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A.C. No.

8371

SPOUSES GERARDO MONTECILLO and DOMINGA SALONOY, Complainants


vs.
ATTY. EDUARDO Z. GATCHALIAN, Respondent

RESOLUTION

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

This administrative case stemmed from a complaint1 filed by Spouses Gerardo Montecillo and
Dominga Salonoy (complainants) against Atty. Eduardo Z. Gatchalian (respondent) before the Office
of the Bar Confidant charging him of grave misconduct and gross ignorance of the law for being
negligent in handling complainants' case. In a Resolution2 dated August 9, 2010, the case was
referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report, and recommendation.

The Facts

Complainants engaged the legal services of respondent for an ejectment case in which they were
the defendants.3After filing their Answer to the complaint, complainants received a notice from the
court setting the preliminary conference on March 25, 2009 at 8:30 in the morning. When
complainants went to respondent's office to confer with him about it, the latter told them that he did
not receive the notice and that he could not attend the preliminary conference due to a conflict in his
schedule. Complainants expressed that they can attend the conference even without him. He
allegedly advised them not to attend anymore as he would arrange with the court for a new schedule
when he is available. 4

Complainants relied on respondent's advice and did not attend the preliminary conference anymore.
Thereafter, they found out that respondent not only failed to attend the scheduled preliminary
conference, but also failed to take any steps to have it cancelled or reset to another date. They also
learned that, contrary to respondent's representation, he did receive the notice setting the date of the
preliminary conference. Subsequently, complainant received an Order 5 dated March 25, 2009 that
deemed the ejectment case submitted for decision due to complainants' failure to appear during the
preliminary conference. When they approached respondent about it, he belittled the matter and told
them not to worry as he would take care of it.6

Subsequently, the trial court issued a Decision7 dated April 21, 2009 adverse to the complainants.
Respondent received it on May 4, 2009 but failed to inform complainants about the status of the
case as to enable them to prepare the next course of action. Complainants learned about the
adverse ruling upon inquiring with the trial court only on May 13, 2009, or nine (9) days after
respondent's receipt thereof, when their period to appeal was almost about to lapse. 8

Complainants went to respondent's office wherein the latter prepared a Notice of Appeal. Afterwards,
complainants terminated respondent's legal services and engaged another lawyer to prepare their
Memorandum of Appeal. On appeal, the ejectment case was remanded to the court of origin.9

In sum, complainants assail respondent's negligent and complacent handling of their case. 10

In his Comment, 11 respondent contended that when complainants informed him about the scheduled
preliminary conference, he told them that he would be unable to attend due to a conflict in schedule,
as he was committed to attend a criminal case hearing in Quezon City. Nevertheless, he instructed
complainants to attend the preliminary conference even without his appearance and inform the court
about the conflict in schedule. He denied having advised complainants not to attend the preliminary
hearing and belittled the Order dated March 25, 2009. Finally, he alleged that the Order dated March
25, 2009 was complainants' fault, due to their failure to attend the preliminary conference, and upon
telling this to complainants, they terminated his legal services. 12

On June 22, 2011, while the case was pending before the IBP, complainants filed a Manifestation
and Motion to Withdraw Complaint. 13

The IBP's Report and Recommendation

In the IBP's Report and Recommendation14 dated August 29, 2013, the Investigating Commissioner
recommended the suspension of respondent from the practice of law for six (6) months for breach of
Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR). He explained that the submission of
the ejectment case for resolution and the eventual adverse decision against complainants were
attributable to respondent's negligence. Knowing that he had a conflict in schedule, respondent
should have prepared and filed an appropriate motion to cause the cancellation and resetting of the
scheduled preliminary conference. Whether he advised complainants to attend the preliminary
conference on March 25, 2009 or not is immaterial. What was relevant was his course of action
when confronted with a conflict of schedule in his court appearances. 15

Moreover, the Investigating Commissioner found complainants' version of facts more in line with
common experience as opposed to respondent's version. Notably, there was no cogent explanation
why complainants would dismiss his alleged instruction to attend the conference without him. 16

In a Resolution17 dated August 9, 2014, the IBP Board of Governors (Board) adopted and approved
the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner.

Respondent moved for reconsideration but was denied m a Resolution18 dated September 23, 2016.

The Issue Before the Court

The essential issue in this case is whether or not respondent should be held administratively liable
for violating the CPR.

The Court's Ruling

The Court resolves to adopt the IBP's findings and recommendation.

Every lawyer is duty-bound to serve his clients with utmost diligence and competence, and never
neglect a legal matter entrusted to him. 19 A lawyer owes fidelity to the clients' cause20 and,
accordingly is expected to exercise the required degree of diligence in handling their
affairs. 21 Consequently, he is expected to maintain at all times a high standard of legal proficiency,
and to devote one's full attention, skill, and competence to the case, whether it is accepted for a fee
or for free. 22 The relevant provisions of the CPR read thus:

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.
Jurisprudence provides that the lawyer's duties of competence and diligence include not merely
reviewing cases or giving sound legal advice, but also consist of properly representing a client
before any court or tribunal, attending scheduled hearings and conferences, preparing and filing the
required pleadings, prosecuting handled cases with reasonable dispatch, and urging their
termination without waiting for the client or the court to prod him to do so.23 A lawyer's negligence in
fulfilling these duties subjects him to disciplinary action. 24

Guided by these edicts, the Court rules that respondent failed to exercise the diligence required of
lawyers in handling complainants' case. Based on the records, he failed to file the necessary motion
to postpone the hearing due to a conflict in his schedule, and as a result, complainants lost their
opportunity to present their evidence in the ejectment case. As complainants' counsel in the
ejectment case, respondent was expected to exercise due diligence. He should have been more
circumspect in preparing and filing the motion, considering the serious consequence of failure to
attend the scheduled preliminary conference - i.e. the defendant's failure to appear thereat entitles
the plaintiff to a judgment,25 as what happened in this case.

The Court likewise finds respondent liable for failing to immediately inform complainants about the
trial court's adverse decision. To emphasize, a lawyer has an obligation to promptly apprise clients
regarding the status of a case as expressed in Rule 18.04, Canon 18 of the CPR:

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.

To be clear, a lawyer need not wait for their clients to ask for information but must advise them
without delay about matters essential for them to avail of legal remedies. In the present case,
respondent failed to immediately notify complainants about the adverse decision of the trial court.
Had the complainants not inquired with the trial court, they would have lost their opportunity to
appeal. For this reason, respondent is also administratively liable for negligence under Rule 18.04 of
the CPR.

As regards the proper penalty, recent cases show that in similar instances where lawyers neglected
their clients' affairs by failing to attend hearings and/or failing to update clients about court decisions,
the Court suspended them from the practice of law for six (6) months. In Caranza V da.de Saldivar v.
Cabanes,26 a lawyer was suspended for failure to file a pretrial brief and to attend the scheduled
preliminary conference. In Heirs of Ballesteros v. Apiag, 27 a lawyer was likewise suspended for not
attending pre-trial, failing to inform clients about the dismissal of their case, and failing to file position
papers. In Spouses Aranda v. Elayda, 28 a lawyer suffered the same fate when he failed to appear in
a scheduled hearing despite due notice, which resulted in the submission of the case for decision.
Consistent with these cases, the Court agrees with the IBP's recommendation to suspend
respondent from the practice of law for six (6) months.

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Eduardo Z. Gatchalian is found GUILTY of violating Canon 18,
Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Accordingly, he
is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for six (6) months effective from the finality of this
Resolution, and is STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar act shall be dealt with
more severely.

Let a copy of this this Resolution 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
1âw phi1

served on the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and Office of the Court Administrator, which is
directed to circulate them to all courts in the country for their information and guidance.
SO ORDERED.

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

MARIA LOURDES P.A. SERENO


Chief Justice
Chairperson

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO


Associate Justice Associate Justice

A.C. No. 10537, February 03, 2015

REYNALDO G. RAMIREZ, Complainant, v. ATTY. MERCEDES BUHAYANG-MARGALLO, Respondent.

RESOLUTION

LEONEN, J.:

When an action or proceeding is initiated in our courts, lawyers become the eyes and ears of their
clients. Lawyers are expected to prosecute or defend the interests of their clients without need for
reminders. The privilege of the office of attorney grants them the ability to warrant to their client that they
will manage the case as if it were their own. The relationship between an attorney and client is a sacred
agency. It cannot be disregarded on the flimsy excuse that the lawyer accepted the case only because he or
she was asked by an acquaintance. The professional relationship remains the same regardless of the
reasons for the acceptance by counsel and regardless of whether the case is highly paying or pro bono.

Atty. Mercedes Buhayang-Margallo’s (Atty. Margallo) inaction resulted in a lost appeal, terminating the case
of her client not on the merits but due to her negligence. She made it appear that the case was dismissed
on the merits when, in truth, she failed to file the Appellant’s Brief on time. She did not discharge her
duties of candor to her client.

This court resolves the Petition for Review1 filed by Atty. Margallo under Rule 139-B, Section 12 of the Rules
of Court, assailing the Resolution of the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

In the Resolution2 dated March 21, 2014, the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
affirmed with modification its earlier Resolution3 dated March 20, 2013. In its delegated capacity to conduct
fact finding for this court, it found that respondent Atty. Margallo had violated Canon 17 and Canon 18,
Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.4 Consequently, the Board of Governors
recommended that Atty. Margallo be suspended from the practice of law for two (2) years.5 cralawred

In the Complaint6 filed on January 20, 2010 before the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar
of the Philippines, complainant Reynaldo Ramirez (Ramirez) alleged that he engaged Atty. Margallo’s
services as legal counsel in a civil case for Quieting of Title entitled “Spouses Roque v. Ramirez.”7 The case
was initiated before the Regional Trial Court of Binangonan, Rizal, Branch 68.8 cralawred

According to Ramirez, Atty. Margallo contacted him on or about March 2004, as per a referral from a friend
of Ramirez’s sister.9 He alleged that Atty. Margallo had offered her legal services on the condition that she
be given 30% of the land subject of the controversy instead of attorney’s fees.10 It was also agreed upon
that Ramirez would pay Atty. Margallo P1,000.00 per court appearance.11 cralawred

On October 19, 2006, the Regional Trial Court promulgated a Decision adverse to Ramirez.12 Atty. Margallo
advised him to appeal the judgment. She committed to file the Appeal before the Court of Appeals.13 cralawred
The Appeal was perfected and the records were sent to the Court of Appeals sometime in 2008.14 On
December 5, 2008, the Court of Appeals directed Ramirez to file his Appellant’s Brief. Ramirez notified Atty.
Margallo, who replied that she would have one prepared.15 cralaw red

On January 8, 2009, Ramirez contacted Atty. Margallo to follow up on the Appellant’s Brief. Atty. Margallo
informed him that he needed to meet her to sign the documents necessary for the brief.16 c ralawre d

On several occasions, Ramirez followed up on the status of the brief, but he was told that there was still no
word from the Court of Appeals.17 cralaw red

On August 26, 2009, Atty. Margallo informed Ramirez that his Appeal had been denied.18 She told him that
the Court of Appeals’ denial was due to Ramirez’s failure to establish his filiation with his alleged father,
which was the basis of his claim.19 She also informed him that they could no longer appeal to this court
since the Decision of the Court of Appeals had been promulgated and the reglementary period for filing an
Appeal had already lapsed.20 cralaw red

Ramirez went to the Court of Appeals. There, he discovered that the Appellant’s Brief was filed on April 13,
2009 with a Motion for Reconsideration and Apologies for filing beyond the reglementary period.21 c ralawred

Ramirez alleged that Atty. Margallo had violated Canon 17 and Canon 18, Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility.22 By way of defense, Atty. Margallo argued that she had agreed to take
on the case for free, save for travel expense of P1,000.00 per hearing. She also claimed that she had
candidly informed Ramirez and his mother that they only had a 50% chance of winning the case.23 She
denied ever having entered into an agreement regarding the contingent fee worth 30% of the value of the
land subject of the controversy.

Atty. Margallo asserted that she would not have taken on the Appeal except that the mother of Ramirez had
begged her to do so.24 She claimed that when she instructed Ramirez to see her for document signing on
January 8, 2009, he ignored her. When he finally showed up on March 2009, he merely told her that he had
been busy.25 Her failure to immediately inform Ramirez of the unfavorable Decision of the Court of Appeals
was due to losing her client’s number because her 8-year-old daughter played with her phone and
accidentally erased all her contacts.26 cralawred

Mandatory conference and findings


of the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines

The dispute was set for mandatory conference on June 3, 2010.27 Only Ramirez appeared despite Atty.
Margallo having received notice.28 The mandatory conference was reset to July 22, 2010. Both parties then
appeared and were directed to submit their position papers.29 cra lawred

Commissioner Cecilio A.C. Villanueva recommended that Atty. Margallo be reprimanded for her actions and
be given a stern warning that her next infraction of a similar nature shall be dealt with more
severely.30 This was based on his two key findings. First, Atty. Margallo allowed the reglementary period
for filing an Appellant’s Brief to lapse by assuming that Ramirez no longer wanted to pursue the case instead
of exhausting all means possible to protect the interest of her client.31 Second, Atty. Margallo had been
remiss in her duties as counsel, resulting in the loss of Ramirez’s statutory right to seek recourse with the
Court of Appeals.32cralawred

In the Resolution33 dated March 20, 2013, the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
adopted and approved the recommendation of the Commission on Bar Discipline. The Board of Governors
resolved to recommend a penalty of reprimand to Atty. Margallo with a stern warning that repetition of the
same or similar act shall be dealt with more severely.

Ramirez seasonably filed a Motion for Reconsideration on July 16, 2013.34 In the Resolution dated March
21, 2014, the Board of Governors granted Ramirez’s Motion for Reconsideration and increased the
recommended penalty to suspension from practice of law for two (2) years.35 cralawre d

On August 20, 2014, Atty. Margallo filed a Petition for Review under Rule 139-B, Section 12 of the Rules of
Court.36 She alleged that the recommended penalty of suspension was too severe considering that she had
been very careful and vigilant in defending the cause of her client. She also averred that this was the first
time a Complaint was filed against her.37 cralaw red
Ramirez thereafter filed an undated Motion to adopt his Motion for Reconsideration previously filed with the
Commission on Bar Discipline as a Comment on Atty. Margallo’s Petition for Review.38 In the
Resolution39 dated October 14, 2014, this court granted Ramirez’s Motion. Atty. Margallo filed her Reply40 on
October 6, 2014.

This court’s ruling

The Petition is denied for lack of merit.

The relationship between a lawyer and a client is “imbued with utmost trust and confidence.”41 Lawyers are
expected to exercise the necessary diligence and competence in managing cases entrusted to them. They
commit not only to review cases or give legal advice, but also to represent their clients to the best of their
ability without need to be reminded by either the client or the court. The expectation to maintain a high
degree of legal proficiency and attention remains the same whether the represented party is a high-paying
client or an indigent litigant.42 cralaw red

Canon 17 and Canon 18, Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility clearly
provide: chanRoble svi rtual Lawli bra ry

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.

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
there with 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 client’s request for information. cralawlawl ibra ry

In Caranza Vda. De Saldivar v. Cabanes, Jr.,43 a lawyer was suspended after failing to justify his absence in
a scheduled preliminary conference, which resulted in the case being submitted for resolution. This was
aggravated by the lawyer’s failure to inform his client about the adverse ruling of the Court of Appeals,
thereby precluding the litigant from further pursuing an Appeal. This court found that these actions
amounted to gross negligence tantamount to breaching Canons 17 and 18 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility: c hanRoble svirtual Lawli bra ry

The relationship between an attorney and his client is one imbued with utmost trust and confidence. In this
light, clients are led to expect that lawyers would be ever-mindful of their cause and accordingly exercise
the required degree of diligence in handling their affairs. Verily, a lawyer is expected to maintain at all
times a high standard of legal proficiency, and to devote his full attention, skill, and competence to the case,
regardless of its importance and whether he accepts it for a fee or for free.

....

Case law further illumines that a lawyer’s duty of competence and diligence includes not merely reviewing
the cases entrusted to the counsel’s care or giving sound legal advice, but also consists of properly
representing the client before any court or tribunal, attending scheduled hearings or conferences, preparing
and filing the required pleadings, prosecuting the handled cases with reasonable dispatch, and urging their
termination without waiting for the client or the court to prod him or her to do so.

Conversely, a lawyer’s negligence in fulfilling his duties subjects him to disciplinary action. While such
negligence or carelessness is incapable of exact formulation, the Court has consistently held that
the lawyer’s mere failure to perform the obligations due his client is per se a violation.44 (Emphasis
supplied, citations omitted)
cralawlawl ibra ry

Respondent Atty. Margallo was unjustifiably remiss in her duties as legal counsel to Ramirez.

The lack of communication and coordination between respondent Atty. Margallo and her client was palpable
but was not due to the lack of diligence of her client. This cost complainant Ramirez his entire case and left
him with no appellate remedies. His legal cause was orphaned not because a court of law ruled on the
merits of his case, but because a person privileged to act as counsel failed to discharge her duties with the
requisite diligence. Her assumption that complainant Ramirez was no longer interested to pursue the Appeal
is a poor excuse. There was no proof that she exerted efforts to communicate with her client. This is an
admission that she abandoned her obligation as counsel on the basis of an assumption. Respondent Atty.
Margallo failed to exhaust all possible means to protect complainant Ramirez’s interest, which is contrary to
what she had sworn to do as a member of the legal profession. For these reasons, she clearly violated
Canon 17 and Canon 18, Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

A problem arises whenever agents, entrusted to manage the interests of another, use their authority or
power for their benefit or fail to discharge their duties. In many agencies, there is information assymetry
between the principal and the entrusted agent. That is, there are facts and events that the agent must
attend to that may not be known by the principal.

