generic. They are neither civil nor criminal in
nature. They are not a determination of the parties’ rights. Rather, they are pursued as a matter of
public interest and as a means to determine a lawyer’s fitness to continue holding the privileges of
being a court officer.

Penalty: Suspended from the practice of law for 3 months.

ARTHUR S. TULIO v. ATTY. GREGORY F. BUHANGIN, AC No. 7110, April 20, 2016
The respondent was found guilty of representing conflicting interests in violation of Rule 15.03,
Canon 15 of the CPR and suspended for 6 months from the practice of law with a warning.
The Court states:
“In Hornilla v. Atty Salamat, the Court discussed the conflict of interest, to wit:
There is conflict of interest when a lawyer represents inconsistent interests of two or more
opposing parties. The test is “whether or not in behalf of one client, it is the lawyer’s duty to fight
for an issue or claim, but it is his duty to oppose it for the other client. In brief, if he argues for one
client, this argument will be opposed by him when he argues for the other client. This rule covers
not only cases in which confidential communications have been confided, but also those in which
no confidence has been bestowed or will be used.
Also, there is conflict of interests if the acceptance of the new retainer will require the attorney to
perform an act which will injuriously affect his first client in any manner in which he represents
him and also whether he will be called upon in his new relation to use against his first client any
knowledge acquired through their connection.
Another test of the inconsistency of interests is whether the acceptance of a new relation will
prevent an attorney from the full discharge of his duty of undivided fidelity and loyalty to his client
or invite suspicion of unfaithfulness or double dealing in the performance thereof.
The Hornilla case provides an absolute prohibition from representation with respect to opposing
parties in the same case. In other words, a lawyer cannot change his representation from one party
to the latter’s opponent in the same case, as in this case.

PATRICK A. CAROMAN v. RICHARD A. CARONAN a.k.a. ATTY. PATRICK A.


CARONAN, AC No. 11316, July 12, 2016
This is a case of stolen identity.
Patrick and Richard are brothers. Patrick obtained a Business Administration degree while his
brother did not earn a college degree.
Later, using Patrick’s name and college records from the University of Makati, Richard enrolled
at St. Mary’s University College of Law in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, took the Bar later and
passed it and represented himself as Atty. Patrick Caroman.
Sometime in 2009 after his promotion as Store Manager, Patrick was ordered to report to the head
office of Philippine Seven Corporation, the operator of 7-11 Convenience Stores and there was
told that the NBI wanted his physical presence in relation to its probe into a certain “Atty. Patrick
A. Caronan” for qualified theft and estate.
Realizing that his brother was using his name Patrick took it upon himself to inform other people
that he is the real “Patrick A. Caronan and that the real name of his brother is Richard A.Caronan.
Richard was later arrested for gun-running activities, illegal possession of explosives, and violation
of BP 22.
Patrick then filed this case against his brother to stop him from using his name and identity and
illegally practicing law.

Issues:
Whether or not thenIBP erred in ordering that (a) the name “Patrick A. Caronan” be stricken off
the roll of attorneys; and (b) the name “Richard A. Caronan” be barred from being admitted to the
Bar.
Ruling:
Respondent is guilty of falsely assuming the name, identity and academic records of complainant
to obtain a law degree and take the Bar examinations.
The Court resolved that:
1) The name “Patrick A. Caronan” with Roll of Attorneys No. 49069 is ordered DROPPED and
aSTRICKEN OFF THE ROLL OF ATTORNEYS;
2) Respondent is prohibited from engaging in the practice of law or making any representations as
a lawyer;
3) Respondent is barred from being admitted as a member of the Philippine Bar in the future;
4) The Identification Cards issued by the IBP to respondent under the name “Atty. Patrick A.
Caronan” and the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Certificates issued in such name are
cancelled and/or revoked;
5) the Office of the Court Administrator is ordered to circulate notices and post in the bulletin
boards of all courts of the country a photograph of respondent with his real name “Richard A.
Caronan,” with a warning that he is not a member of the Philippine Bar and a statement of his false
assumption of the name and identity of “Patrick A. Caronan.”
In its ratio, the Court stated that pursuant to Section 6, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, no applicant
for admission to the Bar Examination shall be admitted unless he had pursued and satisfactorily
completed a pre-law course.
Also, the Court reiterated that the practice of law is not a natural, absolute or constitutional right
to be granted to everyone who demands it. Rather, it is a privilege limited to citizens of good moral
character.

JOY A. GIMENO v. ATTY. PAUL CENTILLAS ZAIDE, AC No. 10303, April 22, 2015

Ruling:
1. For maintaining different notarial registers in separate notarial offices respondent violated Sec.
1(a) of the Notarial Rules which provides that, “a notary public shall keep, maintain, protect and
provide for lawful inspection as provided in these Rules, a chronological official notarial register
of notarial acts consisting of permanently bound book with numbered pages.”

The same provision further provides that, a notary public shall keep only one active notarial
register at any given time.

The Notarial Rules strictly requires a notary public to maintain only one active notarial register
and ensure that the entries in it are chronologically arranged. The ‘one active notarial register” rule
is in place to deter a notary public from assigning several notarial registers to different offices
manned by assistants who perform notarial services on his behalf.

Since a notarial commission is personal to each lawyer, the notary public must also personally
administer the notarial acts that the law authorizes him to execute. Thus, no other person, other
than the notary public, should perform it.

This Court stresses that a notary public should not trivialize his functions as his powers and duties
are impressed with public interest. A notary publics office is not merely an income-generating
venture. It is a public duty that each lawyer who has been privileged to receive a notarial
commission must faithfully and conscientiously perform.

He violates Sec. 1, Rule VI of the Notarial Rules as well as Canon 1 of the CPR which states, “a
Lawyer should uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect for law and
the legal processes.”

2. For use of intemperate, offensive and abusive language in his professional dealings when he
called complainant a “notorious extortionist” and an opposing counsel in another case as someone
suffering from “serious mental incompetence”, respondent violated the following:
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.
Canon 11 - A lawyer shall observe and maintain the respect due to 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.

Penalty: His notarial commission is revoked and he is disqualified from being commissioned as a
notary public for a period of 2 years. He is also suspended for 1 year from the practice of law.

CELINA F. ANDRADA v. ATTY. RODRIGO CERA, AC No. 10187, July 22, 2015

Ruling:
For exhibiting a proclivity for vindictiveness and penchant for harassment by bringing charges
against judges, court personnel and even his colleagues in the law profession which stemmed from
decisions or rulings being adverse to his clients he violated the lawyer’s oath for “wittingly or
willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit.” He also violated Rule 1.03 which
states,”A lawyer shall not, for any corrupt motive or interest, encourage any suit or proceeding or
delay any man’s cause.”

The Court noted that the respondents filing of the numerous administrative and criminal
complaints against judges, court personnel and his fellow lawyers did not evince any good faith
on his part, considering that he made allegations against them therein that he could not substantially
prove, and are rightfully frivolous and unworthy of the Court’s precious time and serious
consideration.

He also violated Canon 11 - “a lawyer shall observe and maintain the respect due to the courts and
to the judicial officers and should insist in similar conduct by others.” Also Rule 11.04 - A lawyer
shall not attribute to a judge motives not supported by the records or have no materiality to the
case.”

Penalty: Suspension from the practice of law for 1 year with a stern warning.

ATTY. FELIPE B. ALMAZAN, SR. v. ATTY. MARCELO B. SUERTE-FELIPE, AC No. 7184,


September 17, 2014
Ruling: For notarizing the acknowledgment portion of a document and misrepresenting that he
was a notary public for and in the City of Marikina when in fact he was not respondent violated
the following:
Sec. 11, Rule III of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice which prescribes a territorial limitation of
a notary public’s jurisdiction, thus:

“Section 11. Jurisdiction and term. - A person commissioned as notary public may perform notarial
acts in any place within the territorial jurisdiction of the commissioning court for a period of two
years commencing the first day of January of the year in which the commissioning is made, unless
earlier revoked or the notary public has resigned under these Rules and the Rules of Court.”

He also violated Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the CPR which provides that, “a lawyer shall not engage
in unlawful, dishonest, immoral, or deceitful conduct.”

FLORENCE TEVES MACARUBBO v. ATTY. EDMUNDO L. MACARUBBO, AC No. 6148,


January 22, 2013

Respondent was disbarred by the Court for having contracted a bigamous marriage with
complainant and a third marriage with another while his first marriage was still subsisting. The
Court considered such acts as gross immoral conduct in violation of Canon 1, Rule 1.01 and Canon
7, Rule 7.03 of the CPR.

Eight years later he filed a petition seeking judicial clemency and restatement in the Roll of
Attorneys.
In resolving the petition the Court reiterated the guidelines in resolving such petitions which it laid
down in the case of In Re Letter of Judge Augustus C. Diaz, MeTC of Quezon City, Branch 37,
thus:

1. There must be proof of remorse and reformation. These shall include but should not be limited
to certifications or testimonials of the officer(s) or chapter(s) of the IBP, judges or judges’
associations and prominent members of the community with proven integrity and probity. A
subsequent finding of guilt in an administrative case for the same or similar misconduct will give
rise to a strong presumption of non-reformation.

2. Sufficient time must have lapsed from the imposition of the penalty to ensure a period of reform.

3. The age of the person asking for clemency must show that he still has productive years ahead
of him that can be put to good use by giving him a chance to redeem himself.

4. There must be a showing of promise (such as intellectual aptitude, learning or legal acumen or
contribution to legal scholarship and the development of the legal system or administrative and
other relevant skills, as well as potential for public service.

5. There must be other relevant factors and circumstances that may justify clemency.

Moreover, to be reinstated to the practice of law, the applicant must, like any other candidate for
admission to the bar, satisfy the court that he is a person of good moral character.

JOSELITO F. TEJANO v/ ATTY. BENJAMIN F. BATERINA, AC No. 8235, January 27, 2015
Facts:
Complainant claims that respondent “miserably failed to advance his cause.” Specifically, he
alleged that the latter 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; (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; (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; and (4) failed
to comply with the trial court’s order to submit their formal offer of exhibits.

In his Compliance to the show cause order issued by the Court, respondent denied the allegation
of bad faith and negligence in handling the complainant’s case. He explained that the reason he
could not attend to the case was that in 2002, after the initial presentation of the plaintiff’s case,
he was suspended by the Court from the practice of law for 2 years,. He alleged that this fact was
made known to complainant’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. He, instead, points to
the “displayed bias” and “undue and conflict of interest” of the judge as the culprit in his
predicament.

Ruling:
Respondent is guilty of violating the following:
Canon 18 - A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence.
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.
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.
Respondent’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.” The client “should never be left
groping in the dark” and instead must be adequately and fully informed about the developments in
his case.”
Respondent 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 CPR and renders
him subject to disciplinary action.

Penalty:
Suspended from the practice of law for 5 years with a stern warning.

SECOND DIVISION
[A.C. No. 10547. November 8, 2017.]

FREDDIE A. GUILLEN, complainant, vs. ATTY. AUDIE


ARNADO, respondent.

DECISION
PERALTA, J p:

The instant case is brought about by an administrative complaint which Freddie Guillen filed
against his former business partner, Atty. Audie Arnado, for alleged violation of
the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR).
The factual antecedents of the case are as follows:
Complainant Freddie Guillen is the registered owner of the City Grill Restaurant. He then
invited respondent Atty. Audie Arnado and a certain Cedric Ebo to join the restaurant business.
Each of them had to shell out P200,000.00 to make up a total capital of P600,000.00. A
Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was therefore executed and the business was formally
launched in May 2003. At first, everything went smoothly, until Arnado's sister-in-law and
Ebo's son participated in the management, causing complications in the business operations,
which later forced Guillen and his wife to step down as general manager and operations
manager, respectively. Because of the disagreements among the parties, Guillen offered that
he would waive his claims for profits, provided that Arnado would return the P200,000.00 that
he paid as capital. Arnado allegedly claimed that said refund would still be subject to the
billings of the Arnado and Associate Law Firm. Thereafter, Guillen was surprised to find out
that Arnado had already caused the incorporation of the restaurant with the Securities and
Exchange Commission (SEC), which was approved on February 16, 2004. Guillen was
likewise excluded from the business without the aforementioned refund of his capital. He was
further charged with Estafa before the Office of the City Prosecutor of Cebu. Thus, Guillen
initiated the present administrative case.
For his part, Arnado admitted the existence and the contents of the MOA. He also admitted
that he caused the incorporation of City Grill-Sutukil Food Corporation. However, he insisted
that the same was done in accordance with the requirements under the law. Guillen could not
validly claim for a refund, and if he was really entitled, he should simply file an action to that
effect. Arnado likewise contended that Guillen's refund would still be subject to the legal
compensation claim of his law firm.
On November 2, 2011, the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) recommended the censure of Arnado, thus: 1
WHEREFORE, Taking into consideration the foregoing premises, it is with
deep regret to recommend to the Board of Governors that ATTY. AUDIE
ARNADO [of] Cebu City be CENSURED for his deceitful and dishonest act in
violation of Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which
provides that- A lawyer shall not engage in an unlawful, dishonest, immoral
and deceitful conduct.
So Ordered.
RESPECTFULLY RECOMMENDED.
On January 3, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution No. XX-2013-47, 2 which
adopted and approved the aforementioned recommendation, hence:
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED
and APPROVED 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 Respondent's
violation of Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, Atty. Audie
Arnado is hereby CENSURED.
Thereafter, Arnado moved for reconsideration of said Resolution. On March 23, 2014, the IBP
Board of Governors passed another resolution, Resolution No. XXI-2014-180, 3 which denied
said motion for reconsideration and approved its 2013 Resolution, with modification, to
wit: CAIHTE
RESOLVED to DENY Respondent's Motion for Reconsideration, there being no
cogent reason to reverse the findings of the Commission and it being a mere
reiteration of the matters which had already been threshed out and taken into
consideration. Further, for taking advantage of his knowledge of the law and
for his deceitful conduct of easing out Complainant from their restaurant
business partnership without his knowledge by registering a corporation under
a different name and style but doing the same line of business and using the
same complements and trade secrets, Resolution No. XX-2013-47 dated
January 3, 2013 is hereby AFFIRMED, with modification, and accordingly
the penalty imposed on Atty. Audie Arnado [is] increased from Censure
to SUSPENSION from the practice of law for three (3) months.
The Court's Ruling
The Court finds no compelling reason to deviate from the findings and recommendation of the
IBP Board of Governors that Arnado should be suspended from the practice of law.
At the onset, it must be pointed out that the business name City Grill Restaurant registered
under Guillen's name was never dissolved in accordance with the law. Even Arnado failed to
prove that the City Grill Restaurant business had already been terminated. Although said
business name was only used for a short period of time, the same had already acquired goodwill
among the residents and customers in the locality.
On February 26, 2004, City Grill-Sutukil Food Corporation was registered with the SEC.
Although Arnado and Ebo were not included as incorporators, those persons reflected in the
articles of incorporation as the company's incorporators were their relatives. It is clear that
when Arnado caused the incorporation of City Grill-Sutukil Food Corporation, he was fully
aware that City Grill Restaurant was still registered in Guillen's name. Obviously, he did the
same to take advantage of the goodwill earned by the name of City Grill Restaurant. Arnado
was likewise the one who actually notarized some of City Grill-Sutukil Food Corporation's
legal documents such as the Treasurer's Affidavit and a letter addressed to the SEC.
The IBP Board thus aptly concluded that Arnado is guilty of taking advantage of his knowledge
of the law and of surreptitiously easing out Guillen from their restaurant business partnership
by registering a corporation under a different but similar name and style, in the same line of
business, and using the same trade secrets. Arnado, although not reflected as one of the
incorporators of City Grill-Sutukil Food Corporation, has deceived the public into believing
that City Grill Restaurant and City Grill-Sutukil Food Corporation are one and the same,
clearly violating Rule 1.01 of the CPR, which prohibits a lawyer from engaging in unlawful,
dishonest, immoral, or deceitful conduct.
The Court has repeatedly emphasized that the practice of law is imbued with public interest
and that a lawyer owes substantial duties, not only to his client, but also to his brethren in the
profession, to the courts, and to the public, and takes part in the administration of justice, one
of the most important functions of the State, as an officer of the court. Accordingly, lawyers
are bound to maintain, not only a high standard of legal proficiency, but also of morality,
honesty, integrity, and fair dealing. 4
Here, Arnado has certainly fallen short of the high standard of morality, honesty, integrity, and
fair dealing required of him. On the contrary, he employed his knowledge and skill of the law
as well as took advantage of Guillen to secure undue gains for himself and to inflict serious
damage on others.
WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Court SUSPENDS Atty. Audie
Arnado from the practice of law for a period of one (1) year and WARNS him that a repetition
of the same or similar offense shall be dealt with more severely.
Let copies of this decision be included in the personal records of Atty. Audie Arnado and
entered in his file in the Office of the Bar Confidant.
Let copies of this decision be disseminated to all lower courts by the Office of the Court
Administrator, as well as to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, for their information and
guidance.
SO ORDERED.
Carpio, Caguioa and Reyes, Jr., JJ., concur.
Perlas-Bernabe, * J., is on official leave.

