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A.C. No.

10196 September 9, 2014

MELODY R. NERY, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. GLICERIO A. SAMPANA, Respondent.

RESOLUTION

CARPIO, Acting C.J.:

The Case

This is a disbarment complaint filed by Melody R. Nery (Nery) against Atty. Glicerio
A. Sampana (Sampana) for failing to file the petition for adoption despite receiving his
legal fees and for making Nery believe that the petition was already filed.

The Facts

In her verified complaint filed on 18 June 2010,1 Nery alleged that in June 2008, she
engaged the services of Sampana for the annulment of her marriage and for her
adoption by an alien adopter. The petition for annulment was eventually granted, and
Nery paid P200,000.00 to Sampana. As for the adoption, Sampana asked Nery if she
had an aunt, whom they could represent as the wife of her alien adopter. Sampana then
gave Nery a blurred copy of a marriage contract, which they would use for her adoption.
Thereafter, Nery paid Sampana P100,000.00, in installment: (a) P10,000.00 on 10
September 2008; (b) P50,000.00 on 2 October 2008; and (c) P40,000.00 on 17
November 2008. Nery no longer asked for receipts since she trusted Sampana.

On 14 February 2009, Sampana sent a text message informing Nery that he already filed
the petition for adoption and it was already published. Sampana further informed Nery
that they needed to rehearse before the hearing. Subsequently, Sampana told Nery that
the hearing was set on 5 March 2010 in Branch 11 of Malolos, Bulacan. When Nery
asked why she did not receive notices from the court, Sampana claimed that her
presence was no longer necessary because the hearing was only jurisdictional. Sampana
told Nery that the hearing was reset to 12 March 2010.

On 11 March 2010, Nery inquired from Branch 11 of Malolos, Bulacan about the status
of the petition for adoption and discovered that there was no such petition filed in the
court.2 Thus, in the afternoon of the same day, Nery met Sampana and sought the
reimbursement of the P100,000.00 she paid him. Sampana agreed, but said that he
would deduct the filing fee worth P12,000.00. Nery insisted that the filing fee should
not be deducted, since the petition for adoption was never filed. Thereafter, Nery
repeatedly demanded for the reimbursement of the P100,000.00 from Sampana, but the
demands were left unheeded.

In an Order dated 25 February 2011,3 the Integrated Bar of the Philippines


Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD), through Commissioner Atty. Eldrid C.
Antiquiera (Commissioner Antiquiera), stated that Sampana failed to file his answer to
the complaint and to appear during the mandatory conference. Thus, both parties were
directed to submit their position papers.

In her position paper,4 Nery reiterated her allegations in the complaint.

On the other hand, in his position paper dated 25 March 2011,5 Sampana argued that
Nery’s allegations were self-serving and unsubstantiated. However, Sampana admitted
receiving "one package fee" from Nery for both cases of annulment of marriage and
adoption. Sampana alleged that he initially frowned upon the proposed adoption
because of the old age, civil status and nationality of the alien adopter, but Nery insisted
on being adopted. Thus, Sampana suggested that "if the [alien] adopter would be
married to a close relative of [Nery], the intended [adoption by an alien] could be
possible." Sampana, then, required Nery to submit the documents, including the
marriage contracts and the certification of the alien’s qualification to adopt from the
Japanese Embassy (certification). Nery furnished the blurred marriage contract, but not
the certification. Sampana alleged that he prepared the petition for adoption but did not
file it because he was still waiting for the certification.

Sampana denied that he misled Nery as to the filing of the petition for adoption.
Sampana claimed that Nery could have mistaken the proceeding for the annulment case
with the petition for adoption, and that the annulment case could have overshadowed
the adoption case. In any case, Sampana committed to refund the amount Nery paid
him, after deducting his legal services and actual expenses.

The IBP’s Report and Recommendation

In his Report and Recommendation,6 Commissioner Antiquiera found Sampana guilty


of malpractice for making Nery believe that he already filed the petition for adoption
and for failing to file the petition despite receiving his legal fees. Thus, Commissioner
Antiquiera recommended a penalty of three (3) months suspension from the practice
of law.

In Resolution No. XX-2013-217 passed on 20 March 2013, the IBP Board of


Governors adopted and approved Commissioner Antiquiera’s report and
recommendation, as follows:
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED
and APPROVED, with modification, [t]he Report and Recommendation of the
Investigating Commissioner in the above-entitled case, herein made part of this
Resolution as Annex "A", and finding the recommendation fully supported by the
evidence on record and the applicable laws and rules and considering that Respondent
is guilty of malpractice by his failure to file a petition for adoption and made
complainant believe that he filed the petition in Court, Atty. Glicerio Sampana is hereby
SUSPENDED from the practice of law for three (3) months and ORDERED to
RETURN to complainant the amount of One Hundred Thousand (P100,000.00) Pesos
with legal interest within thirty days from receipt of notice.7

The Ruling of the Court

The recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors is well-taken, except as to the


penalty.

Acceptance of money from a client establishes an attorney-client relationship and gives


rise to the dutyof fidelity to the client’s cause.8 Every case accepted by a lawyer deserves
full attention, diligence, skill and competence, regardless of importance.9 A lawyer also
owes it to the court, their clients, and other lawyers to be candid and fair.10 Thus, the
Code of Professional Responsibility clearly states:

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

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

Rule 16.03 - A lawyer shall deliver the funds and property of his client when due or
upon demand. x x x.

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.

In the present case, Sampana admitted that he received "one package fee" for both cases
of annulment and adoption. Despite receiving this fee, he unjustifiably failed to file the
petition for adoption and fell short of his duty of due diligence and candor to his client.
Sampana’s proffered excuse of waiting for the certification before filing the petition for
adoption is disingenuous and flimsy. Inhis position paper, he suggested to Nery that if
the alien adopter would be married to her close relative, the intended adoption could
be possible. Under the Domestic Adoption Act provision, which Sampana suggested,
the alien adopter can jointly adopt a relative within the fourth degree of consanguinity
or affinity of his/her Filipino spouse, and the certification of the alien’s qualification to
adopt is waived.11

Having no valid reason not to file the petition for adoption, Sampana misinformed
Nery of the status of the petition.1âwphi1 He then conceded that the annulment case
overshadowed the petition for adoption. Verily, Sampana neglected the legal matter
entrusted tohim. He even kept the money given him, in violation of the Code’s mandate
to deliver the client’s funds upon demand. A lawyer’s failure to return upon demand
the funds held by him gives rise to the presumption that he has appropriated the same
for his own use, in violation of the trust reposed in him by his client and of the public
confidence in the legal profession.12

This is not the first administrative case filed against Sampana. In Lising v. Sampana,13
we already found Sampana guilty of violating Canon 1 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility for his unethical and illegal act relative to his double sale of a parcel of
land. We imposed upon him the penalty of suspension from the practice of law for one
(1) year and warned him that a repetition of a similar act shall be dealt with more
severely.

In Rollon v. Naraval,14 we imposed upon the respondent therein the penalty of


suspension from the practice of law for two (2) years for failing to render any legal
service after receiving the filing and partial service fee. Considering the serious
consequence of disbarment and the previous rulings of this Court, we deem it proper
to increase the penalty for Sampana’s malpractice and violation of the Code of
Professional Responsibility to suspension from the practice of law for three (3) years.

WHEREFORE, we SUSPEND Atty. Glicerio A. Sampana from the practice of law for
THREE (3) YEARS with a stern warning that a repetition of a similar act shall be dealt
with more severely. We also ORDER Atty. Glicerio A. Sampana to RETURN to
complainant Melody R. Nery the amount of One Hundred Thousand Pesos
(P100,000.00), with 12% interest per annum from the time of his receipt of the full
amount of money on 17 November 2008 until 30 June 2013, then 6% interest per
annum from 1 July 2013 until fully paid.

Let a copy of this resolution be furnished the Bar Confidant to be included in the
records of the respondent; the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for distribution to all
its chapters; and the Office of the Court Administrator for dissemination to all courts
throughout the country.