This information assymetry is even more pronounced in an attorney-client relationship. Lawyers are
expected not only to be familiar with the minute facts of their cases but also to see their relevance in
relation to their causes of action or their defenses. The salience of these facts is not usually patent to the
client. It can only be seen through familiarity with the relevant legal provisions that are invoked with their
jurisprudential interpretations. More so with the intricacies of the legal procedure. It is the lawyer that
receives the notices and must decide the mode of appeal to protect the interest of his or her client.

Thus, the relationship between a lawyer and her client is regarded as highly fiduciary. Between the lawyer
and the client, it is the lawyer that has the better knowledge of facts, events, and remedies. While it is true
that the client chooses which lawyer to engage, he or she usually does so on the basis of reputation. It is
only upon actual engagement that the client discovers the level of diligence, competence, and accountability
of the counsel that he or she chooses. In some cases, such as this one, the discovery comes too
late. Between the lawyer and the client, therefore, it is the lawyer that should bear the full costs of
indifference or negligence.

Respondent Atty. Margallo’s position that a two-year suspension is too severe considering that it is her first
infraction cannot be sustained. In Caranza Vda. De Saldivar, we observed: c hanRoblesv irtual Lawlib rary

As regards the appropriate penalty, several cases show that lawyers who have been held liable for gross
negligence for infractions similar to those of the respondent were suspended for a period of six (6)
months. In Aranda v. Elayda, a lawyer who failed to appear at the scheduled hearing despite due notice
which resulted in the submission of the case for decision was found guilty of gross negligence and hence,
suspended for six (6) months. In Heirs of Tiburcio F. Ballesteros, Sr. v. Apiag, a lawyer who did not file a
pre-trial brief and was absent during the pre-trial conference was likewise suspended for six (6)
months. In Abiero v. Juanino, a lawyer who neglected a legal matter entrusted to him by his client in
breach of Canons 17 and 18 of the Code was also suspended for six (6) months. Thus, consistent with
existing jurisprudence, the Court finds it proper to impose the same penalty against respondent
and accordingly suspends him for a period of six (6) months.45 (Emphasis supplied, citations
omitted)c ralawlawli bra ry

Caranza Vda. De Saldivar did not leave the clients without procedural remedies. On the other hand,
respondent Atty. Margallo’s neglect resulted in her client having no further recourse in court to protect his
legal interests. This lack of diligence, to the utmost prejudice of complainant Ramirez who relied on her
alleged competence as counsel, must not be tolerated. It is time that we communicate that lawyers must
actively manage cases entrusted to them. There should be no more room for an inertia of mediocrity.

Parenthetically, it is this court that has the constitutionally mandated duty to discipline lawyers.46 Under the
current rules, the duty to assist fact finding can be delegated to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. The
findings of the Integrated Bar, however, can only be recommendatory, consistent with the constitutional
powers of this court. Its recommended penalties are also, by its nature, recommendatory. Despite the
precedents, it is the Integrated Bar of the Philippines that recognizes that the severity of the infraction is
worth a penalty of two-year suspension. We read this as a showing of its desire to increase the level of
professionalism of our lawyers.

This court is not without jurisdiction to increase the penalties imposed in order to address a current need in
the legal profession. The desire of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines to ensure a higher ethical standard
for its members’ conduct is laudable. The negligence of respondent Atty. Margallo coupled with her lack of
candor is reprehensible.
WHEREFORE, the Petition for Review is DENIED. The Recommendations and Resolution of the Board of
Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines dated March 21, 2014 is ACCEPTED, ADOPTED AND
AFFIRMED. Atty. Mercedes Buhayang-Margallo is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for two
(2) years, with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar act shall be dealt with
more severely. This decision is immediately executory.

SO ORDERED. cralawlawlibra ry

Sereno, C.J., Carpio, Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Del Castillo, Villarama, Jr., Perez,
Mendoza, Reyes, Perlas-Bernabe, and Jardeleza, JJ., concur.
Brion, J., on leave.

Endnotes:

A.C. No. 7919 October 8, 2014

DOMADO DISOMIMBA SULTAN, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. CASAN MACABANDING, Respondent.

DECISION

REYES, J.:

This is an administrative complaint1 filed on May 14, 2008 before the Office of the Bar Confidant by
Domado Disomimba Sultan (complainant) against Atty. Casan Macabanding (respondent) for
allegedly having notarized a falsified affidavit.

The Facts

According to the complainant, he ran for the position of Mayor for the Municipality of Buadipuso
Buntong, Lanao del Sur in 2007. He filed his Certificate of Candidacy (COC) dated March 29, 2007
with the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) for the May 14, 2007 elections.2 Thereafter, an
Affidavit of Withdrawal of Certificate of Candidacy for Municipal Mayor3 (Affidavit of Withdrawal)
dated April 10, 2007 was notarized and submitted by the respondent to the COMELEC, withdrawing
the complainant’s candidacy without the latter’s knowledge or authorization.

When the complainant learned of this, he wrote a letter4 dated April 18, 2007 and submitted an
Affidavit5 to Mamangcoday Colangcag (Colangcag), Acting Election Officer of the COMELEC in
Buadipuso Buntong, Lanao del Sur. The complainant alleged that he neither executed the Affidavit
of Withdrawal nor authorized anybody to prepare a document to withdraw his COC. He asked that
the withdrawal be ignored and that his name be retained on the list of candidates.

On May 16, 2007, the complainant filed a petition with the COMELEC to count the votes cast in his
favor. The complainant also filed a criminal complaint on May 17, 2007 withthe Prosecutor’s Office of
Marawi City against Abdulmojib Moti Mariano (Mariano) who was another candidate for the
mayoralty position,the respondent, and Colangcag for Falsification of Public
Documents.6 Information7 was thereby filed against the respondent and Colangcag which was
docketed as Criminal Case No. 5842-08 in the Regional Trial Court of Lanao Del Sur, Marawi City.

Meanwhile, the COMELEC Second Division found merit in the complainant’s petition and ordered
the reinstatement of his name in the list of candidates for the position of mayor in its
Resolution8 dated June 12, 2007. All votes cast in favor of the complainant were also counted. Thus,
Mariano elevated the matter to the COMELEC en banc, which issued a subpoenarequiring the
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to study the signature appearing on the Affidavit
ofWithdrawal. Subsequently, the NBI transmitted its Questioned Documents Report No. 428-9079 to
the COMELEC en banc, stating that the signature in the Affidavit of

Withdrawal and the specimen signatures of the complainant were not written by one and the same
person.10

On May 14, 2008, the complainant filed the present administrative complaint against the respondent
with prayer for his disbarment. After the respondent filed his comment11 on the complaint, the case
was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Commission on Bar Discipline for
investigation, report and recommendation.12

The respondent countered that the instant administrative case was filed against him as political
harassment because his family supported the complainant’s opponent, Mariano.13 He admitted that
he notarized the affidavit after it was signed by the complainant voluntarily and in the presence of
witnesses and thereafter, submitted the same to the COMELEC. However, the complainant changed
his mind when Mariano, who was the only remaining mayoralty candidate, refused to pay millions of
pesos to the complainant.14 The respondent withheld the identity of the witnesses allegedly to avoid
problems within their family.

On July 1, 2009, the Investigating Commissioner issued a Report and


Recommendation,15 recommending "that the respondent be suspended from the active practice of
law for six (6) months and two (2) years as notary public."16

On May 15, 2011, the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution No. XIX-2011-29717 adopting the
recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner:

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 lawsand rules, and considering respondent’s irregular
notarization and submission of complainant’s Affidavit of Withdrawal of Certificate of Candidacy to
the COMELEC without complainant’s knowledge and authorization, Atty. Casan Macabanding is
hereby SUSPENDEDfrom the practice of law for six (6) months and SUSPENDEDfrom being
commissioned as Notary Public for two (2) years.18

The respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration,19 which the IBP Board of Governors denied inits
Resolution No. XX-2014-7620 dated March 8, 2014 for being a mere reiteration of matters already
threshed out and taken into consideration.21

Issue

WHETHER THE RESPONDENT SHOULD BE HELD ADMINISTRATIVELY LIABLE BASED ON


THE ALLEGATIONS IN THE COMPLAINT.

Ruling of the Court

The Court agrees with the findings of the IBP but modify the penalty imposed.
The complainant presented the findings of the NBI which are hereunder reproduced:

FINDINGS:

Laboratory and scientific comparative examination of the specimens submitted, under stereoscopic
microscope and magnifying lenses, with the aid of photographic enlargements (Comparison charts),
reveal that there exist fundamental, significant differences in writing characteristics/habits between
the questioned signature "DOMADO DISOMIMBA" (written in Arabic characters/alphabet), on one
hand, and the sample specimen signatures "DOMADO DISOMIMBA" (written in Arabic
characters/alphabet), on the other hand, such as in:

- Structural pattern of characters/elements

- Direction of strokes

- Proportion characteristics

- Other minute identifying details

CONCLUSION:

Based on the above FINDINGS, the questioned signature "DOMADO DISOMIMBA" (written in
Arabic characters/alphabet), on one hand, and the sample specimen signatures "DOMADO
DISOMIMBA" (written in Arabic characters/alphabet), on the other hand, WERE NOT WRITTEN by
one and the same person.22 (Underscoring and emphasis in the original)

The respondent maintained that the NBI officer who examined the complainant’s signature is not an
expert in Arabic language and thus, could not give an expert opinion regarding a signature written in
Arabic language.23

On this score, the Court refers to Mayor Abdulmojib Moti Mariano v. Commission on Elections and
Domado Disomimba Sultan,24 wherein the Court resolved with finality the dismissal of Mariano’s
petition before the Court alleging that the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack of jurisdiction in ordering the complainant’s reinstatement in the list of mayoralty
candidates.

Mariano’s petition challenged the issuances of the COMELEC which were anchored on its finding
that the affidavit of withdrawal of candidacy imputed to the complainant was forged. It was dismissed
by the Court in the Resolution dated August 19, 2008. OnOctober 9, 2008, the complainant was then
proclaimed as the duly-elected mayor of Buadiposo Buntong, Lanao del Sur, having obtained the
highest number of votes (4,078). Mariano filed a motion for reconsideration claiming that the
COMELEC’s failure to avail of the services of anArabic expert was tantamount to grave abuse of
discretion.25 The Court denied the motion and addressed the issue raised in this wise:

Contrary to petitioner’s basic stance, a handwriting expert does not have to be a linguist at the same
time.To be credible, a handwriting expert need not be familiar with the language used in the
document subject of his examination. The nature of his examination involves the study and
comparison of strokes, the depth and pressure points of the alleged forgery, as compared to the
specimen or original handwriting or signatures.26 (Emphasis and underscoring ours)
In administrative cases against lawyers, the quantum of proof required is preponderance of
evidence. In Rodica v. Lazaro,27 the Court expounded:

In Siao v. Atty. De Guzman, Jr., this Court reiterated its oft[-] repeated ruling that in suspension or
disbarment proceedings, lawyers enjoy the presumption of innocence, and the burden of proof rests
upon the complainant to clearly prove her allegations by preponderant evidence. Elaborating on the
required quantum ofproof, this Court declared thus:

Preponderance of evidence means that the evidence adduced by one side is, as a whole, superior to
or has greater weight than that of the other. It means evidence which is more convincing to the court
as worthy of belief than that which is offered in opposition thereto. Under Section 1 of Rule 133, in
determining whether or not there is preponderance of evidence, the court may consider the
following: (a) all the facts and circumstances of the case; (b) the witnesses’ manner of testifying,
their intelligence, their means and opportunity ofknowing the facts to which they are testifying, the
nature of the facts to which they testify, the probability or improbability of their testimony; (c) the
witnesses’ interest or want of interest, and also their personal credibility so far as the same may
ultimately appear in the trial; and (d) the number of witnesses, although it does not mean that
preponderance is necessarily with the greater number.

x x x x28 (Citation omitted)

The complainant adduced preponderantevidence that his signature was indeed forged in an affidavit
which the respondent notarized and submitted to the COMELEC. Consequently, the respondent
should be held administratively liable for his action. "Where the notary public is a lawyer, a graver
responsibility is placed upon his shoulder by reason of his solemn oath to obey the laws and to do
no falsehood or consent to the doing of any. The Code of Professional Responsibility also
1âw phi1

commands him not to engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct and to uphold at
all times the integrity and dignity of the legal profession."29 "It should be noted that a notary public’s
function should not be trivialized and a notary public must discharge his powers and duties which are
impressed with public interest, with accuracy and fidelity. A notary public exercises duties calling for
carefulness and faithfulness. Notaries must inform themselves of the facts they certify to; most
importantly, they should not take part or allow themselves tobe part of illegal transactions."30 In fact,
the respondent admitted that the affidavit was notarized in his office without the presence of the
complainant.31

In Carlito Ang v. Atty. James Joseph Gupana,32 the respondent therein was suspended from the
practice of law for one year; his notarial commission was revoked and he was also disqualified from
reappointment as notary public for a period of two years for notarizing an affidavit of loss without the
presence of the party acknowledging the document.

The same sanctions were imposed against the erring lawyer in Agbulos v. Viray,33 where the
respondent therein admitted "that not only did he prepare and notarize the subject affidavit but he
likewise notarized the same without the affiant’s personal appearance. He explained that he did so
merely upon the assurance of his client Dollente that the document was executed by complainant."34

In Isenhardt v. Real,35 the respondent therein was subjected to similar penalties when he notarized a
Special Power of Attorney (SPA) supposedly executed by the complainant. It was proven by
documentary evidence that the complainant was in Germany at that time and therefore could not
have appeared before the respondentto have the SPA notarized.

The complainant in Linco v. Lacebal36 filed an administrative case against the respondent notary
public for notarizing a deed of donation despite the latter’s knowledge that the purported donor had
already passed away on an earlier date. For this reason, the respondent’s notarial commission was
revoked and he was disqualified from being commissioned as a notary public for a period of two
years. Furthermore,he was suspended from the practice of law for one year. Thus, based on
prevailing jurisprudence, the penalties meted out against a lawyer commissioned as a notary public
who fails to discharge his duties as such are: the revocation of notarial commission, disqualification
from being commissioned as a notary public for a period of two years, and suspension from the
practice of law for one year.

WHEREFORE, Atty. Casan Macabanding is found administratively liable for misconduct and is
SUSPENDED from the practice of law for one (1) year. Further, his notarial commission, if any, is
REVOKED and he is DISQUALIFIED from reappointment as Notary Public for a period of two (2)
years, with a stem warning that repetition of the same or similar conduct in the future will be dealt
with more severely. He is DIRECTED to report to this Court the date of his receipt of this Decision to
enable it to determine when the revocation of his notarial commission and his disqualification from
being commissioned as notary public shall take effect.

Let copies of this Decision be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, and all courts all over the country. Let a copy of this Decision likewise be attached to the
personal records of Atty. Casan Macabanding.

SO ORDERED.

Roberto P. Nonato Vs. Atty. Eutiguio M.


Fudolin, Jr.; A.C. No. 10138; June 16, 2015
DECISION

PER CURIAM:

We resolve the administrative complaint[1] filed by Roberto P. Nonato (complainant) charging Atty.
Eutiquio M. Fudolin, Jr. (respondent) with gross neglect of duty.

Factual Background

In a verified complaint dated October 18, 2006, the complainant alleged that his father,
the late Restituto Nonato (Restituto), was the duly registered owner of a 479-sq.m. real
property (property) at Hinigaran, Negros Occidental. The property became the subject
of ejectment proceedings filed by Restituto against Anselmo Tubongbanua (Anselmo),
before the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Hinigaran, Province of Negros Occidental,
docketed as Civil Case No. MTC-282. When the complaint was filed, Restituto was
represented by Atty. Felino Garcia (Atty. Garcia). However, at the pre-trial stage, Atty.
Garcia was replaced by Atty. Fudolin, the respondent in the present case.
The complainant alleged that although his father Restituto paid the respondent his acceptance
fees, no formal retainer agreement was executed. The respondent also did not issue any receipts
for the acceptance fees paid.
The respondent, on the other hand, averred that Restituto, and not the complainant, engaged his
services on Restituto’s representation that they were relatives. For this reason, he accepted the
case on a minimal acceptance fee of P20,000.00 and appearance fee of P1,000.00, and did not
execute any formal retainer agreement.

The complainant asserted that during the pendency of the ejectment proceedings before the MTC,
the respondent failed to fully inform his father Restituto of the status and developments in the
case. Restituto could not contact the respondent despite his continued efforts. The respondent
also failed to furnish Restituto copies of the pleadings, motions and other documents filed with
the court. Thus, Restituto and the complainant were completely left in the dark regarding the
status of their case.

After an exchange of initial pleadings in the ejectment proceedings, the MTC ordered the parties
to submit their respective position papers. Since neither party complied with the court’s directive,
the MTC dismissed the complaint as well as the counterclaim on May 26, 2005.

The respondent filed a motion for reconsideration from the order of dismissal. He justified his
failure to file the position paper by arguing that he misplaced the case records, adding that he
was also burdened with numerous other cases. The MTC denied the motion.

The respondent filed a second motion for reconsideration, this time alleging that the ejectment
case was a meritorious one such that its dismissal would cause injustice to Restituto (the plaintiff).
He also filed a supplemental motion, but the court denied both motions.

On September 15, 2005, Restituto died and all his properties passed on to his heirs, the
complainant among them.