THIRD DIVISION
[A.C. No. 11482. July 17, 2017.]

JOCELYN IGNACIO, complainant, vs. ATTY. DANIEL T.


ALVIAR, respondent.

DECISION

TIJAM, J p:

This is an administrative case filed by complainant Jocelyn Ignacio against respondent Atty.
Daniel T. Alviar for violation of Canon 1, 1 Rule 1.01 2 of
the Code ofProfessional Responsibility (CPR) for his alleged refusal to refund the amount of
acceptance fees; Canon 12, 3 Rule 12.04 4 and Canon 18, 5 Rule 18.03 6 for his alleged failure
to appear in the criminal case he is handling and to file any pleading therein.
The Facts
In March 2014, respondent was referred to complainant for purposes of handling the case of
complainant's son who was then apprehended and detained by the Philippine Drug
Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Quezon City. Respondent agreed to represent complainant's
son for a stipulated acceptance fee of PhP100,000. Respondent further represented that he
could refer the matter to the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the alleged illegal
arrest made on complainant's son. 7
After the initial payments of PhP20,000 and PhP30,000 were given to respondent, the latter
visited complainant's son at the PDEA detention cell. 8 There, respondent conferred with
complainant's son for some 20 minutes. After which, respondent left. 9
Respondent, through his secretary, secured from the Office of the Pasay City Prosecutor plain
copies of the case records. Respondent also verified twice from the Hall of Justice if the case
was already filed in court. 10 It was at this time that respondent asked, and was paid, the
remaining balance of PhP50,000. Subsequently, respondent filed his notice of appearance as
counsel for complainant's son. 11
Sometime in April 2014, complainant informed respondent that her son's arraignment was set
on April 29, 2014. Respondent, however, replied that he cannot attend said arraignment due to
a previously scheduled hearing. He committed to either find a way to attend the hearing or ask
another lawyer-friend to attend it for him.
On April 26, 2014, complainant wrote a letter 12 to respondent informing the latter that she
had decided to seek the intercession of another lawyer owing to the fact that respondent cannot
attend her son's scheduled arraignment. Complainant then requested that respondent retain a
portion of the PhP100,000 to fairly remunerate respondent for the preparatory legal service he
rendered. Respondent denies having received said letter. 13
On the date of the arraignment, neither respondent nor his promised alternate, appeared. When
asked, respondent replied that he forgot the date of arraignment. 14
This incident prompted complainant to write another letter 15 dated May 6, 2014 to
respondent, requesting the latter to formally withdraw as counsel and emphasized that
respondent's withdrawal as counsel is necessary so that she and her son can hire another lawyer
to take his stead. In said letter, complainant also reiterated her request that a portion of the
PhP100,000 be remitted to them after respondent deducts his professional fees commensurate
to the preparatory legal service he rendered. 16
When respondent failed to take heed, complainant filed on June 16, 2014, the instant
administrative complaint before the Commission on Bar Discipline, Integrated Bar of the
Philippines.
At the proceedings therein, respondent failed to attend the initial mandatory conferences and
to file his responsive pleading, citing as reason therefor the persistent threats to his life
allegedly caused by a former client. 17 Upon finally submitting his Answer, 18 respondent
denied having neglected his duties to complainant's son.

Report and Recommendation
 of the Commission on Bar Discipline


On January 21, 2016, the Investigating Commissioner found respondent liable for negligence
under Rule 18.03 of the CPR and recommended a penalty of six months suspension from the
practice of law. The Investigating Commissioner observed that while respondent performed
some tasks as lawyer for complainant's son, such do not command a fee of PhP100,000. It was
also emphasized that respondent's failure to attend the arraignment shows the latter's failure to
handle the case with diligence. 19
As such, the Investigating Commissioner disposed: SDAaTC
WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, the undersigned recommends
that respondent be meted out with the penalty of suspension for six (6) months
from the practice of law and ordered to restitute the amount of One Hundred
Thousand (Php100,000) Pesos to the complainant.
Respectfully Submitted. 20

Resolution of the Board of Governors
 of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines


On February 25, 2016, the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution No. XXII-2016-
178 21 lowering the recommended penalty to reprimand with stern warning, thus:
RESOLVED to ADOPT with modification the recommendation of the
Investigating Commissioner reducing the penalty to REPRIMAND WITH
STERN WARNING. 22
Pursuant to Rule 139-B, the records of the administrative case were transmitted by the IBP to
the Court for final action. Complainant further seeks a review 23of the Resolution No. XXII-
2016-178 dated February 25, 2016.
The Issue
The threshold issue to be resolved is whether respondent is guilty of negligence in handling
the case of complainant's son.
The Ruling of the Court
The Court affirms the Resolution No. XXII-2016-178 dated February 25, 2016 of the IBP
Board of Governors, reducing the recommended penalty from six months to reprimand with
stern warning. However, on the undisputed factual finding that respondent only performed
preparatory legal services for complainant's son, he is not entitled to the entire PhP100,000 but
only to fees determined on the basis of quantum meruit, Section 24, Rule 138, and Canon 20,
Rule 20.01 of theCPR and that the remainder should be restituted to complainant.
Acceptance of money from a client establishes an attorney-client relationship and gives rise to
the duty of fidelity to the client's cause. 24 Canon 18 25 of the CPRmandates that once a
lawyer agrees to handle a case, it is the lawyer's duty to serve the client with competence and
diligence.
In Voluntad-Ramirez v. Atty. Bautista, 26 the Court citing Santiago v. Fojas 27 expounds:
It is axiomatic that no lawyer is obliged to act either as adviser or advocate for
every person who may wish to become his client. He has the right to decline
employment, subject, however, to Canon 14 of
the Code of Professional Responsibility. Once he agrees to take up the cause of
[his] client, the lawyer owes fidelity to such cause and must always be mindful
of the trust and confidence reposed in him. He must serve the client with
competence and diligence, and champion the latter's cause with wholehearted
fidelity, care and devotion. Elsewise stated, he owes entire devotion to the
interest of his client, warm zeal in the maintenance and defense of his client's
rights, and the exertion of his utmost learning and ability to the end that nothing
be taken or withheld from his client, save by the rules of the law, legally applied.
This simply means that his client is entitled to the benefit of any and every
remedy and defense that is authorized by the law of the land and he may expect
his lawyer to assert every such remedy or defense. If much is demanded from
an attorney, it is because the entrusted privilege to practice law carries with it
the correlative duties not only to the client but also to the court, to the bar, and
to the public. A lawyer who performs his duty with diligence and candor not
only protects the interest of his client; he also serves the ends of justice, does
honor to the bar, and helps maintain the respect of the community to the legal
profession. 28
We agree with the finding of the Investigating Commissioner that respondent failed to
competently and diligently attend to the legal matter entrusted to him. It is undisputed that
respondent came to see complainant's son, his client, only once for about 20 minutes and no
more thereafter; 29 it is likewise undisputed that respondent failed to attend the scheduled
arraignment despite the latter's commitment to either find a way to attend, or send a
collaborating counsel to do so; 30that he forgot the date of arraignment is an equally dismal
excuse.
Equally revealing of respondent's negligence was his nonchalant attitude towards
complainant's request for a refund of a portion of, not even the entire, PhP100,000. In his
Answer before the IBP, respondent simply denied having received any of the letters sent by
complainant. 31 Respondent's claim that it was complainant who failed to talk to him and his
admission that he "forgot about complainant" 32 reveal his rather casual and lackadaisical
treatment of the complainant and the legal matter entrusted to him.
If it were true that complainant already failed to communicate with him, the least respondent
could have done was to withdraw his appearance as counsel. But even this measure, it appears,
respondent failed to perform. His failure to take such action speaks of his negligence.
In administrative proceedings, only substantial evidence is required to warrant disciplinary
sanctions. Substantial evidence is consistently defined as relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. 33 While the Court finds respondent
guilty of negligence, We cannot ascribe to him any unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful
conduct nor causing undue delay and impediment to the execution of a judgment or misusing
court processes. As such, and consistent with current jurisprudence, We find the penalty of
reprimand with stern warning commensurate to his offense. 34
As regards the restitution of the acceptance fees, We find it necessary to first distinguish
between an attorney's fee and an acceptance fee as the former depends on the nature and extent
of the legal services rendered, while the other does not.
On one hand, attorney's fee is understood both in its ordinary and extraordinary concept. 35 In
its ordinary concept, attorney's fee refers to the reasonable compensation paid to a lawyer by
his client for legal services rendered. While, in its extraordinary concept, attorney's fee is
awarded by the court to the successful litigant to be paid by the losing party as indemnity for
damages. 36 In the present case, the Investigating Commissioner referred to the attorney's fee
in its ordinary concept. acEHCD
On the other hand, acceptance fee refers to the charge imposed by the lawyer for mere
acceptance of the case. The rationale for the fee is because once the lawyer agrees to represent
a client, he is precluded from handling cases of the opposing party based on the prohibition on
conflict of interest. The opportunity cost of mere acceptance is thus indemnified by the
payment of acceptance fee. However, since acceptance fee compensates the lawyer only for
lost opportunity, the same is not measured by the nature and extent of the legal services
rendered. 37
In this case, respondent referred to the PhP100,000 as his acceptance fee while to the
complainant, said amount answers for the legal services which respondent was engaged to
provide. Preceding from the fact that complainant agreed to immediately pay, as she, in fact,
immediately paid the sums of PhP20,000, PhP30,000 and PhP50,000, said amounts
undoubtedly pertain to respondent's acceptance fee which is customarily paid by the client
upon the lawyer's acceptance of the case.
Be that as it may, the Court had not shied from ordering a return of acceptance fees in cases
wherein the lawyer had been negligent in the handling of his client's case. Thus, in Carino v.
Atty. De Los Reyes, 38 the respondent lawyer who failed to file a complaint-affidavit before
the prosecutor's office, returned the PhP10,000 acceptance fee paid to him and was admonished
to be more careful in the performance of his duty to his clients. Likewise, in Voluntad-Ramirez
v. Bautista, 39 the respondent lawyer was ordered to return the PhP14,000 acceptance fee
because he did nothing to advance his client's cause during the six-month period that he was
engaged as counsel.
This being the case, the next query to be had is how much of the acceptance fee should
respondent restitute. In this regard, the principle of quantum meruit(as much as he deserves)
may serve as a basis for determining the reasonable amount of attorney's fees. Quantum
meruit is a device to prevent undue enrichment based on the equitable postulate that it is unjust
for a person to retain benefit without working for it.
Also, Section 24, Rule 138 should be observed in determining respondent's compensation,
thus:
SEC. 24. Compensation of attorney's; agreement as to fees. An attorney
shall be entitled to have and recover from his client no more than a
reasonable compensation for his services, with a view to the importance of
the subject matter of the controversy, the extent of the services rendered,
and the professional standing of the attorney. No court shall be bound by
the opinion of attorneys as expert witnesses as to the proper compensation,
but may disregard such testimony and base its conclusion on its own
professional knowledge. A written contract for services shall control the
amount to be paid therefor unless found by the court to be unconscionable
or unreasonable.
The criteria found in the Code of Professional Responsibility are also to be considered in
assessing the proper amount of compensation that a lawyer should receive. 40 Canon 20, Rule
20.01 provides:
CANON 20 A LAWYER SHALL CHARGE ONLY FAIR AND
REASONABLE FEES.
Rule 20.01. A lawyer shall be guided by the following factors in
determining his fees:
(a) The time spent and the extent of the services rendered or
required;
(b) The novelty and difficulty of the question involved;
(c) The importance of the subject matter;
(d) The skill demanded;
(e) The probability of losing other employment as a result of
acceptance of the proffered case;
(f) The customary charges for similar services and the schedule of
fees of the IBP Chapter to which he belongs;
(g) The amount involved in the controversy and the benefits resulting
to the client from the service;
(h) The contingency or certainty of compensation;
(i) The character of the employment, whether occasional or
established; and
(j) The professional standing of the lawyer.
Here, respondent only conferred once with the complainant's son for 20 minutes, filed his entry
of appearance, obtained copies of the case records and inquired twice as to the status of the
case. For his efforts and for the particular circumstances in this case, respondent should be
allowed a reasonable compensation of PhP3,000. The remainder, or PhP97,000 should be
returned to the complainant.
WHEREFORE, We find Atty. Daniel T. Alviar LIABLE for violation of Canon 18 and Rule
18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and he is herebyREPRIMANDED with a
stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar act would be dealt with more severely.
Atty. Daniel T. Alviar is ordered to RESTITUTE to complainant the amount of PhP97,000
out of the Php100,000 acceptance fee.
SO ORDERED.
Velasco, Jr., Bersamin, Jardeleza and Reyes, Jr., JJ., concur.

EN BANC
[A.C. No. 11256. March 7, 2017.]

FLORDELIZA A. MADRIA, complainant, vs. ATTY. CARLOS P.


