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SECOND DIVISION

[A.C. No. 1372. June 27, 2002]

SPOUSES LIRIO U. RABANAL AND CAYETANO D.


RABANAL, complainants, vs. ATTY. FAUSTINO F.
TUGADE, respondent.

DECISION
MENDOZA, J.:

This is an administrative complaint filed by complainant spouses Cayetano and


Lirio Rabanal against Atty. Faustino F. Tugade. It is alleged that respondent, as
counsel for complainant Cayetano Rabanal, did not file the appellants brief in the
Court of Appeals, as a result of which the appeal filed by Cayetano was dismissed and
the decision of the then Circuit Criminal Court of Tuguegarao, Cagayan became final
and executory.
It appears that complainant Cayetano Rabanal was one of the accused-appellants
in Criminal Case No. CCC-I-150, entitled People of the Philippines v. Marcelino
Rabanal y Ibaez, et al., of the Criminal Circuit Court of Tuguegarao, Cagayan. [1] He
was found guilty of homicide and the case was appealed to the Court of
Appeals. Complainant terminated the services of his previous counsel and engaged the
services of respondent Atty. Faustino F. Tugade as new counsel to prosecute the
appeal.[2] However, despite the extension of time granted to him totalling 60 days,
Atty. Tugade failed to file the appellants brief, resulting in the dismissal of the
appeal.[3] Cayetano filed a motion for reconsideration, but his motion was
denied.[4] Complainants alleged that they paid P1,000.00 to respondent as attorneys
fees and, in addition, the amount of P1,400.00 for the preparation of the appellants
brief.[5] Complainants sought the suspension from the practice of law or the disbarment
of respondent attorney.[6]
In his comment dated October 24, 1974, respondent said he did not want to accept
complainants case due to his busy schedule, but that he was nonetheless prevailed
upon by the latter, who is his kababayan, to sign the appellants brief to be filed in the
case.[7] Cayetano gave the transcripts of stenographic notes (TSN) pertaining to the
case to respondent, and the sum of P600.00 as litigation expenses, after which
respondent asked another lawyer to prepare the appellants brief. However, on May 11,
1974, Cayetano informed respondent that the Court of Appeals had dismissed his
appeal for failure of counsel to file an appellants brief. Respondent alleged he then
entered his appearance as counsel for Cayetano and filed a motion for reconsideration
with the Court of Appeals, for which he was paid P800.00.[8] The motion was,
however, denied and Cayetano served sentence from 1974 to 1979, when he was
released on conditional pardon.[9]
In a resolution, dated November 4, 1974, the Court referred the administrative
case against respondent to the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) for investigation,
report, and recommendation.[10] The OSG conducted hearings on February 5, 1976 and
November 27, 1976, during which the spouses Rabanal testified in support of their
complaint.[11] On January 24, 1979, Cayetano was released from the New Bilibid
Prisons on conditional pardon.[12] A few years later, the Committee on Bar Discipline
of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) assumed jurisdiction over the
administrative case.[13] After each of the complainants had testified, the IBP
Commissioner set the hearing for reception of respondents evidence on June 26, 1992
with warning that the case would be considered submitted for resolution if respondent
failed to present his evidence.[14] Three notices of the hearing sent by registered mail to
respondent were, however, returned unclaimed.[15] Accordingly, the IBP Hearing
Commissioner, upon motion of complainant Lirio Rabanal, considered the case
submitted for resolution.[16] On May 8, 1993, the IBP Board of Governors
recommended to the Court the suspension of respondent from the practice of law for
at least one (1) year.[17]
On July 15, 1993, the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline transmitted the records
of the case to the Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC). Later, however, the transcripts
of stenographic notes (TSN) were lost.[18] In any case, on May 20, 2002, the Office of
the Bar Confidant (OBC) adopted the findings of the IBP and recommended the
suspension of respondent from the practice of law for one (1) year.[19]
After a review of the records of this case, the Court finds no basis for reversing
the findings and recommendation of the IBP and the OBC. Their recommendation is
affirmed with the modification that the penalty imposed is reduced from one (1) year
to six (6) months.
Respondent claims that he was not the counsel of complainant Cayetano Rabanal
prior to the filing of a motion for reconsideration before the Court of Appeals and he
could not be held responsible for the dismissal of complainants appeal for failure of
counsel to file the appellants brief. We disagree.
The absence of a written contract does not preclude a finding that there was a
professional relationship which merits attorneys fees for professional services
rendered. A written contract 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.[20] Thus, in Villafuerte v. Cortez,[21] the Court held
that the admission of respondent lawyer that he received payment from complainant is
sufficient evidence to establish a lawyer-client relationship. In this case, complainant
sought and received legal advice from respondent Tugade, who admitted that he
agreed to sign the appellants brief to be filed and that he received P600.00 from
complainant spouses. It is therefore clear that a lawyer-client relationship existed
between the two.
It is immaterial that respondent Tugade assisted Cayetano in the case as a mere
friend or kababayan of the latter. In Junio v. Grupo,[22] respondent also denied the
existence of a lawyer-client relationship, stating that complainant was a close personal
friend whom he helped in a personal capacity. Nonetheless, it was held:

To constitute professional employment it is not essential that the client should have
employed the attorney professionally on any previous occasion. . . It is not necessary
that any retainer should have been paid, promised, or charged for: neither is it material
that the attorney consulted did not afterward undertake the case about which the
consultation was had. If a person, in respect to his business affairs or troubles of any
kind, consults with his attorney in his professional capacity with the view to obtaining
professional advice or assistance, and the attorney voluntarily permits or acquiesces in
such consultation, then the professional employment must be regarded as established.
...

In this case, Cayetano consulted respondent Tugade in his professional capacity in


order to obtain advice concerning his appeal. Respondent agreed, as shown by his
acceptance of the payment to him, his receipt of the TSNs of the case, and the fact that
he signed the appellants brief. His claim that he merely accepted payment but that he
asked another lawyer to prepare the brief is an obvious subterfuge. He has not even
named the lawyer assuming that the latter is real. It is hard to see why respondent
should personally accept payment and the transcripts of stenographic notes from
complainant if he did not intend to prepare the appellants brief. Moreover, the fact that
respondent filed a motion for reconsideration after the dismissal of the appeal only
confirms that he was indeed Cayetanos lawyer.
The records clearly show that respondent Atty. Faustino F. Tugade was remiss in
the performance of his duties as counsel of complainant Cayetano Rabanal. He was
given by the Court of Appeals an extension of time totalling 60 days within which to
file the appellants brief, but he failed to file the same. He thus violated the Code of
Professional Responsibility which provides:

RULE 12.03. A lawyer shall not, after obtaining extensions of time to file pleadings,
memoranda or briefs, let the period lapse without submitting the same or offering an
explanation for his failure to do so.
RULE 18.03. A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his
negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.

What this Court said in another case is fitting:

Once he agrees to take up the cause of a client, the lawyer owes fidelity to such cause
and must always be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him. He must serve
the client with competence and diligence, and champion the latters cause with
wholehearted fidelity, care, and devotion. Elsewise stated, he owes entire devotion to
the interest of the client, warm zeal in the maintenance and defense of his clients
rights, and the exertion of his utmost learning and ability to the end that nothing be
taken or withheld from his client, save by the rules of law, legally applied. This
simply means that his client is entitled to the benefit of any and every remedy and
defense that is authorized by the law of the land and he may expect his lawyer to
assert every such remedy or defense. If much is demanded from an attorney, it is
because the entrusted privilege to practice law carries with it the correlative duties not
only to the client but also to the court, to the bar, and to the public. A lawyer who
performs his duty with diligence and candor not only protects the interest of his client;
he also serves the ends of justice, does honor to the bar, and helps maintain the respect
of the community to the legal profession.[23]

Indeed, a lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client. He should be mindful of
the trust and confidence reposed in him, remembering always that his actions or
omissions are binding on his clients. In this case, the failure of respondent to file the
appellants brief resulted in the dismissal of the appeal. As a consequence, the decision
in the trial court finding complainant guilty of homicide became final and executory
and he was sentenced to ten years of imprisonment. As has been held:

An attorney is bound to protect his clients interest to the best of his ability and with
utmost diligence. (Del Rosario vs. Court of Appeals, 114 SCRA 159) A failure to file
brief for his client certainly constitutes inexcusable negligence on his part. (People vs.
Villar, 46 SCRA 107) The respondent has indeed committed a serious lapse in the
duty owed by him to his client as well as to the Court not to delay litigation and to aid
in the speedy administration of justice. (People vs. Daban, 43 SCRA 185; People vs.
Estocada, 43 SCRA 515).[24]

It should likewise be noted that respondent failed to notify the IBP of his change
of address, thus delaying the resolution of this case. Service of notice and other
pleadings, which must be furnished to the parties, must be made at the last address on
record. If the parties are represented by counsel, such notices shall be sent instead to
the counsels last given address on record in the absence of a proper and adequate
notice of a change of address, unless service upon the party himself is ordered. [25]
In Resurreccion v. Sayson,[26] the Court attributed the delay in the resolution of an
administrative case to respondent lawyer, after finding that The 27-year delay in the
resolution of this case was, to a large extent, caused by his failure to appear before the
Office of the Solicitor General and to inform the IBP of his change of address, a
failure that also indicated his lack of regard for the very serious charges brought
against him. Similarly, respondent Tugade likewise showed a disregard of the charge
against him, and the IBP properly made its recommendation solely on the basis of
complainants testimonies and the documentary evidence.
In Galen v. Paguirigan,[27] the Court, taking into account that it was a first offense,
suspended for a period of six (6) months a lawyer who failed to file a brief. Atty.
Faustino Tugade showed lack of due care for his clients interest and willful neglect of
his duties as an officer of the court, thus warranting the imposition of the same penalty
on him.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, respondent Atty. Faustino F. Tugade is
SUSPENDED from the practice of law for six (6) months effective upon finality
hereof with WARNING that a repetition of the same negligent act charged in this
complaint will be dealt with even more severely.
SO ORDERED.
Bellosillo, (Chairman), and Corona, JJ., concur.
Quisumbing, J., abroad, on official business.
THIRD DIVISION

A.C. No. 2841 July 3, 2002

RE: ADMINISTRATIVE CASE NO. 44 OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH IV,
TAGBILARAN CITY, AGAINST ATTY. SAMUEL C. OCCEÑA.