The complainant alleges that he and his father Restituto did not know of the ejectment suit’s
dismissal as the respondent had failed to furnish them a copy of the MTC’s dismissal order. The
complainant also asserts that the respondent did not inform them about the filing of the motion for
reconsideration or of its denial by the MTC. The complainant claims that he only found out that
the case had been dismissed when he personally went to the Office of the MTC Clerk of Court
and was informed of the dismissal.

Because of the patent negligence, the complainant informed the respondent that his failure to file
the position paper could be a ground for his disbarment. Furthermore, the complainant, without
the respondent’s intervention, entered into an oral extrajudicial compromise with the daughter of
defendant Anselmo.

On August 17, 2007, the respondent wrote the complainant and apologized for his repeated failure
to communicate with him. He reasoned out that he failed to file the position paper due to his poor
health. He also claimed that he had suffered a stroke and had become partially blind, which
caused the delay in the preparation of the pleadings in the ejectment case.[2]

In his Answer[3] dated December 22, 2006, the respondent asserted that at the time he received
the MTC’s directive to submit a position paper, he was already suffering from “Hypertensive
Cardiovascular Disease, Atrial Fibrillation, Intermittent, and Diabetes Mellitus Type II.” The
respondent also alleged that further consultations confirmed that he had an undetected stroke
and arterial obstruction during the previous months. His health condition led to his loss of
concentration in his cases and the loss of some of the case folders, among them the records of
the ejectment case. The respondent also claimed that he focused on his health for self-
preservation, and underwent vascular laboratory examinations; thus, he failed to communicate
with the late Restituto and the complainant.

The respondent further averred that his failure to file the position paper in the ejectment
proceedings was not due to willful negligence but to his undetected stroke. He never revealed the
gravity of his illness to his clients or to the court out of fear that his disclosure would affect his
private practice.

Lastly, the respondent alleged that after the ejectment suit’s dismissal, he exerted all efforts, to
the point of risking his poor health, by filing successive pleadings to convince the court to
reconsider its dismissal order. Because the dismissal was purely based on a technical ground, he
maintained that his failure to file the position paper did not amount to the abandonment of his
client’s case.

The IBP’s Report and Recommendation

IBP Investigating Commissioner Acerey C. Pacheco issued his Report and


Recommendation, finding the respondent guilty of both negligence and betrayal of his
client’s confidence. The Investigating Commissioner found that the respondent’s failure
to file the position paper in the ejectment proceedings and to apprise the client of the
status of the case demonstrated his negligence and lack of prudence in dealing with his
clients.
The Investigating Commissioner likewise held that the respondent’s failure to promptly inform his
clients, including the complainant, of his medical condition deprived them of the opportunity to
seek the services of other lawyers. Had he notified the complainant’s father of his illness before
the case was dismissed, the latter could have engaged the services of another lawyer, and the
case would not have been dismissed on a mere technical ground.

The Investigating Commissioner recommended the respondent’s suspension for one (1) month
from the practice of law.

In a Resolution[4] dated May 14, 2011, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the
Investigating Commissioner’s Report and Recommendation after finding it to be fully supported
by the evidence on record and by the applicable laws and rules.

The complainant moved to reconsider the resolution but the IBP Board of Governors denied his
motion in a resolution[5] dated June 21, 2013.

The Issue

The issue in this case is whether or not the respondent could be held administratively
liable for negligence in the performance of duty.
The Court’s Ruling
Except for the recommended penalty, we adopt the findings of the IBP.
A lawyer is bound to protect his client’s interests to the best of his ability and with utmost
diligence.[6] He should serve his client in a conscientious, diligent, and efficient manner; and
provide the quality of service at least equal to that which he, himself, would expect from a
competent lawyer in a similar situation. By consenting to be his client’s counsel, a lawyer impliedly
represents that he will exercise ordinary diligence or that reasonable degree of care and skill
demanded by his profession, and his client may reasonably expect him to perform his obligations
diligently.[7]The failure to meet these standards warrants the imposition of disciplinary action.

In this case, the record clearly shows that the respondent has been remiss in the performance of
his duties as Restituto’s counsel. His inaction on the matters entrusted to his care is plainly
obvious. He failed to file his position paper despite notice from the MTC requiring him to do so.
His omission greatly prejudiced his client as the Court in fact dismissed the ejectment suit.

In addition, the respondent failed to inform Restituto and the complainant of the status of the case.
His failure to file the position paper, and to inform his client of the status of the case, not only
constituted inexcusable negligence; but it also amounted to evasion of duty.[8] All these acts violate
the Code of Professional Responsibility warranting the court’s imposition of disciplinary action.
The pertinent provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility provide:

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.

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.

In Perla Compania de Seguros, Inc. v. Saquilabon,[9] we considered a lawyer’s failure to file a brief
for his client to be inexcusable negligence. We held that the lawyer’s omission amounted to a
serious lapse in the duty he owed his client and in his professional obligation not to delay litigation
and to aid the courts in the speedy administration of justice.

Similarly in Uy v. Tansinsin,[10] we ruled that a lawyer’s failure to file the required pleadings and to
inform his client about the developments in her case fell below the standard and amounted to a
violation of Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. We emphasized the importance
of the lawyers’ duty to keep their clients adequately and fully informed about the developments in
their cases, and held that a client should never be left in the dark, for to do so would be to destroy
the trust, faith, and confidence reposed in the retained lawyer and in the legal profession as a
whole.

We also emphasized in Villaflores v. Limos[11] that the trust and confidence reposed by a client in
his lawyer impose a high standard that includes the appreciation of the lawyer’s duty to his clients,
to the profession, to the courts, and to the public. Every case a lawyer accepts deserves his full
attention, diligence, skill and competence, regardless of its importance and whether he accepts it
for a fee or for free.[12]

Because a lawyer-client relationship is one of trust and confidence, there is a need for the client
to be adequately and fully informed about the developments in his case. A client should never be
left groping in the dark; to allow this situation is to destroy the trust, faith, and confidence reposed
in the retained lawyer and in the legal profession in general.[13]

The respondent has apparently failed to measure up to these required standards. He neglected
to file the required position paper, and did not give his full commitment to maintain and defend his
client’s interests. Aside from failing to file the required pleading, the respondent never exerted any
effort to inform his client of the dismissal of the ejectment case.

We also find the respondent’s excuse – that he had an undetected stroke and was suffering from
other illnesses – unsatisfactory and merely an afterthought. Even assuming that he was then
suffering from numerous health problems (as evidenced by the medical certificates he attached),
his medical condition cannot serve as a valid reason to excuse the omission to file the necessary
court pleadings. The respondent could have requested an extension of time to file the required
position paper, or at the very least, informed his client of his medical condition; all these, the
respondent failed to do.

Furthermore, the respondent’s subsequent filing of successive pleadings (after the ejectment
case had been dismissed) significantly weakens his health-based excuse. His efforts not only
contradict his explanation that his physical predicament forced him to focus on his illnesses; they
also indicate that his illnesses (allegedly “Hypertensive Cardiovascular Disease, Atrial Fibrillation,
Intermittent, and Diabetes Mellitus Type II”) were not at all incapacitating.

All told, we find that the respondent violated Canon 17, Canon 18, and Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of
the Code of Professional Responsibility. We, however, find the IBP’s recommended penalty (one
(1) month suspension from the practice of law) to be a mere slap on the wrist considering the
gravity of the infractions committed. Thus, we deem it appropriate to impose the penalty of two
(2) years suspension, taking into account the respondent’s acts and omissions, as well as the
consequence of his negligence.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we hereby SUSPEND Atty. Eutiquio M. Fudolin, Jr. from
the practice of law for a period of two (2) years for violating Rules 18.03 and Rule 18.04, Canon
18, and Canon 17 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. We also WARN him that the
commission of the same or similar act or acts shall be dealt with more severely.

Atty. Eutiquio M. Fudolin, Jr. is DIRECTED to formally MANIFEST to this Court, upon receipt of
this Decision, the date of his receipt which shall be the starting point of his suspension. He shall
furnish a copy of this Manifestation to all the courts and quasi-judicial bodies where he has entered
his appearance as counsel.

Let a copy of this decision be attached to Atty. Fudolin’s records with the Office of the Bar
Confidant and posted on the Supreme Court website as a notice to the general public.
G.R. NO. 163986 March 23, 2006

ROMULO A. DELES, Petitioner,


vs.
HON. PEPITO GELLADA and HON. MA. LORNA P. DEMON-TEVERDE, in their Official
Capacities as Acting Presiding Judges of Regional Trial Court, Branch 53, Negros Occidental
and Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 2, Bacolod City, respectively, Respondents.

RESOLUTION

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:

Before the Court is a Motion for Clemency Ad Cautelam filed by petitioner Atty. Romulo A. Deles
praying that the Court, acting as a Court of Equity, set aside the sentence of Imprisonment for
Indirect Contempt of Court for joining rallies and demonstrations within the immediate vicinity of the
Supreme Court or the Halls of Justice carrying placards, posters and streamers announcing, among
other things:

Judge Labayen – Judge Diamante –

Judge Hilario – Judge Rojo –

Judge Demonteverde – Hoodlums in Robes –

STOP Demolition of Farmers (sic) Beneficiaries Houses –

Pls. Do not usurp the powers of DAR, PARAD & DARAB, other RESIGN.

and, in its place, to impose against petitioner the penalty of Suspension for Sixty (60) days from the
practice of law, and in addition thereto, to impose on him a fine of P4,000.00 as originally meted out
by MTCC Judge Lorna P. Demonteverde.

In his Comment, Judge Pepito Gellada, Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 53,
Negros Occidental interposes no objection for the lower court’s judges have been vindicated, and
justice has been served with the affirmation of the Court of the indirect contempt committed by
petitioner and the corresponding penalty of 20 days imprisonment and fine of P4,000.00. Moreover,
petitioner Atty. Romulo A. Deles appears to be contrite and sincere in his plea for clemency.

ACCORDINGLY, the Motion for Clemency Ad Cautelam is GRANTED. The penalty of imprisonment
of 20 days is SET ASIDE. In its stead Atty. Romulo A. Deles is SUSPENDED from the practice of
law for a period of 60 days which is immediately executory from receipt of this Resolution. The fine
of P4,000.00 originally imposed stands.
[ A.C. No. 11480 (Formerly CBD Case No. 05-1558), June 20, 2017
]

ARLENE VILLAFLORES-PUZA, COMPLAINANT, V. ATTY.


ROLANDO B. ARELLANO, RESPONDENT.

DECISION
PER CURIAM:
Subject of this disposition is the February 25, 2016 Resolution[1] of the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Board of Governors (IBP-BOG), which
adopted and approved with modification the Report and
Recommendation[2] of the Investigating Commissioner.
In her Complaint,[3] dated August 26, 2005, Arlene 0. Villaflores-Puza
(complainant) accused Atty. Rolando B. Arellano (respondent) of
notarizing affidavits of his witnesses without a notarial commission.
The Complaint
Complainant was the defendant in a case for declaration of nullity of
marriage filed by her husband, Ernesto Puza (Puza), who was represented
by respondent as his counsel. On July 21, 2005, Puza, through respondent,
filed his formal offer of evidence, which included some affidavits of
witnesses notarized by him.
In the aforesaid affidavits, it was indicated that respondent was issued a
notarial commission in Mandaluyong City. Upon inquiry, however,
complainant discovered that he was never issued a notarial commission in
Mandaluyong City. In support thereof, she attached a Certification,[4] issued
by the Office of the Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Mandaluyong City, attesting that he was not a commissioned notary public
in said city.
Report and Recommendation
In her Report and Recommendation,[5] dated February 10, 2016,
Commissioner Rebecca Villanueva-Maala (Commissioner Villanueva-
Maala) recommended respondent's suspension from the practice of law for
a period of five (5) years. She stressed that respondent's failure to answer
the complaint against him, in spite of due notice and order to attend the
scheduled hearings, illustrated his flouting resistance to the lawful orders of
the court, which deserves disciplinary action. In addition, Commissioner
Villanueva-Maala noted that notarizing documents without a notarial
commission constituted gross misconduct and deserved to be punished.
In its February 25, 2016 Resolution,[6] the IBP-BOG adopted and approved
with modification the recommendation of Commissioner Villanueva-Maala.
The resolution reads:
RESOLVED to ADOPT with modification the recommendation of the
Investigating Commissioner reducing the penalty to THREE (3) YEARS
SUSPENSION FROM THE PRACTICE OF LAW to make it commensurate
with the gravity of the offense committed.[7]
Hence, the case was transmitted to the Court for review.
The Court's Ruling
The Court agrees with the IBP-BOG but modifies the penalty imposed.
In Mariano v. Atty. Echanez,[8] the Court reiterated that notarization is not
a hollow act which may be brushed aside lightly:
Time and again, this Court has 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 notaries 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.[9]
Any transgression of the notarial rules should not be treated trivially but
must be punished accordingly to preserve the integrity of notarization.
Under the rules, only persons who are commissioned as notary public may
perform notarial acts within the territorial jurisdiction of the court which
granted the commission.[10]
In the present case, it was sufficiently established that respondent was
without a notarial commission when he notarized the affidavits he offered
in evidence. This was supported by the certification issued by the RTC of
Mandaluyong City that from January 1998 until August 2005, respondent
was never commissioned as a notary public. A lawyer who notarizes
documents without a valid notarial commission is remiss in his professional
duties and responsibilities.[11]
Further, it is noteworthy that respondent did not even attempt to answer
the accusations against him. He failed to comply with the orders of the
investigating commissioner and he did not attend the scheduled hearings.
On this ground alone, respondent could have been penalized more heavily
because he was bound to comply with all the lawful directives of the IBP,
not only because he is a member, but more importantly because the IBP is
the Court-designated investigator of his case.[12]
Thus, the Court agrees with the suspension meted against respondent. In
addition, he should be forever barred from being commissioned a notary
public all over the Philippines after exhibiting conduct, which renders him
unfit to perform the sacred duties of a notary public. Respondent
deliberately performed notarial acts despite full knowledge that he was
never commissioned as a notary in Mandaluyong City.
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Rolando B. Arellano
is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for three (3) years
and PERMANENTLY DISQUALIFIED from being commissioned as a
Notary Public.
This order is IMMEDIATELY EXECUTORY.
Let copies of this decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant to be
attached to the personal record of Atty. Rolando B. Arellano; the Office of
the Court Administrator for dissemination to all lower courts; and the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines, for proper guidance and information.
SO ORDERED.
Velasco, Jr.,[*] (Acting C.J.), Leonardo-De C
A.C. No. 11380, August 16, 2016 - JEN SHERRY WEE-CRUZ, Complainant, v. ATTY. CHICHINA FAYE LIM,
Respondent.

EN BANC

A.C. No. 11380, August 16, 2016

JEN SHERRY WEE-CRUZ, Complainant, v. ATTY. CHICHINA FAYE LIM, Respondent.

DECISION
SERENO, C.J.:

This administrative case arose from a Complaint1 for disbarment or suspension filed by Jen Sherry Wee-Cruz
(complainant) against Atty. Chichina Faye Lim (respondent) before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
(IBP). The IBP found respondent guilty of gross misconduct because of her issuance of worthless checks to
complainant's brother. The IBP Board of Governors thereafter resolved to disbar respondent from the
practice of law.2
chanro bleslaw

As a preliminary matter, this Court reiterates that it alone has the power to discipline lawyers and remove
their names from the rolls.3 The IBP Board of Governors may only recommend the dismissal of a complaint
or the imposition of disciplinary action on a respondent lawyer.4 chanrob leslaw

While it adopts the factual findings of the IBP, this Court finds that the penalty of suspension for two years
will suffice.

ANTECEDENT FACTS

The parties to this case were childhood friends.5 This relationship enabled respondent to borrow substantial
amounts of money from complainant and the latter's brother.6 Complainant enumerated three instances
when her trust was abused by respondent in order to obtain loans the latter could not pay.

First instance. In 2008, respondent asked if she could use the credit card of complainant to purchase
something.7 As the latter was then unable to get out of the house because of a delicate pregnancy, she had
to ask respondent to withdraw PI0,000 from her ATM card to pay for her credit card bill.8Complainant
tendered both her ATM card, which had an available balance of P78.000, and her credit'card.9 She later
found out that respondent had depleted all the funds in the ATM card and used up a considerable amount
from the cash advance limit of the credit card.10 Despite the repeated demands of complainant and the
consequent execution of a promissory note by respondent, the latter still failed to pay the principal amount
of P1 42,000 and the interests thereon that had accrued.11 chan roble slaw

Second instance. Also in 2008, respondent incurred a P1.055 million loan from complainant's brother.12The
loan was covered by postdated checks, which were later dishonored and returned by the bank for the reason
that the account had been closed.13 In September 2010, respondent issued a promissory note, which
remained unfulfilled as of the date of filing of the Complaint.14 chanrob leslaw

Third instance. In February 2010, respondent issued postdated checks payable to "Cash" as partial payment
of the outstanding loan accommodation for more than f 3 million, which had been extended to her by
complainant.15 These checks were later dishonored and returned by the bank for the reason that the account
had been closed.16 chan roble slaw

Complainant and her brother repeatedly called and sent text messages to petitioner to inform her that her
checks had been dishonored and to demand that she make good on her checks.17 On 7 October 2010,
complainant personally handed a demand letter to respondent.18 As the latter still failed to honor her
promises to pay, complainant instituted a criminal complaint. The Office of the City Prosecutor found
probable cause to indict respondent for four counts of violation of Batas Pambansa Big. 22 (B.P. 22); and
Article 315, par. 2(d) of the Revised Penal Code.19 chan roble slaw

On 15 March 2011, complainant lodged a Complaint against respondent before the IBP.

PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE IBP

Despite due notice, respondent did not submit an Answer, appear at the mandatory conference, or submit a
position paper.20 cha nro bleslaw

IBP Commissioner Felimon C. Abelita III took the silence and nonparticipation of respondent as an admission
of guilt.21 He pointed out that her attitude was a clear defiance of the commission and the institution it
represented.22 Hence, he recommended that respondent be suspended until she is able to pay in full her
indebtedness to complainant's brother.23 chan roble slaw

The IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the Report and Recommendation of Commissioner
Abelita with the modification that respondent be disbarred, not merely suspended. The board considered her
disrespect and disregard of its orders as an aggravating circumstance.24 chanrob leslaw
On 14 April 2016, respondent filed a Petition for Review on Certiorari before this Court. She asserts that she
did not exhibit any immoral or deceitful conduct because the acts were done in her private capacity.25 She cralawred

insists that she exhibited good faith and an honest intention to settle, as she made partial payments
amounting to P1.2 million.26 She blames complainant for not giving adequate time for the former to settle
the face value of the checks.27 In closing, respondent submits that disbarment would be too harsh a penalty,
considering the absence of bad faith, malice or spite on her part.28 chanrobles law

THE RULING OF THE COURT

Respondent must be suspended from the practice of law for violation of Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility.

Respondent cannot evade disciplinary sanctions by implying that there was no attorney-client relationship
between her and complainant. In Nulada v. Paulma,29 this Court reiterated that by taking the Lawyer's Oath,
lawyers become guardians of the law and indispensable instruments for the orderly administration of justice.
As such, they can be disciplined for any misconduct, be it in their professional or in their private capacity,
and thereby be rendered unfit to continue to be officers of the court.30 chanrob leslaw

In this case, complainant and her brother categorically stated that they had agreed to lend substantial
amounts of money to respondent, because "she's a lawyer."31 Indeed, lawyers are held by the community in
very high esteem; yet respondent eroded this goodwill when she repeatedly broke her promises to pay and
make good on her checks.

On several occasions, this Court has had to discipline members of the legal profession for their issuance of
worthless checks. In Enriquez v. De Vera,32 the correlation between BP 22 and administrative cases against
lawyers was explained: ChanRobles Vi rt ualawlib ra ry

Being a lawyer, respondent was well aware of the objectives and coverage of [BP] 22. If he did not, he was
nonetheless presumed to know them, for the law was penal in character and application. His issuance of the
unfunded check involved herein knowingly violated [BP] 22, and exhibited his indifference towards the
pernicious effect of his illegal act to public interest and public order. He thereby swept aside his Lawyer's
Oath that enjoined him to support the Constitution and obey the laws.
This Court, however, agrees with respondent that the penalty of disbarment would be too harsh.
Recognizing the consequence of disbarment on the economic life and honor of an erring lawyer, this Court
held in Anacta v. Resurrection33 that disbarment should not be decreed where any punishment less severe
would accomplish the end desired.

In Nulada, this Court cited Heenan v. Espejo34 A-l Financial Services, Inc. v. Valerio,35Dizon v. De
Taza,36 and Wong v. Moya 37 as basis for meting out two-year suspensions to lawyers who had issued in
worthless checks and failed to pay their debts. In Sanchez v. Torres,38 the same penalty was imposed. The
respondent lawyer therein was found guilty of wilful dishonesty and unethical conduct for failing to pay his
debt and for issuing checks without sufficient funds. As in this case, Atty. Torres exploited his friendship with
the complainant therein in order to borrow a substantial amount of money. We find it appropriate to impose
the same penalty on respondent in this case.

WHEREFORE, Atty. Chichina Faye Lim is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for two years. Let a copy of
this Decision be entered in her personal record at the Office of the Bar Confidant, and a copy be served on
the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of the Court Administrator for circulation to all the courts
in the land.

SO ORDERED. chanRoblesvirt ual Lawlib rary


A.C. No. 11346, March 08, 2017

DR. BASILIO MALVAR, Complainant, v. ATTY. CORA JANE P. BALEROS, Respondent.

DECISION

REYES, J.:

Before the Court is a complaint for disbarment1 filed on June 30, 2014 by Dr. Basilio Malvar (complainant)
against Atty. Cora Jane P. Baleros (respondent) for acts amounting to grave misconduct consisting of
falsification of public document, violation of Administrative Matter No. 02-8-13-SC or the 2004 Rules on
Notarial Practice (Notarial Rules) and the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR).

Antecedent Facts

The complainant is the owner of a parcel of land located,in Barangay Pagudpud, San Fernando City, La
Union.2 On January 7, 2011, the complainant executed a Deed of Absolute Sale3 in favor of Leah Mallari
(Mallari) over the said lot for the amount of Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00). This transaction
was acknowledged by the children of the complainant through a document denominated as Confirmation of
Sale.4

The process of conveying the title of the lot in the name of Mallari spawned the legal tussle between the
parties. According to the complainant, an agreement was made between him and Mallari wherein he
undertook to facilitate the steps in order to have the title of the lot transferred under Mallari's
name.5However, without his knowledge and consent, Mallari who was not able to withstand the delay in the
delivery of the title of the land sold to her allegedly filed an Application for Certification of Alienable and
Disposable Land6 as a preliminary step for the segregation and titling of the same before the Community
Environment and Natural Resources Office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
(DENR), San Fernando City, La Union using the complainant's name and signing the said application.7 A civil
case for collection of sum of money was instituted by Mallari before the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of
Aringay, La Union seeking reimbursement tor the expenses she incurred by reason of the transfer and titling
of the property she purchased.8 A compromise agreement9 was forged between the parties which failed
because two out of the four checks issued by the complainant were unfunded.10 This prompted Mallari to file
a criminal case for violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22, otherwise known as The Bouncing Checks Law,
against the complainant before the MTC of Aringay, La Union.11

Ultimately, a criminal case for falsification of public document against Mallari was filed before the Office of
the Prosecutor and now pending before the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) of San Fernando City, La
Union, Branch 1.12 The complainant alleged that it was through the conspiracy of Mallari and the respondent
that the crime charged was consummated.13

Notwithstanding the Office of the Prosecutor's determination that the evidence presented was insufficient to
establish conspiracy between Mallari and the respondent, thereby dropping the latter's name from the
indictment, the complainant remained unfazed and thus, initiated the present petition for disbarment
seeking the imposition of disciplinary sanction against the respondent.14 The complainant claimed that the
respondent, by notarizing the assailed Application for Certification of Alienable and Disposable Land, made it
appear that he executed the same when the truth of the matter was he never went to the office of the
respondent for he was in Manila at the time of the alleged notarization and was busy performing his duties
as a doctor.15

On August 19, 2014, the Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)
issued a Notice of Mandatory Conference16 requiring both parties to appear before it on November 18, 2014.
However, the scheduled mandatory conference was reset to December 2, 201417 here the complainant
personally appeared while the respondent was represented by her attorney-in-fact and counsel.18

The complainant buttressed in his position paper that the respondent consummated the crime of falsification
of public document as delineated under Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code and thus, the presumption of
regularity in the notarization of the contested document has been overthrown and cannot work in her
favor.19 He recapped that he never appeared before the respondent to have the subject document
notarized.20 The complainant stressed that the respondent made a mockery of the Notarial Rules by
notarizing the Application for Certification of Alienable and Disposable Land in his absence.
In her Position Paper,21 the respondent refuted the allegations against her by narrating that Benny Telles,
the complainant and his sons came to her office to have the subject document notarized and that she is
certain as to the identity of the complainant.22 Moreover, she argued that the charges filed against her were
all part of the complainant's scheme to avoid his obligations to Mallari as the buyer of his lot.23

Ruling of the IBP

On June 15, 2015, Commissioner Maria Angela Esquivel (Commissioner Esquivel) found that the respondent
was negligent in the performance of her duties as a notary public and violated the Notarial Rules, thereby
recommending disciplinary imposition against her. The pertinent portion of the Report and
Recommendation24 reads: chanRob lesvi rtua lLawl ibra ry

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, it is hereby recommended that the Respondent's commission as a
notary public be revoked; that she be disqualified for being a notary public for two (2) years with a stem
warning that a repetition of similar offense shall be dealt with more severely.25
In a Resolution26 dated June 20, 2015, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved Commissioner
Esquivel's report and recommendation with modification, to wit: chanRoble svirtual Lawlib rary

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", for failure of Respondent to observe due diligence in the performance
of her duties and obligations as a Notary Public specifically Rule VI, Section 2 of the Notarial Law. Thus, [the
respondent's] notarial commission, if presently commissioned, is immediately REVOKED. Furthermore,
[she] is DISQUALIFIED from being commissioned as a Notary Public for two (2) years and
SUSPENDED from the practice of law for six (6) months.27 (Emphasis and italics in the original)
The Issues

Whether administrative liability should attach to the respondent by reason of the following acts alleged to
have been committed by her:

1. Falsification of the Application for Certification of Alienable and Disposable Land;

2. Notarization of the aforesaid document in the absence of the complainant; and

3. Double Entries in the Notarial Registry.

Ruling of the Court

After a close scrutiny of the facts of the case, the Court finds no compelling reason to deviate from the
resolution of the IBP Board of Governors.

With regard to the imputation of falsification of public document, the Court shall not inquire into the merits
of the said criminal case pending adjudication before the MTCC and make a ruling on the matter.
Commissioner Esquivel correctly declined to resolve the falsification case pending resolution before the
regular court to which jurisdiction properly pertains. Though disbarment proceedings are sui generis as they
belong to a class of their own and are distinct from that of civil or criminal actions, it is judicious for an
administrative body like IBP-CBD not to pre-empt the course of action of the regular courts in order to avert
contradictory findings.28

The Court concurs with the conclusion of Commissioner Esquivel that the respondent violated several
provisions of the Notarial Rules. The complainant insists that the Application for Certification of Alienable and
Disposable Land was notarized sans his presence. An affidavit requiring a jurat which the respondent
admittedly signed and notarized on August 18, 2010 forms part of the subject document. The jurat is that
end part of the affidavit in which the notary certifies that the instrument is sworn to before her, thus,
making the notarial certification essential.29 The unsubstantiated claim of the respondent that the
complainant appeared before her and signed the contested document in her presence cannot prevail over
the evidence supplied by the complainant pointing that it was highly improbable if not impossible for him to
appear before the respondent on the date so alleged that the subject document was notarized. The
complainant furnished in his Sworn Judicial Affidavit submitted before the court patients' record cards
showing that he attended to a number of them on August 18, 2010 in De Los Santos Medical Center, E.
Rodriguez, Sr. Avenue, Quezon City.30
A jurat as sketched in jurisprudence lays emphasis on the paramount requirements of the physical presence
of the affiant as well as his act of signing the document before the notary public.31 The respondent indeed
transgressed Section 2(b) of Rule IV of the Notarial Rules by affixing her official signature and seal on the
notarial certificate of the affidavit contained in the Application for Certification of Alienable and Disposable
Land in the absence of the complainant and for failing to ascertain the identity of the affiant. The thrust of
the said provision reads:cha nRoblesv irt ual Lawlib rary

SEC. 2. Prohibitions.

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 through competent
evidence of identity as defined by these Rules.
The physical presence of the affiant ensures the proper execution of the duty of the notary public under the
law to determine whether the former's signature was voluntarily affixed.32 Aside from forbidding notarization
without the personal presence of the affiant, the Notarial Rules demands the submission of competent
evidence of identity such as an identification card with photograph and signature which requirement can be
dispensed with provided that the notary public personally knows the affiant. Competent evidence of identity
under Section 12 of Rule II of the Notarial Rules is defined as follows: chanRob lesvi rtua lLawl ibra ry

Sec. 12. Competent Evidence of Identity. - 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.
Granting that the complainant was present before the notary public at the time of the notarization of the
contested document on August 18, 2010, the respondent remained unjustified in not requiring him to show
a competent proof of his identification. She could have escaped administrative liability on this score if she
was able to demonstrate that she personally knows the complainant. On the basis of the very definition of
a jurat under Section 6 of Rule II of the Notarial Rules, case law echoes that the non-presentation of the
affiant's competent proof of identification is permitted if the notary public personally knows the former.33 A
'jurat' refers to an act in which an individual on a single occasion: (a) appears in person before the notary
public and presents an instrument or document; (b) is personally known to the notary public or
identified by the notary public through competent evidence of identity; (c) signs the instrument or
document in the presence of the notary; and (d) takes an oath or affirmation before the notary public as to
such instrument or document.34

Further, the respondent displayed lack of diligence by the non observance of the obligations imposed upon
her under Section 2 of Rule VI of the Notarial Rules, to wit:chanRob lesvi rtua lLawl ibra ry

SEC. 2. Entries in the Notarial Register.

(a) For every notarial act, the notary shall record in the notarial register at the time of
notarization the following:

(1)
the entry number and page number;
(2)
the date and time of day of the notarial act;
(3)
the type of notarial act;
(4)
the title or description of the instrument, document or proceeding;
(5)
the name and address of each principal;
(6)
the competent evidence of identity as defined by the Rules if the signatory is not personally known to the
notary;
(7)
the name and address of each credible witness swearing to or affirming the person's identity;
(8)
the fee charged for the notarial act;
(9)
the address where the notarization was performed if not in the notary's regular place of business; and
(10)
any other circumstance the notary public may deem of significance or relevance.

xxx

(e) The notary public shall give to each instrument or document executed, sworn to, or
acknowledged before him a number corresponding to the one in his register, and shall also state
on the instrument or document the page/s of his register on which the same is recorded. No
blank line shall be left between entries.

x x x (Emphasis ours)
The same notarial details were assigned by the respondent to two distinct documents. In an order of the
MTCC where the criminal case for falsification of document was pending, Clerk of Court Atty. Raquel Estigoy-
Andres (Atty. Estigoy-Andres) was directed to transmit the original document of the Application for
Certification of Alienable and Disposable Land which was notarized by the respondent.35 A similar order was
issued by the MTCC requiring the DENR for the production of the impugned document.36 The DENR issued a
certification that despite diligent efforts they could not locate the said document but which they were certain
was received by their office.37 Meanwhile, upon Atty. Estigoy-Andres' certification,38 it was discovered that
as per the respondent's notarial register submitted to the Office of the Clerk of Court, Document No. 288,
Page No. 59, Book No. LXXIII, Series of 2010 does not pertain to the Application for Certification of
Alienable and Disposable Land but to a notarized document denominated as Joint Affidavit of Adjoining
Owners39 executed by Ricardo Sibayan and Cecilia Flores. Undoubtedly, the document entitled Application
for Certification of Alienable and Disposable Land nowhere appears in the respondent's notarial register. The
respondent further exposed herself to administrative culpability when she regretfully offered plain oversight
as an excuse for the non-inclusion of the challenged document in her notarial register and by stating that it
is her office staff who usually fills it up.

To reiterate, the respondent admitted having signed and notarized the Application for Certification of
Alienable and Disposable Land but based from the foregoing, she indubitably failed to record the assailed
document in her notarial book. It is axiomatic that notarization is not an empty, meaningless or routinary
act. It is through the act of notarization that a private document is converted into a public one, making it
admissible in evidence without need of preliminary proof of authenticity and due execution.40 "If the
document or instrument does not appear in the notarial records and there is no copy of it therein, doubt is
engendered that the document or instrument was not really notarized, so that it is not a public document
and cannot bolster any claim made based on this document."41 The respondent's delegation of her notarial
function of recording entries in her notarial register to her staff is a clear contravention of the explicit
provision of the Notarial Rules dictating that such duty be fulfilled by her and not somebody else. This
likewise violates Canon 9, Rule 9.01 of the CPR which provides that: chanRoblesv irt ual Lawlib rary

A lawyer shall not delegate to any unqualified person the performance of any task which by law may only be
performed by a member of the Bar in good standing.
In addition to the above charges, Commissioner Esquivel noted that the respondent failed to retain an
original copy in her records and to submit the duplicate copy of the document to the Clerk of Court.
However, in a previous case, the Court ruled that the requirement stated under Section 2(h) of Rule VI of
the Notarial Rules applies only to an instrument acknowledged before the notary public and not to the
present document which contains a jurat.42 "A jurat is a distinct creature from an acknowledgment."43 It is
that part of an affidavit in which the notary certifies that before him or her, the document was subscribed
and sworn to by the executor; while an acknowledgment is the act of one who has executed a deed in going
before some competent officer or court and declaring it to be his act or deed.44 Hence, no liability can be
ascribed to the respondent relative to such ground.

The Court finds unacceptable the respondent's defiance of the Notarial Rules. Under the circumstances, the
respondent should be made liable not only as a notary public who failed to discharge her duties as such but
also as a lawyer who exhibited utter disregard to the integrity and dignity owing to the legal profession. The
acts committed by the respondent go beyond being mere lapses in the fulfilment of her duties under the
Notarial Rules, they comprehend a parallel breach of the CPR particularly Canon 9, Rule 9.01, Canon 1, Rule
1.01 which provides that "a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct"
and the Lawyer's Oath which amplifies the undertaking to do no falsehood and adhere to laws and the legal
system being one of their primordial tasks as officers of the court. Given the evidentiary value accorded to
notarized documents, the failure of the notary public to record the document in her notarial register
corresponds to falsely making it appear that the document was notarized when, in fact, it was not.45 It
cannot be overemphasized that notaries public are urged to observe with utmost care and utmost fidelity
the basic requirements in the performance of their duties; otherwise, the confidence of the public in the
integrity of notarized deeds will be undermined.46

In a number of cases, the Court has subjected lawyers who were remiss in their duties as notaries public to
disciplinary sanction. Failure to enter the notarial acts in one's notarial register, notarizing a document
without the personal presence of the affiants and the failure to properly identify the person who signed the
questioned document constitute dereliction of a notary public's duties which warrants the revocation of a
lawyer's commission as a notary public.47 Upholding the role of notaries public in deterring illegal or immoral
arrangements, the Court in the case of Dizon v. Atty. Cabucana, Jr.48 prohibited the respondent for a period
of two (2) years from being commissioned as a notary public for notanzmg a compromise agreement
without the presence of all the parties. In the case of Atty. Benigno T. Bartolome v. Atty. Christopher A.
Basilio,49 which factual milieu is similar to the present case, the Court meted out against therein respondent
the penalty of revocation of notarial commission and disqualification for two (2) years from being appointed
as a notary public and suspension for six (6) months from the practice of law due to various infringement of
the Notarial Rules such as failure to record a notarized document in his notarial register and notarizing a
document without the physical presence of the affiant.