RIVERA, respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM p:

A lawyer who causes the simulation of court documents not only violates the court and its
processes, but also betrays the trust and confidence reposed in him by his client and must be
disbarred to maintain the integrity of the Law Profession.
Antecedents
In November 2002, complainant Flordeliza A. Madria consulted the respondent in his law
office in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan to inquire about the process of annulling her marriage with
her husband, Juan C. Madria. After giving the details of her marriage and other facts relevant
to the annulment, the respondent told her that she had a strong case, and guaranteed that he
could obtain for her the decree of annulment. He told her, too, that his legal services would
cost P25,000.00, and that she should return on November 19, 2002 inasmuch as he would still
prepare the complaint for the annulment. At the time of the consultation, she was accompanied
by her daughter, Vanessa Madria, and her nephew, Jayson Argonza. 1
The complainant returned to the respondent's office on November 19, 2002. On that occasion,
he showed her the petition for annulment, and asked her to sign it. She paid to him an initial
amount of P4,000.00. 2 He acknowledged the payment through a handwritten receipt. 3
The complainant again went to the respondent's office on December 16, 2002 to deliver another
partial payment, and to follow up on the case. The respondent advised her to just wait for the
resolution of her complaint, and assured her that she did not need to appear in court. He
explained that all the court notices and processes would be sent to his office, and that he would
regularly apprise her of the developments. 4 On December 28, 2002, she returned to his office
to complete her payment, and he also issued his receipt for the payment. 5
The complainant's daughter Vanessa thereafter made several follow-ups on behalf of her
mother. In the latter part of April 2003, the respondent informed the complainant that her
petition had been granted. 6 Thus, Vanessa went to the respondent's office and received a copy
of the trial court's decision dated April 16, 2003 signed by Judge Lyliha Abella Aquino of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 4, in Tuguegarao City. 7
According to the complainant, the respondent advised her to allow five months to lapse after
the release of the decision before she could safely claim the status of "single." After the lapse
of such time, she declared in her Voter's Registration Record (VRR) that she was
single. 8 CAIHTE
The complainant, again through Vanessa, received from the respondent a copy of the certificate
of finality dated September 26, 2003 signed by one Jacinto C. Danao of the RTC (Branch 4). 9
Believing that the documents were authentic, the complainant used the purported decision and
certificate of finality in applying for the renewal of her passport. 10 However, she became the
object of an investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) because her former
partner, Andrew Dowson Grainge, had filed a complaint charging that she had fabricated the
decision for the annulment of her marriage. Only then did she learn that the decision and the
certificate of finality given by the respondent did not exist in the court records, as borne out by
the letter signed by Atty. Aura Clarissa B. Tabag-Querubin, Clerk of Court of the RTC Branch
IV, to wit:

MS. RACHEL M. ROXAS
 Officer-in-Charge
 Regional Consular


Office
 Tuguegarao City
Madam:
This is in reply to your letter dated June 23, 2011 inquiring on whether Civil
Case No. 6149 for the Annulment of Marriage between Flordeliza Argonza
Madria and Juan C. Madria was filed and decided by this Court.
As per records of this Court, the above-entitled case was filed on April 25, 2003
but was dismissed as per Order of this Court dated April 6, 2004.
The signature of the [sic] Judge Lyliha Abella Aquino as appearing in the
alleged decision attached to your letter is a blatant forgery.
For your information and guidance.
Very truly yours,

(sgd.)
 AURA CLARISSA B. TABAG-QUERUBIN
 Clerk of Court V 11


As a result, the complainant faced criminal charges for violation of the Philippine Passport
Act in the RTC in Tuguegarao City. 12 She claims that she had relied in good faith on the
representations of the respondent; and that he had taken advantage of his position in convincing
her to part with her money and to rely on the falsified court documents. 13
In his answer, 14 the respondent denies the allegations of the complainant. He averred that he
had informed her that he would still be carefully reviewing the grounds to support her petition;
that she had insisted that he should prepare the draft of her petition that she could show to her
foreigner fiancé; that she had also prevailed upon him to simulate the court decision to the
effect that her marriage had been annulled, and to fabricate the certificate of finality; that she
had assured him that such simulated documents would be kept strictly confidential; that he had
informed her that the petition had been filed in April 2003, but she had paid no attention to
such information; that she had not appeared in any of the scheduled hearings despite notice;
and that he had not heard from her since then, and that she had not even returned to his office.

Findings and Recommendation of the
 Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)


After conducting her investigation, IBP Commissioner Rebecca Villanueva-Maala submitted
her Report and Recommendation 15 wherein she concluded that the respondent had violated
his Lawyer's Oath; and recommended his suspension from the practice of law for a period of
two years.
The IBP Board of Governors, albeit adopting the findings of Commissioner Villanueva-Maala,
modified the recommendation of suspension from the practice of law for two years to
disbarment through its Resolution No. XXI-2015-242, to wit:

RESOLUTION NO. XXI-2015-242
 CDB Case No. 14-


4315
 Flordeliza A. Madria vs.
 Atty. Carlos P. Rivera
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby 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", considering violation of his lawyers' oath as a lawyer
and a member of the Bar by preparing a simulated Court decision granting the
petition for annulment of marriage of complainant and a certificate of finality
of the annulment petition. Hence, Atty. Carlos P. Rivera is
hereby DISBARRED from the practice of law and his name stricken off the
Roll of Attorneys. 16
Ruling of the Court
We adopt the findings and recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors.
The respondent acknowledged authorship of the petition for annulment of marriage, and of the
simulation of the decision and certificate of finality. His explanation of having done so only
upon the complainant's persistent prodding did not exculpate him from responsibility. For one,
the explanation is unacceptable, if not altogether empty. Simulating or participating in the
simulation of a court decision and a certificate of finality of the same decision is an outright
criminal falsification or forgery. One need not be a lawyer to know so, but it was worse in the
respondent's case because he was a lawyer. Thus, his acts were legally intolerable. Specifically,
his deliberate falsification of the court decision and the certificate of finality of the decision
reflected a high degree of moral turpitude on his part, and made a mockery of the
administration of justice in this country. He thereby became unworthy of continuing as a
member of the Bar.
The respondent directly contravened the letter and spirit of Rules 1.01 and 1.02, Canon 1, and
Rule 15.07, Canon 15 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, to wit:
CANON 1 — A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, OBEY
THE LAWS OF THE LAND AND PROMOTE RESPECT FOR LAW OF
AND LEGAL PROCESSES.
Rule 1.01 — A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest,
immoral or deceitful conduct. DETACa
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.
xxx xxx xxx
CANON 15 — A LAWYER SHALL OBSERVE CANDOR, FAIRNESS AND
LOYALTY IN ALL HIS DEALINGS AND TRANSACTIONS WITH HIS
CLIENTS.
Rule 15.07. — A lawyer shall impress upon his client
compliance with the laws and the principles of fairness.
The respondent would shift the blame to his client. That a lay person like the complainant could
have swayed a lawyer like the respondent into committing the simulations was patently
improbable. Yet, even if he had committed the simulations upon the client's prodding, he would
be no less responsible. Being a lawyer, he was aware of and was bound by the ethical canons
of the Code of Professional Responsibility, particularly those quoted earlier, which would
have been enough to deter him from committing the falsification, as well as to make him
unhesitatingly frustrate her prodding in deference to his sworn obligation as a lawyer to
always act with honesty and to obey the laws of the land. Surely, too, he could not have soon
forgotten his express undertaking under his Lawyer's Oath to "do no falsehood, nor consent to
its commission." 17 Indeed, the ethics of the Legal Profession rightly enjoined every lawyer
like him to act with the highest standards of truthfulness, fair play and nobility in the course of
his practice of law. 18 As we have observed in one case: 19
Public confidence in law and lawyers may be eroded by the irresponsible and
improper conduct of a member of the bar. Thus, a lawyer should determine his
conduct by acting in a manner that would promote public confidence in the
integrity of the legal profession. Members of the Bar are expected to always
live up to the standards embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility as
the relationship between an attorney and his client is highly fiduciary in nature
and demands utmost fidelity and good faith.
Also, Canon 15 20 and Rule 18.04 21 of Canon 18 of
the Code of Professional Responsibility required the respondent be true to the complainant as
his client. By choosing to ignore his fiduciary responsibility for the sake of getting her money,
he committed a further violation of his Lawyer's Oath by which he swore not to"delay any
man's cause for money or malice," and to "conduct [him]self 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." He compounded this violation by taking advantage of his legal knowledge to promote
his own selfish motives, thereby disregarding his responsibility under Canon 17. 22
Under Section 27, 23 Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, a lawyer may be disbarred on any of the
following grounds, namely: (1) deceit; (2) malpractice; (3) gross misconduct in office; (4)
grossly immoral conduct; (5) conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude; (6) violation of
the lawyers oath; (7) willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court; and (8)
corruptly or willfully appearing as a lawyer for a party to a case without authority so to do.
Falsifying or simulating the court papers amounted to deceit, malpractice or misconduct in
office, any of which was already a ground sufficient for disbarment under Section 27, Rule 38
of the Rules of Court. 24 The moral standards of the Legal Profession expected the respondent
to act with the highest degree of professionalism, decency, and nobility in the course of their
practice of law. 25 That he turned his back on such standards exhibited his baseness, lack of
moral character, dishonesty, lack of probity and general unworthiness to continue as an officer
of the Court. 26
We note that the respondent was previously sanctioned for unprofessional conduct. In Cruz-
Villanueva v. Rivera, 27 he was suspended from the practice of law because he had notarized
documents without a notarial commission. This circumstance shows his predisposition to
beguile other persons into believing in the documents that he had falsified or simulated. It is
time to put a stop to such proclivity. He should be quickly removed through disbarment.
It is true that the power to disbar is always exercised with great caution and only for the most
imperative reasons or in cases of clear misconduct affecting the standing and moral character
of the lawyer as an officer of the court and member of the bar. 28 But we do not hesitate when
the misconduct is gross, like in the respondent's case. We wield the power now because the
respondent, by his gross misconduct as herein described, absolutely forfeited the privilege to
remain in the Law Profession. As we reminded in Embido v. Pe, 29 in which we disbarred the
respondent lawyer for falsifying a court decision:
No lawyer should ever lose sight of the verity that the practice of the legal
profession is always a privilege that the Court extends only to the deserving,
and that the Court may withdraw or deny the privilege to him who fails to
observe and respect the Lawyer's Oath and the canons of ethical conduct in his
professional and private capacities. He may be disbarred or suspended from the
practice of law not only for acts and omissions of malpractice and for dishonesty
in his professional dealings, but also for gross misconduct not directly
connected with his professional duties that reveal his unfitness for the office
and his unworthiness of the principles that the privilege to practice law confers
upon him. Verily, no lawyer is immune from the disciplinary authority of the
Court whose duty and obligation are to investigate and punish lawyer
misconduct committed either in a professional or private capacity. The test is
whether the conduct shows the lawyer to be wanting in moral character,
honesty, probity, and good demeanor, and whether the conduct renders the
lawyer unworthy to continue as an officer of the Court. 30
WHEREFORE, the Courease with his suspension. At the very least, such suspension gave
him a concomitant responsibility to inform his clients that he would be unable to
attendt FINDS and HOLDS Atty. CARLOS P. RIVERA guilty of GRAVE
MISCONDUCT and VIOLATION OF THE LAWYER'S OATH;
and,ACCORDINGLY, ORDERS his DISBARMENT. Let his name be STRICKEN from
the ROLL OF ATTORNEYS.
This decision is IMMEDIATELY EXECUTORY.
Let copies of this decision be furnished to: (a) the OFFICE OF THE COURT
ADMINISTRATOR for dissemination to all courts throughout the country for their
information and guidance; (b) the INTEGRATED BAR OF THE PHILIPPINES; (c)
the OFFICE OF THE BAR CONFIDANT for appending to the respondent's personal record
as a member of the Bar; and (d) the OFFICE OF THE PROSECUTOR GENERAL,
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE for possible criminal prosecution of the respondent.aDSIHc
SO ORDERED.
Sereno, C.J., Carpio, Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-de Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Del Castillo,
Mendoza, Reyes, Perlas-Bernabe, Leonen, Jardeleza and Caguioa, JJ., concur.

EN BANC
[A.C. No. 10911. June 6, 2017.]

VIRGILIO J. MAPALAD, SR., complainant, vs. ATTY. ANSELMO S.


ECHANEZ, respondent.

DECISION

TIJAM, J p:

This administrative case arose from a verified Complaint for disbarment dated October 16,
2009 filed by complainant Virgilio Mapalad, Sr. against respondent Atty. Anselmo S. Echanez
before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP). 1
The Facts
Complainant alleged that in an action for Recovery of Possession and Damages with Writ of
Preliminary Mandatory Injunction docketed as Civil Case No. 1635-1-784 before the
Municipal Trial Court in Santiago City, Isabela, complainant was one of the plaintiffs while
respondent was the defendants' counsel therein. As the said case was decided in favor of the
plaintiffs, respondent filed a Notice of Appeal dated May 22, 2009, in which respondent
indicated his Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) Compliance No. II-0014038
without indicating the date of issue thereof. 2 On appeal, respondent filed the appellants' brief,
again only indicating his MCLE Compliance Number. 3
In another case docketed as Special Civil Action No. 3573, respondent, for the same clients,
filed a Petition for Injunction wherein he once again only indicated his MCLE Compliance
Number. 4 Respondent also filed a Motion for Leave of Court dated July 13, 2009 in the said
special civil action, indicating his MCLE Compliance Number without the date of issue. 5
Upon inquiry with the MCLE Office, complainant discovered that respondent had no MCLE
compliance yet. The MCLE Office then issued a Certification dated September 30, 2009,
stating that respondent had not yet complied with his MCLE requirements for the First
Compliance Period (April 15, 2001 to April 14, 2004) and Second Compliance Period (April
15, 2004 to April 14, 2007). 6
Hence, this complaint. Complainant argues that respondent's act of deliberately and unlawfully
misleading the courts, parties, and counsels concerned into believing that he had complied with
the MCLE requirements when in truth he had not, is a serious malpractice and grave
misconduct. 7 The complainant, thus, prayed for the IBP to recommend respondent's
disbarment to this Court. 8
In a resolution dated February 10, 2010, this Court required the respondent to file a comment
on the complaint within 10 days from notice. 9 Despite receipt thereof, however, respondent
failed to comply with the said resolution. 10 This Court, thus, issued another resolution dated
July 11, 2011 requiring the respondent to show cause why he should not be disciplinarily dealt
with or held in contempt for such failure and, again, to file a comment to the
complaint. 11 However, the respondent again failed to comply. 12
On August 14, 2013, the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) issued a Notice of
Mandatory Conference/Hearing. 13 On the date of the hearing, however, none of the parties
appeared despite due notice. 14 Nonetheless, the IBP directed the parties to submit their
respective position papers within 10 days from notice. 15Only the complainant filed his
position paper, reiterating the allegations and arguments in his complaint. 16
After investigation, the Investigating Commissioner of the IBP-CBD rendered a
report 17 dated December 17, 2013 with the following recommendation, to wit:
WHEREFORE, after a careful evaluation of the pieces of evidence submitted
by the complainant, it is recommended that ATTY. ANSELMO S. ECHANEZ
be DISBARRED and that his name be stricken from the Roll of Attorneys upon
finality of the decision.
SO ORDERED. 18
On September 28, 2014, the IBP Board of Governors issued Resolution No. XXI-2014-685,
adopting and approving the report and recommendation of the CBD-IBP Investigating
Commissioner, viz.:
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
as Annex "A", and finding the recommendation to be fully supported by the
evidence on record and applicable laws, and for Respondent's violation of the
Lawyer's Oath, Canon 1, Rule 1.01 and Canon 10, Rule 10.01 of
the Code of Professional Responsibility when he falsified his MCLE
Compliance Number and used it in his pleadings in Court, including his having
ignored the Orders and notices of the Commission on Bar Discipline and his
having been previously sanctioned twice by the IBP, Atty. Anselmo Echanez is
hereby DISBARRED and his name stricken from the Roll of Attorneys. 19
No motion for reconsideration was filed by either party.
The Issue
Should respondent be administratively disciplined based on the allegations in the complaint
and evidence on record?
The Ruling
We answer in the affirmative.
Preliminarily, let it be stated that there is no denying that the respondent was given ample
opportunity to answer the imputations against him and defend himself but he did not do so
despite due notices.
At any rate, respondent's acts of misconduct are clearly manifest, thus, warranting the exercise
by this Court of its disciplinary power.
First. It was clearly established that respondent violated Bar Matter No. 850. 20 No less than
the MCLE Office had issued a certification stating that respondent had not complied with the
first and second compliance period of the MCLE. 21
Second. Despite such non-compliance, respondent repeatedly indicated a false MCLE
compliance number in his pleadings before the trial courts. 22 In indicating patently false
information in pleadings filed before the courts of law, not only once but four times, as per
records, the respondent acted in manifest bad faith, dishonesty, and deceit. In so doing, he
indeed misled the courts, litigants — his own clients included — professional colleagues, and
all others who may have relied on such pleadings containing false information. 23
Respondent's act of filing pleadings that he fully knew to contain false information is a
mockery of the courts, especially this Court, considering that it is this Court that authored the
rules and regulations that the respondent violated. 24
The Lawyer's Oath in Rule 138, Section 3 of the Rules of Court requires commitment to
obeying laws and legal orders, doing no falsehood, and acting with fidelity to both court and
client, among others, viz.:
I, x x x do solemnly swear that I will maintain allegiance to the Republic of the
Philippines, I will support the 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, or 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 to the courts as to my clients; and I impose upon
myself these, voluntary obligations without any mental reservation or purpose
of evasion. So help me God. (emphasis supplied)
Also, Canon 1, Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR)provides:
CANON 1 — A lawyer shall uphold the constitution, obey the laws of the land
and promote respect for law and legal processes.
Rule 1.01 — A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or
deceitful conduct.
Canon 10, Rule 10.01 of the CPR likewise states:
CANON 10 — A lawyer owes candor, fairness and good faith to the court.
Rule 10.01 — 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.
In using a false MCLE compliance number in his pleadings, respondent also put his own clients
at risk. Such deficiency in pleadings can be fatal to the client's cause as pleadings with such
false information produce no legal effect. 25 In so doing, respondent violated his duty to his
clients. 26 Canons 17 and 18 of the CPRprovide:
CANON 17 — A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and shall be
mindful of the trust and confidence reposed upon him.
CANON 18 — A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence.
Third. The respondent also repeatedly failed to obey legal orders of the trial court, the IBP-
CBD, and also this Court despite due notice. In the special civil action above-cited, the trial
court directed the respondent to file a comment on a motion which raised in issue respondent's
use of a false MCLE compliance number in his pleadings but he did not file any. 27 This Court
also directed respondent to file a comment on the instant complaint but he failed to do
so. 28 We then issued a show cause order against the respondent to explain why he should not
be disciplined or held in contempt for failing to file the required comment but again, respondent
did not heed this court's order. 29 The IBP-CBD also notified the respondent to appear before
it for mandatory conference/hearing but the said notice was also ignored. 30
Court orders should be respected not only because the authorities who issued them should be
respected, but because of the respect and consideration that should be extended to the judicial
branch of the government, which is absolutely essential if our government is to be a
government of laws and not of men. 31
Clearly, respondent's act of ignoring the said court orders despite notice violates the lawyer's
oath and runs counter to the precepts of the CPR. By his repeated dismissive conduct, the
respondent exhibited an unpardonable lack of respect for the authority of the Court.
Respondent's culpability is further highlighted by the fact that, as cited by the IBP Board of
Governors in its resolution, respondent had already been sanctioned by the IBP twice. In a
decision dated April 11, 2013 by this Court en banc, respondent was found guilty of engaging
in notarial practice without a notarial commission, and was thus suspended from the practice
of law for two years with the warning that a repetition of the same or similar act in the future
shall merit a more severe sanction. 32 In another decision dated May 31, 2016, this Court en
banc again found respondent guilty of performing notarial acts without a notarial commission
and was thus suspended from the practice of law for two years and barred permanently from
being commissioned as notary public with a stern warning that a repetition of the same shall
be dealt with severely. 33 It is noteworthy that in both cases, respondent already manifested
his lack of regard, not only for the charges against him, but most importantly to the orders of
the IBP and the courts. In the said cases, the respondent likewise failed to file answers,
comments, or position papers, or attended mandatory conferences despite due notices. 34
Taken altogether, considering respondent's act of using a false MCLE compliance number in
his pleadings, 35 his repeated failure to obey legal orders, 36 and the fact that he had already
been sanctioned twice by this Court on separate cases, 37 We are constrained to affirm the IBP
Board of Governors' Resolution No. XXI-2014-685, recommending his disbarment to prevent
him from further engaging in legal practice. 38 It cannot be overstressed that lawyers are
instruments in the administration of justice. 39 As vanguards of our legal system, they are
expected to maintain legal proficiency and a high standard of honesty, integrity, and fair
dealing. 40 Also, of all classes and professions, the lawyer is most sacredly bound to uphold
the laws. 41 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 ignore the very bonds of society, is unfaithful
to his position and office and sets a detrimental example to the society. 42
WHEREFORE, respondent Anselmo S. Echanez is hereby DISBARRED from the practice
of law, and his name is ORDERED STRICKEN FROM THE ROLL OF ATTORNEYS.
Let a copy of this Decision be entered in his record as a member of the Bar; and let 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.
Sereno, C.J., Carpio, Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-de Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Del Castillo,
Reyes, Perlas-Bernabe, Leonen, Jardeleza and Caguioa, JJ., concur.
Mendoza * and Martires, * JJ., are on official leave.