PER CURIAM:

"Membership in the bar is in the category of a mandate to public service of the highest order. A
lawyer is an oath-bound servant of society whose conduct is clearly circumscribed by inflexible
norms of law and ethics, and whose primary duty is the advancement of the quest for truth and
justice, for which he has sworn to be a fearless crusader."1 These were the eloquent words of the
late Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro in exalting the sacred and honorable legal profession. But he
laments the pathetic and deplorable fact that, "many a law practitioner, forgetting his sacred mission
as a sworn public servant and his exalted position as an officer of the court, has allowed himself to
become an instigator of controversy and a predator of conflict instead of a mediator for concord and
a conciliator for compromise, a virtuoso of technicality in the conduct of litigation instead of a true
exponent of the primacy of truth and moral justice, a mercenary purveying the benefits of his
enlightened advocacy in direct proportion to a litigant's financial posture instead of a faithful friend of
the courts in the dispensation of equal justice to rich and poor alike."2 Here, Atty. Samuel C. Occeña,
as later shown by his disgraceful and outrageous conduct, is one such lawyer who has become an
apostate to his exalted position as an officer of the court. He thus deserves to be weeded out from
the legal profession to protect its sanctity and nobility.

This administrative case stemmed from the settlement of the estate of testator William C. Ogan
which has since been pending in the Court of First Instance (CFI), now Regional Trial Court (RTC),
Branch 4, Tagbilaran City, docketed as Special Proceedings No. 423. In 1976, Judge Fernando S.
Ruiz took over the case from Judge Paulino S. Marquez who, in turn, inherited it from Judge Antonio
Beldia. Noting that the proceedings have been pending for thirteen (13) years, Judge Ruiz then
inquired into the principal causes of the delay. He found out, as will be shown later in detail, that
Atty. Samuel C. Occeña caused the delay by disobeying lawful court orders and by willfully
prolonging the litigation through his various maneuvers, in gross violation of his oath as a lawyer that
he will not willingly sue any groundless, false, or unlawful suit, or delay any man's cause for money
or malice.

Going back to Special Proceedings No. 423, under the terms of the Last Will and Testament of the
late William C. Ogan, his residuary estate was divided among his seven children. One of them,
Necitas Ogan-Occeña, was named in the will as executrix of the estate. As such, she retained her
husband, Atty. Samuel C. Occeña, as her lawyer.

The estate consists of bank deposits, securities (both here and in the United States of America), and
real estate in Cebu City and in Ohio, U.S.A. The deceased left no debt. Thus, the settlement of the
estate should have been simple and speedy. However, since the death of the testator on February 1,
1963, the settlement of his estate has not yet been terminated owing largely to the dilatory tactics of
Atty. Occeña.

Looking into the causes of the delay, Judge Ruiz learned that the executrix, Necitas Ogan-Occeña,
filed a project of partition on August 4, 1967. On September 22, 1967, the probate court approved
the project except certain portions. The executrix then interposed an appeal. In view of the delay
caused by the pendency of the appeal, the other heirs filed several motions praying that the estate's
remaining P250,000.00 cash as well as its shares of stocks in the Philippines and in the United
States be distributed among all the heirs. The executrix, through her husband Atty. Occeña,
vehemently opposed the motions, asserting that the P250,000.00 cash had already been earmarked
for her husband's attorney's fee and other expenses, and that the shares of stocks could not be
distributed among the heirs because the stock certificates were not in her possession. The dispute
between the executrix, on the one hand, and the other heirs, on the other, which delayed the
proceedings, centered mainly on the P250,000.00 cash and the shares of stocks.

Records also show that the executrix, through Atty. Occeña, interposed numerous appeals from the
orders of the probate court. For their part, the heirs repeatedly prayed in their motions for the release
of the shares of stocks and the remaining cash. But the executrix and Atty. Occeña opposed the
same, thus prolonging the proceedings. In CA-GR No. 48716-R (December, 1974), the Court of
Appeals, in remanding the case to the probate court, had this to say:

"It is, however, earnestly hoped, and the parties are urged, to settle their differences with the
view to closing the estate which has been pending since 1963. The executrix, the heirs, and
the lawyers, are reminded that the prolongation of administrative proceedings can only
benefit the executor or administrator or the counsels for the contending parties. It always
results in the diminution of the share of each of the heirs because the estate is burdened with
the expenses of the administration proceedings, the heir must have to pay attorney's fee and
the longer the proceedings the bigger the attorney's fee."3

Obviously, the main causes of the delay in the probate proceedings were Atty. Occeña's claim for
attorney's fee in the amount of P250,000.00 and the executrix's refusal, through her husband, to
account for the shares of stocks belonging to the estate which, according to her, were not in her
possession. The other heirs could not accept that explanation because as executrix, she was
charged with the responsibility of collecting all the assets of the estate.

Thus, on August 8, 1977, Judge Ruiz issued an order directing the executrix to comment why the
securities were not in her possession. She filed her comment, through her husband, that some
Philippine and American securities were not in her possession. To determine which securities were
in her possession, Judge Ruiz on October 22, 1977, issued an order requiring her to submit within
30 days the latest inventory of all the securities of the estate. However, she failed to comply with the
order. Judge Ruiz then issued another order on February 6, 1978, "directing her to take possession
of all certificates of stocks or their replacements belonging to the estate and to make an up-to-date
inventory thereof with a statement of their nature and their value." Again, she did not comply with the
order.

Determined to block the release of the P250,000.00 to the heirs, the executrix, through Atty. Occeña,
appealed the numerous interlocutory orders of the probate court to the Court of Appeals, hence,
adding to the delay. Because of the propensity of the executrix, through Atty. Occeña, to elevate
interlocutory orders to the Court of Appeals, Judge Ruiz issued an order on June 16, 1978 directing
her to "refrain from instituting any action or proceeding without first informing the court." The
executrix and her husband disobeyed this order. In fact, he filed six cases with the Court of Appeals
and one with this Court.

On August 15, 1979, Judge Ruiz issued an order authorizing Nancy Ogan-Gibson, one of the heirs,
to go to Vinton County, Ohio, U.S.A., to take proper action on the five parcels of land owned by the
estate and to submit a report to the probate court. To provide money for the purpose, the court
ordered the executrix to release to Nancy Ogan-Gibson the sum of $1,000.00 from the estate fund,
the same to be liquidated with supporting receipts upon her submission of her report on or before
September 30, 1979. The executrix assailed the order before the Court of Appeals in a petition for
prohibition and certiorari, docketed therein as CA-G. R. No. SP-10326. Dismissing the petition on
January 13, 1981 for lack of merit, the Court of Appeals said:

"Indeed it is surprising why petitioner as executrix should oppose such an order of the court
which is and would be for the benefit of the estate and the heirs. All the other heirs
completely agreed with what the trial court did. xxx

"Thus, rather than accuse respondent judge of grave abuse of discretion in issuing the
questioned orders he should be complimented in finding ways and means of promptly and
expeditiously determining the assets of the estate to be ultimately distributed among the
heirs."

On May 12, 1981, Judge Ruiz cited the executrix for contempt of court for her failure to obey the
orders of October 22, 1977, December 8, 1977, February 6, 1978 and October 16, 1979 and
directed her to report to the court which securities were and were not in her possession and to give
the reason therefor.

On February 11, 1982, the executrix and Atty. Occeña were held in contempt of court and fined
P250.00 each for disobeying the court order of August 15, 1979 requiring the executrix to release
$1,000.00 to Nancy Ogan-Gibson. Both were given the chance to explain their failure to comply with
the order, but they did not submit any explanation. On January 13, 1981, this order was affirmed by
the Court of Appeals in CA-G. R. No. SP-10326. It bears emphasis that this incident delayed the
proceedings for four (4) years.

On October 16, 1979, the probate court issued an order requiring the executrix to distribute
immediately among the heirs all the shares of stocks of the estate in the Batangas-Laguna
Transportation Co., the Masonic Hall, Inc. and the Motor Service Co.; to report her compliance within
10 days from notice; and within the same period, to file a written report to the court stating (a) what
other certificates of stocks belonging to the estate are in her possession; and (b) which certificates of
stocks are not with her, giving the reasons therefor. Again, the executrix and her husband, Atty.
Occeña, did not comply with the said order. The probate court thus ordered her to explain why she
should not be punished for contempt of court. After several postponements at her instance and that
of her husband, the incident was set for hearing on April 20, 1981. But neither of them appeared,
thus delaying the proceedings for about a year and a half. Finding the executrix unfaithful in the
performance of her duties, the probate court, on May 12, 1981, adjudged her in contempt of court.

Forthwith, Atty. Occeña and his wife, filed with the then CFI of Davao City, Civil Case No. 14456 for
damages (P200,000.00 as moral damages and expenses of litigation) against Judge Ruiz. But, on
October 13, 1981, the court dismissed the complaint for lack of merit.

After the dismissal of Civil Case No. 14456, Atty. Occeña filed with the Tanodbayan a letter-
complaint against Judge Ruiz, charging him with knowingly rendering unjust interlocutory orders, in
that without prior notice and hearing, he punished the executrix for indirect contempt of court and
censured her for non-compliance with the probate court's order of October 16, 1979. For lack of
merit, Atty. Occeña's complaint was dismissed by then Tanodbayan Bernardo P. Fernandez in a
Resolution dated November 19, 1984.

On November 13, 1979, Atty. Occeña filed with this Court Administrative Case No. 2345-CFI against
Judge Ruiz for gross inefficiency and dishonesty. In a Resolution dated October 11, 1982, this Court
dismissed the complaint for failure of Atty. Occeña to substantiate his charges during the
investigation.
Unhappy with what Judge Ruiz stated in his comment on the said administrative complaint, Atty.
Occeña and his wife filed with the CFI of Davao City Civil Case NO. 14957 for damages against the
former. The couple alleged that they suffered damages upon reading the judge's comment filed with
the Supreme Court. On June 11, 1982, the CFI dismissed the complaint for lack of cause of action,
the comment being an absolutely privileged communication.

By filing the said civil actions, criminal charge, and administrative complaints, found to be
groundless, Atty. Occeña further delayed with malice the probate proceedings and inflicted hardship
and pain upon Judge Ruiz.

More telling is the fact that by deliberately delaying the proceedings, Atty. Occeña has inflicted
greater harm to the other heirs, with the executrix herself as his willing partner.

From the start of the testate proceedings in 1963, no less than 13 petitions were filed with this Court
and the Court of Appeals by Atty. Occeña, questioning the interlocutory orders of the probate court.
But most, if not all, were without merit.

Aside from Judge Ruiz, his predecessor, the late Judge Antonio Beldia, in the same probate
proceedings, was also harassed by Atty. Occeña with groundless administrative charges and suits,
both criminal and civil. These cases, while pending, were then utilized by Atty. Occeña in securing
restraining orders from the Court of Appeals or as grounds for the judge's inhibition.