Following jurisprudential precedents and as a reminder to notaries public that their solemn duties which are
imbued with public interest are not to be taken lightly, the Court deems it proper to revoke the notarial
register of the respondent if still existing and to disqualify her from appointment as a notary public for two
(2) years. She is also suspended from the practice of law for six (6) months. Contrary to the complainant's
proposition to have the respondent disbarred, the Court is of the belief that her acts do not merit such a
grave penalty and the sanctions so imposed suffice. The Court held in an array of cases that "removal from
the Bar should not really be decreed when any punishment less severe - reprimand, temporary suspension
or fine would accomplish the end desired."50

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Cora Jane P. Baleros is GUILTY of violating the 2004 Rules on Notarial
Practice, the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Lawyer's Oath. Her notarial commission, if still
existing, is hereby REVOKED, and she is hereby DISQUALIFIED from reappointment as Notary Public for a
period of two (2) years. She is likewise SUSPENDED from the practice of law for six (6) months effective
immediately. Further, she is WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar acts in the future shall be
dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED.

Velasco, Jr., (Chairperson), Bersamin, Jardeleza, and Caguioa,*JJ., concur.

A.C. No. 2404, August 17, 2016

NILO B. DIONGZON, Petitioner, v. ATTY. WILLIAM MIRANO, Respondent.

DECISION

BERSAMIN, J.:

A lawyer who agrees to represent a client's interests in the latter's business dealings is duty-bound to keep
the confidence of such client, even after their lawyer-client relationship had ended. If he represents any
other party in a case against his former client over a business deal he oversaw during the time of their
professional relationship, he is guilty of representing conflicting interests, and should be properly sanctioned
for ethical misconduct.

The Case

Before the Court is the petition for review of the Resolution No. 2013-160 adopted by the Board of
Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on the complaint for disbarment filed by the
complainant against respondent Atty. William Mirano,1 whereby the IBP Board of Governors found the
respondent guilty of representing conflicting interest, and recommended the penalty of suspension from the
practice of law for one year. The respondent assails the recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors.

Antecedents

On the dates material to this case, the complainant was a businessman engaged in the fishing industry in
Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. In 1979, he retained the respondent as his legal counsel to represent him
as the plaintiff in Civil Case No. 10679 then pending in the City Court of Bacolod City (Branch 1). In
November 1981, the complainant again retained the respondent as his lawyer in relation to the execution of
two deeds of sale covering the boats the former was selling to Spouses Almanzur and Milagros Gonzales
(Gonzaleses).2 In January 1982, the parties herein signed a retainer contract for legal services that covered
legal representation in cases and transactions involving, the fishing business of the complainant.3 chanroble slaw

In February 1982, the Gonzaleses sued the complainant for replevin and damages, and sought the
annulment of the aforementioned deeds of sale.4 They were represented by Atty. Romeo Flora, the associate
of the respondent in his law office. It appears that the bond they filed to justify the manual delivery of the
boats subject of the suit had been notarially acknowledged before the respondent without the knowledge
and prior consent of the complainant;5 and that the respondent eventually entered his appearance as the
counsel for the Gonzaleses against the respondent.6 chanrob leslaw

On May 24, 1982, therefore, the complainant initiated this administrative complaint for disbarment against
the respondent by verified letter-complaint.7 cha nrob leslaw

The respondent thereafter sought several times the extension of the time for him to file his comment.

In the meantime, Atty. Flora, in an attempt to explain why the respondent had appeared as counsel for the
Gonzaleses, filed a manifestation claiming that the Gonzaleses had been his own personal clients, and that
he had only requested the respondent's appearance because he had been indisposed at the time.8 chanrob leslaw

The complainant belied the explanation of Atty. Flora, however, and pointed out that Atty. Flora was actually
a new lawyer then working in the law office of the respondent.9 As proof, the complainant submitted the
stationery showing the letterhead of the law office of the respondent that included Atty. Flora's name as an
associate.10
chanroble slaw

In his answer dated September 9, 1982,11 the respondent stated that the complainant had been his client in
a different civil case; that the complainant had never consulted him upon any other legal matter; that the
complainant had only presented the deeds of sale prepared by another lawyer because he had not been
contented with the terms thereof: that he had not been the complainant's retained counsel because the
retainer agreement did not take effect; that he had returned the amount paid to him by the complainant;
that he had appeared for the Gonzaleses only after their evidence against the complainant had been
presented; that the complainant had approached him when he needed a lawyer to defend him from
an estafa charge: and that the complainant had even wanted him to falsify documents in relation to
that estafa case, but because he had refused his bidding, the complainant had then filed this administrative
case against him.12 chanrobleslaw

Proceedings before the IBP

The complaint was referred to the IBP for investigation. The case was heard over a long period of time
spanning 1985 to 2003,13 and the IBP Board of Governors finally recommended on February 13, 2013 that
the respondent be held guilty of conflict of interest for appearing as the counsel for the opponents of the
complainant with whom he had an existing lawyer-client relationship, a gross violation of his ethical duties
as an attorney; and that he should be punished with suspension from the practice of law for one year.

The Court noted the resolution of the IBP Board of Governors on April 1, 2014.

The respondent filed in this Court a Manifestation with Motion and a Supplement to Manifestation with
Motion, wherein he proceeded to argue against the findings although he initially claimed not to have been
furnished with the IBP Board of Governors' recommendation. He posited that he still had a pending Motion
for Reconsideration in the IBP, and requested that this case be remanded to the IBP for disposition.

Ruling of the Court

We uphold the findings and recommendations of the IBP Board of Governors because they were
substantiated by the records.

On the preliminary matter of procedure being raised by the respondent, it is unnecessary to remand this
case to the IBP for further investigation and disposition by the IBP. Remanding the case to the IBP would be
superfluous and unnecessary. The complaint was filed in 1982, and since then the case underwent three
decades of hearings before different investigating commissioners of the IBP. The matters subject of the
complaint were extensively covered and sifted. In our view, the records are already adequate for resolution
of the charge against the respondent, which, after all, is something that only the Court can ultimately do.

Was the respondent guilty of representing conflict of interest?

The lawyer-client relationship begins from the moment a client seeks the lawyer's advice upon a legal
concern. The seeking may be for consultation on transactions or other legal concerns, or for representation
of the client in an actual case in the courts or other fora. From that moment on, the lawyer is bound to
respect the relationship and to maintain the trust and confidence of his client. No written agreement is
necessary to generate a lawyer-client relationship, but in formalizing it, the lawyer may present a retainer
agreement to be considered and agreed to by the client. As with all contracts, the agreement must contain
all the terms and conditions agreed upon by the parties.

In this case, the respondent presented such a retainer contract to the complainant, the terms of which are
stated below: ChanRobles Vi rt ualawlib ra ry

The CLIENT retains and employs the ATTORNEY to take charge of the legal matters of the former in
connection with his fishing business, and the attorney accepts such retainer and employment subject to the
following terms and conditions, to wit: ChanRoblesVirtualawl ibra ry

1. That the term of this contract shall be for two "2" years beginning February, 1982 but is deemed
automatically renewed for the same period if not terminated by both parties by virtue of an
agreement to that effect and signed by them;

2. That the compensation to be paid by the client for the services of the attorney, .shall be three
hundred pesos (P300.00) a month;

3. That the attorney may be consulted at all times by CLIENT on all business requiring his professional
advice and opinion and when the ATTORNEY gives a written opinion, a copy shall be sent to the
CLIENT;

4. That the duties of the attorney in this retainer contract shall include
consultations, opinions, legal advices, preparations and drafting of contracts and other legal
papers, and other legal works, in connection with the business of the CLIENT, except those cases
involving trials in court, which if they are entrusted to the ATTORNEY, shall be subject to a new
agreement;14
Both parties signed their retainer contract on January 20, IS82. Contrary to the assertion of the respondent,
the retainer agreement did not contain a suspensive condition that affected its effectivity as of the date of
its execution. It simply stipulated that the respondent would represent the interests of the complainant in all
matters pertaining to his fishing business, thereby formalizing their lawyer-client relationship. The
respondent's insistence that the complainant should return all the checks to the Gonzaleses relative to the
sale of the fishing boats was clearly not part of the contract.

The lawyer-client relationship between the parties was duly established beginning in 1979 and lasted until
1982. The respondent's claim that he returned the retainer fee did not alter the juridical existence of their
lawyer-client relationship. When the complainant consulted him on the sale of the boats to the Gonzaleses,
the respondent reviewed the contracts of sale in the capacity of the complainant's lawyer, and even
notarized the same. He became aware of the details of the sale by virtue of the confidentiality generated by
his lawyer-client relationship with the complainant.

Canon 15 of the Code of Professional Responsibility enjoins lawyers to observe candor, fairness and loyalty
in all their dealings and transactions with their clients. Specifically, Canon 15.03 demands that: "A lawyer
shall not represent conflicting interests except by written consent of all concerned given after a full
disclosure of the facts." A conflict of interest exists where a lawyer represents inconsistent interests of two
opposing parties, like when the lawyer performs an act that will injuriously affect his first client in any
matter in which he represented him, or when the lawyer uses any knowledge he previously acquired from
his first client against the latter.15 The prohibition against conflict of interest is founded on principles of
public policy and good taste, inasmuch as the lawyer-client relationship is based on trust and confidence.16 A
lawyer has a duty to preserve his client's confidence in him, even if their relationship ends. The purpose is to
assure freedom of communication between the lawyer and the client in order to enable the former to
properly represent and serve the latter's interests. To use against the latter any information the former
gains during the relationship is deplorable and unethical.

When he appeared in court for the benefit of the Gonzaleses to try the case against the complainant, the
respondent unquestionably incurred a conflict of interest. Having become privy to the terms of the sale
subject of the civil case, the conflict of interest became unmitigated because the complainant had not
expressly consented in writing to his appearing in behalf of the Gonzaleses. It would have been more
prudent for him to have excused himself from representing either party in the civil case.

In cavalier fashion, the respondent has cited his accomplishments as a member and officer of the IBP in his
region to buttress his claim of being more credible than the complainant, supposedly a convicted felon. But
such a defense is unworthy of consideration in this instance because the praiseworthiness of one's
accomplishments and professional reputation never furnishes the license for any ethical lawyer to flagrantly
and knowingly violate the Code of Professional Responsibility.

On the penalty, we note that suspension from the practice of law for one year was imposed on the lawyer
who had appeared as defense counsel for the accused in an estafa case despite having written and sent the
demand letter for the complainant in the same case.17 In another case, the same penalty was imposed on
the lawyer who had initially drafted a deed of sale for the client, and who eventually filed a case against said
client to annul the same contract.18 Such penalty is appropriate and commensurate for this case.

ACCORDINGLY, the Court AFFIRMS the Resolution adopted on February 13, 2013 by the Board of
Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; FINDS and DECLARES Atty. William N. Mirano guilty of
ethical misconduct due to conflict of interest, and, ACCORDINGLY, SUSPENDS him from the practice of
law for ONE YEAR, effective immediately upon receipt of this decision.

Let copies of this decision be entered in the personal records of Atty. Mirano in the Office of the Bar
Confidant and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; and a copy of this decision be furnished to the Office of
the Court Administrator for dissemination to all courts in the country.

SO ORDERED. chanRoblesvirt ual Lawlib rary

Sereno, C.J., Leonardo-De Castro, Perlas-Bernabe, and Caguioa, JJ., concur.


A.C. No. 10465, June 08, 2016

SPOUSES LAMBERTO V. EUSTAQUIO AND GLORIA J. EUSTAQUIO, Complainants, v. ATTY. EDGAR R.


NAVALES, Respondent.

DECISION

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

For the Court's resolution is a Complaint1 dated January 16, 2010 filed by complainants spouses Lamberto V.
Eustaquio and Gloria J. Eustaquio (complainants) against respondent Atty. Edgar R. Navales (respondent),
praying that respondent be meted the appropriate disciplinary sanction/s for failing to pay rent and to
vacate the apartment he is leasing despite demands.

The Facts

Complainants alleged that they are the owners of an apartment located at 4-D Cavite St., Barangay Paltok,
SFDM, Quezon City, which they leased to respondent under a Contract of Lease2 dated April 16, 2005.
However, respondent violated the terms and conditions of the aforesaid contract when he failed to pay
monthly rentals in the aggregate amount of P139,000.00 and to vacate the leased premises despite
repeated oral and written demands.3 This prompted complainants to refer the matter to barangay
conciliation, where the parties agreed on an amicable settlement, whereby respondent promised to pay
complainants the amount of P131,000.00 on July 16, 2009 and to vacate the leased premises on July 31,
2009. Respondent eventually reneged on his obligations under the settlement agreement, constraining
complainants to file an ejectment case4 against him before the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of Quezon
City, Branch 40 (MeTC-Br. 40), docketed as Civil Case No. 09-39689. Further, complainants filed the instant
case before the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), contending that
respondent miserably failed to exemplify honesty, integrity, and respect for the laws when he failed and
refused to fulfil his obligations to complainants.5 chanrobleslaw

Despite notices,6 respondent failed to file his Answer, to appear in the mandatory conference, and to file his
position paper.

Meanwhile, the MeTC-Br. 40 promulgated a Decision7 dated December 8, 2009 in the ejectment case in
favor of the complainants and, accordingly, ordered respondent to vacate the leased premises and to pay
complainants the following amounts: (a) P139,000.00 representing unpaid rentals as of July 2009; (b)
further rental payments of P8,000.00 per month starting August 17, 2009 until the actual surrender of said
premises to complainants; (c) attorney's fees in the amount of P20,000.00; and (d) cost of suit.8 chanroble slaw

During the pendency of the case, respondent was appointed as an Assistant City Public Prosecutor of Quezon
City.9
chanrob leslaw

The IBP's Report and Recommendation

In a Report and Recommendation10 dated February 8, 2011, the IBP Investigating Commissioner found
respondent administratively liable and, accordingly, recommended that he be meted the penalty of
suspension from the practice of law for a period of six (6) months, with a stern warning that a repetition of
the same shall be dealt with more severely.11 It was found that respondent displayed unwarranted obstinacy
in evading payment of his debts, as highlighted by his numerous promises to pay which he eventually
reneged on. In this light, the IBP Investigating Commissioner concluded that respondent violated Rules 1.01
and 1.02, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR) and, thus, should be held
administratively liable.12
cha nro bleslaw

In a Resolution13 dated September 28, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the
aforesaid report and recommendation. Thereafter, the Court issued a Resolution14 dated September 15,
2014 adopting and approving the findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendations of the IBP and,
accordingly, meted respondent the penalty of suspension from the practice of law for a period of six (6)
months, with a stern warning that a repetition of the same shall be dealt with more severely.

As per Registry Return Card No. 957,15 respondent received the Court's order of suspension on October 16,
2014.16 Records are bereft of any showing that respondent filed a motion for reconsideration and, thus, the
Court's order of suspension against him became final and executory.

Events Following the Finality of Respondent's Suspension

On September 7, 2015 and upon request from the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA), a
Certification17 was issued by the MeTC of Quezon City, Branch 38 (MeTC-Br. 38) stating that respondent has
been appearing before it as an Assistant City Prosecutor since September 2014 up to the present. In
connection with this, the MeTC-Br. 38 wrote a letter18 dated September 8, 2015 to the Office of the Bar
Confidant (OBC), inquiring about the details of respondent's suspension from the practice of law. In view of
the foregoing, the OCA indorsed the matter to the OBC for appropriate action.19 chan roble slaw

Despite due notice from the Court,20 respondent failed to file his comment to the aforementioned
Certification issued by MeTC-Br. 38.

The OBC's Report and Recommendation

In a Report and Recommendation21 dated February 10, 2016, the OBC recommended that respondent be
further suspended from the practice of law and from holding the position of Assistant City Prosecutor for a
period of six (6) months, thus, increasing his total suspension period to one (1) year, effective
immediately.22 It found that since respondent received the order of suspension against him on October 16,
2014 and did not move for its reconsideration, such order attained finality after the lapse of 15 days
therefrom. As such, he should have already served his suspension. In this relation, the OBC ratiocinated that
since respondent was holding a position .which requires him to use and apply his knowledge in legal matters
and practice of law, i.e., Assistant City Prosecutor, he should have ceased and desisted from acting as such.
However, as per the Certification dated September 7, 2015 of the MeTC-Br. 38, respondent never complied
with his order of suspension. In view thereof, the OBC recommended to increase respondent's suspension
from the practice of law and from holding the position of Assistant City Prosecutor for an additional period of
six (6) months.23 chanro bleslaw

The Issue Before the Court

The sole issue presented for the Court's resolution is whether or not respondent should be held
administratively liable.