SO ORDERED.
REYES, J.:
This is an administrative complaint[1] filed by Michael Ruby (complainant) with the
Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)
against Atty. Erlinda B. Espejo (Atty. Espejo) and Atty. Rudolph Dilla Bayot (Atty.
Bayot) (respondents) for violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

The Facts

The complainant alleged that he and his mother, Felicitas Ruby Bihla (Felicitas),
engaged the services of the respondents in connection with a case for cancellation and
nullification of deeds of donation. Pursuant to the retainer agreement[2] dated August
29, 2009, the complainant and Felicitas would pay Atty. Espejo the amount of
P100,000.00 as acceptance fee, P70,000.00 of which was actually paid upon the
signing of the agreement and the remaining P30,000.00 to be paid after the hearing on
the prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO). The complainant
and Felicitas likewise agreed to pay the amount of P5,000.00 as appearance fee for
every hearing, which was apparently later reduced to P4,000.00.

On September 15, 2009, the complainant gave Atty. Espejo the amount of P50,000.00
as payment for filing fee.[3] On September 16, 2009, Atty. Espejo filed the complaint
for nullification and cancellation of deeds of donation with the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Quezon City, Branch 219. However, the actual filing fee that was paid by
her only amounted to P7,561.00;[4] she failed to account for the excess amount given
her despite several demand letters[5] therefor.

On September 23, 2009, Atty. Espejo allegedly asked the complainant to give Atty.
Bayot the amount of P30,000.00 the remaining balance of the acceptance fee agreed
upon notwithstanding that the prayer for the issuance of a TRO has yet to be
heard. The complainant asserted that the same was not yet due, but Atty. Espejo told
him that Atty. Bayot was in dire need of money. The complainant gave Atty. Bayot
the amount of P8,000.00 supposedly as partial payment for the balance of the
acceptance fee and an additional P4,000.00 as appearance fee for the September 22,
2009 hearing.[6]

On September 25, 2009, Atty. Espejo called the complainant informing him of the
need to file a separate petition for the issuance of a TRO. She allegedly asked for
P50,000.00 to be used as "representation fee." The complainant was able to bargain
with Atty. Espejo and gave her P20,000.00 instead.[7]

Meanwhile, on September 24, 2009, the RTC issued an Order[8] denying the
complainant's prayer for the issuance of a TRO. The complainant alleged that the
respondents failed to apprise him of the denial of his prayer for the issuance of a
TRO; that he only came to know of said denial on November 3, 2009 when he visited
the RTC.[9]

On October 23, 2009, the complainant deposited the amount of P4,000.00 to the
bank account of Atty. Bayot as appearance fee for the hearing on the motion to serve
summons through publications, which was set at 2:00 p.m. on even date. However,
Atty. Bayot allegedly did not appear in court and instead met with the complainant at
the lobby of the Quezon City Hall of Justice, telling them that he already talked to the
clerk of court who assured him that the court would grant their motion.[10]

Thereafter, the complainant alleged, the respondents failed to update him as to the
status of his complaint. He further claimed that Atty. Bayot had suddenly denied that
he was their counsel. Atty. Bayot asserted that it was Atty. Espejo alone who was the
counsel of the complainant and that he was merely a collaborating counsel.

In its Order[11] dated January 7, 2010, the IBP-CBD directed the respondents to
submit their respective answers to the complaint.

In his Answer,[12] Atty. Bayot claimed that he was not the counsel of the complainant;
that he merely assisted him and Atty. Espejo. He averred that Atty. Espejo, with the
complainant's consent, sought his help for the sole purpose of drafting a
complaint. He pointed out that it was Atty. Espejo who signed and filed the
complaint in the RTC.[13]

Atty. Bayot further pointed out that he had no part in the retainer agreement that was
entered into by the complainant, Felicitas, and Atty. Espejo. He also denied having
any knowledge as to the P50,000.00 that was paid to Atty. Espejo as filing fees.[14]

As to the P12,000.00 that was given him, he claimed that he was entitled to P4,000.00
thereof since the said amount was his appearance fee. He pointed out that he
appeared before the RTC's hearing for the issuance of a TRO on September 22,
2009. On the other hand, the P8,000.00 was paid to him as part of the acceptance
fee, which was then already due since the RTC had already heard their prayer for the
issuance of a TRO.[15]
He also denied any knowledge as to the P20,000.00 that was paid to Atty. Espejo
purportedly for "representation fee" that would be used to file a new petition for the
issuance of a TRO.[16]

Atty. Bayot admitted that he was the one who drafted the motion to serve summons
through publication, but pointed out that it was Atty. Espejo who signed and filed it
in the RTC. He also admitted that he was the one who was supposed to attend the
hearing of the said motion, but claimed that he was only requested to do so by Atty.
Espejo since the latter had another commitment. He denied requesting from the
complainant the amount of P4,000.00 as appearance fee, alleging that it was the latter
who insisted on depositing the same in his bank account.[17]

During the said hearing, Atty. Bayot claimed that when he checked the court's
calendar, he noticed that their motion was not included. Allegedly, the clerk of court
told him that she would just tell the judge to consider their motion submitted for
resolution.[18]

On the other hand, Atty. Espejo, in her Answer,[19] denied asking for P50,000.00 from
the complainant as filing fees. She insisted that it was the complainant who
voluntarily gave her the money to cover the filing fees. She further alleged that she
was not able to account for the excess amount because her files were destroyed when
her office was flooded due to a typhoon. She also denied having asked another
P50,000.00 from the complainant as "representation fee," asserting that the said
amount was for the payment of the injunction bond once the prayer for the issuance
of a TRO is issued.

Findings of the Investigating Commissioner

On May 3, 2011, after due proceedings, the Investigating Commissioner issued a


Report and Recommendation,[20] which recommended the penalty of censure against
the respondents. The Investigating Commissioner pointed out that Atty. Bayot and
the complainant had a lawyer-client relationship notwithstanding that the former was
not the counsel of record in the case. That his admission that he was a collaborating
counsel was sufficient to constitute a lawyer client relationship. Moreover,
considering that Atty. Bayot initially received the amount of P12,000.00 from the
complainant, the Investigating Commissioner opined that he can no longer deny that
he was the lawyer of the complainant. The Investigating Commissioner further found
that:
Parenthetically, Respondents had asked and demanded prompt payment of their
attorney's fees or appearance fees and even asked for amounts for dubious purposes
yet they, just the same, performed their duties to their clients leisurely and
lethargically. Worse, when the trusting Complainant had noticed that his case was
headed for disaster and wanted Respondents to explain their obviously slothful and
listless services, they disappeared or became evasive thus fortifying the conclusion that
they indeed have performed and carried out their duties to Complainant way below
the standards set by the Code of [P]rofessional Responsibility.[21]

Nevertheless, the Investigating Commissioner found that the complainant failed to


prove that he indeed suffered injury as a result of the respondents' conduct and,
accordingly, should only be meted the penalty of censure.

Findings of the IBP Board of Governors

On March 20, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors issued a Resolution,[22] which
adopted and approved the recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner, albeit
with the modification that the penalty imposed upon Atty. Espejo and Atty. Bayot
was increased from censure to suspension from the practice of law for a period of one
year.

Atty. Bayot moved to reconsider the Resolution dated March 20, 2013 issued by the
IBP Board of Governors.[23] The complainant likewise filed a motion for
reconsideration, asking the IBP Board of Governors to order the respondents to
refund to him the amount he paid to the respondents.[24] In the meantime, Atty.
Espejo passed away.[25]

On March 22, 2014, the IBP Board of Governors issued a Resolution,[26] which
dismissed the case insofar as Atty. Espejo in view of her demise. The IBP Board of
Governors affirmed Atty. Bayot's suspension from the practice of law for a period of
one year.

On December 3, 2014, the Court issued a Resolution,[27] which, inter alia, considered
the case closed and terminated as to Atty. Espejo on account of her
death. Accordingly, the Court's disquisition in this case would only be limited to the
liability of Atty. Bayot.

The Issue
The issue in this case is whether Atty. Bayot violated the Code of Professional
Responsibility, which would warrant the imposition of disciplinary sanction.