THIRD DIVISION
[A.C. No. 11640. July 19, 2017.]

ALLAN F. SALAZAR, petitioner, vs. ATTY. ALFEO T.


SICCUAN, respondent.

NOTICE

Sirs/Mesdames :

Please take notice that the Court, Third Division, issued a Resolution dated July 19,
2017, which reads as follows:
"A.C. No. 11640 (Allan F. Salazar vs. Atty. Alfeo T. Siccuan). — For resolution of the Court
is a complaint against respondent Atty. Alfeo T. Siccuan filed by complainant Allan F. Salazar
for violation of Rule IV, Section 2 (b) (2) of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice. 1
The factual findings are summarized in the Report and Recommendation 2 of Commissioner
Antonio Ray A. Ortiguera of the Commission on Bar Discipline, Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (CBD-IBP), viz.:
The Complaint essentially avers that Atty. Siccuan notarized a fictitious deed
of sale, containing a forged signature of Mr. Salazar, without Mr. Salazar
personally appearing to subscribe and swear to the same.
As alleged by Mr. Salazar in his Complaint, the controversy began sometime in
September 2010 when he obtained a Php600,000.00 loan from a certain Ms.
Lily S. Landua. In connection with the loan, Mr. Salazar agreed to sell a house
and lot to Ms. Landua for Php5,300,000.00. The terms of the sale were that the
Php600,000.00 will be treated as partial payment; while the balance of
Php4,700,000.00 will be paid in 3 months as follows:
1. Php1,500,000.00 in cash; and
2. Php3,200,000.00 through a bank loan obtained by Ms.
Landua using the subject property as collateral.
Pursuant to the terms of the sale, Ms. Landua executed a Php1,500,000.00
promissory note to Mr. Salazar. As for the Php3,200,000.00 bank loan, in order
to use the property as collateral, Ms. Landua requested Mr. Salazar to sign an
undated deed of sale and surrender to her the title of the property, i.e., TCT No.
T-118861. Mr. Salazar complied with Ms. Landua's requests with the
understanding that the deed of sale will not be notarized until the bank issues a
notice of approval and guaranty and that the proceeds of the loan amounting to
Php3,200,000.00 is paid to Mr. Salazar.
Mr. Salazar alleges that Ms. Landua failed to comply with her obligations.
Instead, Mr. Salazar was surprised to learn that Ms. Landua filed a case against
him on September 14, 2011 for unlawful detainer on the basis of the deed of
absolute sale he signed, which had been notarized by Atty. Carlos C. Pormento
without his knowledge and consent. ASEcHI
While the unlawful detainer case was ongoing, Mr. Salazar also discovered that
TCT No. T-118861 had been cancelled and a new title, TCT No. 005-
2011003142, was issued in the name of Ms. Landua. Apparently, the new title
was issued on the basis of another deed of sale dated February 5, 2011
purportedly between Mr. Salazar, as vendor, and Ms. Landua and her husband,
as vendees for the amount of Php1,500,000.00 and notarized by herein
respondent Atty. Siccuan. This deed of sale is separate and distinct from the
deed of sale that was notarized by Atty. Pormento.
Mr. Salazar claims that his signature in the deed of sale notarized by Atty.
Siccuan was forged. Mr. Salazar further claims that he did not subscribe, swear
and appear before Atty. Siccuan. Consequently, Atty. Siccuan's act of
notarizing the deed of sale was in violation of the 2004 Rules on Notarial
Practice (Notarial Rules). To support Mr. Salazar's claim that he did not
subscribe, swear and appear before Atty. Siccuan, he points out that the
Acknowledgment did not conform to the requirements for competent evidence
of identity, namely: 1) government issued identification cards; 2) oath or
affirmation of a credible witness/es; or 3) personally known to the notary public,
as it stated that only community tax certificates were presented to Atty.
Siccuan. 3
In his Answer, 4 respondent Siccuan denied any irregularity in his notarization of the deed of
sale. He alleged that Mr. Salazar, Ms. Landua, Mr. Landua and two other persons appeared
before him, accompanied by his long-time friend, Ms. Josephine Lope. When he requested for
the parties to present proof of identities, they could only present their cedulas. On the basis of
this and Ms. Lope's confirmation that she personally knows Mr. Salazar and Ms. Landua, he
notarized the document.
On the issue that the Acknowledgment did not conform to the requirements for competent
evidence of identifications, Siccuan argued that Rule II, Section 12 of the Notarial Rules also
allow proof of identity to be established by an oath or affirmation of one credible witness not
privy to the instrument who is personally known to the Notary Public and to the individual
whose identity is being established. In this case, it was Ms. Lope who served as the credible
witness.
The Report and Recommendation of Investigating Commissioner Ortiguera found that Siccuan
violated Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility(CPR) and the Notarial Rules for
notarizing the deed of sale without the personal appearance of the affiant and his competent
evidence of identity, as required by the rules. It discussed that respondent's failure to perform
his duty as a notary public resulted in damage not only to those directly affected by the
notarized document but also to the integrity and significance of a notary public. Taking this
into consideration, Commissioner Ortiguera recommended that Siccuan be suspended from the
practice of law for six months and be suspended from notarial commission for one year, if the
same is still existing.
The IBP Board of Governors, in Resolution No. XXI-2014-754 dated October 10, 2014,
adopted and approved with modification the Report and Recommendation, thus:
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby 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 for violation of the 2004 Rules on Notarial
Practice, Atty. Alfeo T. Siccuan's notarial commission if presently
commissioned is immediately REVOKED. Further, he is DISQUALIFIED
from being commissioned as notary public for two years and SUSPENDED
from the practice of law for six (6) months. 5
Siccuan filed a Motion for Reconsideration, 6 which the IBP Board of Governors denied. The
new Resolution No. XXII-2016-442 dated August 27, 2016 affirming Resolution No. XXI-
2014-754 reads as follows:
RESOLVED TO DENY respondent's Motion for Reconsideration, there being
no new reason and/or new argument adduced to reverse the previous findings
and decision of the Board of Governors. 7
Issue
The sole issue for the Court's resolution is whether or not Siccuan should be administratively
sanctioned for violating Rule IV, Section 2 (b) (2) of the Notarial Rules.
Ruling of the Court
After reviewing the records of the case, the Court finds Resolution No. XXI-2014-754 in
accord with the pertinent rules and jurisprudence on bar discipline.
The act of notarization is impressed with public interest. As such, a notary public must observe
the highest degree of care in complying with the basic requirements in the performance of his
duties in order to preserve the confidence of the public in the integrity of the notarial system. 8
In the present case, Siccuan, as duly found by the IBP, failed to faithfully comply with his
duties as a notary public.
Rule II, Section 1, of the Notarial Rules provides that: ITAaHc
"Acknowledgment" refers to an act in which an individual on a single occasion:
(a) appears in person before the notary public and presents an
integrally complete instrument or document;
(b) is attested to be personally known to the notary public or
identified by the notary public through competent evidence of
identity as defined by these Rules; and
(c) represents to the notary public that the signature on the instrument
or document was voluntarily affixed by him for the purposes stated
in the instrument or document, declares that he has executed the
instrument or document as his free and voluntary act and deed, and,
if he acts in a particular representative capacity, that he has the
authority to sign in that capacity.
Paragraph (b) requires that persons acknowledging the document be personally known to the
notary public or identified by the notary public through competent evidence of identity.
Siccuan, in this case, did not claim that he personally knew the parties to the deed of sale.
Consequently, presentation of competent evidence of identity was necessary. On this point,
Rule II, Section 12, of the Notarial Rules states that:
The phrase "competent evidence of identity" refers to the identification of an
individual based on:
(a) at least one current identification document issued by an official
agency bearing the photograph and signature of the individual; or
(b) the oath or affirmation of one credible witness not privy to the
instrument, document or transaction who is personally known to the
notary public and who personally knows the individual, or of two
credible witnesses neither of whom is privy to the instrument,
document or transaction who each personally knows the individual
and shows to the notary public documentary identification.
Thus, under the Notarial Rules, as amended by this Court in A.M. No. 02-8-13-SC, a
Community Tax Certificate (CTC) is no longer considered as competent evidence of
identity as it does not bear a photograph and a signature of the individual concerned.
In Baylon vs. Almo, 9 We ruled that notaries public should not rely on CTCs
or cedulas considering the ease with which these are obtained these days and its unreliability
to prove the identity of the person. Therefore, in the absence of an identification document,
there must be an oath or affirmation of 1) a credible witness not privy to the instrument, who
is personally known to the notary public and who personally knows the individuals; or 2) two
credible witnesses neither of whom is privy to the instrument, who each personally knows the
individual and shows to the notary public documentary identification.
Siccuan's argument that the rules were complied with when Ms. Lope, who is not a party to
the instrument, was presented to confirm the identities of the parties is of no moment. As
correctly raised by the IBP, Ms. Lope's affidavit only mentioned that she personally knew Ms.
Landua and Atty. Siccuan. There was no mention of Mr. Salazar. Hence, as far as the latter is
concerned, Siccuan notarized the deed of sale without competent evidence of identity. By
notarizing a document allegedly signed by Mr. Salazar, not personally known to him and
without having identified him through competent evidence of identity, Siccuan committed a
violation of Rule IV, Section 2 (b), of the Notarial Rules, to wit:
SEC. 2. Prohibitions.
xxx xxx xxx
(b) A person shall not perform a notarial act if the person involved as
signatory to the instrument or document
(1) is not in the notary's presence personally at the time of the notarization;
and
(2) is not personally known to the notary public or otherwise identified by
the notary public through competent evidence of identity as defined by
these Rules.
For having violated the Notarial Rules, Siccuan also failed to adhere to Canon 1 of the CPR
which requires every lawyer to uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land, and promote
respect for the law and legal processes.
All told, Siccuan should be reminded that notarization is not an empty, meaningless, routinary
act. It converts a private document into a public document, making that document admissible
in evidence without further proof of the authenticity thereof. It is for this reason that a notary
public must observe with utmost care the basic requirements in the performance of his duties;
otherwise, the public's confidence in the integrity of a notarized document would be
undermined. 10 InLee vs. Atty. Tambago, 11 the Court perpetually disqualified Atty. Tambago
from reappointment as a notary public for failure to comply with the elementary formalities in
the performance of his duties, one of which is the duty to require the parties to present a valid
competent evidence of identity. CHTAIc
WHEREFORE, the Court AFFIRMS WITH MODIFICATION Resolution No. XXI-
2014-754 dated October 10, 2014 of the IBP Board of Governors in CBD Case No. 13-3870.
Atty. Alfeo T. Siccuan is GUILTY of violating the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice and
the Code of Professional Responsibility. His notarial commission, if still existing,
is REVOKED. Further, he is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for six (6) months. As
modified, he is also PERPETUALLY DISQUALIFIED from being commissioned as notary
public.
Let copies of this Decision be furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and all courts in
the country for their information and guidance. Let also a copy of this decision be appended to
Atty. Alfeo T. Siccuan's personal record as a member of the Bar.
SO ORDERED."
Very truly yours,


 (SGD.) WILFREDO V. LAPITAN
 Division


Clerk of Court

EN BANC

[A.C. No. 8887. November 7, 2017.]
 (Formerly CBD Case No. 12-3638)

ROMAN DELA ROSA VERANO, • complainant, vs. ATTY. LUIS FERNAN


DIORES, JR., respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM p:

This administrative case stemmed from a letter-complaint 1 filed with the Court on February
2, 2011 by complainant Roman Dela Rosa Verano (Verano) against respondent Atty. Luis
Fernan Diores, Jr. (Atty. Diores) for deceit, malpractice, gross ignorance of the law and
violation of the Lawyer's Oath for surreptitiously using Verano's parcel of land to secure bail
bonds in connection with at least 61 cases of Estafa and Violation of Batas Pambansa Blg.
22 (B.P. Blg. 22) that had been filed against Atty. Diores. 2
The salient facts, as borne by the records, are the following:
On April 11, 2006, Verano executed a Special Power of Attorney 3 (SPA) in favor of Atty.
Diores authorizing the latter to use Verano's parcel of land covered by TCT No. T-77901
(subject property) as guaranty to obtain a bail bond for particular criminal cases 4 that had been
filed against Atty. Diores.
Verano was surprised when he subsequently discovered that Atty. Diores executed a
Memorandum of Agreement 5 (MOA) dated August 31, 2006 with Visayan Surety and
Insurance Corporation (Visayan Surety) in order to use the subject property as guarantee to
obtain bail bonds for at least 61 cases of Estafa and Violation of B.P. Blg. 22 that had been
filed against him, which included, among others, Criminal Case Nos. CBU-48996 and CBU-
49706, which were filed with the Regional Trial Court, Branch 6, Cebu City (RTC). Verano
alleged that he did not authorize Atty. Diores to enter into such MOA, much less to use the
subject property as collateral for bail bonds of the more than 61 Estafa cases filed against the
latter which were other than those he authorized under the SPA, causing great loss and damage
to Verano.
Thereafter, the aforementioned RTC branch, through Presiding Judge Ester M. Veloso,
promulgated a Joint Judgment 6 dated November 16, 2009 in the said Criminal Case Nos.
CBU-48996 and CBU-49706 together with Criminal Case Nos. CBU-50599, CBU-50279,
CBU-50335 and CBU-51277, finding Atty. Diores guilty beyond reasonable doubt of six (6)
counts of Estafa through false pretenses and fraudulent means under Article 315 (2) (a) of
the Revised Penal Code by engaging in a Ponzi scheme, 7 as follows:
WHEREFORE, the court hereby finds the accused Luis F. Diores, Jr. guilty
beyond reasonable doubt of six (6) counts of the crime of Estafa and sentences
him as follows:
(1) In Criminal Case No. CBU-50599, to suffer the penalty of
imprisonment of four (4) years and two (2) months
of prision correccional as minimum, to twenty (20) years
of reclusion temporal as maximum, and to pay the offended
party Irene Lumapas the sum of [P]3,050,000.00 plus legal
interest to be computed from June 2, 1999 until such time that
the amount is paid in full;
(2) In Criminal Case No. CBU-48996, to suffer the penalty of
imprisonment of four (4) years and two (2) months of prision
correccional as minimum, to twenty (20) years of reclusion
temporal as maximum, and to pay the offended party Calixto
Ventic the sum of [P]800,000.00 plus legal interest to be
computed from December 7, 1998 until such time that the
amount is paid in full;
(3) In Criminal Case No. CBU-49706, to suffer the penalty of
imprisonment of four (4) years and two (2) months of prision
correccional as minimum, to twenty (20) years of reclusion
temporal as maximum, and to pay the offended party Lilia
Amy Ursal the sum of [P]416,000.00 plus legal interest to be
computed from March 2, 1999 until such time that the amount
is paid in full;
(4) In Criminal Case No. CBU-50279, to suffer the penalty of
imprisonment of four (4) years and two (2) months of prision
correccional as minimum, to twenty (20) years of reclusion
temporal as maximum, and to pay the offended party
Rolando Chiu the sum of [P]660,000.00 plus legal interest to
be computed from May 4, 1999 until such time that the
amount is paid in full;
(5) In Criminal [Case] No. CBU-50335, to suffer the penalty
of imprisonment of four (4) years and two (2) months
of prision correccional as minimum, to twenty (20) years
of reclusion temporal as maximum, and to pay the offended
party Philholina Villamor the sum of [P]200,000.00 plus legal
interest to be computed from May 8, 1999 until such time that
the amount is paid in full; and
(6) In Criminal Case No. CBU-51277, to suffer the penalty of
imprisonment of four (4) years and two (2) months of prision
correccional as minimum, to twenty (20) years of reclusion
temporal as maximum, and to pay the offended party John
Michael Velez the sum of [P]2,100,000.00 plus legal interest
to be computed from August 2, 1999 until such time that the
amount is paid in full.
SO ORDERED. 8
Thus, Verano filed this letter-complaint against Atty. Diores. In its Resolutions dated March
9, 2011 9 and November 28, 2011, 10 the Court directed Atty. Diores to file his comment on
the letter-complaint. However, Atty. Diores failed to file any comment despite notice.
Consequently, in its Resolution 11 dated July 25, 2012, the Court considered as waived the
filing of Atty. Diores' comment, and referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
(IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation.
At the scheduled mandatory conference before the IBP on April 1, 2013, 12 only Verano
appeared together with his counsel, Atty. Manuel F. Ong. Atty. Diores, on the other hand,
failed to appear despite notice. 13 Thereafter, Verano filed his position paper, 14 adding that
subsequent to the filing of the letter-complaint before the Court, Atty. Diores had jumped bail
in some of his criminal cases and had failed to serve his sentence on some of the decided cases
against him which had already become final and executory. 15 Atty. Diores, on the other hand,
failed to file his position paper.
After due proceedings, Commissioner Eldrid C. Antiquiera (Commissioner Antiquiera)
rendered a Report and Recommendation 16 on June 18, 2013, finding Atty. Diores guilty of
deceit in violation of Canon 1, Rule 1.01 17 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR),
holding that Atty. Diores: (1) took undue advantage of the trust reposed on him by Verano by
secretly entering into the subject MOA; (2) jumped bail on some of the criminal cases and
failed to serve sentence in those where he was duly convicted by final judgment; and (3)
refused to comply with the orders of the Court and the IBP to submit his comment and position
paper, and to attend the mandatory conference. The dispositive portion reads:
WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, it is recommended that
respondent be SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of TWO (2)
YEARS with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts shall
be dealt with more severely. 18
In its Resolution 19 dated October 10, 2014, the IBP Board of Governors resolved to adopt
and approve the said Report and Recommendation, but recommended that Atty. Diores be
disbarred, thus:
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby 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 considering that Respondent is liable for deceit
in violation of Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility aggravated
by his recalcitrance to legal orders in his refusal to comply with the resolution
of the Supreme Court for him to file Comment and his deliberate failure to file
his Position Paper with the IBP and attend the Mandatory Conference before
the Investigating Commissioner, Atty. Luis Fernan Diores[, Jr.] is
hereby DISBARRED from the practice of law and his name stricken off the
Roll of Attorneys. 20
After a judicious examination of the records and submissions of the parties, the Court has no
compelling reason to diverge from the factual findings of Commissioner Antiquiera and the
recommended penalty of the IBP Board of Governors.
In dealing with clients or other people, lawyers are expected to observe the highest degree of
good faith, fairness and candor, both in their private and professional capacities. Thus, any
form of deception or fraudulent act committed by a lawyer in either capacity is not only
disgraceful and dishonorable, but also severely undermines the trust and confidence of people
in the legal profession, violates Canon 1, Rule 1.01 of the CPR, and puts the lawyer's moral
character into serious doubt as a member of the Bar, rendering him unfit to continue his practice
of law. 21 Moreover, a lawyer has the duty to obey lawful orders of a superior court and the
IBP. Willful disobedience to such orders, especially to those issued by this Court, is a sufficient
ground to disbar a lawyer or suspend him from the practice of law under Section 27, 22 Rule
138 of the Rules of Court. 23
In this case, Commissioner Antiquiera observed that while there was an SPA executed by
Verano in favor of Atty. Diores for the latter to use Verano's land as guarantee for the bail
bonds, it only authorized Atty. Diores to use the same for specific criminal cases, and not for
the other criminal cases filed against him. In addition, Atty. Diores failed to file his comment
to Verano's letter-complaint filed against him despite two (2) notices from the Court ordering
him to do so, failed to attend the mandatory conference and file his position paper despite
orders from the IBP, and jumped bail in the criminal cases filed against him.
The Court agrees with Commissioner Antiquiera's observation. While the SPA executed by
Verano empowered Atty. Diores, in his private capacity, to use the subject property as guaranty
for his bail bond in some of his criminal cases, this did not grant him carte blanche to use the
said property to secure bail bonds in his other criminal cases which were not included in the
SPA, much less enter into a MOA with Visayan Surety for the said purpose. Such act not only
violates the trust granted to him by Verano, but also shows doubt as to his moral character.
Moreover, the fact that Atty. Diores jumped bail in the criminal cases filed against him, failed
to file a comment in the instant case despite notice from the Court, and also failed to attend the
mandatory conference and file his position paper when he was directed to do so by the IBP,
shows his propensity to willfully disobey the orders — of the Court, no less — and other
judicial authorities, including the IBP, which is a grave affront to the legal profession, and
which should be penalized to the greatest extent.
As for the recommended penalty, the Court agrees with, and hereby adopts, the IBP's
recommendation that Atty. Diores should be disbarred, in view of the totality of infractions he
had committed, compounded by his conviction for six (6) counts of Estafa by the RTC.
It is also well-settled that Estafa, which is an act of defrauding another person, whether
committed through abuse of confidence, false pretenses or other fraudulent acts, 24 is a crime
involving moral turpitude 25 which is also a violation of Canon 1, Rule 1.01 of the CPR, and
a ground to disbar or suspend a lawyer as gross misconduct under Section 27, Rule 138 of
the Rules of Court.
Here, Atty. Diores was convicted of not only one, but six (6) counts of Estafa through false
pretenses and fraudulent means under Article 315 (2) (a) of theRevised Penal Code. Such
conviction simply shows his criminal tendency to defraud and deceive other people into
remitting to him their hard-earned money, which the legal profession condemns in the strongest
terms. This, together with his willful disobedience of court orders and his act of using Verano's
subject property as guaranty for his bail bond outside the criminal cases wherein he was
authorized, cements his utter unfitness to continue exercising his duties as a lawyer. Thus, the
Court will not hesitate to adopt the penalty of the IBP and hereby disbar Atty. Diores to protect
the trust and confidence of the people in this noble profession.
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Luis Fernan Diores, Jr. is found GUILTY of Deceit in
violation of Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, and Willful Disobedience to
a Lawful Order of the Court and Conviction for Estafa, both in violation of Section 27, Rule
138 of the Rules of Court. He is hereby DISBARRED, and his name is ordered STRICKEN
FROM the Roll of Attorneys effective immediately upon the date of his receipt of this
Decision.
Atty. Diores is hereby DIRECTED to immediately file a Manifestation to the Court that his
disbarment has commenced, copy furnished to all courts and quasi-judicial bodies where he
has entered his appearance as counsel.
Let copies of this Decision be furnished to: (a) the Office of the Court Administrator for
dissemination to all courts throughout the country for their information and guidance; (b) the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines; and (c) the Office of the Bar Confidant to be appended to
Atty. Diores' personal record as a member of the Bar.
SO ORDERED.
Sereno C.J., Carpio, Peralta, Bersamin, Leonen, Caguioa, Martires, Tijam, Reyes,
Jr. and Gesmundo, JJ., concur.
Velasco, * Jr. and Del Castillo, * JJ., are on official time.
Leonardo-de Castro ** and Perlas-Bernabe, ** JJ., are on official business.
Jardeleza, *** J., is on leave.

THIRD DIVISION
[A.C. No. 10553. July 5, 2017.]

FILIPINAS O. CELEDONIO, complainant, vs. ATTY. JAIME F.


ESTRABILLO, respondent.
DECISION

TIJAM, J p:

For Our resolution is complainant Filipinas O. Celedonio's disbarment complaint 1 against


respondent Atty. Jaime F. Estrabillo, charging the latter with the violation of Canon 1, Rule
1.01 and 1.02, Canon 9, Rule 1.09, Canon 10, Rule 10.01, Canon 15, Rules 15.03 and 15.04,
Canon 17, and Canon 19, Rule 19.01 and 19.02 of
the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR). HTcADC
The Facts
The instant disbarment case stemmed from a criminal case of Estafa filed by Alfrito D. Mah
(Mah) against complainant's husband in 2006, the latter being accused of embezzling a
substantial amount from Mah's company. In the said case, respondent was Mah's legal
counsel. 2
Complainant averred that she tried talking to Mr. Mah's wife, being one of the sponsors in their
wedding, to drop the criminal case against her husband, but Mrs. Mah responded that the matter
is already in the hands of their lawyer. Thus, complainant and her husband met several times
with the respondent to negotiate the withdrawal of the criminal case. Respondent assured the
complainant and her husband that he will talk to his client for the possibility of settling the
case and delaying the prosecution thereof in the meantime. 3
In the process of negotiating, respondent advised the complainant and her husband to execute
a deed of sale over their house and lot covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No.
502969-R, which will be used as a collateral for the settlement of the case. Respondent
explained to them that the said deed of sale will merely be a security while complainant and
her husband are paying the embezzled money in installments and he assured the spouses that
the said deed of sale will not be registered nor annotated in the title. The criminal case against
complainant's husband was then dismissed. 4
Being the only one who shoulders the family expenses, complainant, at some point, decided to
sell the subject house and lot. 5 However, on December 8, 2008, complainant received
summons from the court regarding a complaint for specific performance with prayer for the
issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction (WPI) and temporary restraining order (TRO) filed
by Spouses Mah, subject of which was TCT No. 502969-R. 6 Apparently, the deed of sale that
complainant and her husband executed as a security for the settlement of the criminal case was
dated May 5, 2008 and notarized by the respondent. The said complaint averred that herein
complainant and her husband have an obligation to deliver the subject property to Spouses
Mah. Complainant found out that the respondent requested the Register of Deeds (RD) of
Pampanga to register and annotate the said deed of sale on the title on November 27, 2008. 7
This prompted the complainant to confront the respondent as this was contrary to what they
have agreed upon. The respondent merely advised complainant to again negotiate with his
client and assured her that he would back her up. However, complainant's efforts to negotiate
were again proven futile. 8
In the meantime, complainant has a deadline for the filing of a responsive pleading in the said
civil case. Also, the hearing for the application for issuance of a TRO was already scheduled.
When the complainant went back to the respondent for this matter, the respondent offered to
and indeed prepared a Motion for Extension of Time and Urgent Motion to Postpone for the
complainant dated December 22, 2008 and January 8, 2009, respectively. Complainant alleged
that it was respondent's secretary upon respondent's instruction, who drafted the said motions
and that she was required to pay the corresponding fees therefor. In view of the said motion
for postponement, complainant did not appear in the January 9, 2009 hearing. 9
It turned out, however, that the said hearing still proceeded. The respondent even appeared
therein and manifested that he filed a notice of lis pendens and adverse claim with the RD of
Pampanga. Complainant also found out that respondent filed a Motion to Declare Defendants
in Default in the said case dated February 4, 2009, which was granted by the court on February
27, 2009. On March 31, 2009, a decision was rendered in the said case in favor of respondent's
clients. The decision became final and executory and, thereafter, a writ of execution was
issued. 10
Realizing that respondent employed deceit and was double-dealing with her and her husband
to their prejudice, complainant filed the instant administrative complaint, praying for the
respondent's disbarment. CAIHTE
In his Answer to the instant administrative complaint, respondent denied complainant's
accusations. Despite admitting that he told the complainant that he would help her out in
negotiating with his client, he averred that he never compromised his relationship with the
latter as counsel. Respondent explained that he suggested a deed of second mortgage be made
on the subject property, as the same was still mortgaged with the bank, for the purpose of
settling the criminal case with his client. He admitted preparing such deed of second mortgage
but the same was not signed by his client as the latter preferred a deed of sale with a promissory
note. The complainant and her husband then executed the preferred deed of sale. Consequently,
Mr. Mah executed an affidavit of desistance relative to the estafa case against complainant's
husband. 11
As to the civil case, respondent averred that upon learning that the complainant was selling the
subject property, he filed an adverse claim on the said property to protect his client's rights. 12
Respondent, further, denied that he was serving conflicting interests when he instructed his
secretary to draft the motions for extension of time and postponement for the complainant. He
averred that he informed his clients about it and denied demanding payment therefor from the
complainant. 13

Report and Recommendation
 of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
 Commission on