The Court's Ruling

After due consideration, the Court sustains the findings and recommendation of the OBC and adopts the
same in its entirety.

It is settled that the Court has the exclusive jurisdiction to regulate the practice of law. As such, when the
Court orders a lawyer suspended from the practice of law, he must desist from performing all functions
requiring the application of legal knowledge within the period of suspension. This includes desisting from
holding a position in government requiring the authority to practice law.24 The practice of law embraces any
activity, in or out of court, which requires the application of law, legal procedure, knowledge, training, and
experience. It includes performing acts which are characteristic of the legal profession, or rendering any kind
of service which requires the use in any degree of legal knowledge or skill.25 c ralaw redcha nrob leslaw

In the instant case, the OBC correctly pointed out that the Court's Resolution26 dated September 15, 2014
suspending respondent from the practice of law for a period of six (6) months became final and executory
fifteen (15) days after respondent received a copy of the same on October 16, 2014. Thus, respondent
should have already commenced serving his six (6)-month suspension. However, respondent never heeded
the suspension order against him as he continued discharging his functions as an Assistant City Prosecutor
for Quezon City, as evidenced by the Certification27 issued by MeTC-Br. 38 stating that respondent has been
appearing before it as an Assistant City Prosecutor since September 2014 up to the present.

Section 9 of Republic Act No. (RA) 10071,28 otherwise known as the "Prosecution Service Act of 2010,"
provides the powers and functions of prosecutors, to wit: ChanRobles Vi rtua lawlib rary

Section 9. Powers and Functions of the Provincial Prosecutor or City Prosecutor. - The provincial prosecutor
or the city prosecutor shall:

chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry (a) Be the law officer of the province of the city officer, as the case may be;
(b) Investigate and/or cause to be investigated all charges of crimes, misdemeanors and violations of penal
laws and ordinances within their respective jurisdictions, and have the necessary information or
complaint prepared or made and filed against the persons accused. In the conduct of such investigations
he/she or any of his/her assistants shall receive the statements under oath or take oral evidence of
witnesses, and for this purpose may by subpoena summon witnesses to appear and testify under oath
before him/her, and the attendance or evidence of an absent or recalcitrant witness may be enforced by
application to any trial court; and cralawlawlib rary

(c) Have charge of the prosecution of all crimes, misdemeanors and violations of city or municipal
ordinances in the courts at the province or city and therein discharge all the duties incident to the institution
of criminal actions, subject to the provisions of the second paragraph of Section 5 hereof.
Verily, a plain reading of the foregoing provision evidently shows that the government office of Assistant City
Prosecutor requires its holder to be authorized to practice law. Hence, respondent's continuous discharge of
his functions as such constitutes practice of law and, thus, a clear defiance of the Court's order of
suspension against him.

Under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, willful disobedience to any lawful order of a superior court
and wilfully appearing as an attorney without authority to do so - acts which respondent is guilty of in this
case - are grounds for disbarment or suspension from the practice of law, to wit: ChanRobles Vi rtualaw lib rary

Section 27. Disbarment or suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court; grounds therefor. - A member of
the bar may be disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any
deceit, malpractice, or other gross misconduct in such office, grossly immoral conduct, or by reason of his
conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he is required to take
before admission to practice, or for a willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court, or
for corruptly or willfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority so to do.
The practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or
brokers, constitutes malpractice. (Emphases and underscoring supplied)
Anent the proper penalty to be imposed on respondent, the Court, in Lingan v. Calubaquib,29Feliciano v.
Bautista-Lozada30 and Ibana-Andrade v. Paita-Moya31 consistently imposed an additional six (6)-month
suspension from the practice of law to erring lawyers who practiced law despite being earlier suspended.
Under the foregoing circumstances, the Court deems it proper to mete the same penalty to respondent in
addition to the earlier six (6)-month suspension already imposed on him, as recommended by the OBC.
Thus, respondent's total period of suspension from the practice of law - and necessarily, from the holding
the position of Assistant City Prosecutor as well - should be fixed at one (1) year.

As a final note, it must be stressed that "[d]isbarment of lawyers is a proceeding that aims to purge the law
profession of unworthy members of the bar. It is intended to preserve the nobility and honor of the legal
profession. While the Supreme Court has the plenary power to discipline erring lawyers through this kind of
proceedings, it does so in the most vigilant manner so as not to frustrate its preservative principle. The
Court, in the exercise of its sound judicial discretion, is inclined to impose a less severe punishment if,
through it, the end desire of reforming the errant lawyer is possible."32cha nro bleslaw

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Edgar R. Navales is found GUILTY of violating Section 27, Rule 138 of the
Rules of Court. Accordingly, he is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for an additional period of six (6)
months from his original six (6)-month suspension, totalling one (1) year from service of this Decision, with
a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar acts will be dealt with more severely.

Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant to be appended to respondent's
personal record as a member of the Bar. Likewise, let copies of the same be served on the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines, the Department of Justice, 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. chanRoblesvirt ual Lawlib rary

Sereno, C.J., on leave.


Leonardo-De Castro,**(Acting Chairperson), Bersamin, and Caguioa, JJ., concur.
A.C. No. 9018, April 20, 2016

TERESITA P. FAJARDO, Complainant, v. ATTY. NICANOR C. ALVAREZ, Respondent.

DECISION

LEONEN, J.:

This administrative case involves the determination of whether a lawyer working in the Legal Section of the
National Center for Mental Health under the Department of Health is authorized to privately practice law,
and consequently, whether the amount charged by respondent for attorney's fees is reasonable under the
principle of quantum meruit.

Complainant Teresita P. Fajardo (Teresita) was the Municipal Treasurer of San Leonardo, Nueva Ecija. She
hired respondent Atty. Nicanor C. Alvarez (Atty. Alvarez) to defend her in criminal and administrative cases
before the Office of the Ombudsman.

The parties have differing versions of the facts as summarized by the Investigating Commissioner of the
Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. Teresita's version of the facts is as
follows:

Around 2009, Teresita hired Atty. Alvarez to handle several cases filed against her before the Office of the
Ombudsman.1 Atty. Alvarez was then working in the Legal Section of the National Center for Mental
Health.2 He asked for P1,400,000.00 as acceptance fee.3 However, Atty. Alvarez did not enter his
appearance before the Office of the Ombudsman nor sign any pleadings.4 ChanRoblesVirt ualawli bra ry

Atty. Alvarez assured Teresita that he had friends connected with the Office of the Ombudsman who could
help with dismissing her case for a certain fee.5 Atty. Alvarez said that he needed to pay the amount of
P500,000.00 to his friends and acquaintances working at the Office of the Ombudsman to have the cases
against Teresita dismissed.6 ChanRoblesVirt ualawli bra ry

However, just two (2) weeks after Teresita and Atty. Alvarez talked, the Office of the Ombudsman issued a
resolution and decision recommending the filing of a criminal complaint against Teresita, and her dismissal
from service, respectively.7 ChanRoble s Vi rtualaw lib rary

Teresita then demanded that Atty. Alvarez return at least a portion of the amount she gave.8 Atty. Alvarez
promised to return the amount to Teresita; however, he failed to fulfill this promise.9 Teresita sent a
demand letter to Atty. Alvarez, which he failed to heed.10 ChanRobles Vi rtua lawlib rary

On the other hand, Atty. Alvarez claims the following:

Atty. Alvarez is Legal Officer III of the National Center for Mental Health under the Department of
Health.11 He has authority to engage in private practice of the profession.12 He represented Teresita in
several cases before the Office of the Ombudsman.13 ChanRoblesVirt ualawli bra ry

Atty. Alvarez and Teresita had an arrangement that Teresita would consult Atty. Alvarez whenever a case
was filed against her.14 Atty. Alvarez would then advise Teresita to send him a copy of the complaint and its
attachments through courier.15 Afterwards, Atty. Alvarez would evaluate the case and call Teresita to discuss
his fees in accepting and handling the case.16 A 50% downpayment would be deposited to Atty. Alvarez's or
his secretary's bank account.17 The balance would then be paid in installments.18 The success fee was
voluntary on Teresita's part.19 ChanRobles Vi rtua lawlib rary

On July 10, 2009, Atty. Alvarez received a call from Teresita regarding a meeting at Shangri-La Mall to
discuss the decision and resolution she received from the Office of the Ombudsman dismissing her from
service for dishonesty and indicting her for violation of Section 3 of Republic Act No. 3019,
respectively.20Atty. Alvarez accepted the case and asked for P500,000.00 as acceptance fee.21 According to
Atty. Alvarez, he arrived at the amount after considering the difficulty of the case and the workload that
would be involved, which would include appeals before the Court of Appeals and this Court.22 However, the
fee is exclusive of filing fees, appearance fees, and other miscellaneous fees such as costs for photocopying
and mailing.23ChanRobles Vi rtua lawlib rary
Atty. Alvarez claimed that he prepared several pleadings in connection with Teresita's case:

(1) motion for reconsideration filed on July 23, 2009 in connection with
the administrative case;

(2) motion for reconsideration filed on July 23, 2009 in connection with
the criminal case;

(3) petition for injunction filed on October 15, 2009 before the Regional
Trial Court of Gapan City; and

(4) petition for preliminary injunction with prayer for a temporary


restraining order filed before the Court of Appeals on November 18,
2009, and the amended petition on November 26, 2009.24

Atty. Alvarez also said that he prepared several letters to different government officials and agencies.25 ChanRoblesVi rt ualawlib ra ry

Atty. Alvarez alleged that Teresita made staggered payments for the amounts they agreed on.26 Teresita
only paid the balance of the agreed acceptance fee equivalent to P450,000.00 on February 11, 2010.27While
Teresita paid P60,000.00 for the miscellaneous expenses, she did not pay the expenses for other legal work
performed and advanced by Atty. Alvarez.28 ChanRoblesVirtualawl ibra ry

On the last day for filing of the petition for review of the Office of the Ombudsman's Decision, Teresita
informed Atty. Alvarez that she was no longer interested in retaining Atty. Alvarez's services as she had
hired Atty. Tyrone Contado from Nueva Ecija, who was Atty. Alvarez's co-counsel in the cases against
Teresita.29 ChanRobles Vi rtua lawlib rary

On June 1, 2011, Teresita filed before the Office of the Bar Confidant a Verified Complaint praying for the
disbarment of Atty. Alvarez.30 This Court required Atty. Alvarez to file his comment on the complaint within
10 days from notice.31 ChanRoblesVirt ualawli bra ry

On December 7, 2011, the case was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for investigation,
report, and recommendation.32 ChanRobles Virtualawl ibra ry

In his Report and Recommendation33 dated November 12, 2012, Investigating Commissioner Honesto A.
Villamayor found Atty. Alvarez guilty of violating the Code of Professional Responsibility and recommended
Atty. Alvarez's suspension from the practice of law for one (1) year.34 Atty. Alvarez was also ordered to
return the amount of P700,000.00 to Teresita with legal interest from the time of demand until its full
payment.35 The dispositive portion of the Investigating Commissioner's Report and Recommendation
reads:chanRoble svirtual Lawli bra ry

WHEREFORE, finding Respondent guilty of committing unlawful, immoral and deceitful acts of the Canon of
Professional Responsibility, [it] is recommended that he be suspended for one (1) year in the practice of law
and he be ordered to return the amount of P700,000.00 to the Complainant within two (2) months from
receipt of this order with legal interest from the time of demand, until fully paid, with a warning that
repetition of [a] similar offense in the future will be dealt with more severely.36 cralaw red

On the unauthorized practice of law, the Investigating Commissioner found that while Atty. Alvarez claimed
that he was authorized by his superior to privately practice law, the pleadings he allegedly prepared and
filed did not bear his name and signature.37 Hence, the Investigating Commissioner stated that: chanRoblesvirt ual Lawlib rary

The time that Respondent spent in following up the case of Complainant in the Office of the Ombudsman is a
time lost to the government which could have been used in the service of many taxpayers[.]38 cra lawred

In any case, granting that Atty. Alvarez was authorized by his superior to practice his profession, the
Investigating Commissioner stated that Atty. Alvarez was prohibited to handle cases involving malversation
of funds by government officials such as a municipal treasurer.39 ChanRobles Vi rtualaw lib rary
Moreover, the Investigating Commissioner found that the attorney's fees Atty. Alvarez asked for were
unreasonable: chanRoblesv irt ual Lawlib rary

From all indication, Complainant was forced to give to the Respondent the amount of P1,400,000.00
because of the words of Respondent that he has friends in the Office of the Ombudsman who can help with a
fee. That because of that guarantee, Complainant was obligated to shell out every now and then money for
the satisfaction of the allege[d] friend of the Respondent[.]

Complainant is an ordinary Municipal Treasurer of a 4th or 5th class municipality and the amount of attorney's
fees demanded by the Respondent is very much excessive. . . . The exorbitant amount that he demanded
from complainant is too much for a lowly local government employee. What the Respondent did is not only
illegal, immoral and dishonest but also taking advantage of a defenseless victim.

....

While a lawyer should charge only fair and reasonable fees, no hard and fast rule may be set in the
determination of what a reasonable fee is, or what is not. That must be established from the facts of each
case[.]

....

The fees claimed and received by the Respondent for the alleged cases he handled despite the fact that the
records and evidence does not show that he ever signed pleadings filed, the amount of P700,000.00 is
reasonable, thus, fairness and equity dictate, he has to return the excess amount of P700,000.00 to the
complainant[.]40 cralawre d

In Notice of Resolution No. XX-2013-77841 dated June 21, 2013, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board
of Governors adopted the findings and recommendations of the Investigating Commissioner: c hanRoble svirtual Lawli bra ry

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 complaint [sic] is guilty of unlawful, immoral and deceitful
acts, Atty. Nicanor C. Alvarez is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for one (1) year with [a]
Warning that repetition of the same acts shall be dealt with more sever[ejly. Further, he is Ordered to
Return the amount of P700,000.00 to complainant with legal interest from the time of demand.42 (Emphasis
in the original) cralaw red

Atty. Alvarez moved for reconsideration of the Resolution,43 but the Motion was denied by the Board of
Governors in Notice of Resolution No. XXI-2014-28644 dated May 3, 2014. The Resolution reads: chanRob lesvi rtua lLawl ibra ry

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-
778 dated June 21, 2013 is hereby AFFIRMED.45 (Emphasis in the original) c ralaw red

We resolve the following issues:

First, whether respondent Atty. Nicanor C. Alvarez, as a lawyer working in the Legal Section of the National
Center for Mental Health under the Department of Health, is authorized to engage in the private practice of
law; and

Second, whether the amount charged by respondent for attorney's fees is reasonable under the principle
of quantum meruit.

The Investigating Commissioner did not make a categorical declaration that respondent is guilty of
unauthorized practice of his profession. The Investigating Commissioner merely alluded to respondent's
unauthorized practice of law.

We find that respondent committed unauthorized practice of his profession.

Respondent claims that he is authorized to practice his profession46 as shown in the letter dated August 1,
2001 of National Center for Mental Health Chief Bernardino A. Vicente.47 The letter reads:chanRoblesv irtual Lawlib rary

TO : ATTY. NICANOR C. ALVAREZ


Legal Officer III
This Center
Subject : Authority to engage in private practice of profession

This refers to your request for permission to engage in private practice of your profession.

In accordance with Administrative Order No. 21, s. 1999 of the Department of Health, which vested in the
undersigned the authority to grant permission for the exercise of profession or engage in the practice of
profession, you are hereby authorized to teach or engage in the practice of your profession provided it will
not run in conflict with the interest of the Center and the Philippine government as a whole. In the exigency
of the service however, or when public interest so requires, this authority may be revoked anytime.

Please be guided accordingly.

[sgd.]
BERNARDINO A. VICENTE, MD, FFPPA, MHA, CESO IV
Medical Center Chief II48 (Emphasis supplied) c ralaw red

Respondent practiced law even if he did not sign any pleading. In the context of this case, his surreptitious
actuations reveal illicit intent. Not only did he do unauthorized practice, his acts also show badges of offering
to peddle influence in the Office of the Ombudsman.

In Cayetano v. Monsod,49 the modern concept of the term "practice of law" includes the more traditional
concept of litigation or appearance before courts: chanRoblesvi rt ualLaw lib rary

The practice of law is not limited to the conduct of cases in court. A person is also considered to be in the
practice of law when he: chanRoblesv irt ual Lawlib rary

"x x x for valuable consideration engages in the business of advising person, firms, associations or
corporations as to their rights under the law, or appears in a representative capacity as an advocate in
proceedings pending or prospective, before any court, commissioner, referee, board, body, committee, or
commission constituted by law or authorized to settle controversies and there, in such representative
capacity performs any act or acts for the purpose of obtaining or defending the rights of their clients under
the law. Otherwise stated, one who, in a representative capacity, engages in the business of advising clients
as to their rights under the law, or while so engaged performs any act or acts either in court or outside of
court for that purpose, is engaged in the practice of law." cralawred

....

The University of the Philippines Law Center in conducting orientation briefing for new lawyers (1974-1975)
listed the dimensions of the practice of law in even broader terms as advocacy, counseling and public
service.
"One may be a practicing attorney in following any line of employment in the profession. If what he does
exacts knowledge of the law and is of a kind usual for attorneys engaging in the active practice of their
profession, and he follows some one or more lines of employment such as this he is a practicing attorney at
law within the meaning of the statute." cralawred

Practice of law means any activity, in or out of court, which requires the application of law, legal procedure,
knowledge, training and experience. "To engage in the practice of law is to perform those acts which are
characteristics of the profession. Generally, to practice law is to give notice or render any kind of service,
which device or service requires the use in any degree of legal knowledge or skill."