Pursuant to Section 28, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court providing inter alia that the CFI may
suspend an attorney from the practice of law for cause, Judge Ruiz, on May 26, 1982, filed with the
same probate court Administrative Case No. 44 charging Atty. Occeña with gross misconduct,
violation of his oath as a lawyer and willful disobedience of lawful court orders. Instead of filing an
answer, he submitted a motion praying for the inhibition of Judge Ruiz. This motion was denied. Atty.
Occeña was then directed to file his answer within 15 days from notice which was extended to
another 15 days upon his motion. Still, he did not file an answer. What he submitted was a motion to
dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. But it was denied for lack of merit.

Administrative Case No. 44 was set for hearing on December 2 and 3, 1982, morning and afternoon.
Upon Atty. Occeña's motion, he was given an extension of 15 days from November 3, 1982 within
which to file his answer. However, he did not comply. Neither did he appear during the hearing.

Eventually, further hearing of the case was suspended when this Court issued a temporary
restraining order in G. R. No. 62453, "Samuel Occeña vs. District Judge Fernando S. Ruiz, CFI-4,
Bohol" for prohibition. However, on August 15, 1983, this Court dismissed Atty. Occeña's petition for
lack of merit. The hearing of the administrative case was set on January 30 and 31, 1984, but again,
he did not appear.

The hearing was reset but once more, Atty. Occeña failed to appear. Upon his telegraphic request,
the hearing was reset on December 13 and 14, 1984. On December 7, 1984, he filed his Answer
and Motion for Referral to the Solicitor General or the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. His motion
was denied. The hearing was reset on May 8 and 9, 1985. Upon another telegraphic request of Atty.
Occeña, the hearing was postponed to August 14 and 15, 1985. Again, he did not appear. Thus, in
its order of August 15, 1985, the probate court considered his failure to appear as a waiver of his
right to present evidence.4

On November 14, 1985, based on the evidence presented ex parte, showing that Atty. Occeña has
"abused, misused and overused the judicial system,"5 Judge Ruiz rendered a decision
suspending6 him from the practice of law for three (3) years. The decision7 unfolded a long list of his
administrative offenses, thus:

Willful disobedience of lawful orders of the court; gross misconduct in office

During the probate proceedings, respondent Occeña, on behalf of his wife executrix, filed
with the Court of Appeals six (6) cases; and with the Supreme Court one (1) case, assailing
the order of the probate court directing the said executrix to provide Nancy Ogan, authorized
to determine the assets of the estate in the U.S., $1,000.00 to be taken from the estate; and
the order ordering the same executrix to report to the probate court the securities belonging
to the estate. Atty. Occeña's refusal to obey the said orders and elevating the same to the
higher courts unnecessarily delayed the probate proceedings.

II

Wittingly or willingly promoted or sued groundless suits and gave aid or consent to
the same; delayed persons for money or malice

Respondent, together with his wife, filed against the judge of the probate court two actions
for damages which were both dismissed for lack of merit and lack of cause of action.
Respondent also filed with the Tanodbayan a letter-complaint charging the judge of the
probate court with knowingly rendering unjust interlocutory orders. The complaint was
likewise dismissed for lack of merit. Respondent also filed with this Court an administrative
complaint which was again dismissed for failure of respondent to substantiate the charge.

By filing the above-cited civil actions for damages, administrative complaint and criminal
charge which were found to be groundless and unsubstantiated, respondent unduly delayed
the settlement of the estate proceedings by harassing Judge Ruiz who had to spend time,
effort and money to defend himself against said frivolous and unmeritorious cases.

In fact, respondent's propensity to file groundless administrative charges, as well as civil and
criminal suits, harassed not only Judge Ruiz but also the previous judges who handled the
case. As a measure of self defense, these judges were compelled to prepare and file
pleadings or comments thereby using time which could have been devoted to expediting the
closure of the estate proceedings.

Finally, since the start of the testate proceedings in 1963, no less than 13 petitions were filed
with the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals questioning the interlocutory orders of the
probate court. Most, if not all of these petitions, were determined to be groundless and
without merit.

III

Disobeying the laws

Respondent violated his lawyer's oath of office by flagrantly disobeying the clear provision of
Rule 140, Section 6, Revised Rules of Court, entitled "Charges Against Judges of First
Instance," which reads as follows:
"Sec. 6. Confidential – Proceedings against judges of first instance shall be private
and confidential."

During the pendency of the administrative complaint (Adm. Matter No. 23345-CFI, Exh. "Z")
filed by respondent against Judge Ruiz in the Supreme Court, he violated the private and
confidential nature thereof three (3) times, to wit:

1. On April 1, 1980, respondent filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for prohibition and
certiorari, entitled "Estate of William C. Ogan, et al. vs. Hon. Fernando S. Ruiz, et al., CA-
G.R. No. SP-10604", questioning an interlocutory order of the probate court (No. 2, Exh. "V")
to which he attached as Annex "AW" a complete copy of his aforesaid administrative
complaint against Judge Ruiz albeit the same is completely immaterial to the issue raised in
said petition.

2. In another petition for prohibition and certiorari, entitled "Estate of William C. Ogan, et al.
vs. Hon. Fernando S. Ruiz, et al., CA-G.R. No. SP-13162" (No. 4, Exh. "V"), impugning an
interlocutory order of the probate court, he attached as Annex "C" thereof a true and
complete copy of the said administrative complaint although not relevant to the question
therein raised; and

3. On March 29, 1982, when respondent filed a letter-criminal complaint with the
Tanodbayan (Exh. "Y"), he also attached as Annex "A" thereof a true and complete copy of
said administrative complaint against Judge Ruiz even if said administrative complaint is not
germane to the charge (Page 2, No. 1, Exh. "Y").

By repeatedly violating said provision of the Rules of Court, respondent, as an officer of the
court, put to naught one of the principal purposes thereof which is to protect the personal and
professional reputation of judges from the baseless charges of disgruntled, vindictive and
irresponsible clients, litigants and counsels (In re Abistado, 57 Phil. 668; Murillo vs.
Superable, Adm. Case No. 341, March 23, 1960; Moran, Rules of Court, 1963 Ed., Vol. VI,
page 260). Respondent committed gross misconduct in office and has not conducted himself
as a lawyer according to the best of his knowledge and discretion.

IV

Did falsehood and consented to the doing of same in court.

In his complaint for damages against Judge Ruiz (Civil Case No. 14456 (Exh. "W"),
respondent alleged in paragraph IV-7b thereof (Exh. "W-1") that his wife-executrix Necitas
Ogan Occeña was held in contempt and censured, "without any hearing," for not obeying
the probate court's order of October 16, 1979 (Exh. "N").

However, the records of the Ogan estate proceedings (Sp. Proc. No. 423) would show that in
the order of February 26, 1980, the probate court directed said executrix to explain within 5
days from notice why she should not be cited for contempt (Exh. "O"). In the order of April 8,
1980, the contempt charge was set for hearing on June 23, 1980, at 9:00 o'clock in the
morning (Exh. "P") but was reset to October 22, 1980 after the lifting of the restraining order
of the Court of Appeals (Exh. "Q"). This was again reset to April 20, 1981, subsequent to the
denial by the Supreme Court of the respondent's petition for review impugning the Court of
Appeals' decision. As stated in the order of May 12, 1981, page 2, paragraph 3 (Exh. "R"),
copies of the order setting the hearing of the contempt charge on said date (April 20, 1981)
were received by the respondent and his wife-executrix on March 24, 1981. On the date of
the hearing, neither the executrix nor respondent appeared. The following day (April 21,
1981), the court received executrix's motion for postponement of the hearing, which was
denied for lack of merit. Subsequently, the order of May 12, 1981 (Exh. "R") was rendered
holding the executrix in contempt and penalized with censure.

In fine, there was hearing with notice but the executrix and her counsel did not attend.

Meanwhile, respondent once more, committed falsehood when he subsequently alleged


under oath in his letter-complaint to the Tanodbayan, dated March 29, 1982, against Judge
Ruiz (Exh. "Y") that "without prior notice and without any hearing," Judge Ruiz adjudged
executrix Necitas Ogan Occeña guilty of contempt and censuring her (page 2, paragraph 2,
Exh. "Y-2"; page 5, paragraph 9b, Exh. "Y-3").

Furthermore, in order to avoid complying with the probate court order of August 15, 1979
(Exh. "C"), directing said executrix to remit immediately the sum of $1,000.00 to her co-heir
Nancy Ogan-Gibson with which to meet whatever necessary expenses that she might incur
in inquiring into the status of the 5 parcels of land owned by the estate at Vinton County,
Ohio, U.S.A., respondent and his wife-executrix committed falsehood when they stated in
their petition filed with the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. SP-10326 that the said order was
issued "without hearing" and thus a violation of procedural due process. The Court of
Appeals, in its decision which has become final (Exh. "E"), confirmed this falsehood when it
held that the petitioner-executrix "was not deprived of her right to be heard when the
respondent judge issued the two orders in question" (Page 6, Exh. "E").

In accordance with the provisions of Section 29, Rule 1388 and Section 9, Rule 1399 of the Revised
Rules of Court, Judge Ruiz, on November 26, 1985, transmitted to this Court a certified true copy of
the order of suspension and a full statement of facts.10

On February 11, 1986, this Court, upon Atty. Occeña's motion, restrained Judge Ruiz from enforcing
his decision of November 14, 1985. The case then has remained pending so that on May 30, 1989,
this Court issued an Order11requiring "the parties to move in the premises, by informing the Court
about the status of the decision or order suspending Atty. Samuel C. Occeña from the practice of
law, Judge Ruiz particularly indicating if he still pursues the instant case, within ten (10) days from
notice."

On June 2, 1989, Judge Ruiz filed a comment that he has been waiting for this Court's action on his
decision suspending Atty. Occeña.

On August 25, 1989, Atty. Occeña filed an Explanation and Motion praying that the case be referred
to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for investigation and recommendation. This Court denied the
motion and instead referred the case to Atty. Emilio Rebueno (now deceased), then Bar Confidant,
for evaluation, report and recommendation. After going over the records, he recommended "that the
temporary restraining order enjoining Judge Fernando S. Ruiz from enforcing the decision dated
November 14, 1985 suspending Atty. Samuel C. Occeña from the practice of law for a period of
three years be forthwith LIFTED, and that Atty. Samuel C. Occeña be DISBARRED from the
practice of law for grave violation of his oath of office as attorney; likewise, that his name
be DROPPED from the roll of attorneys."

We sustain the evaluation, report and recommendation of the Office of the Bar Confidant, the same
being supported by the facts on record.
Indeed, a lawyer may be disbarred or suspended for any misconduct showing any fault or deficiency
in his moral character, honesty, probity or good demeanor.12 His guilt, however, cannot be
presumed.13 It must indicate the dubious character of the acts done, as well as the motivation
thereof. Furthermore, a disbarred lawyer must have been given full opportunity upon reasonable
notice to answer the charges against him, produce witnesses in his own behalf, and to be heard by
himself and counsel.14 All these requirements have been complied with in the case at hand.