Bar Discipline
Aside from respondent's act of instructing his secretary to prepare and file motions for the
complainant in the civil case filed by his client, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)-
Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) found no proof as to the other allegations in the
complaint imputing deceit and other violations of the CPRagainst respondent. 14 On May 22,
2012, the IBP-CBD recommended thus:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, it is respectfully recommended that
respondent Atty. Jaime E. Estrabillo be suspended from the practice of law for
six (6) months. 15
Resolutions of the IBP Board of Governors
On March 20, 2013, the IBP issued Resolution No. XX-2013-187, which reads: aScITE
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 for Respondent's violation of Rule 15.03 and Canon 17 of
the Code of Professional Responsibility, it being not intentional, Atty. Jaime E.
Estrabillo is hereby REPRIMANDED. 16
Both the complainant and the respondent filed their respective motions for reconsideration
(MR) of the above-quoted resolution. 17
Acting on the said MRs, the IBP Board of Governors issued Resolution No. XXI-2014-116 on
March 21, 2014, which reads:
RESOLVED to DENY respective Motions for Reconsideration of Complainant
and Respondent, there being no cogent reason to reverse the findings of the
Commission and they being a mere reiteration of the matters which had already
been threshed out and taken into consideration. Further, the Board RESOLVED
toAFFIRM with modification, Resolution No. XX-2013-187 dated March 20,
2013 and accordingly ADOPTED and APPROVED the Report and
Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner SUSPENDING Atty.
Jaime E. Estrabillo from the practice of law to [sic] six (6) months. 18
This Court is now called to issue its verdict on the matter.
Issue
Should the respondent be administratively disciplined based on the allegations in the
complaint?
Our Ruling
We answer in the affirmative.
Rule 15.03 — A lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests except by
written consent of all concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts.
CANON 17 — A LAWYER OWES FIDELITY TO THE CAUSE OF HIS
CLIENT AND HE SHALL BE MINDFUL OF THE TRUST AND
CONFIDENCE REPOSED IN HIM.
Respondent admitted that he instructed his secretary to draft and file motions for the
complainant in the civil case filed by his client against the latter. Such act is a clear violation
of the above-stated rules. The respondent, however, explained that it was merely a
humanitarian act on his part in helping the complainant on the matter, to give the latter an
opportunity to settle their accountability to his client. 19 Respondent insisted that there was no
intention on his part to violate the trust reposed upon him by his client. In fact, according to
the respondent, it was his client's interest that he had in mind when he prepared the motions as
this would extend the chance of getting a settlement with the complainant, which is the end
favored by his client. DETACa
Such explanation cannot, in any way, absolve him from liability.
The rules are clear. The relationship between a lawyer and his/her client should ideally be
imbued with the highest level of trust and confidence. 20 The legal profession dictates that it
is not a mere duty, but an obligation, of a lawyer to accord the highest degree of fidelity, zeal
and fervor in the protection of the client's interest. 21 Thus, part of the lawyer's duty in this
regard is to avoid representing, conflicting interests. 22 Jurisprudence is to the effect that a
lawyer's act which invites suspicion of unfaithfulness or double-dealing in the performance of
his duty already evinces inconsistency of interests. 23 In broad terms, lawyers are deemed to
represent conflicting interests when, in behalf of one client, it is their duty to contend for that
which duty to another client requires them to oppose. 24
There is, thus, no denying that respondent's preparation and filing of motions on behalf
of the complainant, the adverse party in the case filed by him for his client, conflicts his
client's interest. Indeed, a motion for extension to file an answer would not be favorable to
his client's cause as the same would merely delay the judgment sought by his client in filing
the case. Moreso, the motion for postponement of the TRO hearing would definitely run
counter with the interest of his client as such remedy was precisely sought, supposedly with
urgency, to protect his client's right over the subject property before complainant could proceed
with the sale of the same.
Moreover, Rule 15.03 above-cited expressly requires a written consent of all parties concerted
after full disclosure of the facts if ever, for whatever reason, a lawyer will be involved in
conflicting interests. Corollary to this, Rule 15.04 of the CPR substantially states that if a
lawyer would act as a mediator, or a negotiator for that matter, a written consent of all
concerned is also required. Notably, there is no record of any written consent from any of the
parties involved in this case.
Considering the foregoing, We sustain the findings of the IBP that respondent violated Rule
15.03 and Canon 17 of the CPR.
In addition, this Court cannot shun the fact that due to respondent's acts, complainant lost her
day in court. Admittedly, the complainant cannot impute fault entirely to the respondent for
losing the opportunity to present her defense in the civil case, as no prudent man will leave the
fate of his or her case entirely to his or her lawyer, much less to his or her opponent's lawyer.
However, we also cannot blame the complainant for relying upon the motions prepared by the
respondent for her, thinking that in view of the said motions, she was given more time file an
answer and more importantly, that there was no more hearing on the scheduled date for her to
attend. As it turned out, respondent even appeared on the date of the hearing that was
supposedly sought to be postponed. This is a clear case of an unfair act on the part of the
respondent. Respondent may not have an obligation to apprise the complainant of the hearing
as the latter is not his client, but his knowledge of the motion for postponement, drafted by his
secretary upon his instruction, calls for his fair judgment as a defender of justice and officer of
the court, to inform the complainant that the hearing was not postponed.
This exactly demonstrates why dealing with conflicting interests in the legal profession is
prohibited — it is not only because the relation of attorney and client is one of trust and
confidence of the highest degree, but also because of the principles of public policy and good
taste. 25
As to the other matters raised in the complaint such as the allegations that the respondent
deceived the complainant to execute the subject deed of sale, among others, We are one with
the IBP-CBD that such imputations were not supported by sufficient evidence to warrant
consideration. HEITAD
Anent the penalty, considering that this is respondent's first infraction, and that there is no clear
showing that his malpractice was deliberately done in bad faith or with deceit, we hold that
respondent's suspension from the practice of law for six (6) months, as recommended by the
IBP-CBD and adopted by the IBP Board of Governors, is warranted.
ACCORDINGLY, the Court resolves to SUSPEND Atty. Jaime F. Estrabillo from the
practice of law for six (6) months to commence immediately from the receipt of this Decision,
with a WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar offense will warrant a more severe
penalty. Let copies of this Decision be furnished all courts, the Office of the Bar Confidant,
and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for their information and guidance. The Office of the
Bar Confidant is directed to append a copy of this Decision to respondent's record as member
of the Bar.
SO ORDERED.
Velasco, Jr., Bersamin, Reyes and Jardeleza, JJ., concur.

SECOND DIVISION
[A.C. No. 11043. March 8, 2017.]

LIANG FUJI, complainant, vs. ATTY. GEMMA ARMI M. DELA


CRUZ, respondent.

RESOLUTION

LEONEN, J p:

Failure to exercise utmost prudence in reviewing the immigration records of an alien, which
resulted in the alien's wrongful detention, opens the special prosecutor in the Bureau of
Immigration to administrative liability.
Before this Court is an administrative complaint 1 dated November 23, 2015 filed by Liang
Fuji (Fuji) and his family, against Bureau of Immigration Special Prosecutor Gemma Armi M.
Dela Cruz (Special Prosecutor Dela Cruz) for gross misconduct and gross ignorance of the law
in relation to her issuance of a Charge Sheet against Fuji for overstaying.
Through a letter 2 dated December 8, 2015, Deputy Clerk of Court and Bar Confidant Atty.
Ma. Cristina B. Layusa directed the complainants to file a verified complaint "with supporting
documents duly authenticated and/or affidavits of persons having personal knowledge of the
facts alleged" 3 in the complaint.
Complainants replied 4 by furnishing this Court with copies of the Verified Petition to Reopen
S.D.O. No. BOC-2015-357 (B.L.O. No. SBM-15-420) and for Relief of Judgment with Urgent
Prayer for Immediate Consideration, and Administrative Complaint (Verified Petition and
Administrative Complaint), 5 which Fuji filed with the Board of Commissioners of the Bureau
of Immigration, and prayed that the same be treated as their verified complaint. Complainants
further informed this Court that they had difficulty obtaining certified true copies of the
November 21, 2013 Order of the Board of Commissioners, which granted Fuji's Section 9 (g)
visa, Summary Deportation Order dated June 17, 2015, and Warrant of Deportation from the
Bureau of Immigration personnel who just gave them the "run[-]around." 6They alleged that
the Bureau of Immigration personnel were not particularly helpful, and did not treat Fuji's case
with urgency. 7
The facts of this case show that in a Summary Deportation Order 8 dated June 17, 2015, Fuji,
a Chinese national, was ordered deported for overstaying. From the Order, it appears that
Special Prosecutor Dela Cruz was the special prosecutor who brought the formal charge against
Fuji and another person upon her finding that Fuji's work visa had expired on May 8, 2013,
with extension expired on December 6, 2013. 9 Special Prosecutor Dela Cruz found that Fuji
had overstayed for one (1) year and six (6) months in violation of Commonwealth Act No.
613, Section 37 (a) (7). 10 Her investigation was triggered by a complaint-affidavit dated April
30, 2015 of a certain Virgilio Manalo alleging that Fuji and another person had defrauded
him. 11
On June 29, 2015, Fuji filed his Motion for Reconsideration. 12
On July 28, 2015, the Bureau of Immigration Intelligence Division served Fuji's Warrant of
Deportation, and thereafter arrested him at Brgy. Maloma, San Felipe, Zambales with the
assistance from local police. 13 Fuji was brought to and detained at the Bureau of Immigration
Detention Facility, National Capital Region Police Office, Taguig City. 14
On October 9, 2015, the Board of Commissioners denied Fuji's Motion for Reconsideration. 15
On November 23, 2015, Fuji filed his Verified Petition and Administrative
Complaint. 16 Subsequently, on March 10, 2016, Fuji filed an Omnibus Motion to Reopen and
Lift S.D.O. BOC-2015-357, and Release on Bail through counsel. 17
On March 22, 2016, the Board of Commissioners issued a Resolution dismissing the
deportation charge against Fuji on the ground that "[t]he records show that Liang has a working
visa valid until 30 April 2016 under Jiang Tuo Mining Philippines, Inc. as Marketing
Liaison." 18 Fuji was directed to be released from Bureau of Immigration-Warden's Facility
on March 23, 2016. 19
In his administrative complaint, Fuji alleged that his rights to due process were violated since
he was not afforded any hearing or summary deportation proceedings before the deportation
order was issued against him. 20 Fuji further alleged that Special Prosecutor Dela Cruz failed
miserably in discharging her duties because a simple initial review of the Bureau of
Immigration records would have revealed that he was not overstaying because his Section 9
(g) work visa was valid until April 30, 2016. 21
In her August 25, 2016 Comment, 22 respondent Special Prosecutor Dela Cruz denied that she
committed any grave misconduct. 23 She claimed that Fuji was accorded due process during
the summary deportation proceedings. 24 He was directed, through an Order dated May 14,
2015 of the Legal Division, to submit his Counter-Affidavit/Memorandum, which he failed to
do. 25 Fuji was also able to file his motion for reconsideration and verified petition to reopen
the case. 26 CAIHTE
Respondent further claimed that the Memorandum dated June 4, 2015 of the Bureau of
Immigration — Management Information System (BI-MIS) constituted a substantial evidence
of Fuji's overstay in the country, hence, her formal charge had legal basis. 27
Respondent added that as a civil servant, she enjoyed the presumption of regularity in the
performance of her duties. 28 She had no intention to violate any law and did not commit any
flagrant disregard of the rules, or unlawfully used her station to procure some benefit for herself
or for other persons. 29 Respondent pointed out that the Ombudsman had in fact dismissed the
complainant's charges against her. 30 She added that Fuji stated in his March 29, 2016
Affidavit of Desistance that he had mistakenly signed some documents including the
administrative complaint. 31
We find respondent administratively liable for her negligence in her failure to ascertain
the facts before levying the formal charge against Fuji for overstaying.
I
Generally, this Court defers from taking cognizance of disbarment complaints against lawyers
in government service arising from their administrative duties, and refers the complaint first
either to the proper administrative body that has disciplinary authority over the erring public
official or employee or the Ombudsman.32
For instance, in Spouses Buffe v. Gonzalez n, 33 this Court dismissed the disbarment complaint
against former Secretary of Justice Raul M. Gonzalez, former Undersecretary of Justice Fidel
J. Exconde, Jr., and former Congressman Eleandro Jesus F. Madrona, holding that the
respondents were public officials being charged for actions involving their official functions
during their tenure, which should be resolved by the Office of the Ombudsman. 34 In that case,
one (1) of the respondents sought to dismiss the complaint on the ground of forum-shopping
because he allegedly received an order from the Office of the Ombudsman directing him to
file a counter-affidavit based on the same administrative complaint filed before the Office of
the Bar Confidant. 35
Again, in the fairly recent case of Alicias, Jr. v. Macatangay, 36 the Court dismissed the
complaint against respondents — government lawyers in the Civil Service Commission. The
Court held that the acts or omissions alleged in the complaint were "connected with their . . .
official functions in the [Civil Service Commission] and within the administrative disciplinary
jurisdiction of their superior or the Office of the Ombudsman." 37 It would seem that the
complainant directly instituted a disbarment complaint with this Court instead of filing an
administrative complaint before the proper administrative body.
This case is an exception. Unlike the circumstances in Spouses Buffe and Alicias, Jr., the
records here show that the Office of the Ombudsman had previously dismissed Fuji's
administrative complaint due to the pendency of his Verified Petition and Administrative
Complaint before the Bureau of Immigration, and considered the case closed. 38
The Bureau of Immigration subsequently granted Fuji's petition to reopen his case and ordered
his release. However, it was silent as to the culpability of respondent on the charges levelled
by Fuji.
Thus, with the termination of the administrative proceedings before the Office of the
Ombudsman and the apparent inaction of the Bureau of Immigration on complainant's
administrative complaint, this Court considers it proper to take cognizance of this case, and to
determine whether there is sufficient ground to discipline respondent under its "plenary
disciplinary authority" 39 over members of the legal profession. 40
Contrary to respondent's stance, Fuji's purported Affidavit of Desistance is not sufficient cause
to dismiss this administrative complaint. This Court has previously held that proceedings of
this nature cannot be "interrupted or terminated by reason of desistance, settlement,
compromise, restitution, withdrawal of the charges or failure of the complainant to prosecute
the same." 41 The primary object of disciplinary proceedings is to determine the fitness of a
member to remain in the Bar. It is conducted solely for the public welfare, 42 and the
desistance of the complainant is irrelevant. What will be decisive are the facts borne out by the
evidence presented by the parties. In Rayos-Ombac v. Rayos: 43
A case of suspension or disbarment may proceed regardless of interest or lack
of interest of the complainant. What matters is whether, on the basis of the facts
borne out by the record, the charge of deceit and grossly immoral conduct has
been duly proven. This rule is premised on the nature of disciplinary
proceedings. A proceeding for suspension or disbarment is not in any sense a
civil action where the complainant is a 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. They are undertaken for the purpose of preserving courts of
justice from the official ministration of persons unfit to practice in them. The
attorney is called to answer to the court for his conduct as an officer of the court.
The complainant or the person who called the attention of the court to the
attorney's alleged misconduct is in no sense a party, and has generally no
interest in the outcome except as all good citizens may have in the proper
administration of justice. 44
II
Respondent Dela Cruz claimed that she issued the formal charge against Fuji for overstaying
on the basis of the Memorandum dated June 4, 2015 of the BI-MIS. 45 A copy of the
Memorandum with attachments was attached to respondent's Comment. 46
However, nowhere in the Memorandum was it stated that Fuji "overstayed" or that "Liang's
working visa expired on 8 May 2013 and his TVV expired on 6 December 2013" 47 as
respondent claims. Relevant portions of the Memorandum read:
ATTY. GEMMA ARMI M.
For :
DELA CRUZ
ACTING CHIEF, MIS
From :
DIVISION
REQUEST FOR
IMMIGRATION STATUS;
VISA EXTENSION
Re : PAYMENT, LATEST
TRAVEL AND
DEROGATORY OF THE
FOLLOWING:
1. MR./MS. LIANG FUJI
2. MR./MS. CHEN XIANG
HE
3. MR./MS. JACKY
CHANG HE
Date : 04 June 2015