....

Interpreted in the light of the various definitions of the term "practice of law," particularly the modern
concept of law practice, and taking into consideration the liberal construction intended by the framers of the
Constitution, Arty. Monsod's past work experiences as a lawyer-economist, a lawyer-manager, a lawyer-
entrepreneur of industry, a lawyer-negotiator of contracts, and a lawyer-legislator of both the rich and the
poor—verily more than satisfy the constitutional requirement—that he has been engaged in the practice of
law for at least ten years.50 (Emphasis supplied) c ralaw red

Cayetano was reiterated in Lingan v. Calubaquib:51


Practice of law is "any activity, in or out of court, which requires the application of law, legal procedure,
knowledge, training and experience." It includes "[performing] acts which are characteristics of the [legal]
profession" or "[rendering any kind of] service [which] requires the use in any degree of legal knowledge or
skill."

Work in government that requires the use of legal knowledge is considered practice of law. In Cayetano v.
Monsod, this court cited the deliberations of the 1986 Constitutional Commission and agreed that work
rendered by lawyers in the Commission on Audit requiring "[the use of] legal knowledge or legal talent" is
practice of law.52 (Citations omitted)
c ralawred

By preparing the pleadings of and giving legal advice to complainant, respondent practiced law.

Under Section 7(b)(2) of Republic Act No. 6713, otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical
Standards for Public Officials and Employees, and Memorandum Circular No. 17, series of
1986,53government officials or employees are prohibited from engaging in private practice of their profession
unless authorized by their department heads. More importantly, if authorized, the practice of profession
must not conflict nor tend to conflict with the official functions of the government official or employee: c hanRoblesv irtual Lawlib rary

Republic Act No. 6713:

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

....

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

....

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

....

Memorandum Circular No. 17:

The authority to grant permission to any official or employee shall be granted by the head of the ministry or
agency in accordance with Section 12, Rule XVIII of the Revised Civil Service Rules, which provides: c hanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry

"Sec. 12. No officer or employee shall engage directly in any private business, vocation, or profession or be
connected with any commercial, credit, agricultural, or industrial undertaking without a written permission
from the head of Department; Provided, That this prohibition will be absolute in the case of those officers
and employees whose duties and responsibilities require that their entire time be at the disposal of the
Government: Provided, further, That if an employee is granted permission to engage in outside activities,
the time so devoted outside of office hours should be fixed by the chief of the agency to the end that it will
not impair in any way the efficiency of the other officer or employee: And provided, finally, That no
permission is necessary in the case of investments, made by an officer or employee, which do not involve
any real or apparent conflict between his private interests and public duties, or in any way influence him in
the discharge of his duties, and he shall not take part in the management of the enterprise or become an
officer or member of the board of directors", cralawre d

subject to any additional conditions which the head of the office deems necessary in each particular case in
the interest of the service, as expressed in the various issuances of the Civil Service Commission. cralawred

In Abella v. Cruzabra, the respondent was a Deputy Register of Deeds of General Santos City. While
54

serving as an incumbent government employee, the respondent "filed a petition for commission as a notary
public and was commissioned . . . without obtaining prior authority from the Secretary of the Department of
Justice."55 According to the complainant, the respondent had notarized around 3,000 documents.56 This
Court found the respondent guilty of engaging in notarial practice without written authority from the
Secretary of Justice. Thus:

It is clear that when respondent filed her petition for commission as a notary public, she did not obtain a
written permission from the Secretary of the D[epartment] [of] J[ustice]. Respondent's superior, the
Register of Deeds, cannot issue any authorization because he is not the head of the Department. And even
assuming that the Register of Deeds authorized her, respondent failed to present any proof of that written
permission. Respondent cannot feign ignorance or good faith because respondent filed her petition for
commission as a notary public after Memorandum Circular No. 17 was issued in 1986.57 ChanRobles Vi rtualaw lib rary

In this case, respondent was given written permission by the Head of the National Center for Mental Health,
whose authority was designated under Department of Health Administrative Order No. 21, series of
1999.58ChanRobles Vi rtua lawlib rary

However, by assisting and representing complainant in a suit against the Ombudsman and against
government in general, respondent put himself in a situation of conflict of interest.

Respondent's practice of profession was expressly and impliedly conditioned on the requirement that his
practice will not be "in conflict with the interest of the Center and the Philippine government as a
whole."59 ChanRobles Vi rtualaw lib rary

In Javellana v. Department of Interior and Local Government,60 the petitioner was an incumbent City
Councilor or member of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Bago City. He was a lawyer by profession and had
continuously engaged in the practice of law without securing authority from the Regional Director of the
Department of Local Government.61 In 1989, the petitioner acted as counsel for Antonio Javiero and Rolando
Catapang and filed a case for Illegal Dismissal and Reinstatement with Damages against Engr. Ernesto C.
Divinagracia, City Engineer of Bago City.62 ChanRoblesVirtualawl ibra ry

Engr. Ernesto C. Divinagracia filed an administrative case before the Department of Local Government for
violation of Section 7(b)(2) of Republic Act No. 6713 and relevant Department of Local Government
memorandum circulars on unauthorized practice of profession, as well as for oppression, misconduct, and
abuse of authority.63 While the case was pending before Department of Local Government, the petitioner
was able to secure a written authority to practice his profession from the Secretary of Interior and Local
Government, "provided that such practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with his official functions."64 ChanRoblesVi rt ualawlib ra ry

This Court in Javellana observed that the petitioner practiced his profession in conflict with his functions as
City Councilor and against the interests of government: chan Roblesvirtual Lawlib ra ry

In the first place, complaints against public officers and employees relating or incidental to the performance
of their duties are necessarily impressed with public interest for by express constitutional mandate, a public
office is a public trust. The complaint for illegal dismissal filed by Javiero and Catapang against City Engineer
Divinagracia is in effect a complaint against the City Government of Bago City, their real employer, of which
petitioner Javellana is a councilman. Hence, judgment against City Engineer Divinagracia would actually be a
judgment against the City Government. By serving as counsel for the complaining employees and assisting
them to prosecute their claims against City Engineer Divinagracia, the petitioner violated Memorandum
Circular No. 74-58 (in relation to Section 7[b-2] of R[epublic] A[ct] [No.] 6713) prohibiting a government
official from engaging in the private practice of his profession, if such practice would represent interests
adverse to the government.

Petitioner's contention that Section 90 of the Local Government Code of 1991 and DLG Memorandum
Circular No. 90-81 violate Article VIII, Section 5 of the Constitution is completely off tangent. Neither the
statute nor the circular trenches upon the Supreme Court's power and authority to prescribe rules on the
practice of law. The Local Government Code and DLG Memorandum Circular No. 90-81 simply prescribe
rules of conduct for public officials to avoid conflicts of interest between the discharge of their public duties
and the private practice of their profession, in those instances where the law allows it.65 cralaw red

There is basic conflict of interest here. Respondent is a public officer, an employee of government. The
Office of the Ombudsman is part of government. By appearing against the Office of the Ombudsman,
respondent is going against the same employer he swore to serve.

In addition, the government has a serious interest in the prosecution of erring employees and their corrupt
acts. Under the Constitution, "[p]ublic office is a public trust."66 The Office of the Ombudsman, as
"protectors of the [P]eople,"67 is mandated to "investigate and prosecute . . . any act or omission of any
public officer or employee, office or agency, when such act or omission appears to be illegal, unjust,
improper or inefficient."68 ChanRobles Virtualawl ibra ry

Thus, a conflict of interest exists when an incumbent government employee represents another government
employee or public officer in a case pending before the Office of the Ombudsman. The incumbent officer
ultimately goes against government's mandate under the Constitution to prosecute public officers or
employees who have committed acts or omissions that appear to be illegal, unjust, improper, or
inefficient.69 Furthermore, this is consistent with the constitutional directive that "[p]ublic officers and
employees must, at all times, be accountable to the [P]eople, serve them with utmost responsibility,
integrity, loyalty, and efficiency; act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives."70 ChanRoblesVirtualawli bra ry

The objective in disciplinary cases is not to punish the erring officer or employee but to continue to uplift the
People's trust in government and to ensure excellent public service: cha nRoblesv irt ual Lawlib rary
[W]hen an officer or employee is disciplined, the object sought is not the punishment of that officer or
employee, but the improvement of the public service and the preservation of the public's faith and
confidence in the government. . . . These constitutionally-enshrined principles, oft-repeated in our case law,
are not mere rhetorical flourishes or idealistic sentiments. They should be taken as working standards by all
in the public service.71 c ralawred

Having determined that respondent illicitly practiced law, we find that there is now no need to determine
whether the fees he charged were reasonable.

In disbarment or disciplinary cases pending before this Court, the complainant must prove his or her
allegations through substantial evidence.72 In Advincula v. Macabata,73 this Court dismissed a complaint for
disbarment due to the lack of evidence in proving the complainant's allegations: chanRoblesv irtual Lawlib rary

As a basic rule in evidence, the burden of proof lies on the party who makes the allegations—ei incumbit
probation, qui decit, non qui negat; cum per rerum naturam factum negantis probation nulla sit. In the case
at bar, complainant miserably failed to comply with the burden of proof required of her. A mere charge or
allegation of wrongdoing does not suffice. Accusation is not synonymous with guilt.74 (Emphasis in the
original, citations omitted) cralaw red

Moreover, lawyers should not be hastily disciplined or penalized unless it is shown that they committed a
transgression of their oath or their duties, which reflects on their fitness to enjoy continued status as a
member of the bar: chanRoble svi rtual Lawli bra ry

The power to disbar or suspend ought always to be exercised on the preservative and not on the vindictive
principle, with great caution and only for the most weighty reasons and only on clear cases of misconduct
which seriously affect the standing and character of the lawyer as an officer of the court and member of the
Bar. Only those acts which cause loss of moral character should merit disbarment or suspension, while those
acts which neither affect nor erode the moral character of the lawyer should only justify a lesser sanction
unless they are of such nature and to such extent as to clearly show the lawyer's unfltness to continue in the
practice of law. The dubious character of the act charged as well as the motivation which induced the lawyer
to commit it must be clearly demonstrated before suspension or disbarment is meted out. The mitigating or
aggravating circumstances that attended the commission of the offense should also be considered.75 cralaw red

Likewise, we find that respondent violated the Lawyer's Oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility
when he communicated to or, at the very least, made it appear to complainant that he knew people from
the Office of the Ombudsman who could help them get a favorable decision in complainant's case.

Lawyers are mandated to uphold, at all times, integrity and dignity in the practice of their
profession.76Respondent violated the oath he took when he proposed to gain a favorable outcome for
complainant's case by resorting to his influence among staff in the Office where the case was pending.77 ChanRoblesVirt ualawli bra ry

Thus, respondent violated the Code of Professional Responsibility. Canon 1, Rules 1.01, and 1.0278prohibit
lawyers from engaging in unlawful, dishonest, immoral, or deceitful conduct.79 Respondent's act of ensuring
that the case will be dismissed because of his personal relationships with officers or employees in the Office
of the Ombudsman is unlawful and dishonest. Canon 780 of the Code of Professional Responsibility requires
lawyers to always "uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession."

In relation, Canon 1381 mandates that lawyers "shall rely upon the merits of his [or her] cause and refrain
from any impropriety which tends to influence, or gives the appearance of influencing the court."

A lawyer that approaches a judge to try to gain influence and receive a favorable outcome for his or her
client violates Canon 13 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.82 This act of influence peddling is highly
immoral and has no place in the legal profession: c hanRoble svirtual Lawli bra ry

The highly immoral implication of a lawyer approaching a judge—or a judge evincing a willingness—to
discuss, in private, a matter related to a case pending in that judge's sala cannot be over-emphasized. The
fact that Atty. Singson did talk on different occasions to Judge Reyes, initially through a mutual friend, Atty.
Sevilla, leads us to conclude that Atty. Singson was indeed trying to influence the judge to rule in his client's
favor. This conduct is not acceptable in the legal profession.83 cra lawred

In Jimenez v. Verano, Jr., we disciplined the respondent for preparing a release order for his clients using
84

the letterhead of the Department of Justice and the stationery of the Secretary: chanRoblesvi rtua lLawl ibra ry

The way respondent conducted himself manifested a clear intent to gain special treatment and consideration
from a government agency. This is precisely the type of improper behavior sought to be regulated by the
codified norms for the bar. Respondent is duty-bound to actively avoid any act that tends to influence, or
may be seen to influence, the outcome of an ongoing case, lest the people's faith in the judicial process is
diluted.
The primary duty of lawyers is not to their clients but to the administration of justice. To that end, their
clients' success is wholly subordinate. The conduct of a member of the bar ought to and must always be
scrupulously observant of the law and ethics. Any means, not honorable, fair and honest which is resorted to
by the lawyer, even in the pursuit of his devotion to his client's cause, is condemnable and unethical.

....

Zeal and persistence in advancing a client's cause must always be within the bounds of the law. A self-
respecting independence in the exercise of the profession is expected if an attorney is to remain a member
of the bar. In the present case, we find that respondent fell short of these exacting standards. Given the
import of the case, a warning is a mere slap on the wrist that would not serve as commensurate penalty for
the offense.85
cralawre d

Similar to the present case, in Bueno v. Rañeses,86 we disbarred a lawyer who solicited bribe money from
his client in violation of Canon 13 of the Code of Professional Responsibility:
chanRoble svi rtual Lawli bra ry

Rather than merely suspend Atty. Rañeses as had been done in Bildner, the Court believes that Atty.
Rañeses merits the ultimate administrative penalty of disbarment because of the multi-layered impact and
implications of what he did; by his acts he proved himself to be what a lawyer should not be, in a lawyer's
relations to the client, to the court and to the Integrated Bar.

First, he extracted money from his client for a purpose that is both false and fraudulent. It is false because
no bribery apparently took place as Atty. Rañeses in fact lost the case. It is fraudulent because the
professed purpose of the exaction was the crime of bribery. Beyond these, he maligned the judge and the
Judiciary by giving the impression that court cases are won, not on the merits, but through deceitful
means—a decidedly black mark against the Judiciary. Last but not the least, Atty. Rañeses grossly
disrespected the IBP by his cavalier attitude towards its disciplinary proceedings.

From these perspectives, Atty. Rañeses wronged his client, the judge allegedly on the "take," the Judiciary
as an institution, and the IBP of which he is a member. The Court cannot and should not allow offenses such
as these to pass unredressed. Let this be a signal to one and all—to all lawyers, their clients and the general
public—that the Court will not hesitate to act decisively and with no quarters given to defend the interest of
the public, of our judicial system and the institutions composing it, and to ensure that these are not
compromised by unscrupulous or misguided members of the Bar.87 (Emphasis supplied) cra lawred

In the interest of ridding itself of corrupt personnel who encourage influence peddling, and in the interest of
maintaining the high ethical standards of employees in the judiciary, this Court did not hesitate in dismissing
its own employee from government service when she peddled influence in the Court of Appeals:88
What brings our judicial system into disrepute are often the actuations of a few erring court personnel
peddling influence to party-litigants, creating the impression that decisions can be bought and sold,
ultimately resulting in the disillusionment of the public. This Court has never wavered in its vigilance in
eradicating the so-called "bad eggs" in the judiciary. And whenever warranted by the gravity of the offense,
the supreme penalty of dismissal in an administrative case is meted to erring personnel.89 cra lawred

The Investigating Commissioner found that complainant was "forced to give . . . Respondent the amount of
P1,400,000.00 because of the words of Respondent that he ha[d] friends in the Office of the Ombudsman
who c[ould] help with a fee."90 It is because of respondent's assurances to complainant that she sent him
money over the course of several months.91 These assurances are seen from the text messages that
respondent sent complainant: chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Cnbi ko dun sa kontak dati na magbibigay tayo na pera sa allowance lang muna later na ang bayad pag
labas ng reso at kaliwaan pero sbi nya mas maganda kung isasabay na ang pera pagbgay ng letter mo sa
omb.. Parang dun tayo nagkamali pero ang solusyon ay sana ibalik nila ang pera . . in d meantime hindi
dapat apektado ang kaso at kailangan an Appeal sa CA at may deadline yun

DATE: 31-05-2010

TIME: 5:24 pm

TYPE: Text Message


....

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Gud pm pnro, naLBC n b ang Reso? Kung Jan un pnrmahn ...

DATE: 21-05-2010

TIME: 5:13 pm

TYPE: Text Message

....

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Pnro sbi ng Dep Omb la png cnabi sa knya ng Omb. Ang CA Reso pnaiwan n Orly @ studyohn nya (txt
kontal)

DATE: 15-04-2010

TIME: 6:07 pm

TYPE: Text Message

....

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Yung blessing pala ni gutierez ang hnhntay ng overall dep omb si orly at dun din siya subok kuha letter pero
nasbhan na si gutierez ng dep omb for Luzon sbi ko pwwde b nila gawin total alam na ni gutierez. . . Maya
tawag ko sayo update

DATE: 15-04-2010

TIME: 12:44 pm

TYPE: Text Message

. . . .

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Gud mrng Tess hindi na svmagot kahapon tnxt ko pero minsan hndi tlga sumasagot yun nag ttxt lang
pagkatapos kaya lang d mo pala naiintindihan ang txt nya bisaya "istudyahun" ibig sabihn kausapin pa so
nasbi na nya sa omb yung letter at istudzahan pa

DATE: 31-03-2010

TIME: 8:25 am

TYPE: Text Message

. . . .
FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Ok panero update ko na lang client pero nag txt tlga kailangan daw nya letter habang wala pa omb reso., Txt
mo lang ko panero, have a nice holidays., (sagot ko yan tess)

DATE: 03-03-2010

TIME: 5:03 pm

TYPE: Text Message

. . . .