Ruling of the Court

After a thorough perusal of the respective allegations of the parties and the
circumstances of this case, the Court modifies the findings of the Investigating
Commissioner and the IBP Board of Governors.

Atty. Bayot claimed that he is not the counsel of record of the complainant in the case
before the RTC. He pointed out that he had no part in the retainer agreement
entered into by the complainant and Atty. Espejo. Thus, Atty. Bayot claimed, the
complainant had no cause of action against him.

The Court does not agree.

It is undisputed that Atty. Espejo was the counsel of record in the case that was filed
in the RTC. Equally undisputed is the fact that it was only Atty. Espejo who signed
the retainer agreement. However, the evidence on record, including Atty. Bayot's
admissions, points to the conclusion that a lawyer-client relationship existed between
him and the complainant.

Atty. Bayot was the one who prepared the complaint that was filed with the RTC. He
was likewise the one who prepared the motion to serve summons through
publication. He likewise appeared as counsel for the complainant in the hearings of
the case before the RTC. He likewise advised the complainant on the status of the
case.

More importantly, Atty. Bayot admitted that he received P8,000.00, which is part of
the acceptance fee indicated in the retainer agreement, from the complainant. It is
true that it was Atty. Espejo who asked the complainant to give Atty. Bayot the said
amount. However, Atty. Bayot admitted that he accepted from the complainant the
said P8,000.00 without even explaining what the said amount was for.

The foregoing circumstances clearly established that a lawyer-client relationship


existed between Atty. Bayot and the complainant. "Documentary formalism is not an
essential element in the employment of an attorney; the contract may be express or
implied. To establish the relation, it is sufficient that the advice and assistance of an
attorney is sought and received in any matter pertinent to his profession."[28] Further,
acceptance of money from a client establishes an attorney-client
relationship.[29] Accordingly, as regards the case before the RTC, the complainant had
two counsels Atty. Espejo and Atty. Bayot.

The Code of Professional Responsibility provides that:

CANON 16 A LAWYER SHALL HOLD IN TRUST ALL MONEYS AND


PROPERTIES OF HIS CLIENT THAT MAY COME INTO HIS POSSESSION.

Rule 16.01 A lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or received for
or from the client.

Rule 16.02 A lawyer shall keep the funds of each client separate and apart from his
own and those of others kept by him.

xxxx

CANON 18 A LAWYER SHALL SERVE HIS CLIENT WITH COMPETENCE


AND DILIGENCE.

xxxx

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

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

Accordingly, Atty. Bayot owes fidelity to the cause of the complainant and is obliged
to keep the latter informed of the status of his case. He is likewise bound to account
for all money or property collected or received from the complainant. He may be
held administratively liable for any inaptitude or negligence he may have had
committed in his dealing with the complainant.

In Del Mundo v. Capistrano,[30] the Court emphasized that:


Indeed, when a lawyer takes a client's cause, he covenants that he will exercise due
diligence in protecting the latter's rights. Failure to exercise that degree of vigilance
and attention expected of a good father of a family makes the lawyer unworthy of the
trust reposed on him by his client and makes him answerable not just to his client but
also to the legal profession, the courts and society. His workload does not justify
neglect in handling one's case because it is settled that a lawyer must only accept cases
as much as he can efficiently handle.

Moreover, a lawyer is obliged to hold in trust money of his client that may come to
his possession. As trustee of such funds, he is bound to keep them separate and apart
from his own. Money entrusted to a lawyer for a specific purpose such as for the
filing and processing of a case if not utilized, must be returned immediately upon
demand. Failure to return gives rise to a presumption that he has misappropriated it
in violation of the trust reposed on him. And the conversion of funds entrusted to
him constitutes gross violation of professional ethics and betrayal of public
confidence in the legal profession.[31] (Citations omitted)

Nevertheless, the administrative liability of a lawyer for any infractions of his duties
attaches only to such circumstances, which he is personally accountable for. It would
be plainly unjust if a lawyer would be held accountable for acts, which he did not
commit.

The Investigating Commissioner's findings, which was adopted by the IBP Board of
Governors, did not make a distinction as to which specific acts or omissions the
respondents are each personally responsible for. This is inequitable since either of the
respondents may not be held personally liable for the infractions committed by the
other.

Atty. Bayot may not be held liable for the failure to account for and return the excess
of the P50,000.00 which was paid by the complainant for the filing fees. The
evidence on record shows that it was Atty. Espejo alone who received the said
amount and that she was the one who paid the filing fees when the complaint was
filed with the RTC. That Atty. Bayot had no knowledge of the said amount paid by
the complainant for the filing fees is even admitted by the complainant himself during
the proceedings before the IBP-CBD, viz:

ATTY. BAYOT: So, Atty. Espejo ask you for P50,000[.00] as filing fee.

MR. RUBY: Admitted.


ATTY. BAYOT: That when he asked you about that, Atty. Bayot was not present.

MR. RUBY: Admitted.

xxxx

ATTY. BAYOT: That later on you gave Atty. Espejo the P50,000[.00].

MR. RUBY: Admitted.

ATTY. BAYOT: That Atty. Bayot was not also present at that time.

MR. RUBY: Admitted.

xxxx

ATTY. BAYOT: That never did Atty. Bayot ask you or followed-up from you the
P50,000[.00] that Atty. Espejo was asking as filing fee?

MR. RUBY: Admitted.

xxxx

MR. RUBY: You have nothing to do with the P50,000[.00] that was Atty. Espejo.[32]

Further, in her Answer, Atty. Espejo admitted that she was the one who failed to
account for the filing fees, alleging that the files in her office were destroyed by
flood. Likewise, the demand letters written by the complainant, which were seeking
the accounting for the ?50,000.00 filing fee, were all solely addressed to Atty. Espejo.
Clearly, Atty. Bayot may not be held administratively liable for the failure to account
for the filing fees.

Atty. Bayot cannot also be held liable for the P20,000.00 which Atty. Espejo asked
from the complainant for "representation fee." The complainant failed to adduce any
evidence that would establish that Atty. Bayot knew of and came into possession of
the said amount paid by the complainant.

On the other hand, Atty. Bayot is legally entitled to the P8,000.00 he received from
the complainant on September 23, 2009, the same being his share in the acceptance
fee agreed to by the complainant in the retainer agreement. He is likewise legally
entitled to the P4,000.00 from the complainant on even date as it is the payment for
his appearance fee in the hearing for the issuance of a TRO on September 22, 2009.

However, Atty. Bayot is not entitled to the P4,000.00 which the complainant
deposited to his bank account on October 23, 2009. Atty. Bayot admitted that there
was no hearing scheduled on the said date; their motion to serve summons through
publication was not included in the RTC's calendar that day. Accordingly, Atty. Bayot
is obliged to return the said amount to the complainant.

As regards the complainant's charge of gross neglect against Atty. Bayot, the Court
finds the same unsubstantiated. The Court has consistently held that in suspension or
disbarment proceedings against lawyers, the lawyer enjoys the presumption of
innocence, and the burden of proof rests upon the complainant to prove the
allegations in his complaint.[33]

A lawyer may be disbarred or suspended for gross misconduct or for transgressions


defined by the rules as grounds to strip a lawyer of professional license. Considering,
however, the serious consequences of either penalty, the Court will exercise its power
to disbar or suspend only upon a clear, convincing, and satisfactory proof of
misconduct that seriously affects the standing of a lawyer as an officer of the court
and as member of the bar.

The complainant merely alleged that, after the hearing on the motion to serve
summons through publication, the respondents had "made themselves scarce" and
failed to update him on the status of the case before the RTC. However, other than
his bare allegations, the complainant failed to present any evidence that would show
that Atty. Bayot was indeed remiss in his duties to the complainant.

However, the complainant's November 4, 2009 letter[34] to Atty. Espejo tells a


different story. In the said letter, the complainant asked Atty. Espejo to withdraw as
being the counsel of record in the case before the RTC in favor of Atty. Bayot since
he was the one who actually prepared the pleadings and attended the hearings of their
motions. In any case, the charge of neglect against Atty. Bayot was premature, if not
unfair, considering that,
at that time, the case before the RTC was still in the early stages; the pre-trial
and trial have not even started yet. That they lost their bid for the issuance of a TRO
is not tantamount to neglect on the part of Atty. Bayot.