In fact, it was Atty. Occeña who did not bother at all to appear in the hearing of the administrative
case against him which was postponed by Judge Ruiz so many times so that he could be accorded
the full measure of due process. The court a quo, therefore, appropriately proceeded to hear the
case ex parte as Atty. Occeña deliberately failed to appear and answer the accusations against him.

Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court mandates that a member of the Bar may be
disbarred or suspended by this Court for any (1) deceit, (2) malpractice, (3) gross misconduct in
office, (4) grossly immoral conduct, (5) conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, (6) violation of
the lawyer's oath, (7) willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court, and for (8) willfully
appearing as an attorney for a party without authority to do so. Not only did Atty. Occeña commit
deceit, malpractice, grossly immoral conduct and willful disobedience to a superior court. Beyond
these transgressions, he violated the lawyer's oath whereby he imposed upon himself the following
duties, thus:

"I, ________________________,of ________________________,do


(place of birth)

solemnly swear that I will maintain allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines; I will support
its Constitution and obey the laws as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted
authorities therein; I will do no falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court; I will not
wittingly or willing promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit, or give aid nor
consent to the same; I will delay no man for money or malice, and will conduct myself as a
lawyer according to the best of my knowledge and discretion, with all good fidelity as well to
the court as to my clients; and I impose upon myself these voluntary obligations without any
mental reservation or purpose of evasion. So help me God."

As shown by the records, Atty. Occeña gravely violated his oath of office in his handling of Special
Proceedings No. 423. The facts of the case succinctly show that through his atrocious maneuvers,
he successfully delayed the disposition of the case for the last thirty-eight (38) years, causing untold
hurt and prejudice, not only to the heirs, but also to Judges Ruiz and Beldia who heard the case. For
respondent's part and that of his wife, such prolonged litigation obviously benefited them. As aptly
declared by the Court of Appeals, the delay "can only benefit the executor or administrator" and "the
longer the proceedings, the bigger the attorney's fees." But the more tragic reality is the fact that
Atty. Occeña has caused a mockery of the judicial proceedings and inflicted injury to the
administration of justice through his deceitful, dishonest, unlawful and grossly immoral conduct.
Indeed, he abused beyond measure his privilege to practice law.

This Court has held that a lawyer should not abuse his right of recourse to the courts for the purpose
of arguing a cause that had been repeatedly rebuffed. Neither should he use his knowledge of law
as an instrument to harass a party nor to misuse judicial processes, as the same constitutes serious
transgression of the Code of Professional Responsibility. For while he owes fidelity to the cause of
his client, it should not be at the expense of truth and the administration of justice.15

The practice of law is a sacred and noble profession. It is a special privilege bestowed only upon
those who are competent intellectually, academically and morally.16 A lawyer must at all times
conduct himself, especially in his dealings with his clients and the public at large, with honesty and
integrity in a manner beyond reproach.17 He must faithfully perform his duties to society, to the bar,
to the courts and to his clients. A violation of the high standards of the legal profession subjects the
lawyer to administrative sanctions by this Court which includes suspension and disbarment.

Clearly, Atty. Occeña's conduct has made him unfit to remain in the legal profession even for a
single moment.

It is a time-honored rule that good moral character is not only a condition precedent to admission to
the practice of law. Its continued possession is also essential for remaining in the legal
profession.18 Atty. Occeña has definitely fallen below the moral bar when he engaged in deceitful,
dishonest, unlawful and grossly immoral acts. This Court has repeatedly stressed the importance of
integrity and good moral character as part of a lawyer's equipment in the practice of his
profession,19 because it cannot be denied that the respect of litigants for the profession is inexorably
diminished whenever a member of the Bar betrays their trust and confidence.20

Thus, for his serious administrative offenses, punishable under Section 27 of Rule 138, Atty. Occeña
deserves the ultimate penalty, that of expulsion from the esteemed brotherhood of lawyers.

WHEREFORE, ATTY. SAMUEL C. OCCEÑA is DISBARRED from the practice of law. His name
is STRICKEN from the Roll of Attorneys EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY.

Let copies of this Decision be furnished the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and
all courts throughout the country.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing*, Ynares-Santiago,
Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, and Corona, JJ., concur.
EN BANC

[G.R. No. 80796. October 11, 2001]

PROVINCE OF CAMARINES NORTE, Represented by Hon. Roy A. Padilla,


Jr., as Provincial Governor, petitioner, vs. PROVINCE OF QUEZON,
Represented by Hon. Eduardo T. Rodriguez, as
Provincial Governor, respondent.
RE: URGENT PETITION TO CITE GOVERNOR EDUARDO T.
RODRIGUEZ OF QUEZON PROVINCE, AND MAYOR JULIO U.
LIM OF CALAUAG, QUEZON, IN CONTEMPT OF COURT.

[G.R. No. 132885. October 11, 2001]

THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT OF QUEZON, Represented by


Governor Eduardo T. Rodriguez; MUNICIPALITY OF CALAUAG IN
THE PROVINCE OF QUEZON, WIGBERTO E. TAADA, PEDRO C.
INOFRE and OSCAR F. FOLLOSO, petitioners, vs. THE
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, respondent.

DECISION
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:

On November 8, 1989, this Court, in an En Banc Decision in G.R. No. 80796,[1] PROVINCE
OF CAMARINES NORTE, Represented by HONORABLE ROY PADILLA, as Acting Provincial
Governor, petitioner, vs. PROVINCE OF QUEZON, Represented by HONORABLE HJALMAR
QUINTANA, as Acting Provincial Governor, respondent, resolved with finality the decade-long
land boundary discord between the Provinces of Camarines Norte and Quezon,
The contending parties are back in this Court instituting two separate petitions. The present
petition filed by the Province of Camarines Norte (docketed as G.R. No. 80796) prays that
respondents Quezon Governor Eduardo T. Rodriguez and Mayor Julio U. Lim of Calauag,
Quezon be cited in contempt of court for causing the removal of the monument marker erected
on the disputed boundary line by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in
implementation of the November 8, 1989 Decision.
On the other hand, G.R. No. 132885 is a petition for certiorari with prayer for a temporary
restraining order wherein petitioners Quezon Province, et al. assail the validity of the
Commission On Elections Resolution No. 97-2406 (dated July 10, 1997) and Resolution No. 97-
3721 (dated November 27, 1997). Both Resolutions recognize nine (9) barangays as belonging
to the territorial jurisdiction of Camarines Norte, no longer part of Calauag, Quezon, in view of
the November 8, 1989 Decision of this Court in G.R. No. 80796.
The facts are not disputed:
As earlier mentioned, on November 8, 1989, this Court rendered a Decision in G.R. No.
80796 ("1989 SC Decision," for brevity) which resolved the long-drawn boundary dispute
between the Provinces of Camarines Norte and Quezon. The Decision upheld as binding upon
the parties the decision of the then Chief of the Executive Bureau dated June 16, 1922 ("1922
EB decision," for brevity) delineating and describing that portion of the boundary comprising a
land area of approximately 8,762 hectares[2] as belonging to Camarines Norte, not to Quezon
Province. The pertinent portion of the 1989 SC Decision declares:

"In sum, we hold that the decision of the Chief of the Executive Bureau dated 16 June
1922 was lawfully issued and is binding upon the parties. We hold further that
prohibition and mandamus will lie for the enforcement of that decision, an
enforcement unjustifiably resisted and delayed for sixty-seven (67) years.

"WHEREFORE, the Petition for Mandamus and Prohibition is hereby


GRANTED. Respondent Quezon Province is hereby ORDERED immediately to
cease and desist, and perpetually to refrain, from exercising or performing any and all
acts of jurisdiction or political authority over all or any part of the area here held to be
part of the territory of the Province of Camarines Norte and forthwith to relinquish the
same to petitioner Province of Camarines Norte.

"Let a copy of this decision be furnished to the Secretary of the Local Governments
and the Office of the President with the request that surveyors from the Bureau of
Lands or other appropriate government agency be forthwith designated to
survey and locate, by latitude and longitude and by metes and bounds, and to
monument the Basiad Bay -Mt. Cadig line described in the 16 June 1922 decision
of the Chief of the Executive Bureau. Costs against respondent.

"SO ORDERED."[3] (Emphasis ours)

The 1989 SC Decision became final and executory on March 19, 1990.[4]
Pursuant to the directive in the dispositive portion of the 1989 SC Decision, the Province of
Camarines Norte, through its Governor, Roy A. Padilla, Jr., asked the Secretary of the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to undertake the survey of the
boundary line between the two provinces based on the description[5] in the 1922 EB
decision. Acting favorably on the request, then Secretary Fulgencio Factoran, Jr. issued Special
Order No. 1179[6] creating a technical working group specifically tasked to make the delineation
of the boundary separating the two provinces.
On January 31 1991, the DENR technical team informed Quezon Gov. Rodriguez about the
survey it would undertake.[7] However, Provincial Secretary Jorge Vargas (acting in behalf of
Gov. Rodriguez) objected, claiming that the 1922 EB decision should not be made the basis of
the survey. He asserted that the survey should be done in conformity with the conditions set forth
in Section 42, Article II of Act 2711 (The Revised Administrative Code of 1917).[8] But the
DENR technical team proceeded with the survey using as guide the 1922 EB decision.
On May 28, 1991, the DENR technical team went to barangay Tabugon, Calauag, Quezon
and installed a monument marker along the boundary line determined in the survey. The marker
indicates that the area consisting of 8,032 hectares then held as part of Calauag, Quezon actually
falls within the territorial jurisdiction of Camarines Norte. This area comprises the nine
(9) barangays of Kagtalaba, Plaridel, Kabuluan, Don Tomas, Guitol, Tabugon, Maualawin,
Patag Ibaba and Patag Iraya.[9]
On October 14, 1991, Quezon Gov. Eduardo Rodriguez and Calauag Mayor Julio U. Lim
caused the bulldozing and removal of the boundary marker. The next day, the Manila
Bulletinpublished an article entitled "2 provinces in border row,"[10] with a photograph
containing the following caption:

"Boundary dispute

"Quezon Gov. Eduardo T. Rodriguez (2nd from right) orders the removal of a
boundary marker at barangay Tabugon in Calauag town placed by the Camarines
Norte provincial government last May 29. Witnessing the bulldozing of the marker
are Calauag Mayor Julio U. Lim (right) and other town officials. (JLJ)"