Further to your request for verification of Immigration Status; Visa Extension


Payment and TRAVEL RECORD/S, please find the result/s as follows:
xxx xxx xxx
Result/s : 1. LIANG FUJI
- Derogatory Record Not
Found
- Latest Travel Record
Found (Please see
the attached files for your
ready reference.
NOTE: DOB: 18 October
1991)
- Immigration Status Found
- Latest Payment Record
Found in BI-Main (Please
see the attached files for
your ready reference.
NOTE: DOB: 18 October
1991) 48

xxx xxx xxx


The Memorandum merely transmitted copies of immigration records showing details of filing
of applications, such as official receipts, — and travel record of Fuji. It was respondent Dela
Cruz who made the determination that Fuji overstayed on the basis of the documents
transmitted to her by the BI-MIS. DETACa
Among the documents transmitted by the BI-MIS were computer print-outs showing details of
official receipts dated June 14, 2013, August 7, 2013, and November 19, 2013 for temporary
visitor visa extension and official receipt dated July 15, 2013 for an application for change of
immigration status. Also, the travel records of Fuji show the following details:
Date & Time : 4 June 2015 3:05 PM
Verifier : DIMARUCOT J
Database : TRAVEL-ARRIVAL

TRAVEL TRAVE FLIGHT IMMIG OFFICE ACTIO REMAR


PORT
DATE L TIME NO. STATUS R N KS
10-
11:34P MIJAR ALLO
FEBRUA CZ377 9G NAIA 1
M ES WED
RY-2014
06-
11:51P PARAN ALLO
JANUAR CZ377 9A NAIA 1
M GUE WED
Y-2012
22-
SEPTEM 11:25P ALLO
CZ377 9A NAIA 1 NUNEZ
BER- M WED49
2011

Fuji's travel records as of June 4, 2015, show his arrival in the Philippines on February 10,
2014 under a work visa immigration status. 50 Simple prudence dictates that respondent Atty.
Dela Cruz should have verified whether or not the July 15, 2013 application for change of
status had been approved by the Bureau of Immigration Commissioners, especially since she
had complete and easy access to the immigration records.
Respondent failed in the performance of her basic duties. Special prosecutors in the Bureau of
Immigration should exercise such degree of vigilance and attention in reviewing the
immigration records, whenever the legal status and documentation of an alien are at issue. For
while a deportation proceeding does not partake of the nature of a criminal action, it is however,
a harsh and extraordinary administrative proceeding affecting the freedom and liberty of a
person. 51
Respondent was expected to be reasonably thorough in her review of the documents
transmitted to her by the BI-MIS, especially as it may ultimately result in the deprivation of
liberty of the prospective deportee. She should not have simply relied on the handwritten note
by a personnel from the BI-MIS at the bottom portion of the receipt dated November 19, 2013
for 9A visa extension stating "Valid until: 06-Dec-2013." Had she inquired further, she would
have discovered that Fuji's application dated July 15, 2013 for conversion from temporary
visitor visa (9A) to work visa (9G) was approved by the Board of Commissioners on November
21, 2013 — or one (1) year and seven (7) months earlier — with validity until April 30, 2016.
Thus, even if Fuji's temporary visitor (9A) visa had expired on December 6, 2013 his stay in
the country was still valid under the 9G work visa.
Generally, a lawyer who holds a government office may not be disciplined as a member of the
Bar for misconduct in the discharge of her duties as a government official. 52 However, if said
misconduct as a government official also constitutes a violation of her oath as a lawyer and
the Code of ProfessionalResponsibility, 53 then she may be subject to disciplinary sanction by
this Court.
Atty. Dela Cruz failed to observe Rule 18.03 of the Code of the Professional Responsibility,
which mandates that "a lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his
negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable." As a special prosecutor in the
Bureau of Immigration, she is the representative, not of any private party, but of the State. Her
task was to investigate and verify facts to determine whether a ground for deportation exists,
and if further administrative action — in the form of a formal charge — should be taken against
an alien.
Had respondent carefully reviewed the records of Fuji, she would have found out about the
approval of Fuji's application, which would negate her finding of overstaying. Because of her
negligence, Fuji was deprived of his liberty for almost eight (8) months, until his release on
March 23, 2016.
Simple neglect of duty is defined as a failure to give attention to a task due to carelessness or
indifference. 54 In this case, respondent's negligence shows her indifference to the
fundamental right of every person, including aliens, to due process and to the consequences of
her actions.
Lawyers in government service should be more conscientious with their professional
obligations consistent with the time-honored principle of public office being a public
trust. 55 The ethical standards under the Code of Professional Responsibility are rendered
even more exacting as to government lawyers because they have the added duty to abide by
the policy of the State to promote a high standard of ethics, competence, and professionalism
in public service. 56 In this case, respondent's negligence evinces a failure to cope with the
strict demands and high standards of public service and the legal profession.
The appropriate sanction is discretionary upon this Court. 57 Under the Civil Service
Rules, 58 the penalty for simple neglect of duty is suspension for one (1) month and one (1)
day to six (6) months. In previous cases, 59 this Court imposed the penalty of suspension of
three (3) months to six (6) months for erring lawyers, who were negligent in handling cases
for their clients. We find appropriate the penalty of suspension of three (3) months considering
the consequence of respondent's negligence. This suspension includes her desistance from
performing her functions as a special prosecutor in the Bureau of Immigration.
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Gemma Armi M. Dela Cruz is SUSPENDED from the
practice of law for three (3) months.
The respondent, upon receipt of this Resolution, shall immediately serve her suspension. She
shall formally manifest to this Court that her suspension has started, and copy furnish all courts
and quasi-judicial bodies where she has entered her appearance, within five (5) days upon
receipt of this Resolution. Respondent shall also serve copies of her manifestation on all
adverse parties in all the cases she entered her formal appearance.
Let a copy of this Resolution be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant to be attached to
Atty. Gemma Armi M. Dela Cruz's personal record. Copies of this Resolution should also be
served on the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for its proper disposition, and the Office of the
Court Administrator for circulation to all courts in the country. aDSIHc
SO ORDERED.
Carpio, Peralta, Mendoza and Jardeleza, JJ., concur.

FIRST DIVISION
[A.C. No. 11600. June 19, 2017.]

ROMULO DE MESA FESTIN, complainant, vs. ATTY. ROLANDO V.


ZUBIRI, respondent.

DECISION

PERLAS-BERNABE, J p:

This administrative case stemmed from an affidavit-complaint 1 filed by complainant Romulo


De Mesa Festin (complainant) against respondent Atty. Rolando V. Zubiri (respondent) before
the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for gross violations of
the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR). SDHTEC
The Facts
Complainant alleged that he was elected as Mayor of the Municipality of San Jose, Occidental
Mindoro in the May 2013 elections. His opponent, Jose Tapales Villarosa (Villarosa), filed an
election protest against him before the Regional Trial Court of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro,
Branch 46 (RTC). 2 After deciding in favor of Villarosa, the RTC issued an Order 3 dated
January 15, 2014 (January 15, 2014 Order), granting his motion for execution pending
appeal, viz.:
WHEREFORE, the Motion for Execution Pending Appeal is GRANTED.
The OIC-Branch Clerk of Court [(COC)] is hereby directed to issue a Writ of
Execution Pending Appeal after the lapse of twenty (20) working days to be
counted from the time [complainant's] counsel receives a copy of this Special
Order, if no restraining order or status quo order is issued pursuant to
Section 11 (b), 4 Rule 14 of A.M. No. 07-4-15-SC. 5 (Emphasis supplied)
Distressed, complainant filed a petition for certiorari 6 before the Commission on Elections
(COMELEC), seeking a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the issuance of the writ
of execution pending appeal. 7 In an Order 8 dated February 13, 2014, the COMELEC issued
a TRO, directing Hon. Gay Marie F. Lubigan-Rafael (RTC Judge), in her official capacity as
Presiding Judge of the RTC, to cease and desist from enforcing the January 15, 2014 Order,
effective immediately. 9 Accordingly, the RTC issued another Order 10 dated February 25,
2014 (February 25, 2014 Order), pertinent portion of which reads:
In view thereof, the OIC-Branch [COC] is directed NOT TO ISSUE a Writ of
Execution in accordance with the [January 15, 2014] Order until further
notice. 11
Despite the TRO and the RTC's February 25, 2014 Order, respondent, as counsel of Villarosa,
filed five (5) manifestations 12 addressed to the COC insisting on the writ's issuance. Notably,
he did not serve copies of these manifestations to the other party. 13
In these manifestations, respondent claimed that his client received the RTC's January 15, 2014
Order on January 18, 2014, and counting from said date, the twenty-day period ended on
February 12, 2014. 14 Since the COMELEC only issued the TRO on February 13, 2014, the
TRO no longer had any effect. Respondent further asserted that the TRO was addressed only
to the RTC Judge, and not to the COC; therefore, the COC is not bound by the TRO. For these
reasons, respondent insisted that the COC could legally issue the writ of execution pending
appeal. 15
The COC eventually issued a Writ of Execution Pending Appeal addressed to the sheriff.
However, complainant only found out about respondent's manifestations when the sheriff
attempted to serve the writ on him. 16 Soon thereafter, complainant filed the disbarment
complaint. HSAcaE
In his complaint, complainant argued that respondent violated his ethical duties when he misled
and induced the COC to defy lawful orders — particularly, the COMELEC's TRO and the
RTC's February 25, 2014 Order. 17 As a result, respondent allegedly violated Canons 1, 10,
15, and 19 of the CPR. 18
In his answer, 19 respondent claimed that, first, since the case records had been transmitted to
the COMELEC on January 31, 2014, the RTC was divested of jurisdiction over the case;
therefore, it had no more power to issue the February 25, 2014 Order. 20 Respondent put
forward the same reason for filing the five manifestations with the COC instead of the RTC
Judge. 21 Second, the manifestations contained no misleading statements or factual deviations.
He merely stated in his manifestations his honest belief that the twenty-day period had already
lapsed when the COMELEC issued its TRO; hence, it no longer had any binding effect. He
explained that the filing of manifestations to highlight his position did not violate any
rule. 22 Third, he allegedly filed those manifestations pursuant to his duty under Canon 18 of
the CPR to represent his client with competence and diligence. 23
The IBP's Report and Recommendation
In a Report and Recommendation 24 dated September 1, 2014, the Investigating
Commissioner recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for six (6)
months. 25 He observed that by filing manifestations instead of motions, respondent was able
to disregard the rule that motions shall be served on the other party and shall contain a notice
of hearing. In this regard, the Investigating Commissioner noted that a manifestation merely
informs the court about a certain matter involving the case, and does not require affirmative
action by the court. In the present case, however, the manifestations filed by respondent were
actually motions as these contained arguments to support his prayer for the issuance of a writ
of execution pending appeal. Moreover, the Investigating Commissioner also held that
respondent acted in bad faith when he convinced the COC to disregard the COMELEC's TRO.
He pointed out that when the TRO enjoins the court, it includes the judge and all officers and
employees of the court, including the clerk of court. Hence, respondent was unfair to the other
party and employed deceit when he filed the manifestations. As a result, the other party was
not afforded due process by being deprived of an opportunity to oppose the manifestations. 26
In a Resolution 27 dated December 14, 2014, the IBP Board of Governors (IBP Board) adopted
and approved the Report and Recommendation of the Investigation Commissioner. AScHCD
Respondent moved for reconsideration, 28 which was, however, denied in a
Resolution 29 dated May 28, 2016.
On October 10, 2016, respondent filed a petition for review 30 before the Court purportedly
pursuant to the procedure laid out in Ramientas v. Reyala(Ramientas). 31
The Issue Before the Court
The core issue in this case is whether or not respondent should be held administratively liable
for the acts complained of.
The Court's Ruling
I.
At the outset, the Court deems it proper to clarify that respondent's filing of the instant petition
for review does not conform with the standing procedure for the investigation of administrative
complaints against lawyers.
Section 12 (b) and (c) of Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court, as amended by Bar Matter No.
1645 dated October 13, 2015, 32 states:
Section 12. Review and Recommendation by the Board of Governors. —
xxx xxx xxx
b) After its review, the Board, by the vote of a majority of its total
membership, shall recommend to the Supreme Court the dismissal of the
complaint or the imposition of disciplinary action against the respondent.
The Board shall issue a resolution setting forth its findings and
recommendations, clearly and distinctly stating the facts and the reasons
on which it is based. The resolution shall be issued within a period not
exceeding thirty (30) days from the next meeting of the Board following
the submission of the Investigator's report.
c) The Board's resolution, together with the entire records and all
evidence presented and submitted, shall be transmitted to the Supreme
Court for final action within ten (10) days from issuance of the resolution.
xxx xxx xxx (Emphases supplied)
Under the old rule, the IBP Board had the power to "issue a decision" if the lawyer complained
of was either exonerated or meted a penalty of "less than suspension of disbarment." In this
situation, the case would be deemed terminated unless an interested party files a petition before
the Court. 33 The case ofRamientas, 34 which was cited as respondent's basis for filing the
present petition for review, was pronounced based on the old rule. 35 HESIcT
In contrast, under the amended provisions cited above, the IBP Board's resolution is merely
recommendatory regardless of the penalty imposed on the lawyer. The amendment stresses the
Court's authority to discipline a lawyer who transgresses his ethical duties under the CPR.
Hence, any final action on a lawyer's administrative liability shall be done by the Court based
on the entire records of the case, including the IBP Board's recommendation, without need for
the lawyer-respondent to file any additional pleading.
On this score, respondent's filing of the present petition for review is unnecessary. Pursuant to
the current rule, the IBP Board's resolution and the case records were forwarded to the Court.
The latter is then bound to fully consider all documents contained therein, regardless of any
further pleading filed by any party — including respondent's petition for review, which the
Court shall nonetheless consider if only to completely resolve the merits of this case and
determine respondent's actual administrative liability.
II.
After a judicious review of the case records, the Court agrees with the IBP that respondent
should be held administratively liable for his violations of the CPR. However, the Court finds
it proper to impose a lower penalty.
Canon 1 of the CPR mandates lawyers to uphold the Constitution and promote respect for the
legal processes. 36 Additionally, Canon 8 and Rule 10.03, Canon 10 of the CPR require
lawyers to conduct themselves with fairness towards their professional colleagues, to observe
procedural rules, and not to misuse them to defeat the ends of justice. These provisions read
thus:
CANON 1 — A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, OBEY
THE LAW OF THE LAND AND PROMOTE RESPECT FOR LAW AND
LEGAL PROCESSES.
xxx xxx xxx
CANON 8 — A LAWYER SHALL CONDUCT HIMSELF WITH
COURTESY, FAIRNESS AND CANDOR TOWARDS HIS
PROFESSIONAL COLLEAGUES, AND SHALL AVOID HARASSING
TACTICS AGAINST OPPOSING COUNSEL.
xxx xxx xxx
CANON 10 — A LAWYER OWES CANDOR, FAIRNESS AND GOOD
FAITH TO THE COURT. AcICHD
xxx xxx xxx
Rule 10.03 — A lawyer shall observe the rules of procedure and shall not
misuse them to defeat the ends of justice.
Contrary to these edicts, respondent improperly filed the five (5) motions as "manifestations"
to sidestep the requirement of notice of hearing for motions. In effect, he violated his
professional obligations to respect and observe procedural rules, not to misuse the rules to
cause injustice, and to exhibit fairness towards his professional colleagues.
The difference between a manifestation and a motion is essential in determining respondent's
administrative liability.
A manifestation is usually made merely for the information of the court, unless otherwise
indicated. In a manifestation, the manifesting party makes a statement to inform the court,
rather than to contest or argue. 37 In contrast, a motion is an application for relief from the
court other than by a pleading 38 and must be accompanied by a notice of hearing and proof
of service to the other party, unless the motion is not prejudicial to the rights of the adverse
party. 39 Settled is the rule that a motion without notice of hearing is pro forma or a mere scrap
of paper; thus, the court has no reason to consider it and the clerk has no right to receive it. The
reason for the rule is simple: to afford an opportunity for the other party to agree or object to
the motion before the court resolves it. This is in keeping with the principle of due process. 40
In the present case, respondent filed five (5) manifestations before the COC praying for
affirmative reliefs. The Court agrees with the IBP that these "manifestations" were in fact
motions, since reliefs were prayed for from the court — particularly, the issuance of the writ
of execution pending appeal. By labelling them as manifestations, respondent craftily
sidestepped the requirement of a notice of hearing and deprived the other party of an
opportunity to oppose his arguments. Moreover, the fact that he submitted these
manifestations directly to COC, instead of properly filing them before the RTC,
highlights his failure to exhibit fairness towards the other party by keeping the latter
completely unaware of his manifestations. Undoubtedly, respondent violated his
professional obligations under the CPR.
He attempts to justify his acts by arguing that he merely represented his client with competence
and diligence. However, respondent should be reminded that a lawyer is ethically bound not
only to serve his client but also the court, his colleagues, and society. His obligation to
represent his client is not without limits, but must be "within the bounds of the law" pursuant
to Canon 19 of the CPR. Accordingly, he is ethically bound to employ only fair and honest
means to attain their clients' objectives. caITAC
Respondent further argues that his filing of the manifestations with the COC is justified
considering that the RTC had already lost jurisdiction over the case and the COC had the
ministerial duty to issue the writ of execution. His argument fails to persuade. The Court has
ruled that a COC has a ministerial duty to issue a writ of execution when the judge directs its
issuance. 41 In this case, however, the RTC Judge had issued the second Order (dated February
25, 2014) explicitly directing the COC "NOT TO ISSUE a Writ of Execution." Therefore, the
COC in this case did not have a ministerial duty to issue the writ of execution. If respondent
honestly believed that his client was entitled to the writ, then he should not have clandestinely
submitted ex parte manifestations directly to the COC to coerce the latter to grant his intended
relief. Instead, respondent should have filed the proper motions before the court, which alone
has the inherent power to grant his prayer pursuant to Section 5 (c), (d), and (g), Rule 135 of
the Rules of Court. 42
The Court has the plenary power to discipline erring lawyers. In the exercise of its sound
judicial discretion, it may to impose a less severe punishment if such penalty would achieve
the desired end of reforming the errant lawyer. 43 In light of the foregoing discussion, the
Court deems that a penalty of suspension from the practice of law for three (3) months is
sufficient and commensurate with respondent's infractions. 44
As a final note, the Court stresses that a lawyer's primary duty is to assist the courts in the
administration of justice. Any conduct that tends to delay, impede, or obstruct the
administration of justice contravenes this obligation. 45 Indeed, a lawyer must champion his
client's cause with competence and diligence, but he cannot invoke this as an excuse for his
failure to exhibit courtesy and fairness to his fellow lawyers and to respect legal processes
designed to afford due process to all stakeholders.
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Rolando V. Zubiri (respondent) is found GUILTY of
violating Canon 1, Canon 8, and Rule 10.03, Canon 10 of
the Code ofProfessional Responsibility. Accordingly, he is SUSPENDED from the practice of
law for three (3) months effective from the finality of this Decision, and is STERNLY
WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar act shall be dealt with more
severely. TAIaHE
Let a copy of this Decision be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be attached to
respondent's personal record as a member of the Bar. Furthermore, let copies of the same be
served on the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of the Court Administrator,
which is directed to circulate them to all courts in the country for their information and
guidance.
SO ORDERED.
Sereno, C.J., Leonardo-de Castro, Del Castillo and Caguioa, JJ., concur.