However, Atty. Bayot is not entirely without fault. This administrative complaint was
brought about by his intervention when the complainant sought the legal services of
Atty. Espejo. Atty. Bayot undertook to prepare the complaint to be filed with the
RTC and the motion to serve summons through publication, attended the hearings,
and advised the complainant as to the status of the case without formally entering his
appearance as counsel of record. He was able to obtain remuneration for his legal
services sans any direct responsibility as to the progress of the case. Atty. Bayot is
reminded to be more circumspect in his dealings with clients.

WHEREFORE, Atty. Rudolph Dilla Bayot is hereby ADMONISHED to exercise


more prudence and judiciousness in dealing with his clients. He is also ordered to
return to Michael Ruby within fifteen (15) days from notice the amount of Four
Thousand Pesos (P4,000.00) representing his appearance fee received from the latter
on October 23, 2009 with a warning that failure on his part to do so will result in the
imposition of stiffer disciplinary action.
BERSAMIN, J.:
In this consolidated administrative case, complainants Jessie T. Campugan and Robert
C. Torres seek the disbarment of respondents Atty. Federico S. Tolentino, Jr., Atty.
Daniel F. Victorio, Jr., Atty. Renato G. Cunanan, Atty. Elbert T. Quilala and Atty.
Constante P. Caluya, Jr. for allegedly falsifying a court order that became the basis for
the cancellation of their annotation of the notice of adverse claim and the notice of lis
pendens in the Registry of Deeds in Quezon City.

Antecedents

Atty. Victorio, Jr. had replaced Atty. Edgardo Abad as counsel of the complainants in
a civil action they brought to seek the annulment of Transfer Certificate of Title
(TCT) No. N-290546 of the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City in the first week of
January 2007 in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Quezon City (Civil Case No. Q-07-
59598). They impleaded as defendants Ramon and Josefina Ricafort, Juliet Vargas and
the Register of Deeds of Quezon City. They caused to be annotated on TCT No. N-
290546 their affidavit of adverse claim, as well as the notice of lis pendens.[1] Atty.
Tolentino, Jr. was the counsel of defendant Ramon and Josefina Ricafort.

In their sworn complaint for disbarment dated April 23, 2009 (later docketed as A.C.
No. 8261),[2] the complainants narrated that as the surviving children of the late
Spouses Antonio and Nemesia Torres, they inherited upon the deaths of their parents
a residential lot located at No. 251 Boni Serrano Street, Murphy, Cubao, Quezon City
registered under Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. RT-64333(35652) of the
Register of Deeds of Quezon City;[3] that on August 24, 2006, they discovered that
TCT No. RT-64333(35652) had been unlawfully cancelled and replaced by TCT No.
N-290546 of the Register of Deeds of Quezon City under the names of Ramon and
Josefina Ricafort;[4]and that, accordingly, they immediately caused the annotation of
their affidavit of adverse claim on TCT No. N-290546.

It appears that the parties entered into an amicable settlement during the pendency of
Civil Case No. Q-07-59598 in order to end their dispute,[5] whereby the complainants
agreed to sell the property and the proceeds thereof would be equally divided between
the parties, and the complaint and counterclaim would be withdrawn respectively by
the complainants (as the plaintiffs) and the defendants. Pursuant to the terms of the
amicable settlement, Atty. Victorio, Jr. filed a Motion to Withdraw Complaint dated
February 26, 2008,[6] which the RTC granted in its order dated May 16, 2008 upon
noting the defendants' lack of objection thereto and the defendants' willingness to
similarly withdraw their counterclaim.[7]

The complainants alleged that from the time of the issuance by the RTC of the order
dated May 16, 2008, they could no longer locate or contact Atty. Victorio, Jr. despite
making several phone calls and visits to his office; that they found out upon
verification at the Register of Deeds of Quezon City that new annotations were made
on TCT No. N-290546, specifically: (1) the annotation of the letter-request appearing
to be filed by Atty. Tolentino, Jr.[8] seeking the cancellation of the affidavit of adverse
claim and the notice of lis pendensannotated on TCT No. N-290546; and (2) the
arinotation of the decision dated May 16, 2008 rendered in Civil Case No. Q-07-
59598 by the RTC, Branch 95, in Quezon City, granting the complainants' Motion to
Withdraw Complaint;[9] and that a copy of the letter-request dated June 30, 2008
addressed to Atty. Quilala, Registrar of Deeds of Quezon City, disclosed that it was
defendant Ramon Ricafort who had signed the letter.

Feeling aggrieved by their discovery, the complainants filed an appeal en consulta with
the Land Registration Authority (LRA), docketed as Consulta No. 4707, assailing the
unlawful cancellation of their notice of adverse claim and their notice of lis
pendens under primary entries PE-2742 and PE-3828-9, respectively. The LRA set
Consulta No. 4707 for hearing on March 30, 2009, and directed the parties to submit
their respective memoranda and/or supporting documents on or before such
scheduled hearing.[10] However, the records do not disclose whether Consulta No.
4707 was already resolved, or remained pending at the LRA.

Unable to receive any response or assistance from Atty. Victorio, Jr. despite their
having paid him for his professional services, the complainants felt that said counsel
had abandoned their case. They submitted that the cancellation of their notice of
adverse claim and their notice of lis pendens without a court order specifically allowing
such cancellation resulted from the connivance and conspiracy between Atty.
Victorio, Jr. and Atty. Tolentino, Jr., and from the taking advantage of their positions
as officials in the Registry of Deeds by respondents Atty. Quilala, the Chief Registrar,
and Atty. Cunanan, the acting Registrar and signatory of the new annotations. Thus,
they claimed to be thereby prejudiced.

On July 6, 2009, the Court required the respondents to comment on the verified
complaint.[11]

Atty. Victorio, Jr. asserted in his Comment dated August 17, 2009[12] that complainant
Robert Torres had been actively involved in the proceedings in Civil Case No. Q-07-
59598, which included the mediation process; that the complainants, after having
aggressively participated in the drafting of the amicable settlement, could not now
claim that they had been deceived into entering the agreement in the same way that
they could not feign ignorance of the conditions contained therein; that he did not
commit any abandonment as alleged, but had performed in good faith his duties as
the counsel for the complainants in Civil Case No. Q-07-59598; that he should not be
held responsible for their representation in other proceedings, such as that before the
LRA, which required a separate engagement; and that the only payment he had
received from the complainants were those for his appearance fees of P1,000.00 for
every hearing in the RTC.

In his Comment dated August 24, 2009,[13] Atty. Tolentino, Jr. refuted the charge of
conspiracy, stressing that he was not acquainted with the other respondents, except
Atty. Victorio, Jr. whom he had met during the hearings in Civil Case No. Q-07-
59598; that although he had notarized the letter-request dated June 30, 2008 of
Ramon Ricafort to the Register of Deeds, he had no knowledge about how said letter-
request had been disposed of by the Register of Deeds; and that the present
complaint was the second disbarment case filed by the complainants against him with
no other motive except to harass and intimidate him.

Atty. Quilala stated in his Comment dated September 1, 2009[14] that it was Atty.
Caluya, Jr., another Deputy Register of Deeds, who was the actual signing authority of
the annotations that resulted in the cancellation of the affidavit of adverse claim and
the notice of lis pendens on TCT No. N-290546; that the cancellation of the
annotations was undertaken in the regular course of official duty and in the exercise of
the ministerial duty of the Register of Deeds; that no irregularity occurred or was
performed in the cancellation of the annotations; and that the Register of Deeds was
impleaded in Civil Case No. Q-07-59598 only as a nominal party, thereby discounting
any involvement in the proceedings in the case.

Atty. Cunanan did not file any comment.[15]

As the result of Atty. Quilala's allegation in his Comment in A.C. No. 8261 that it had
been Atty. Caluya, Jr.'s signature that appeared below the cancelled entries, the
complainants filed another sworn disbarment complaint dated August 26, 2010
alleging that Atty. Caluya, Jr. had forged the signature of Atty. Cunanan.[16] This
disbarment complaint was docketed as A.C. No. 8725, and was later on consolidated
with A.C. No. 8261[17] because the complaints involved the same parties and rested on
similar allegations against the respondents.