Aggrieved, Camarines Norte Gov. Roy Padilla, Jr. filed the present petition for contempt
(docketed as G.R. No. 80796) against Gov. Rodriguez and Mayor Lim, alleging therein that by
removing the monument marker, respondents-officials disobeyed the lawful judgment of this
Court, which act is punishable as indirect contempt of court under Section 3, Rule 71, of the
Revised Rules of Court (now 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended).
In their comment[11] on the petition, respondents Gov. Rodriguez and Mayor Lim did not
deny having ordered the removal of the monument marker installed by the DENR. They claimed,
however, that the placing of the marker is illegal because (a) it was installed within the territory
of Calauag, Quezon and (b) the survey conducted by the DENR technical team was without prior
authority from the Office of the President, as required by the 1989 SC Decision. Thus,
respondents Governor Rodriguez and Mayor Lim asserted that their action was a reasonable use
of force justified under Article 429[12] of the Civil Code to protect the territorial integrity of
Quezon from a threatened physical invasion.
In a Resolution dated February 4, 1992, this Court directed Justice Alicia V. Sempio-Diy of
the Court of Appeals to conduct hearing, receive evidence and submit a report and
recommendation on the contempt proceedings. During the proceedings, Gov. Roy Padilla, Jr. and
Engr. Mamerto Infante, head of the DENR technical team, testified for petitioner Camarines
Norte. After petitioner has rested its case, respondent Gov. Rodriguez filed a Demurrer to
Evidence[13] contending that the 1989 SC Decision cannot be implemented and that, therefore, no
valid survey can be made, in the light of Section 42 (of Act 2711) and Republic Act No. 5480
(An Act Creating the Municipality of Sta. Elena in the Province of Camarines Norte) which
define the boundary between Camarines Norte and Quezon provinces.[14] However, the
Investigating Justice found no sufficient basis to sustain the demurrer to evidence and ordered
further hearing to ascertain respondents justification for removing the monument
marker. Eventually, the parties submitted their respective memoranda. Upon the retirement of
Justice Alice V. Sempio Diy, the contempt case was assigned to Court of Appeals Justice
Teodoro P. Regino.
Thereafter, Justice Regino submitted to this Court his 29-page Report and
Recommendation dated May 3, 2000. His recommendation reads:

Under the facts and for the reasons stated above, the undersigned RECOMMENDS
that the respondents (Eduardo T. Rodriguez and Julio U. Lim) be both held guilty of
contempt (of court) to be sentenced the maximum penalty of six (6) months
imprisonment and to pay jointly and severally a fine of one thousand pesos
(PhP1,000.00), and to shoulder the costs of installing a new monument marker on the
sight where the previous marker was removed.[15]

Meanwhile, during the pendency of the contempt proceedings in the Court of Appeals, the
Department of Budget and Management (DBM), obviously recognizing Camarines Nortes
territorial jurisdiction over the subject nine (9) barangays as determined by the DENR survey,
transferred the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) share of the 9 barangays from the
Municipality of Calauag, Quezon to the Municipality of Sta. Elena, Camarines Norte starting the
Fiscal Year 1994.[16]
Likewise, other agencies of the government recognized the Province of Camarines Nortes
jurisdiction over the 9 barangays. Thus, during the May 6, 1996 Sangguniang Kabataan
Elections, the COMELEC sent the election paraphernalia of the 9 barangays to Sta. Elena,
Camarines Norte. In its Resolution No. 96-1175 dated April 18, 1996, the COMELEC
directed inter alia the Office of the Election Officer of Calauag, Quezon to refrain from
exercising supervision relative to any political exercise in the 9 barangays.
Moreover, the Deputy Administrator of the Office of the Civil Registrar General, National
Statistics Office, issued a Memorandum dated July 27, 1996 informing the Civil Registrar of
Calauag, Quezon that the registration of vital events occurring in the subject 9 barangays should
now be exercised by the Local Civil Registry of Sta. Elena, Camarines Norte. Also, on March 18
1997, the Department of Finance directed the Provincial Assessor and Provincial Treasurer of
Quezon Province to transfer to Sta. Elena, Camarines Norte all the documents and records
pertaining to the assessment and collection of realty taxes on the real property located in the
9 barangays.
On July 10, 1997, the COMELEC issued Resolution No. 97-2406,[17] this time authorizing
the Election Officer of Sta. Elena, Camarines Norte to: 1) change the address in the Voter
Registration Records (VRR) of the subject 9 barangays from Calauag, Quezon to Sta. Elena,
Camarines Norte and 2) notify the registered voters concerned of such change of address.
This action by the COMELEC was opposed by the Sangguniang Bayan of Calauag, Quezon
through Resolution No. 121[18] dated September 12, 1997. On November 27, 1997, the
COMELEC issued Resolution No. 97-3721[19] noting and denying the Calauag Sangguniang
Bayan Resolution with finality.
Hence, the present second petition for certiorari, docketed as G.R. No. 132885, challenging
the COMELEC twin Resolutions. This case was consolidated with G.R. No. 80796.[20]
Now to our resolution of the two petitions.
As regards the contempt proceedings (G.R. No. 80796), respondents Gov. Eduardo T.
Rodriguez and Mayor Julio U. Lim aver that their act of removing the monument marker is in
accordance with Article 429 of the Civil Code authorizing the owner or lawful possessor of a
property to exclude any person from the enjoyment and disposal thereof. They claim that the
survey conducted by the DENR technical team, as well as the subsequent setting up of the
monument marker separating the two provinces, constitute usurpation of their territory because
(1) the survey was made by the DENR without prior directive from the Office of the President
and (2) the 1922 Executive Bureau decision, which was the basis of the survey, is technically
inconsistent with and violative of: [a] Section 42, Article II of Act 2711 [Revised Administrative
Code of 1917], [b] Republic Act No. 5480, [c] Section 10, Article X of the 1987
Constitution,[21] and [d] Section 10 of Republic Act No. 7160.[22]
In his Report and Recommendation, Justice Teodoro Regino found that respondents act of
removing the monument marker amounts to contumacious conduct defined under Section 3 (b),
Rule 71 of the Revised Rules of Court (now 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended) which
declares contemptuous any disobedience of or resistance to a lawful writ, process, order, or
judgment or command of a court." He found valid and regular the DENR survey, stressing that
the installation of the monument marker was in compliance with this Courts 1989
Decision.Further, he viewed respondents persistent invocation of Section 42 of Act No. 2711
(Revised Administrative Code of 1917); Republic Act 5480; Section 10, Article X of the 1987
Constitution; and Section 10 of Republic Act 7160 as a continuing effort on their part to reopen
settled issues in order to thwart the implementation of the 1989 SC Decision.
Justice Regino's findings are reproduced hereunder:

The import of the (Nov. 8, 1989 SC Decision) need not be essayed. The terms
employed therein are clear. In removing the monument marker, the objective of the
respondents (Eduardo T. Rodriguez and Julio U. Lim) was to remove the proof that
they no longer have any territorial jurisdiction over the area determined by the DENR
survey group as belonging to the petitioner (Province of Camarines Norte). x x
x. They perceived the installation of the monument marker as an attack on the
territorial integrity of Quezon Province despite the DENR technical working groups
findings that the disputed area belongs to petitioner. Respondents were thus
doing what the Supreme Court decision expressly prohibited or enjoined, that is,
the exercise of jurisdiction or political authority over an area held to be part of
the territory of the petitioner based on the 1922 Decision of the Chief of the
Executive Bureau.
xxxxxxxxx

Based on the records of the case, the respondents have a long record of resisting
the claim of petitioner to the disputed area. x x x.

The undersigned is, therefore, convinced that respondents completely understood


the Supreme Court decision but chose instead to deliberately disobey it x x
x. Respondents contumacious refusal to adhere to the decision was made with
full understanding that their acts would fall under contempt of court as
evidenced by the following declaration of the respondent Governor in his
Demurrer to Evidence With Leave of Court, dated October 12, 1992, as follows:

The whole case would have been different if factually the territory defined in the
(1922) Decision of the Executive Bureau conformed with the prescription of Section
42 (of Article II, Revised Administrative Code of 1917), x x x.

x x x x x x x x x[23] (Emphasis ours)


We agree with Justice Reginos findings.
Indeed, it is highly improper for respondent Gov. Rodriguez to state in his Demurrer to
Evidence that the whole case would have been different (meaning, this contempt incident would
not have happened) had the territory defined in the (1922) Decision of the Executive Bureau
conformed with the prescription of Section 42 (of Article II, Revised Administrative Code of
1917).Respondent Rodriguez knew very well that this issue on the subject territorial boundary
had long been settled in our 1989 Decision where we ruled:

"1. Turning to the first issue, we note that Section 42 (Article II, Revised
Administrative Code of 1917) does set out a definition or description of the
boundary line between Ambos Camarines and Quezon Province. We note, however,
that Section 42 does not describe or define the entirety of that line in such a manner
as to permit the whole boundary line to be located on the ground by a surveyor. Close
examination of Section 42 will show that it is not the whole boundary line that is
disputed but only a segment thereof. The boundary line from the peak of Mt. Cadig
eastward to the peak of Mt. Labo and from there to a stone monument at the head-
waters of the Pasay River and thence along the course of that river to the Gulf of
Ragay, is described in terms which are sufficiently precise to permit a surveyor to
locate that boundary line on the surface of the earth. It is the western portion of the
boundary line - from the peak of Mt. Cadig westward to a point on the eastern shore
of Basiad Bay - which is the subject of the boundary dispute.

"It is pointed out by petitioner Camarines Norte, firstly, that the particular point on
Basiad Bay that is the terminus of the boundary line is not specifically identified
in Section 42, considering that the eastern shore of Basiad Bay is 25 kilometers in
length, more or less, such that that terminal point could in theory be located anywhere
along the 25-kilometer shore line. Secondly, the specific direction or directions and
the varying lengths (the 'metes and bounds') of the various segments of the boundary
line to be projected from the terminus point on Basiad Bay onto Mt. Cadig's peak, are
similarly not specified in Section 42. Thus, again, a surveyor on the ground would be
unable to locate and monument the boundary line from Basiad Bay to Mt. Cadig if all
he had was the language found in Section 42 of the Revised Administrative Code.