THIRD DIVISION
[A.C. No. 6933. July 5, 2017.]

GREGORIO V. CAPINPIN, JR., complainant, vs. ATTY. ESTANISLAO L.


CESA, JR., respondent.

DECISION

TIJAM, J p:

Before this Court is an administrative complaint 1 filed by complainant Gregorio Capinpin,


Jr., praying for the suspension from the practice of law or disbarment of respondent Atty.
Estanislao L. Cesa, Jr. for violating the Canons of Professional Ethics in connection with the
foreclosure of complainant's properties.
Factual Antecedents
On February 14, 1997, complainant executed a real estate mortgage (REM) 2 on his two lots
in favor of Family Lending Corporation (FLC) as security for a loan amounting to PhP5
Million with interest at two percent (2%) per month.
On April 29, 2002, due to complainant's default in payment, FLC, through its President Dr. Eli
Malaya (Dr. Malaya), initiated foreclosure proceedings against the mortgaged properties. 3
Complainant availed of legal remedies to stop the said foreclosure proceedings, to wit: (1) he
filed a case for damages and injunction and also moved for the suspension of the sheriff's sale,
wherein such motion for suspension was granted but the injunctive relief was denied after
hearings. Complainant's motion for reconsideration (MR) therein was also denied; (2) he then
filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for a temporary restraining order
(TRO) and/or writ of preliminary injunction (WPI) with the Court of Appeals (CA), wherein
no TRO was granted due to some deficiencies in the petition; (3) he also filed an annulment of
REM with prayer for a WPI and/or TRO before the trial court, wherein this time a WPI was
issued to stop the auction sale. 4 This prompted FLC to file a petition forcertiorari before the
CA, questioning the trial court's issuance of the injunctive writ. The CA nullified the said writ,
mainly on the ground of forum shopping, which was affirmed by this Court on review. 5 For
these cases, FLC engaged respondent's legal services. HTcADC
The complaint alleges that during the above-cited proceedings, respondent, without the
knowledge of his client FLC, approached complainant to negotiate the deferment of the auction
sale and the possible settlement of the loan obligation at a reduced amount without resorting
to the auction sale. Respondent allegedly represented himself as being capable of influencing
the sheriff to defer the auction sale, as well as his client FLC through Dr. Malaya to accept the
amount of PhP7 Million to fully settle the loan obligation. For this, the complaint alleges that
on April 13, 2005, respondent demanded payment of professional fees amounting to Php1
Million from complainant. 6 In fact, complainant already gave the following amounts to
respondent as payment of such professional fees: (1) PhP50,000 check dated April 13, 2005;
(2) PhP25,000 check dated April 18, 2005; (3) PhP75,000 check dated April 22, 2005; (4)
PhP20,000 check dated May 16, 2005; (5) PhP200,000 on June 30, 2005; and (6) PhP30,000
on August 17, 2005. 7 Despite such payments, the auction sale proceeded. 8 Hence, the instant
complaint.
For his part, respondent denies that he was the one who approached complainant for
negotiation, the truth being that it was complainant who asked for his help to be given more
time to raise funds to pay the loan obligation. 9 Respondent further avers that he communicated
the said request to his client. 10 Aside from the checks dated April 13, 18, 22 and May 16,
2005, which respondent claims to be advance payments of his attorney's fees, respondent avers
that he did not receive any other amount from the complainant. 11 All these, according to the
respondent, were known to his client. 12 In fact, in a Letter dated April 22, 2005 signed by the
complainant and addressed to FLC through Dr. Malaya, complainant expressly stated that he
will negotiate for the payment of respondent's fees as FLC's counsel. 13
On July 16, 2007, this Court referred the instant administrative case to the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report, and recommendation or decision. 14

Report and Recommendation
 of the Commission on Bar Discipline


In his Report and Recommendation 15 dated June 4, 2010, the Investigating Commissioner
gave credence to complainant's allegations that respondent, without the knowledge of his
client, negotiated with the complainant for the settlement of the loan obligation, and that the
respondent demanded and received professional fees in negotiating the said
settlement. CAIHTE
According to the Investigating Commissioner, respondent's act of negotiating with the
complainant on the deferment of the auction sale and the settlement of the loan for a
substantially reduced amount was highly improper as respondent's primary duty, being FLC's
counsel, was to protect the interest of FLC by seeing to it that the foreclosure proceedings be
done successfully to obtain the best amount possible to cover the loan obligation. 16 The
Investigating Commissioner explained that if a lawyer can collect professional fees or
advanced payment thereof from the adverse party, it results to a conflict of interest. 17 From
the foregoing, the respondent was found to have violated Canon 15, Rule 15.03 of
the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR), which states that a lawyer shall not represent
conflicting interests except by written consent of all concerned given after a full disclosure of
the facts. 18
The report further stated that the amounts collected by the respondent should be considered as
money received from his client; as such, he has the duty to account for and disclose the same
to his client in accordance with Canon 16, Rule 16.01 of the said Code. 19 The Investigating
Commissioner found nothing on record that showed that respondent made such accounting for
or disclosure to his client. 20
Hence, the Investigating Commissioner concluded that respondent was liable for malpractice
and recommended that he be suspended from the practice of law for one (1) year, thus:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing discussion, this Commissioner finds
the respondent liable for malpractice and, accordingly, recommends that
respondent be meted a penalty of ONE (1) YEAR suspension from the practice
of law with a warning that a repetition of a similar offense will be dealt with
more severity. 21

Resolutions of the Board of Governors
 Integrated Bar of the Philippines


On September 28, 2013, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Board of Governors issued
Resolution No. XX-2013-84, 22 which states:
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED
and APPROVED, 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
violated Canon 15, Rule 15.03, and Canon 16, Rule 16.01 of
the Code of Professional Responsibility, Atty. Estanislao L. Cesa, Jr. is
hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for one (1) year. 23 (Emphasis
supplied)
Respondent's MR 24 was denied in the IBP Board of Governor's Resolution No. XXI-2014-
280 25 dated May 3, 2014 as follows: aScITE
RESOLVED to DENY Respondent's Motion for Reconsideration, there being
no cogent reason to reverse the findings of the Commission and the resolution
subject of the motion, it being a mere reiteration of the matters which had
already been threshed out and taken into consideration. Thus, Resolution No.
XX-2013-84 dated September 28, 2013 is hereby AFFIRMED. 26
Necessarily, We now give Our final action on this case.
Issue
Should Atty. Cesa, Jr. be administratively disciplined based on the allegations in the complaint
and evidence on record?
The Court's Ruling
We are in full accord with the findings of the Investigating Commissioner that respondent
violated Canon 15, Rule 15.03 and Canon 16, Rule 16.01 of the CPR.
CANON 15 — A LAWYER SHALL OBSERVE CANDOR, FAIRNESS AND
LOYALTY IN ALL HIS DEALINGS AND TRANSACTIONS WITH HIS
CLIENTS.
Rule 15.03 — A lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests
except by written consent of all concerned given after a full
disclosure of the facts.
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.
Based on the records, We find substantial evidence to hold the respondent liable for violating
Canon 15, Rule 15.03 of the said Code. It must be stressed that FLC engaged respondent's legal
services to represent it in opposing complainant's actions to forestall the foreclosure
proceedings. As can be gleaned from respondent's position paper, however, it is admitted that
respondent extended help to the complainant in negotiating with FLC for the reduction of the
loan payment and cessation of the foreclosure proceedings. 27 The case of Hornilla v.
Salunat 28 is instructive on the concept of conflict of interest, viz.:
There is conflict of interest when a lawyer represents inconsistent interests of
two or more opposing parties. The test is whether or not in behalf of one client,
it is the lawyer's duty to fight for an issue or claim, but it is his duty to oppose
it for the other client. In brief, if he argues for one client, this argument will be
opposed by him when he argues for the other client. This rule covers not only
cases in which confidential communications have been confided, but also those
in which no confidence has been bestowed or will be used. x x x. Another test
of the inconsistency of interests is whether the acceptance of a new relation will
prevent an attorney from the full discharge of his duty of undivided fidelity and
loyalty to his client or invite suspicion of unfaithfulness or double[-]dealing in
the performance thereof. 29
Evidently, respondent was working on conflicting interests — that of his client, which was to
be able to foreclose and obtain the best amount they could get to cover the loan obligation, and
that of the complainant's, which was to forestall the foreclosure and settle the loan obligation
for a lesser amount. DETACa
Indeed, the relationship between the lawyer and his client should ideally be imbued with the
highest level of trust and confidence. Necessity and public interest require that this be so. Part
of the lawyer's duty to his client is to avoid representing conflicting interests. 30 It behooves
lawyers not only to keep inviolate the client's 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. 31
Respondent's allegation that such negotiation was within the knowledge of his client will not
exonerate him from the clear violation of Rule 15.03 of the CPR. Respondent presented a
number of documents to support his allegation that all the communications between him and
the complainant were relayed to his client but We find no record of any written consent from
any of the parties, especially from his client, allowing him to negotiate as such. ATICcS
Respondent's admission that he received advance payments of professional fees from the
complainant made matters worse for him. As correctly found by the Investigating
Commissioner, it was highly improper for respondent to accept professional fees from the
opposing party as this creates clouds of doubt regarding respondent's legal practice. As aptly
stated by the Investigating Commissioner, if a lawyer receives payment of professional
fees from the adverse party, it gives an impression that he is being paid for services
rendered or to be rendered in favor of such adverse party's interest, which, needless to
say, conflicts that of his client's.
Simply put, respondent's professional fees must come from his client. This holds true even if
eventually such fees will be reimbursed by the adverse party depending on the agreement of
the parties. Respondent cannot justify his act of accepting professional fees from the
complainant by alleging that such was in accordance with the arrangement between his client
and the complainant as there is no clear proof of such arrangement. The April 22, 2005
Letter 32 signed by the complainant and addressed to FLC through Dr. Malaya, invoked by
the respondent, does not, in any way, prove that there was an agreement between complainant
and FLC. Moreover, the fact that respondent was already receiving several amounts from the
complainant even before the date of the said Letter, supposedly stating an agreement between
the complainant and FLC as regards the settlement of the loan obligation and the payment of
his professional fees, is also suspicious. Such circumstance reveals that even before the
complainant and FLC have come to such purported agreement, he was already receiving
professional fees from the complainant. Respondent's allegations to the effect that negotiations
had already been going on between the parties through him via phone calls even before that
Letter do not hold water. To be sure, it would have been easy for the respondent, as a lawyer,
to present documentary proof of such negotiation and/or arrangements but respondent failed
to do so.
At any rate, even assuming that there was indeed an arrangement between FLC and
complainant that respondent's professional fees shall be paid by the complainant, which will
be later on deducted from whatever the latter will pay FLC for the settlement of his loan
obligation, respondent's act of accepting such payments from the complainant and
appropriating the same for his professional fees is still reprehensible. The said payments from
the complainant are still considered FLC's money; as such, respondent should have accounted
the same for his client. As correctly found by the Investigating Commissioner, there is nothing
on record, aside from respondent's bare and self-serving allegations, that would show that
respondent made such accounting or disclosure to his client. Such acts are in violation of Canon
16, Rule 16.01 of the CPR above-cited. HEITAD
In addition, this Court is baffled by the idea that complainant opted to pay respondent's
professional fees first before his loan obligation was even taken care of, and that FLC would
actually agree to this.
This Court cannot overstress the duty of a lawyer to uphold, at all times, the integrity and
dignity of the legal profession. The ethics of the legal profession rightly enjoin lawyers to act
with the highest standards of truthfulness, fair play, and nobility in the course of their practice
of law. Clearly, in this case, respondent failed to uphold such ethical standard in his practice
of law.
In view of the foregoing disquisition, We hold that respondent should be suspended from the
practice of law for a period of one (1) year as recommended by the Investigating
Commissioner.
ACCORDINGLY, this Court AFFIRMS the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board of
Governor's Resolution No. XX-2013-84 dated September 28, 2013 and Resolution No. XXI-
2014-280 dated May 3, 2014 and ORDERS the suspension of Atty. Estanislao L. Cesa, Jr.
from the practice of law for one (1) year effective immediately upon receipt of this Decision.
Let a copy of this Decision be entered in the personal records of respondent as a member of
the Bar, and copies furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, and the Office of the Court Administrator for circulation to all courts in the
country.
SO ORDERED.
Bersamin, Reyes, Perlas-Bernabe * and Jardeleza, JJ., concur.