Atty. Quilala filed his Comment in A.C. No. 8725 to belie the allegation of forgery
and to reiterate the arguments he had made in A.C. No. 8261.[18] On his part, Atty.
Caluya, Jr. manifested that he adopted Atty. Quilala's Comment.[19]

Ruling

We dismiss the complaints for disbarment for being bereft of merit.

Well entrenched in this jurisdiction is the rule that a lawyer may be disciplined for
misconduct committed either in his professional or private capacity. The test is
whether his conduct shows him to be wanting in moral character, honesty, probity,
and good demeanor, or whether his conduct renders him unworthy to continue as an
officer of the Court.[20] Verily, Canon 7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility mandates
all lawyers to uphold at all times the dignity and integrity of the Legal Profession.
Lawyers are similarly required under Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the same Code not to
engage in any unlawful, dishonest and immoral or deceitful conduct. Failure to
observe these tenets of the Code of Professional Responsibility exposes the lawyer to
disciplinary sanctions as provided in Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, as
amended, viz.:

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 the
admission to practice, or for a wilful disobedience appearing as an attorney for a party
to a case without authority so to do. The practice of soliciting cases at law for the
purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or brokers, constitutes
malpractice.
The complainants' allegations of the respondents' acts and omissions are insufficient
to establish any censurable conduct against them.

Section 10 of Presidential Decree No. 1529 (Property Registration Decree) enumerates the
general duties of the Register of Deeds, as follows:

Section 10. General functions of Registers of Deeds. - x x x

It shall be the duty of the Register of Deeds to immediately register an instrument


presented for registration dealing with real or personal property which complies with
all the requisites for registration. He shall see to it that said instrument bears the
proper documentary science stamps and that the same are properly canceled. If the
instrument is not registrable, he shall forthwith deny registration thereof and inform
the presenter of such denial in writing, stating the ground or reason therefor, and
advising him of his right to appeal by consulta in accordance with Section 117 of this
Decree. (Emphasis supplied)
The aforementioned duty of the Register of Deeds is ministerial in nature.[21] A purely
ministerial act or duty is one that an officer or tribunal performs in a given state of
facts, in a prescribed manner, in obedience to the mandate of a legal authority,
without regard to or the exercise of his own judgment upon the propriety or
impropriety of the act done. If the law imposes a duty upon a public officer and gives
him the right to decide how or when the duty shall be performed, such duty is
discretionary, not ministerial. The duty is ministerial only when its discharge requires
neither the exercise of official discretion nor the exercise of judgment.[22]

In Gabriel v. Register of Deeds of Rizal,[23] the Court underscores that registration is a


merely ministerial act of the Register of Deeds, explaining:

xxx [W]hether the document is invalid, frivolous or intended to harass, is not the duty
of a Register of Deeds to decide, but a court of competent jurisdiction, and that it is
his concern to see whether the documents sought to be registered conform with the
formal and legal requirements for such documents.
In view of the foregoing, we find no abuse of authority or irregularity committed by
Atty. Quilala, Atty. Cunanan, and Atty. Caluya, Jr. with respect to the cancellation of
the notice of adverse claim and the notice of lis pendens annotated on TCT No. N-
290546. Whether or not the RTC order dated May 16, 2008 or the letter-request dated
June 30, 2008 had been falsified, fraudulent or invalid was not for them to determine
inasmuch as their duty to examine documents presented for registration was limited
only to what appears on the face of the documents. If, upon their evaluation of the
letter-request and the RTC order, they found the same to be sufficient in law and t]o
be in conformity with existing requirements, it became obligatory for them to perform
their ministerial duty without unnecessary delay.[24]

Should they be aggrieved by said respondents' performance of duty, complainants


were not bereft of any remedy because they could challenge the performance of duty
by bringing the matter by way of consulta with the LRA, as provided by Section
117[25] of Presidential Decree No. 1529. But, as enunciated in Gabriel v. Register of Deeds
of Rizal,[26] it was ultimately within the province of a court of competent jurisdiction to
resolve issues concerning the validity or invalidity of a document registered by the
Register of Deeds.
The complainants charge Atty. Victorio, Jr. and Atty. Tolentino, Jr. with having
conspired with each other to guarantee that the parties in Civil Case No. Q-59598
would enter into the amicable settlement, and then to cause the cancellation of the
affidavit of adverse claim and notice of lis pendens annotated on TCT No. N-290546.
The complainants further fault Atty. Victorio, Jr. with having abandoned their cause
since the issuance of the RTC of its order dated May 16, 2008.

The complainants' charges are devoid of substance.

Although it is not necessary to prove a formal agreement in order to establish


conspiracy because conspiracy may be inferred from the circumstances attending the
commission of an act, it is nonetheless essential that conspiracy be established by clear
and convincing evidence.[27] The complainants failed in this regard. Outside of their
bare assertions that Atty. Victorio, Jr. and Atty. Tolentino, Jr. had conspired with each
other in order to cause the dismissal of the complaint and then discharge of the
annotations, they presented no evidence to support their allegation of conspiracy. On
the contrary, the records indicated their own active pjarticipation in arriving at the
amicable settlement with the defendants in Civil Case No. Q-07-59598. Hence, they
could not now turn their backs on the amicable settlement that they had themselves
entered into.

Even assuming that Atty. Victorio, Jr. and Atty. Tolentino, Jr. initiated ahd
participated in the settlement of the case, there was nothing wrong in their doing so.
It was actually their obligation as lawyers to do so, pursuant to Rule 1.04, Canon 1 of
the Code of Professional Responsibility, viz.:

RULE 1.04 - A lawyer shall encourage his clients to avoid, end or settle a controversy
if it will admit of a fair settlement.
In fine, the presumption of the validity of the amicable settlement of the
complainants and the defendants in Civil Case No. Q-07-59598 subsisted.[28]

Anent the complainants' charge of abandonment against Atty. Victorio, Jr., Rule 18.03
and Rule 18.04, Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility are applicable, to wit:

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.
There is no issue that the complainants engaged the services of Atty. Victorio, Jr. as
their counsel in Civil Case No. Q-07-59598. Atty. Victorio, Jr. served as such counsel.
With Atty. Victorio, Jr. assistance, the complainants obtained a fair settlement
consisting in receiving half of the proceeds of the sale of the property in litis, without
any portion of the proceeds accruing to counsel as his legal fees. The complainants
did not competently and persuasively show any unfaithfulness on the part of Atty.
Victorio, Jr. as far as their interest in the litigation was concerned. Hence, Atty.
Victorio, Jr. was not liable for abandonment.

Atty. Victorio, Jr. could not be faulted for the perceived inattention to any other
matters subsequent to the termination of Civil Case No. Q-07-59598. Unless
otherwise expressly stipulated between them at any time during the engagement, the
complainants had no right to assume that Atty. Victorio, Jr.'s legal representation was
indefinite as to extend to his representation of them in the LRA. The Law Profession
did not burden its members with the responsibility of indefinite service to the clients;
hence, the rendition of professional services depends on the agreement between the
attorney and the client. Atty. Victorio, Jr.'s alleged failure to respond to the
complainants' calls or visits, or to provide them with his whereabouts to enable them
to have access to him despite the termination of his engagement in Civil Case No. Q-
07-59598 did not equate to abandonment without the credible showing that he
continued to come under the professional obligation towards them after the
termination of Civil Case No. Q-07-59598.

WHEREFORE, the Court DISMISSES the baseless disbarment complaints against


Atty. Federico S. Tolentino, Jr., Atty. Renato G. Cunanan, Atty. Daniel F. Victorio,
Jr., Atty. Elbert T. Quilala and Atty. Constante P. Caluya, Jr.
JOSEFINA M. ANIÑON, COMPLAINANT, VS. ATTY. CLEMENCIO SABITSANA, JR.,

RESPONDENT.