We agree with petitioner Camarines Nortes argument. We consider that to that


limited extent, the Ambos Camarines Quezon boundary line was undefined and
that there was thus necessity for the 16 June 22 decision of the Chief of the
Executive Bureau to provide more specific guidance that would permit the actual
identification or location of the Basiad Bay Mt. Cadig portion of the boundary
line between Ambos Camarines and Quezon Province:

'[from the peak of Mt. Cadig] thence a straight line is drawn to the point of
intersection of the interprovincial road between Camarines Norte and Tayabas (now
Quezon) with the Tabugon River, thence following the course of the river to each
mouth at the Basiad Bay.'"[24] (Emphasis ours)

Very clearly, our 1989 Decision categorically declared valid and binding the 1922 EB
decision upon the contending parties. Despite this, respondents stubbornly insisted on their own
interpretation of what should be the correct description of the boundary line. Such willful
disregard of our Decision was eloquently demonstrated when respondents caused the removal of
the monument marker delineating the actual territorial boundary between the Provinces of
Quezon and Camarines Norte.
Parenthetically, exactly the same point was emphasized by this Court in
the disbarment case[25] filed by Camarines Norte Governor Roy Padilla, Jr. against the counsel
for the Province of Quezon, Attys. Jorge B Vargas and Jovito E. Talabong, docketed as A.C. No.
3774.[26] This Court reprimanded both lawyers for having told the DENR technical team that the
province of Quezon shall (only) agree to the definition of the boundary line if it would comply
with Section 42, Article II of Act No. 2711 (the Revised Administrative Code of 1917). There
we said:

Thus, it is clear to us that respondents insistence that the DENR Technical


Working Group comply with Section 42, Article II of Act 2711, despite the
Courts ruling that said provision of law had failed to identify this portion of the
boundary between the two (2) provinces with sufficient specificity, which specificity
was precisely supplied by the 16 June 1922 Decision of the Chief of the Executive
Bureau, was but a disingenuous device to delay and perhaps frustrate the
implementation of the Courts Decision in G.R. No. 80796, which Decision
respondents vehemently disagree.
This Court does not, as it cannot, always expect counsel of losing litigants graciously
to accept the correctness of the decisions of this Court. But when such decisions
reach finality, it is the duty of such counsel as officers of the Court and members
of the Bar to obey those decisions, whatever their personal opinion may be in
respect of the merits of the decisions. It is, of course, open to the respondents herein
to seek to change those decisions they disagree with by going to the Congress of the
Philippines to try to secure the enactment of a statute changing the boundary line
already declared legally binding by this Court. Until such a statute is enacted,
however, respondents owe a special duty faithfully and honestly to comply with
final decisions of this Court. The Court cannot countenance any further
disregard of this duty. It is of essence of an ordered and civilized community that
the function of final resolution of disputes be located in a particular
institution. In our system, that institution is this Court.

ACCORDINGLY, the Court Resolved to REPRIMAND respondents Attys. Jorge


B. Vargas, Jr. and Jovito E. Talabong for obstructing implementation of the
Decision of this Court dated 8 November 1989 in G.R. No. 80796. Respondents are
hereby solemnly WARNED that any further attempts to delay or frustrate the
implementation of the Decision in G.R. No. 80796 of the commission of similar
act(s) tending towards the same end, will be dealt with more severely.

Let copies of this Resolution be spread on respondents respective personal records in


the Office of the Bar Confidant.[27] (Emphasis ours)

Next, respondents vainly sought to justify their contemptuous conduct by invoking Republic
Act No. 5480 (An Act Creating The Municipality Of Santa Elena In The Province Of Camarines
Norte), which was approved on June 21, 1969. They claim that Section 1 of the law, which
reads:

SECTION 1. Barrios Salvacion, Bulala, Rizal, San Lorenzo, Pulong Guit-guit, Santa
Elena, San Vicente, Basiad and San Pedro up to the boundary of the Province of
Quezon and the Province of Camarines Norte as defined in Chapter three,
Article II, Section forty-two of the Administrative Code, in the Municipality of
Capalonga, Province of Camarines Norte, are hereby separated from said
municipality, and constituted into a distinct and independent political entity, to be
known as the Municipality of Santa Elena. x x x." (Emphasis ours)

provides the latest definition of the boundary between Quezon and Camarines Norte. They argue
that nowhere in Section 1 can be found the subject nine (9) barangays to be within the territorial
jurisdiction of Santa Elena, Camarines Norte. Hence, to include these 9 barangays to Santa
Elena would violate not only R.A. No. 5480 but also Section 10, Article X of the 1987
Constitution and Section 10 of Republic Act 7160 (The Local Government Code of 1991), which
laws require a plebiscite in cases of substantial alteration of territorial boundaries.
Again, these arguments do not present any novel issue.
Firstly, we have settled this matter when we disposed of the Province of Quezons motion for
clarification of the 1989 SC Decision. We said:

Considering that the motion for clarification of judgment dated March 26, 1990 filed
by the counsel for respondent province of Quezon merely repeats an argument
previously made in their motion for reconsideration, and considering that said motion
for clarification is in effect a second motion for reconsideration, the first motion for
reconsideration having been denied with finality, the Court resolved to note without
action the said motion for clarification. The Court would simply add that Republic
Act No. 5480 does not purport to have amended Section 42 of the Revised
Administrative Code nor Section 2 of Act No. 2809, both as implemented in the
decision dated 16 June 1922 of the Executive Bureau of the Department of
Interior. xxx."[28](Emphasis ours)

Moreover, while Section 1 quoted above enumerates the component barangays of Santa
Elena, the same section categorically extends Santa Elenas territorial jurisdiction up to the
boundary of the Province of Quezon and the Province of Camarines Norte as defined in Chapter
three, Article II, Section forty-two of the Administrative Code. That boundary has been defined
in the 1922 EB Decision, which, in turn, was ordered enforced in our November 8, 1989
Decision. Verily, the enumeration of the barangays in Section 1 of R.A. No. 5480 is not
intended to delimit the territorial jurisdiction of Santa Elena, Camarines Norte.
And, secondly, the 1989 SC Decision emphatically stresses that the (1922 decision of the)
Chief of the Executive Bureau did not x x x alter or re-define or amend an existing provincial
boundary, the boundary line between Ambos Camarines and Tayabas (now Quezon
Province). All that the Chief of the Executive Bureau did was to implement, upon the
authority of the Secretary of Interior, Section 42 of Act No. 2711.[29] Necessarily, respondents
argument on the non-compliance with the plebiscite requirement under Section 10, Article X of
the 1987 Constitution, as well as Section 10 of Republic Act No. 7160, is misplaced.
We also find baseless respondents claim that the DENR technical team conducted the survey
without prior authority from the Office of the President. It cannot be gainsaid that the authority
of the DENR technical team emanated from the Special Order No. 1179 duly issued by the
DENR Secretary, the alter ego of the President. Being an alter ego, the acts of the DENR
Secretary are presumed to be the acts of the President, unless expressly repudiated by the
latter. The DENR technical team was precisely created in compliance with the 1989 SC Decision
to conduct the survey. Thus, the DENR technical teams authority is beyond question.
From the above disquisition, we hold that respondents Gov. Eduardo T. Rodriguez and
Mayor Julio U. Lim openly disobeyed our November 8, 1989 Decision when they caused the
removal of the monument marker installed by the DENR. The significance of the monument
marker cannot simply be disregarded. As aptly explained by Engr. Mamerto Infante, it has a
technical purpose of preserving the survey conducted by his team.[30] In fact, our 1989 Decision
itself mandates to monument the Basiad Bay-Mt. Cadig line described in the 16 June 1922
decision of the Chief of the Executive Bureau. That respondents understood our 1989 Decision is
fully borne by the records in these cases and well attested by their valiant effort in re-litigating
issues already settled by this Court. That same effort, however, highlighted by their
contumacious destruction of the monument, worked adversely to their cause. It renders them
liable for indirect contempt.
We are well aware of the legal precept that the power of the court to punish contemptuous
acts should be exercised on the preservative and not on the vindictive principle.[31] However,
where, as here, there is clear and contumacious defiance of, or refusal to obey this Court's
Decision, we will not hesitate to exercise our inherent power if only to maintain respect to this
Court, for without which the administration of justice may falter or fail. We note that
respondents Gov. Rodriguez and Mayor Lim committed the contemptuous act on October 14,
1991 and were charged for contempt under Section 3, Rule 71 of the Revised Rules of
Court. Section 6 thereof imposes a penalty of fine not exceeding P1,000.00 or imprisonment of
not more than six (6) months, or both. We believe the penalty of FINE in the amount of
P1,000.00, with warning, is reasonable for this purpose.
We now come to the petition for certiorari (G.R. No. 132885) instituted by the Province of
Quezon, et al. against the COMELEC.
Petitioners assail the COMELEC Resolutions No. 97-2406 (dated July 10, 1997) and No.
97-3721 (dated November 27, 1997) which, for election purposes, recognize the Province of
Camarines Nortes territorial jurisdiction over the subject nine (9) barangays formerly considered
part of Calauag, Quezon. They maintain that respondent COMELEC, in issuing the Resolutions,
has committed grave abuse of discretion and/or acted without or in excess of jurisdiction,
contending that such recognition violated Republic Act No. 5480; Section 10, Article X of the
Constitution; and Section 10 of the Local Government Code.
In its comment, the COMELEC asserts that it issued the assailed Resolutions in deference to
the final (November 8, 1989) Decision of this Honorable Court in the case of Province of
Camarines Norte vs. Province of Quezon (in G.R. No. 80796), and only after the issue of the
land boundary dispute between the two provinces had been settled therein.[32] It further claims
that the issuance of the challenged Resolutions was to enforce the 1989 SC Decision as directed
by this Court in a subsequent En Banc Resolution dated August 4, 1994 in the same G.R. No.
80796, thus:

The Court takes this occasion to stress that the Province of Quezon and
Governor Eduardo Rodriguez are bound by the said final decision of this Court
and that the boundary dispute there resolved is no longer a dispute and that all
the attendant legal issues have been resolved with finality. That decision of this
Court constitutes res adjudicata in respect of all offices and agencies of the
Executive Department. Accordingly, the province of Camarines Norte is entitled,
not to a status quo prior to the controversy, but rather to the prompt enforcement of
the decision of this Court.[33] (Emphasis ours)

We fully agree with respondent COMELEC.