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Sa dep omb for Luzon na nya follow up ang MR at saka overall dep omb si orly dun nya kukunin letter

DATE: 30-03-2010

TIME: 5:00 pm

TYPE: Text Message

. . . .

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Gud pm pnro. Ang Dep. Omb. My closd dor mtng pro pnkta s knya ang note q at sabi rw bumalik aq aftr Holy
wk. C Orly nman ay ngsabi n es2dyuhn p rw nya.

DATE: 30-03-2010

TIME: 4:52 pm

TYPE: Text Message

. . . .

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Binigay ko na pera kahapon at kinausap ko para sa letter magkikita pa kami marnaya las 2 at kukunin nya
copy letter natin kay sales at CA reso

DATE: 15-04-2010

TIME: 12:32 pm

TYPE: Text Message

. . . .

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>


SUBJECT:

Tess ndpst mo na? Kakausapin ko kasi na qc na lang kami kita at malapit ako dun maya at hindi na sa crsng.
Tnx

DATE: 14-04-2010

TIME: 1:29 pm

TYPE: Text Message

. . . .

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Gud pm pnro. Ok ba ang 15k rep maya 6pm? Thnx (txt ng kontak tess kausapin ko mbuti sa letter)

DATE: 14-04-2010

TIME: 10:25 am

TYPE: Text Message

. . . .

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Pnro ung rep alo n bngay mo 1st Mar 24 ay ok Ing pra s 2 falo-ups q Mar 25 @ Mar 30. As usual, magkita tau
Apr 14 @ kunin q 20th para sa falo-up Apr 15 thnx

DATE: 08-04-2010

TIME: 10:58 am

TYPE: Text Message

. . . .

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Ok panero kailangan malinaw din ang presentation lp sa client panero at ang impression nya yun na ang hningi
natin... so april 15 panero an balik mo sa MR at yung letter form omb to dof bhala ka na sa diskarte panero
pag nakakuha tayo nakahanda na 150k dun

DATE: 08-04-2010

TIME: 10:56 am

TYPE: Text Message

. . . .

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:
Pnero dapat maalala mo n ung purpose ng 400th hindi directly delivery ng Reso granting d MR pro ung delivery
by the Dep Omb ng letr of appeal 2 d Omb at pgpaliwang nya sa Omb. Re sa hnhngi ng rspondnt n modfcation
ng Dcsion. Nung 1st mtng ntn Mar 24, ngin4m q sau n ngawa n i2 ng Dep Omb pro kausapn p ng Omb c Orly.
Itong huli ang nabtn p, pro yon ay dscrtion n ng Omb@ wing control d2 and Dep. Omb.

DATE: 08-04-2010

TIME: 10:55 am

TYPE: Text Message

. . . .

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Tess gud mrng, wag mo kalimutan mgdpst 25k today 6pm mtng naming omb tnx.

DATE: 24-03-2010

TIME: 10:23 am

TYPE: Text Message

. . . .

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Gud pm uli pnro. Kung subukan q n lkrn ky Orly ung cnabi mong letr adrsd 2 DOF Sec @ synd n Orly ang letr,
pktanong s rspndnt kung ok b s knya nab yarn nya aq ng Atty's fee n 75thou upfront @ another 75thou upon
receipt of a DOF ordr holdng n abyans implmntation of hr dsmsal due 2 Orly's letr? thnx

DATE: 11-03-2010

TIME: 7:03 pm

TYPE: Text Message92 cralawred

In response to his alleged text messages, respondent claims that complainant must have confused him with
her other contacts.93 Respondent found it "mesmerizing" that complainant was able to save all those
alleged text messages from two (2) years ago.94 Moreover, assuming these messages were "true, still they
[were] not legally admissible as they [were] covered by the lawyer-client privileged communication as those
supposed texts '[had been] made for the purpose and in the course of employment, [were] regarded as
privileged and the rule of exclusion [was] strictly enforced.'"95 ChanRoblesVi rt ualawlib ra ry

In cases involving influence peddling or bribery, "[t]he transaction is always done in secret and often only
between the two parties concerned."96 Nevertheless, as found by the Investigating Commissioner and as
shown by the records, we rule that there is enough proof to hold respondent guilty of influence peddling.

We agree with the penalty recommended by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board of Governors. We
find respondent's acts of influence peddling, coupled with unauthorized practice of law, merit the penalty of
suspension of one (1) year from the practice of law. To be so bold as to peddle influence before the very
institution that is tasked to prosecute corruption speaks much about respondent's character and his attitude
towards the courts and the bar.

Lawyers who offer no skill other than their acquaintances or relationships with regulators, investigators,
judges, or Justices pervert the system, weaken the rule of law, and debase themselves even as they claim
to be members of a noble profession. Practicing law should not degenerate to one's ability to have illicit
access. Rather, it should be about making an honest appraisal of the client's situation as seen through the
evidence fairly and fully gathered. It should be about making a discerning and diligent reading of the
applicable law. It is foremost about attaining justice in a fair manner. Law exists to temper, with its own
power, illicit power and unfair advantage. It should not be conceded as a tool only for those who cheat by
unduly influencing people or public officials.

It is time that we unequivocally underscore that to even imply to a client that a lawyer knows who will make
a decision is an act worthy of the utmost condemnation. If we are to preserve the nobility of this profession,
its members must live within its ethical parameters. There is never an excuse for influence peddling.

While this Court is not a collection agency for faltering debtors,97 this Court has ordered restitution of
amounts to complainants due to the erroneous actions of lawyers.98 Respondent is, therefore, required to
return to complainant the amount of P500,000.00—the amount that respondent allegedly gave his friends
connected with the Office of the Ombudsman.

WHEREFORE, Respondent Arty. Nicanor C. Alvarez is guilty of violating the Code of Conduct and Ethical
Standards for Public Officials and Employees, the Lawyer's Oath, and the Code of Professional Responsibility.
He is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for one (1) year with a WARNING that a repetition of the same
or similar acts shall be dealt with more severely. Respondent is ORDERED to return the amount of
P500,000.00 with legal interest to complainant Teresita P. Fajardo.

Let copies of this Decision be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be appended to respondent's
personal record as attorney. Likewise, copies shall be furnished to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and
all courts in the country for their information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.

Carpio, (Chairperson), Brion, Del Castillo, and Mendoza, JJ., concur.

PER CURIAM:
Before the Court is the Complaint-Affidavit,[1] filed by Nenita De Guzman
Ferguson (complainant), seeking the disbarment of Atty. Salvador P.
Ramos (Atty. Ramos) for falsification, violation of notarial law and
engaging in private practice while employed in the government service.

The Antecedents

Complainant alleged that on November 25, 2007, she purchased a house


and lot located in San Rafael, Bulacan, for the sum of P800,000.00; that
without her knowledge, the seller obtained a Certificate of Land Ownership
Award (CLOA) mainly to transfer the title of the said property to her name;
that the seller was unaware that the said CLOA was void ab initio as the
subject land was not an agricultural land and there existed a 10-year
prohibition to transfer the subject land; that in 2009; complainant
instituted a petition for the cancellation of the CLOA before the DAR Office;
that the defendants were represented by Atty. Ramos, who was the Chief
Legal Officer of DAR-Provincial Office in Bulacan; that complainant
withdrew the petition before the DAR and filed the case before the Regional
Trial Court, Branch 12, Malolos City (RTC); that upon receipt of the
Answer, complainant found out that it was strikingly similar to the one filed
by the defendants in the DAR, which was prepared by Atty. Ramos; that
complainant discovered that the Deed of Sale[2] dated April 24, 2009, which
became the basis of the transfer of title was fraudulently altered as it only
covered the sale of the land, not the house and lot, and the price indicated
was only P188,340.00, not the amount of P800,000.00[3] that she actually
paid; that her signature and that of her husband, Douglas
Ferguson (Douglas), were forged; that Atty. Ramos notarized the deed of
sale without their presence; and that complainant and her husband neither
appeared, executed nor acknowledged any document before Atty. Ramos as
they never met him in person.

In his Comment,[4] Atty. Ramos denied that he represented the defendants


in the case before the DAR but he admitted that he notarized their Answer.
With respect to the charge of falsification of the April 24, 2009 Deed of Sale
and the notarization of the aforementioned deed, Atty. Ramos likewise
denied any participation and countered that his signature as a notary public
was forged. Atty. Ramos, nonetheless, admitted that he notarized the
"genuine" Deed of Sale,[5] dated May 12, 2009, executed between vendor
Alfredo Inosanto, and vendees complainant and her spouse, involving the
Same property for the amount of P300,000.00.[6] Atty. Ramos surmised
that whoever benefited from such dastardly act could be the culprit in the
falsification of the document as the forged deed of sale which indicated a
lesser purchase price was the one presented in the Registry of Deeds of
Bulacan in order to evade payment of a higher capital gains tax.

In its Resolution,[7] dated February 29, 2012 the Court referred the
complaint to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation,
report and recommendation.

The case was then set by the Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) of the
IBP for mandatory conference. Thereafter, parties were required to submit
their respective position papers.

In its Report and Recommendation,[8] dated November 21, 2014, the CBD
found Atty. Ramos guilty of violating the law on notarial practice and
recommended that he be suspended from the practice of law for a period of
one (1) year and, in case he held a commission as a notary public; that it be
revoked and that he be disqualified to act as a notary public for a period of
two (2) years to be counted after his suspension. The CBD stated that the
defense of forgery, without any corroborative evidence, was not credible. As
to the charge. that of engaging in a private practice while employed in the
government service against Atty. Ramos, the CBD opined that it should be
addressed to the Civil Service Commission for the determination of his
appropriate administrative liability.

In its Notice of Resolution No. XXI-2015-458,[9] dated June 6, 2015, the


IBP-Board of Governors adopted and approved with modification the
report and recommendation of the CBD, as follows:

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby ADOPTED and


APPROVED, the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating
Commissioner in the above-entitled case, herein made part of this
Resolution as Annex "A", finding the recommendation to be fully supported
by the evidence on record and applicable laws and Respondent's
notarization of a document in the absence of the parties' in violation of the
2004 Rules on Notarial Practice. Thus, Respondent Atty. Salvador P.
Ramos' notarial commission, if presently commissioned, is immediately
REVOKED. Furthermore, he is DISQUALIFIED from being commissioned
as a Notary Public for two (2) years and is SUSPENDED from the practice
of law for six (6) months.

The Court agrees with the findings of the IBP but differs on the imposed
penalty.

Section 1, Public Act No. 2103, otherwise known as the Notarial Law states:

The acknowledgment shall be before a notary public or an officer duly


authorized by law of the country to take acknowledgements of instruments
or documents in the place where the act is done. The notary public or the
officer taking the acknowledgment shall certify that the person
acknowledging the instrument or document is known to him and that he is
the same person who executed it, acknowledged that the same is his free act
and deed. The certificate shall be made under the official seal, if he is
required by law to keep a seal, and if not, his certificate shall so state.

The importance of the affiant's personal appearance was further


emphasized in Section 2 (b), Rule IV of the Rules on Notarial Practice of
2004 which specifically provides that:

A person shall not perform a notarial act if the person involved as signatory
to the instrument or document –

is not in the notary's presence personally at the time of the notarization;


(1)
and

is not personally known to the notary public or otherwise identified by


(2) the notary public through competent evidence of identity as defined by
these Rules.

The afore-quoted rules clearly mandate that a notary public, before


notarizing a document, should require the presence of the very person who
executed the same. Thus, he certifies that it was the same person who
executed and personally appeared before him to attest to the contents and
truth of what were stated therein.[10] The presence of the parties to the deed
is necessary to enable the notary public to verify the genuineness of the
signature of the affiant.[11]

In the present case, Atty. Ramos denied having notarized the April 24,
2009 deed of sale and claimed that his signature was forged. He even
alluded that the person who benefited from it could be the forger as the
capital gains tax liability was reduced. He, nonetheless, admitted notarizing
the "genuine" deed of sale, dated May 12, 2009.

Regardless of who the culprit was and the motive of such forgery, Atty.
Ramos cannot be exonerated from liability. A perusal of the record would
reveal that Douglas, one of the parties in the deed of sale, was not in the
Philippines on May 12, 2009, the day the "genuine" deed of sale was
notarized. Complainant presented a copy of Douglas' passport indicating
that he entered the Philippines only on May 26, 2001 and left on June 12,
2001. This substantially established that indeed Douglas could not have
personally appeared before Atty. Ramos when he notarized the deed.

Moreover, an examination of the April 24, 2009 and May 12, 2009 deeds of
sale disclosed that both documents bore the same document number, page
number and book number of the notarial registry of Atty. Ramos. If, indeed,
the April 24, 2009 deed of sale, which was issued earlier was forged, how
would the purported culprit know the detail of Atty. Ramos' notarial
registry?

It must be emphasized that notarization is not an empty, meaningless and


routinary act. It is imbued with public interest. and only those who are
qualified and authorized may act as notaries public.[12] In the case
of Gonzales v. Ramos,[13] the Court explained the significance of the act of
notarization, thus:

By affixing his notarial seal on the instrument, the respondent converted


the Deed of Absolute Sale, from a private document into a public document.
Such act is no empty gesture. The principal function of a notary public is to
authenticate documents. When a notary public certifies to the due
execution and delivery of a document under his hand and seal, he gives the
document the force of evidence. Indeed, one of the purposes of requiring
documents to be acknowledged before a notary public, in addition to the
solemnity which should surround the execution and delivery of documents,
is to authorize such documents to be given without further proof of their
execution and delivery. A notarial document is by law entitled to full faith
and credit upon its face. Courts, administrative agencies and the public at
large must be able to rely upon the acknowledgement executed before a
notary public and appended to a private instrument. Hence, a notary public
must discharge his powers and duties, which are impressed with public
interest, with accuracy and fidelity.

Not only did Atty. Ramos fail to comply with the Rule on Notarial Practice
when he notarized the deed of sale without the presence of the parties but
he likewise violated Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility
which obliges a lawyer to uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land
and promote respect for the law and legal processes; and Rule 1.01, Canon 1
of the Code of Professional Responsibility which proscribes a lawyer from
engaging in any unlawful, dishonest, immoral and deceitful conduct.[14]

As a lawyer commissioned as notary public, Atty. Ramos was mandated to


exercise the function of his office and must observe with utmost care the
basic formalities of his office and requisites in the performance of his
duties.[15] When Atty. Ramos affixed his signature and notarial seal on the
deed of sale, he led us to believe that the parties personally appeared before
him and attested to the truth and veracity of the contents thereof. His
conduct was fraught with dangerous possibilities considering the
conclusiveness on the due execution of a document that our courts and the
public accord on notarized documents.[16] Certainly, Atty. Ramos failed to
exercise the functions of the office and to comply with the mandates of the
law.

In the case of Santuyo v. Atty. Hidalgo,[17] the respondent lawyer similarly


denied having notarized the subject deed of sale. The Court found him
negligent not only in the supposed notarization but in allowing the office
secretaries to make the necessary entries in his notarial registry which was
supposed to be done and kept by him alone. He was suspended from his
commissioned as notary public and was disqualified from being
commissioned as notary public for a period of two years.

In the case of Ocampo-Ingcoco v. Atty. Yrreverre, Jr.,[18] the respondent


lawyer was suspended from the practice of law for a period of
six (6) months for notarizing a document without the appearance of the
parties. The Court held that a notary public should not notarize a document
unless the persons who signed it are the very same persons who executed
and personally appeared before him to attest to the truth of the contents
therein.

In line with these cases, the Court finds the suspension of Atty. Ramos for
six (6) months in order.

With respect to the allegation that Atty. Ramos was engaged in a private
practice while employed in the government service, the Court agrees with
the CBD that the issue should be brought before the Civil Service
Commission for the determination of his appropriate administrative
liability, if any.

Finally, this Court cannot ignore the averments of Atty. Ramos that there
were two (2) deeds of sale covering Transfer Certificate of Title No. CLOA-
T-15831. One was the April 24, 2009 Deed of Sale which was presented to
the Registry of Deeds of Bulacan, and the other one was the May 12, 2009
Deed of Sale which was kept on file at the Notarial Section of the RTC. Both
deeds were registered in the Notarial Registry of Atty. Ramos with
document number 354, page number 71 and Book VII series of 2009.
Because of this irregularity, the Court deems it proper to refer this matter to
the Bureau of Internal Revenue for the assessment of the correct tax and for
investigation for possible prosecution of the criminal liability of the culprits
under the National Internal Revenue Code.

WHEREFORE, finding Atty. Salvador P. Ramos GUILTY of violating the


Rule on Notarial Practice and Rule 1.01 and Canon 1 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, the Court hereby SUSPENDS him from the
practice of law for six (6) months; REVOKES his notarial commission,
effective immediately; and PERMANENTLY BARS him from being
commissioned as notary public, with a STERN WARNING that a
repetition of the same or similar conduct will be dealt with more severely.

Let copies of this decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant to be
attached to the personal record of Atty. Salvador P. Ramos; the Office of the
Court Administrator for dissemination to all lower courts; and the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines, for proper guidance and information.

The Civil Service Commission and the Bureau of Internal Revenue should
likewise be given copies of this decision for their appropriate actions.

SO ORDERED.

Sereno, C.J., Carpio, Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-De Castro, Peralta, Del


Castillo, Mendoza, Reyes, Perlas-Bernabe, Leonen, Jardeleza, Caguioa,
Martires; and Tijam, JJ., concur
Bersamin, J., no part.