Facts:

Josefina M. Aniñon (complainant) had previously engaged the legal services of Atty. Sabitsana in the preparation and
execution in her favor of a Deed of Sale over a parcel of land owned by her late common-law husband, Brigido Caneja, Jr.
Atty. Sabitsana allegedly violated her confidence when he subsequently filed a civil case against her for the annulment of
the Deed of Sale in behalf of Zenaida L. Cañete, the legal wife of Brigido Caneja, Jr. The complainant accused Atty. Sabitsana
of using the confidential information he obtained from her in filing the civil case.

Atty. Sabitsana admitted having advised the complainant in the preparation and execution of the Deed of Sale. However, he
denied having received any confidential information. Atty. Sabitsana asserted that the present disbarment complaint was
instigated by one Atty. Gabino Velasquez, Jr., the notary of the disbarment complaint who lost a court case against him
(Atty. Sabitsana) and had instigated the complaint for this reason.

In a resolution dated February 27, 2004, the IBP Board of Governors resolved to adopt and approve the Report and
Recommendation of the IBP Commissioner after finding it to be fully supported by the evidence on record and Respondent
was suspended from the practice of law for a period of one year.

Atty. Sabitsana moved to reconsider the above resolution, but the IBP Board of Governors denied his motion.

The Issue

Whether Atty. Sabitsana is guilty of misconduct for representing conflicting interests.

The Court’s Ruling

The SC agreed with the findings and recommendations of the IBP Commissioner and the IBP Board of Governors. The SC
rules that the relationship between a lawyer and his/her client should ideally be imbued with the highest level of trust and
confidence. This is the standard of confidentiality that must prevail to promote a full disclosure of the client’s most
confidential information to his/her lawyer for an unhampered exchange of information between them. Needless to state, a
client can only entrust confidential information to his/her lawyer based on an expectation from the lawyer of utmost
secrecy and discretion; the lawyer, for his part, is duty-bound to observe candor, fairness and loyalty in all dealings and
transactions with the client. Part of the lawyer’s duty in this regard is to avoid representing conflicting interests, a matter
covered by Rule 15.03, Canon 15 of the Code of Professional Responsibility

Jurisprudence has provided three tests in determining whether a violation of the above rule is present in a given case.

One test is whether a lawyer is duty-bound to fight for an issue or claim in behalf of one client and, at the same time, to
oppose that claim for the other client. Thus, if a lawyer’s argument for one client has to be opposed by that same lawyer in
arguing for the other client, there is a violation of the rule.

Another test of inconsistency of interests is whether the acceptance of a new relation would prevent the full discharge of
the lawyer’s duty of undivided fidelity and loyalty to the client or invite suspicion of

unfaithfulness or double-dealing in the performance of that duty. Still another test is whether the lawyer would be called
upon in the new relation to use against a former client any confidential information acquired through their connection or
previous employment

On the basis of the attendant facts of the case, substantial evidence proved to support Atty. Sabitsana’s violation of the
above rule: first, he filed a case against the complainant in behalf of Zenaida Cañete; second, he impleaded the complainant
as the defendant in the case; and third, the case he filed was for the annulment of the Deed of Sale that he had previously
prepared and executed for the complainant.

By his acts, not only did Atty. Sabitsana agree to represent one client against another client in the same action; he also
accepted a new engagement that entailed him to contend and oppose the interest of his other client in a property in which
his legal services had been previously retained.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court resolves to ADOPT the findings and recommendations of the Commission on
Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. Atty. Clemencio C. Sabitsana, Jr. is found GUILTY of misconduct for
representing conflicting interests in violation of Rule 15.03, Canon 15 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. He is
hereby SUSPENDED for one (1) year from the practice of law.
A.C. No. 9537 June 10, 2013
(Formerly CBD Case No. 09-2489)

DR. TERESITA LEE, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. AMADOR L. SIMANDO, Respondent.

DECISION

PERALTA, J.:

Before us is a Petition for Disbarment1 dated July 21, 2009 filed by Dr. Teresita Lee (Dr. Lee) against
respondent Atty. Amador L. Simando (Atty. Simando) before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-
Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD), docketed as CBD Case No. 09-2489, now A.C. No. 9537,
for violation of the Code of Judicial Ethics of Lawyers.

The facts of the case, as culled from the records, are as follows:

Atty. Simando was the retained counsel of complainant Dr. Lee from November 2004 until January
8, 2008, with a monthly retainer fee of Three Thousand Pesos (Php3,000.00).2

Sometime during the above-mentioned period, Atty. Simando went to see Dr. Lee and asked if the
latter could help a certain Felicito M. Mejorado (Mejorado) for his needed funds. He claimed that
Mejorado was then awaiting the release of his claim for informer's reward from the Bureau of
Customs. Because Dr. Lee did not know Mejorado personally and she claimed to be not in the
business of lending money, the former initially refused to lend money. But Atty. Simando allegedly
persisted and assured her that Mejorado will pay his obligation and will issue postdated checks and
sign promissory notes. He allegedly even offered to be the co-maker of Mejorado and assured her
that Mejorado's obligation will be paid when due. Atty. Simando was quoted saying: "Ipapahamak ba
kita, kliyente kita"; "Sigurado ito, kung gusto mo, gagarantiyahan ko pa ito, at pipirma din ako";
"Isang buwan lang, at hindi hihigit sa dalawang buwan ito, bayad ka na."3

Due to Atty. Simando's persistence, his daily calls and frequent visits to convince Dr. Lee, the latter
gave in to her lawyer's demands, and finally agreed to give Mejorado sizeable amounts of money.
Respondent acted as co-maker with Mejorado in various cash loans, to wit:4

Date: Amount
November 11, 2006 Php 400,000.00

November 24, 2006 200,000.00

November 27, 2006 400,000.00


December 7, 2006 200,000.00
December 13, 2006 200,000.00
Total: Php1,400,000.00

When the said obligation became due, despite Dr. Lee's repeated demands, Mejorado failed and
refused to comply with his obligation. Since Atty. Simando was still her lawyer then, Dr. Lee
instructed him to initiate legal action against Mejorado. Atty. Simando said he would get in touch with
Mejorado and ask him to pay his obligation without having to resort to legal action. However, even
after several months, Mejorado still failed to pay Dr. Lee, so she again asked Atty. Simando why no
payment has been made yet. Dr. Lee then reminded Atty. Simando that he was supposed to be the
co-maker of the obligation of Mejorado, to which he replied: "Di kasuhan din ninyo ako!"5

Despite complainant's repeated requests, respondent ignored her and failed to bring legal actions
against Mejorado. Thus, in January 2008, complainant was forced to terminate her contract with
Atty. Simando.

Subsequently, complainant's new lawyer, Atty. Gilbert Morandarte, sent a demand letter dated June
13, 2008 to Atty. Simando in his capacity as the co-maker of some of the loans of Mejorado.

In his Letter dated June 30, 2008, respondent denied his liability as a co-maker and claimed that
novation had occurred because complainant had allegedly given additional loans to Mejorado
without his knowledge.6

Dr. Lee then accused Atty. Simando of violating the trust and confidence which she gave upon him
as her lawyer, and even took advantage of their professional relationship in order to get a loan for
his client. Worse, when the said obligation became due, respondent was unwilling to help her to
favor Mejorado. Thus, the instant petition for disbarment against Atty. Simando.

On August 12, 2009, the IBP-CBD ordered respondent to submit his Answer on the complaint
against him.7

In his Answer8 dated September 17, 2009, Atty. Simando claimed that complainant, who is engaged
in lending money at a high interest rate, was the one who initiated the financial transaction between
her and Mejorado. He narrated that complainant asked him if it is true that Mejorado is his client as
she found out that Mejorado has a pending claim for informer's reward with the Bureau of Customs.
When he affirmed that Mejorado is his client, complainant signified that she is willing to give money
for Mejorado's financial needs while awaiting for the release of the informer's reward. Eventually,
parties agreed that Mejorado will pay double the amount and that payment shall be made upon
receipt by Mejorado of the payment of his claim for informer's reward.9

Meanwhile, Atty. Simando stressed that Dr. Lee gave Mejorado a total of Php700,000.00 as an
investment but he signed as co-maker in all the receipts showing double the amount or
Php1,400,000.00.10

Respondent claimed that complainant is a money-lender exacting high interest rates from
borrowers.11 He narrated several instances and civil cases where complainant was engaged in
money-lending where he divulged that even after defendants had already paid their loan,
complainant still persists in collecting from them.12 Respondent asserted that he knew of these
transactions, because he was among the four lawyers who handled complainant's case.13

Respondent averred that from the time that Mejorado and Dr. Lee had become close to each other,
the latter had given Mejorado additional investments and one (1) Silverado Pick-up at the price of
₱500,000.00 and fifty (50) sacks of old clothings. He claimed that the additional investments made
by Dr. Lee to Mejorado were given without his knowledge.