For showing high regard to this Courts Decision and Orders, we commend not only the
COMELEC but also the Department of Budget and Management, the Department of Finance, the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Interior and Local
Government and the National Statistics Office. These government offices and agencies have
collectively recognized the subject 9 barangays as part of Camarines Nortes jurisdiction.
Sadly, it is only Quezon Province and its officials who ignore the finality of the Decision
and Resolutions of this Court. Their present petition attempts to re-litigate the same issues
judiciously passed upon by this Court with finality. It is but imperative for this Court to
write finis to these cases. Indeed, every litigation must come to an end; otherwise, it would
become even more intolerable than the wrong and injustice it is designed to correct.
WHEREFORE, the petition for contempt in G.R. No. 80796 is GRANTED. Respondents
Eduardo T. Rodriguez and Julio U. Lim are adjudged GUILTY of INDIRECT CONTEMPT of
this Court and, pursuant to Section 6, Rule 71 of the Revised Rules of Court, are FINED in the
amount of P1,000.00 each, and WARNED that a repetition of similar misconduct will be dealt
with more severely. The Province of Quezon, its representatives and any person acting on its
behalf are ORDERED to REFRAIN from committing the same or similar act tending to obstruct
the full implementation of this Courts Decision dated November 9, 1989 in G.R. No. 80796.
Within Ten (10) days from notice of this Decision, respondents Eduardo T. Rodriguez and
Julio U. Lim are ORDERED to RE-INSTALL, at their expense, the monument marker on the
site where it was originally placed, under the direct supervision of the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources.
The petition for certiorari in G.R. No. 132885 is DISMISSED for lack of merit.
Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Office of the President and the Secretary of the
Department of Interior and Local Government, with the request that the results of the survey
conducted by the DENR Technical Working Group be FULLY and IMMEDIATELY
implemented. Costs against respondents Eduardo T. Rodriguez and Julio U. Lim.
This Decision is FINAL.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Mendoza, Quisumbing, Buena, Ynares-
Santiago, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.
Kapunan, and Panganiban, JJ., on official leave.
Pardo, J., no part. Was Chairman of Comelec at the time.
SECOND DIVISION

[Adm. Case No. 4766. December 27, 2002]

TBOLI AGRO-INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT, INC. (TADI), complainant,


vs. ATTY. NEPTHALI P. SOLILAPSI, respondent.

DECISION
Mendoza, J.:

This is a complaint for disbarment filed by TBoli Agro-Industrial


Development, Inc. (TADI) against Atty. Nepthali P. Solilapsi on the grounds of
forum-shopping and violation of Administrative Circular No. 04-94.
TADI, a corporation with principal office in Surallah, South Cotabato, is
engaged in the production, processing, marketing, exporting and selling of
pineapples and other agricultural products. Because of the large volume of
pineapples needed to support the viability of its business, TADI entered into
contracts with various growers who agreed to grow fruits on their lands and
sell their entire produce to the corporation. Among the contract growers are
Multi-Fruit Growers Cooperative of Surallah, Eduards Small Coconut Farmers
Cooperative and their individual members. TADIs agreements with the two
cooperatives and their members were embodied in several Production and
Marketing Agreements and Grower Agreements with Contracts to Buy. The
[1] [2]

agreements stipulated, among others, that the cooperatives and their


members would grow pineapples and sell them exclusively to TADI. The
cooperatives and their members may sell their produce to third persons only
with the prior consent of TADI.
Sometime in July or August 1996, TADI received reports that Multi-Fruit
Cooperative, Eduards Cooperative and their members were intending to sell
their pineapples to a third party, in violation of their agreements. Hence, on
August 15, 1996, TADI filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Surallah
a complaint, docketed as Civil Case No. 594-S, against the two cooperatives
[3]

and the respective members of their boards of directors for damages for
breach of contract. The complaint prayed for the issuance of a writ of
preliminary prohibitory and mandatory injunction to compel the cooperatives
and their members to cease and desist from harvesting their pineapples and
selling them to third parties without TADIs prior consent and instead to honor
their obligation to deliver their harvests to TADI.
It appears that a day before, or on August 14, 1996, Multi-Fruit
Cooperative filed before the Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of Surallah
an action, docketed as Civil Case No. 179, against TADI for damages with
prayer for temporary restraining order (TRO) and writ of preliminary injunction,
directing TADI to desist and refrain from doing acts which would in any
manner interfere, meddle and hinder the harvesting, hauling and disposal by
[Multi-Fruit Coop] and/or any of its members of the pineapple fruits from their
lands. The complaint was prepared and signed by respondent. The
[4]

verification and certification annexed to the complaint were also notarized by


him.
Thereafter, a series of suits was instituted by Eduards Cooperative and
some of its members, as well as by some of the members of Multi-Fruit
Cooperative, against TADI, to wit:
Case Caption Date filed Nature

1. Civil Case No. 180 August 19, 1996 Damages with prayer for

Eduards Small Coconut Farmers temporary restraining

Development Cooperative order and writ of

represented by its Manager Roberto preliminary injunction

Suyo and its Board of Directors,

namely, Manuel Formon, Samuel

Ingoy, Remedios Tanco, Johnna Paz

G. Israel and Levy Calvo vs. TBoli

Agro-Industrial Development,

Incorporated

2. Civil Case No. 184 September 19, 1996 Damages with prayer for

Johnna Paz Israel and Milagros writ of preliminary

Guevarra vs. TBoli Agro-Industrial injunction and tempo-

Development, Inc. (TADI) rary restraining order


3. Civil Case No. 186 September 19, 1996 Damages with prayer for

Mabel and Maja Faeldonia, writ of preliminary

represented by their mother Angeles injunction and tempo-

Faeldonia vs. TBoli Agro-Industrial rary restraining order

Development, Inc. (TADI)

4. Civil Case No. 187 September 19, 1996 Damages with prayer for

Oscar Jordan vs. TBoli Agro- writ of preliminary

Industrial Development, Inc. (TADI) injunction and tempo-

rary restraining order

5.Civil Case No. 188 September 25, 1996 Damages with prayer for

Hermie Bastareche vs. TBoli Agro- writ of preliminary

Industrial Development, Inc. (TADI) injunction and tempo-

rary restraining order

6. Civil Case No. 191 November 8, 1996 Forcible entry with

Josefina Bacongco vs. TBoli Agro- prayer for writ of

Industrial Development, Inc. (TADI) preliminary injunction

and temporary

restraining order

7. Civil Case No. 192 November 8, 1996 Forcible entry with

Anita Lagrana vs. TBoli Agro- prayer for writ of

Industrial Development, Inc. (TADI) preliminary injunction

and temporary

restrainig order

8. Civil Case No. 193 November 14, 1996 Forcible entry with

Leoncio Verdida, Jr. vs. TBoli Agro- prayer for writ of


Industrial Development, Inc. (TADI) preliminary injunction

and temporary

restraining order

9. Civil Case No. 194 November 14, 1996 Forcible entry with

Avelino Obliga vs. TBoli Agro- prayer for writ of

Industrial Development, Inc. (TADI) preliminary injunction

and temporary

restraining order

10. Civil Case No. 195 November 14, 1996 Forcible entry with

Mariano Malinao vs. TBoli Agro- prayer for writ of

Industrial Development, Inc. (TADI) preliminary injunction

and temporary

restraining order

11. Civil Case No. 196 November 15, 1996 Forcible entry and

Arthur E. Tanco vs. TBoli Agro- damages and prayer for

Industrial Development, Inc. (TADI) writ of preliminary

Injunction and

temporary restraining

order

All the complaints were prepared and signed by respondent as the


complainants counsel. Each complaint uniformly prayed that TADI be ordered
to [vacate plaintiffs land and specifically to] desist and refrain from doing any
[5]

act/s which would in any way interfere, hamper, impede and/or disturb the
plaintiffs in the exercise of their rights of ownership over their lands in the
planting and growing of any crop on their farmholding and the harvesting,
hauling, delivery and disposal of any fruits therefrom. [6]

The verification and certification annexed to the complaints uniformly


stated:
That I/we, ..., after having been duly sworn to in accordance with law, hereby
depose/s and state/s:

1. That I/we ... am/are the plaintiff/s in the above-entitled case;

2. That I/we have caused the foregoing Complaint to be prepared by Counsel and that
the contents thereof are true and correct to the best of my own personal knowledge;

3. That I/we have not filed any suit involving the same cause or subject matter before
the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court or any other Tribunal, and should any
information of this nature would reach my knowledge I bound myself to so report the
same immediately to this Honorable Court; ....[7]

Because of the failure by the cooperatives and their members to state


under oath the pendency or the termination, as the case may be, of other civil
cases (Civil Case Nos. 179, 180 and 594-S) earlier filed, the MCTC of
[8]

Surallah dismissed Civil Case Nos. 184, 186, 187 and 188 for litis
pendentia and for violation of Administrative Circular No. 04-94. For the same
[9]

reasons, the TROs issued in Civil Case Nos. 191, 192, 193, 194, 195 and 196
were also lifted, and, later, the cases themselves were also dismissed on the
ground that the complaints for forcible entry had no basis since the plaintiffs
therein were still in possession of their lands. [10]

In this complaint, TADI alleges that respondent abused the judicial


process by repeatedly engaging in forum-shopping in violation of
Administrative Circular No. 04-94. It also alleges that he violated his oath as a
lawyer, as well as the Code of Professional Responsibility, and therefore
[11]

should be disbarred.
In his answer, respondent denies the allegations against him. He contends
that he could not have concealed the pendency of Civil Case Nos. 179, 180
and 594-S when he subsequently filed Civil Case Nos. 184, 186, 187 and 188
because the fact is that all the prior cases, except Civil Case No. 594-S, were
filed in the same MCTC of Surallah, presided over by the same judge, Judge
Sollesta, and therefore should have been judicially noted by him. Moreover,
respondent says, the cases do not involve similar issues and causes of
action. In fact, he says, in all the complaints in Civil Case Nos. 184, 186, 187
and 188, it was stated in paragraph 19 thereof that Civil Case No. 180 was a
case absolutely different from each of the other complaints filed. Hence,
another statement to the same effect in the certification and verification
annexed to each of the complaints in question would have been surplusage.
He further contends that the cases do not involve identical parties and causes
of action so as to amount to litis pendentia. He prayed for the dismissal of the
complaint for lack of merit and for being nothing more than a harassment
charge.
In a resolution dated December 1, 1997, the Court referred this case to the
Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC) which, in its report dated March 6, 1998,
[12]

recommended the investigation of respondent by the Integrated Bar of the


Philippines (IBP). Hence, on June 15, 1998, the Court referred the case to
[13]

the IBP for investigation, report and recommendation. [14]

On September 14, 2000, the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline


recommended that respondent be disbarred. Its report was adopted and
[15]

approved, with modification, by the IBP Board of Governors in a resolution


dated June 29, 2002, which found respondent to have engaged in forum-
shopping. However, instead of disbarment, the IBP Board of Governors
recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for two
years.[16]

On October 3, 2002, respondent filed a motion for reconsideration and/or


relief from the IBP resolution, contending that the IBP report and
recommendation was not supported by evidence because it failed to consider
the factual matters and substantive issues raised in his answer. He prayed for
a reconsideration of the resolution and/or a re-investigation of the matter.
The issue in this case is simply whether respondent is guilty of forum-
shopping. After a review of the records of this case, the Court finds the
recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors to be well taken.
To begin with, the essence of forum-shopping is the filing of multiple suits
involving the same parties for the same cause of action, either simultaneously
or successively, for the purpose of obtaining a favorable judgment. In several
[17]

cases, this Court has held that forum-shopping exists when, as a result of an
adverse opinion in one forum, a party seeks a favorable opinion in another, or
when he institutes two or more actions or proceedings grounded on the same
cause to increase the chances of obtaining a favorable decision. An [18]

important factor in determining the existence of forum-shopping is the


vexation caused to the courts and parties-litigants by the filing of similar cases
to claim substantially the same reliefs.
[19]

Forum-shopping exists where the elements of litis pendentia are present


or where a final judgment in one case will amount to res judicata in
another. Hence, the following requisites concur: (a) identity of parties, or at
[20]

least such parties as represent the same interests in both actions, (b) identity
of rights asserted and relief prayed for, the relief being founded on the same
facts, and (c) the identity of the two preceding particulars is such that any
judgment rendered in the other action will, regardless of which party is
successful, amount to res judicata in the action under consideration. These [21]

requisites are present in this case.