Atty. Simando further alleged that with Dr. Lee's investment of around ₱2 Million which included the
Silverado Pick-up and the fifty (50) sacks of old clothings, the latter required Mejorado to issue five
(5) checks with a total value of ₱7,033,500.00, an amount more than the actual value which
Mejorado received.14

Atty. Simando added that while Dr. Lee and Mejorado agreed that the issued checks shall be
presented to the bank only upon payment of his informer's reward, Dr. Lee presented the checks to
the bank despite being aware that Mejorado's account had no funds for said checks. Atty. Simando
further denied that he refused to take legal action against Mejorado. He claimed that complainant
never instructed him to file legal action, since the latter knew that Mejorado is obligated to pay only
upon receipt of his informer's reward.

Finally, Atty. Simando insisted that he did not violate their lawyerclient relationship, since Dr. Lee
voluntarily made the financial investment with Mejorado and that he merely introduced complainant
to Mejorado. He further claimed that there is no conflict of interest because he is Mejorado's lawyer
relative to the latter's claim for informer's reward, and not Mejorado's lawyer against Dr. Lee. He
reiterated that there is no conflicting interest as there was no case between Mejorado and Dr. Lee
that he is handling for both of them.15

In her Reply dated October 30, 2009, Dr. Lee denied that what she entered into was a mere
investment. She insisted that she lent the money to Mejorado and respondent, in his capacity as co-
maker and the transaction was actually a loan.16 To prove her claim, Dr. Lee submitted the written
loan agreements/receipts which categorically stated that the money received was a loan with due
dates, signed by Mejorado and respondent as co-maker.17 She further claimed that she did not know
Mejorado and it was respondent who brought him to her and requested her to assist Mejorado by
lending him money as, in fact, respondent even vouched for Mejorado and agreed to sign as co-
maker.

Complainant further emphasized that what she was collecting is the payment only of the loan
amounting to One Million Four Hundred Thousand Pesos (Php1,400,000.00) which respondent had
signed as co-maker. Thus, respondent's claim that his obligation was already extinguished by
novation holds no water, since what was being collected is merely his obligation pertaining to the
loan amounting to Php1,400,000.00 only, and nothing more.

Finally, complainant lamented that respondent, in his comments, even divulged confidential
informations he had acquired while he was still her lawyer and even used it against her in the
present case, thus, committing another unethical conduct. She, therefore, maintained that
respondent is guilty of violating the lawyer-client confidentiality rule.

Both parties failed to appear during the mandatory conference on January 15, 2010. Both parties
requested for resetting of the mandatory conference, however, both failed to agree on a certain date.
Hence, the IBP, so as not to delay the disposition of the complaint, terminated the mandatory
conference and instead required the parties to submit their respective position papers.18

On March 18, 2010, the IBP-CBD found Atty. Simando guilty of violating the Code of Professional
Responsibility. It recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for six (6)
months.
On December 29, 2010, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the Report and
Recommendation of the IBP-CBD to suspend Atty. Simando from the practice of law for a period of
six (6) months.

Respondent moved for reconsideration.

On March 10, 2012, the IBP Board of Governors granted respondent's motion for reconsideration for
lack of sufficient evidence to warrant the penalty of suspension. The Resolution dated December 29,
2010 was reversed and the case against respondent was dismissed.

RULING

We reverse the ruling of the IBP Board of Governors.

Jurisprudence has provided three tests in determining whether a lawyer is guilty of representing
conflicting interest:

One test is whether a lawyer is duty-bound to fight for an issue or claim in behalf of one client and, at
the same time, to oppose that claim for the other client. Thus, if a lawyer’s argument for one client
has to be opposed by that same lawyer in arguing for the other client, there is a violation of the rule.

Another test of inconsistency of interests is whether the acceptance of a new relation would prevent
the full discharge of the lawyer’s duty of undivided fidelity and loyalty to the client or invite suspicion
of unfaithfulness or double-dealing in the performance of that duty. Still another test is whether the
lawyer would be called upon in the new relation to use against a former client any confidential
information acquired through their connection or previous employment.19

In the instant case, we find substantial evidence to support respondent's violation of the above
parameters, as established by the following circumstances on record:

First, it is undisputed that there was a lawyer-client relationship between complainant and Atty.
Simando as evidenced by the retainer fees received by respondent and the latter's representation in
certain legal matters pertaining to complainant's business;

Second, Atty. Simando admitted that Mejorado is another client of him albeit in a case claiming
rewards against the Bureau of Customs;

Third, Atty. Simando admitted that he was the one who introduced complainant and Mejorado to
each other for the purpose of entering into a financial transaction while having knowledge that
complainant's interests could possibly run in conflict with Mejorado's interests which ironically such
client's interests, he is duty-bound to protect;

Fourth, despite the knowledge of the conflicting interests between his two clients, respondent
consented in the parties' agreement and even signed as co-maker to the loan agreement;

Fifth, respondent's knowledge of the conflicting interests between his two clients was demonstrated
further by his own actions, when he:

(a) failed to act on Mejorado's failure to pay his obligation to complainant despite the latter's
instruction to do so;
(b) denied liability despite signing as co-maker in the receipts/promissory notes arising from
the loan agreement between his two clients;

(c) rebutted complainant's allegations against Mejorado and him, and even divulged
informations he acquired while he was still complainant's lawyer.

Clearly, it is improper for respondent to appear as counsel for one party (complainant as creditor)
against the adverse party (Mejorado as debtor) who is also his client, since a lawyer is prohibited
from representing conflicting interests. He may not, without being guilty of professional misconduct,
act as counsel for a person whose interest conflict with that of his present or former client.

Respondent's assertion that there is no conflict of interest because complainant and respondent are
his clients in unrelated cases fails to convince. His representation of opposing clients in both cases,
though unrelated, obviously constitutes conflict of interest or, at the least, invites suspicion of double-
dealing.20 Moreover, with the subject loan agreement entered into by the complainant and Mejorado,
who are both his clients, readily shows an apparent conflict of interest, moreso when he signed as
co-maker.

Likewise, respondent's argument that the money received was an investment and not a loan is
difficult to accept, considering that he signed as co-maker. Respondent is a lawyer and it is
objectionable that he would sign as co-maker if he knew all along that the intention of the parties
was to engage in a mere investment. Also, as a lawyer, signing as a co-maker, it can be
presupposed that he is aware of the nature of suretyship and the consequences of signing as co-
maker. Therefore, he cannot escape liability without exposing himself from administrative liability, if
not civil liability. Moreover, we noted that while complainant was able to show proof of receipts of
various amounts of money loaned and received by Mejorado, and signed by the respondent as co-
maker, the latter, however, other than his bare denials, failed to show proof that the money given
was an investment and not a loan.

It must be stressed that the proscription against representation of conflicting interests finds
application where the conflicting interests arise with respect to the same general matter however
slight the adverse interest may be. It applies even if the conflict pertains to the lawyer’s private
activity or in the performance of a function in a non-professional capacity. In the process of
determining whether there is a conflict of interest, an important criterion is probability, not certainty,
of conflict.21

We likewise note that respondent offered several excuses in order to avoid payment of his
liability. First, in his Answer to complainant's demand letter, he claimed there was novation which
1âw phi 1

extinguished his liability; Secondly, he claimed that the amount received by Mejorado for which he
signed as co-maker was merely an investment and not a loan. Finally, he alleged that it was agreed
that the investment with profits will be paid only after Mejorado receives the payment for his claim for
reward which complainant violated when she presented the checks for payment prematurely. These
actuations of Atty. Simando do not speak well of his reputation as a lawyer.22

Finally, we likewise find respondent guilty of violating Rule 21.01 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility.23 In his last-ditch effort to impeach the credibility of complainant, he divulged
informations24 which he acquired in confidence during the existence of their lawyer-client
relationship.

We held in Nombrado v. Hernandez25 that the termination of the relation of attorney and client
provides no justification for a lawyer to represent an interest adverse to or in conflict with that of the
former client. The reason for the rule is that the client’s confidence once reposed cannot be divested
by the expiration of the professional employment. Consequently, a lawyer should not, even after the
severance of the relation with his client, do anything which will injuriously affect his former client in
any matter in which he previously represented him nor should he disclose or use any of the client's
confidences acquired in the previous relation.

Accordingly, we reiterate that lawyers are enjoined to look at any representation situation from "the
point of view that there are possible conflicts," and further, "to think in terms of impaired loyalty" that
is to evaluate if his representation in any way will impair loyalty to a client.26

WHEREFORE, premises considered, this Court resolves to ADOPT the findings and
recommendation of the IBP in Resolution No. XIX-20 10-733 suspending respondent Atty. Amador
L. Simando for six ( 6) months from the practice of law, with a WARNING that a repetition of the
same or similar offense will warrant a more severe penalty.

Let copies of this Decision be furnished all courts, the Office of the Bar Confidant and the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines for their information and guidance. The Office of the Bar Confidant is
DIRECTED to append a copy of this Decision to respondent's record as member of the Bar.

Atty. Simando is DIRECTED to inform the Court of the date of his receipt of this Decision so that we
can determine the reckoning point when his suspension shall take effect.

This Decision shall be immediately executory.

SO ORDERED.
EN BANC

A.C. No. 6664 July 16, 2013

FERDINAND A. SAMSON, Complainant, vs.


ATTY. EDGARDO O. ERA, Respondent.

The complainant and his relatives were among the investors who fell prey to the pyramiding scam
perpetrated by ICS Corporation led by Emilia Sison and several others. They engaged the services of Atty.
Era to represent and assist him and his relatives in the prosecution of criminal case against Sison and her
group.

Pursuant to the engagement, Atty. Era prepared the demand letter demanding the return or refund of
the money subject of their complaints. He also prepared the complaint-affidavit that Samson signed and
swore to and subsequently presented to the Office of the City Prosecutor of Quezon City (OCPQC). After
the preliminary investigation, the OCPQC formally charged Sison and the others with several counts of
estafa in the Regional Trial Court, Branch 96 (RTC), in Quezon City.

In April 2003, Atty. Era called a meeting with Samson and his relatives to discuss the possibility of an
amicable settlement with Sison and her cohorts. He told Samson and the others that undergoing a trial of
the cases would just be a waste of time, money and effort for them, and that they could settle the cases
with Sison and her group, with him guaranteeing the turnover to them of a certain property located in
Antipolo City belonging to ICS Corporation in exchange for their desistance. They acceded and executed
the affidavit of desistance he prepared, and in turn they received a deed of assignment covering land
registered under Transfer Certificate of Title No. R-4475 executed by Sison in behalf of ICS Corporation.

After an amicable settlement and several negotiations with Sison and her cohorts, Atty. Era expressed
that he already accomplished his professional responsibility towards Samson. They also later found out
that they could not liquidate the property subject to the amicable settlement. During the hearings in the
RTC, Atty. Era did not anymore appear for Samson and his group. They found out that Atty. Era had already
been entering his appearance as the counsel for Sison in her other criminal cases involving the same
pyramiding scam.

On January 20, 2005, Samson executed an affidavit alleging the foregoing antecedents and prayed for Atty.
Era’s disbarment on the ground of his violation of the trust, confidence and respect reposed in him as their
counsel.

Atty. Era was required to file his Comment. After several extensions, Atty. Era finally filed his Comment on
April 11, 2006 in the OBC. He alleged that the lawyer-client relationship ended when Samson and his
group entered into the compromise settlement.

The case was referred to IBP for investigation, report and recommendation.

IBP Recommendation: the Investigating Commissioner found Atty. Era guilty of misconduct for
representing conflicting interests, failing to serve his client with competence and diligence and champion
the latter’s cause with wholehearted fidelity, care and devotion – suspended from the practice of law for
6 months
IBP Board of Governors: adopted and approved the IBP recommendation with modification that Atty. Era
be suspended from the practice of law for 2 years.

Issue:
Whether or not Atty. Era violated the Code of Professional Responsibility on conflict of interests.

Ruling.
YES. The Supreme Court affirmed the findings of the IBP.

The lawyer-client relationship did not terminate when the parties entered into a compromise settlement, for
the fact remained that he still needed to oversee the implementation of the settlement as well as to proceed
with the criminal cases until they were dismissed or otherwise concluded by the trial court. It is also relevant
to indicate that the execution of a compromise settlement in the criminal cases did not ipso facto cause the
termination of the cases not only because the approval of the compromise by the trial court was still
required, but also because the compromise would have applied only to the civil aspect, and excluded the
criminal aspect pursuant to Article 2034 of the Civil Code.

Rule 15.03, Canon 15 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides that: "A lawyer shall not
represent conflicting interests except by written consent of all concerned given after a full disclosure of the
facts." Atty. Era thus owed to Samson and his group entire devotion to their genuine interest, and warm
zeal in the maintenance and defense of their rights. He was expected to exert his best efforts and ability to
preserve the clients’ cause, for the unwavering loyalty displayed to his clients likewise served the ends of
justice.

Contrary to Atty. Era’s ill-conceived attempt to explain his disloyalty to Samson and his group, the
termination of the attorney-client relationship does not justify a lawyer to represent an interest adverse to
or in conflict with that of the former client. The spirit behind this rule is that the client’s confidence once
given should not be stripped by the mere expiration of the professional employment. Even after the
severance of the relation, a lawyer should not do anything that will injuriously affect his former client in any
matter in which the lawyer previously represented the client. Nor should the lawyer disclose or use any of
the client’s confidences acquired in the previous relation. In this regard, Canon 17 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility expressly declares that: "A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he
shall be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him."

The lawyer’s highest and most unquestioned duty is to protect the client at all hazards and costs even to
himself. The protection given to the client is perpetual and does not cease with the termination of the
litigation, nor is it affected by the client’s ceasing to employ the attorney and retaining another, or by any
other change of relation between them. It even survives the death of the client.

In the absence of the express consent from Samson and his group after full disclosure to them of the conflict
of interest, therefore, the most ethical thing for Atty. Era to have done was either to outrightly decline
representing and entering his appearance as counsel for Sison, or to advice Sison to engage another lawyer
for herself. Unfortunately, he did neither, and should now suffer the proper sanction.

WHEREFORE, the Court FINDS and PRONOUNCES Atty. EDGARDO O. ERA guilty of violating Rule
15.03 of Canon 15, and Canon 17 of the Code of Professional Responsibility; and SUSPENDS him from
the practice of law for two years effective upon his receipt of this decision, with a warning that his
commission of a similar offense will be dealt with more severely.

NOTES:
Prohibition against conflict of interest rests on 5 rationales, rendered as follows:

1st : the law seeks to assure clients that their lawyers will represent them with undivided loyalty

2nd : the prohibition against conflicts of interest seeks to enhance the effectiveness of legal representation
3rd : a client has a legal right to have the lawyer safeguard the client’s confidential information
4th : conflicts rules help ensure that lawyers will not exploit clients, such as by inducing a client to make a
gift to the lawyer

5th : some conflict-of-interest rules protect interests of the legal system in obtaining adequate
presentations to tribunals.

Reason: the rule is grounded in the fiduciary obligation of loyalty. The nature of their relationship is,
therefore, one of trust and confidence of the highest degree.
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]

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]

On May 24, 1982, therefore, the complainant initiated this administrative


complaint for disbarment against the respondent by verified letter-
complaint.[7]

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]

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]

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]
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:

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:

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.