First. Respondent contends that there was no identity of parties involved in
the cases.
The cases do involve identical parties. In Civil Case No. 594-S, TADIs
complaint is directed not only against Multi-Fruit Cooperative, Eduards
Cooperative and the respective members of their boards of directors but also
their pole vaulting members, and John Does and Peter Does. Although the
caption of the case filed by TADI did not enumerate all the individual members
who later on filed their individual complaints, the case filed against the two
cooperatives actually concerned their individual members. The latters cases
are similar to the case filed by TADI against them.
In any case, litis pendentia does not require a literal identity of parties. It is
sufficient that there is identity of interests represented, which is clearly
[22]

shown by the allegations in the complaints. For instance, while Civil Case No.
180 was brought in the name of Eduards Cooperative, the allegations, as well
as the prayer thereof, clearly indicated that the members of the cooperative
were included. Thus, the prayer reads:

WHEREFORE, it is most respectfully prayed that upon the filing hereof, a Temporary
Restraining Order be issued directing the Defendant, its agents, assigns, attorney
and/or any person acting in its behalf to desist and refrain from doing acts which
would in any manner interfere, meddle and hinder the harvesting, hauling and disposal
by the Plaintiff Cooperative and/or any of its members of the pineapple fruits from
their lands . . . .[23]

In Civil Case No. 594-S, while it is true that TADI filed the case against
Multi-Fruits Cooperative, Eduards Cooperative, their respective boards of
directors and some, but not all, of their members, the allegations in the
complaint, specifically paragraph 1 thereof, shows that TADI was suing not
only those named in the caption, but also

. . . all Coop members who are violating and/or intending/poised to violate their
contractual obligations are sued herein jointly with the coop and officers. . . .[24]

Even if each cooperative is separate and distinct from its members,


respondent should have noticed that, in the complaint filed by TADI, Josefina
Bacongco of Multi-Fruit Cooperative and Johnna Paz Israel of Eduards
Cooperative were named as respondents therein. The civil cases filed by the [25]
cooperatives should, therefore, have indicated in the verification and
certification the pendency of Civil Case No. 594-S.
On the other hand, Civil Case No. 179 filed by Multi-Fruit Cooperative, as
well as Civil Case No. 180 filed by Eduards Cooperative, named Josefina
Bacongco and Johnna Paz Israel as complainants against TADI. These facts
have not been reflected by respondent in the complaints in Civil Case Nos.
184 and 191. He also failed to mention in the verification and certification that
Bacongco and Israel had instituted complaints, in their capacity as members
of the boards of directors of their cooperatives, against TADI.
Second. Respondent contends that the causes of action asserted in the
cases filed by him as counsel are different. This contention has no merit. In
Civil Case No. 594-S, TADI alleged that it entered into a Memorandum of
Understanding with the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) whereby LBP
would provide production loans to qualified cooperative growers for the Tropi-
Pine Production Project and credit assistance to the cooperative growers.
TADI, on the other hand, agreed to execute production and marketing
agreements with the cooperatives, committing itself to purchase the fruits
harvested by the cooperatives. By virtue of the Tropi-Pine Production
[26]

Project, TADI entered into several agreements with the cooperatives and their
members. Later on, TADI filed suits against these cooperatives and their
members for their alleged unilateral withdrawal and refusal to deliver fruits.
TADI prayed for the issuance of a preliminary injunction to compel the
cooperatives and their members to deliver their harvests to it (TADI), as well
as for the issuance of a TRO to compel the cooperatives and their members
to cease and desist from harvesting fruits and from selling them to third
parties without its (TADIs) consent.
On the other hand, the civil cases filed by the cooperatives and their
members against TADI alleged that they were indebted to the LBP, not to
TADI, for loans used to finance the pineapple project of the members. The
members who had availed of the loans from the LBP signed Promissory Notes
and Trust Receipts (PNTR) to secure their repayments to the cooperative,
which in turn would secure their repayment to the creditor LBP. However, it
was alleged, the members were restrained from complying with their
obligation under the PNTR by TADIs nefarious acts of harassing and
threatening, through a fully-armed private army, the members of the
cooperatives and coercing them to deliver their pineapple harvests to TADIs
cannery. For this reason, the cooperatives and their members prayed for the
issuance of a TRO against TADI for it to desist from interfering in the
harvest.[27]
Based on the allegations on the complaints, the identity of the causes of
action in the cases is apparent. The cause of action of the cases is grounded
on whether TADI has the authority to oblige the cooperatives and their
members to deliver pineapples to it. In resolving the issue, the lower court
would necessarily look into the agreements entered into by the parties, to wit,
the Memorandum of Understanding between TADI and LBP, the PNTR
between LBP and the cooperatives and their members vis--vis the contracts
(Production and Marketing Agreements; Growers Agreements with Contract to
Buy) executed between TADI and the cooperatives and their members in
order to decide the cases.
In Civil Case No. 594-S, the cooperatives and their members could have
prayed for reliefs in their respective answers instead of filing the subsequent
cases. In fact, the two cooperatives and their members filed a single answer
to TADIs complaint. They alleged that they were indebted to LBP and not to
[28]

TADI by virtue of the PNTR. This alone would have sufficed for them to air
their side. The filing of several cases subsequent thereto was thus
unnecessary.
Third. The claim of respondent that TADI is guilty of forum-shopping is
misplaced. He claims that, first, it filed Civil Case No. 594-S before the RTC of
Surallah during the pendency of Civil Case No. 179 before the MCTC of
Surallah, and, second, it filed Civil Case No. 168 before the MCTC of
Norala after Civil Case Nos. 594-S, 179 and 180 have been filed before other
courts. But this is another matter. TADIs alleged violation of the prohibition
against forum-shopping will neither exculpate respondent nor mitigate his own
liability for breaching said prohibition.
As to Civil Case No. 594-S, TADI claims that it filed the same on August
15, 1996 before it received the summons and the TRO issued by the MCTC in
Civil Case No. 179. This has not been disputed by Multi-Fruit Cooperative and
its members. This has also been proven by the records which show that the
TRO for Civil Case No. 179 was received by the administrative assistant of
TADI on August 15, 1996 at 1:05 p.m. On the other hand, Civil Case No. 594-
S was filed by TADI earlier on the same day, at 9:45 a.m. It is clear that
[29]

TADI filed Civil Case No. 594-S without knowing that another case filed
against it had been pending before another court. In any event, Civil Case No.
179 was ordered dismissed by the MCTC on September 20, 1996 for lack of
jurisdiction, since the aggregate amount of damages sought by Multi-Fruit
Cooperative was more than P100,000.00. [30]

That TADI filed Civil Case No. 168 before the MCTC of Norala, South
Cotabato on October 1, 1996 against Carmen Italia Vda. Huele while Civil
Case Nos. 179, 180 and 594-S were pending before other courts is of no
moment. The issue in Civil Case No. 168 was whether TADI could remove the
bamboo barricades on the access roads to defendants land so that it could
inspect the land, determine the diseases and pest control methods necessary
and verify production estimates, among others. This issue is different from
that in Civil Case Nos. 179, 180 and 594-S which was whether TADI could
compel the cooperatives and their members to sell their produce to it. At all
events, even if TADI were itself guilty of forum-shopping, it would not make
respondent less guilty for his own infraction.
Respondent also claims that he could not have concealed the pendency of
Civil Case Nos. 179 and 180 since all the cases were filed before the same
MCTC presided over by Judge Sollesta, who should have taken judicial notice
of such cases. This contention is erroneous. As a general rule, courts are not
authorized to take judicial notice in the adjudication of cases pending before
them of the contents of other cases even when such cases have been tried or
are pending in the same court and notwithstanding the fact that both cases
may have been tried or are actually pending before the same judge. Courts [31]

may be required to take judicial notice of the decisions of the appellate courts
but not of the decisions of the coordinate trial courts, or even of a decision or
the facts involved in another case tried by the same court itself, unless the
parties introduce the same in evidence or the court, as a matter of
convenience, decides to do so. Besides, judicial notice of matters which
[32]

ought to be known to judges because of their judicial functions is only


discretionary upon the court. It is not mandatory. [33]

Fourth. We find respondent to have violated the rule on forum-


shopping. Circular No. 28-91 of the Supreme Court, which took effect on
[34]

January 1, 1992, requires a certificate of non-forum shopping to be attached


to petitions filed before this Court and the Court of Appeals. This circular was
revised on February 8, 1994 and issued as Administrative Circular No. 04-94,
which extended the requirement of a certificate of non-forum shopping to all
initiatory pleadings filed in all courts and quasi-judicial agencies other than this
Court and the Court of Appeals. The circular, which became effective on April
1, 1994, provides:
[35]

(1) The plaintiff, petitioner, applicant or principal party seeking relief in the
complaint, petition, application or other initiatory pleading shall certify under oath in
such original pleading, or in a sworn certification annexed thereto and simultaneously
filed therewith, to the truth of the following facts and undertakings: (a) he has not
theretofore commenced any other action or proceeding involving the same issues in
the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, or any other tribunal or agency; (b) to the
best of his knowledge, no such action or proceeding is pending in the Supreme Court,
the Court of Appeals, or any other tribunal or agency; (c) if there is any such action or
proceeding which is either pending or may have been terminated, he must state the
status thereof; and (d) if he should thereafter learn that a similar action or proceeding
has been filed or is pending before the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, or any
other tribunal or agency, he undertakes to report that fact within five (5) days
therefrom to the court or agency wherein the original pleading and sworn certification
contemplated herein have been filed.

The complaint and other initiatory pleadings referred to and subject of this Circular
are the original civil complaint, counterclaim, cross-claim, third (fourth, etc.) party
complaint, or complaint-in-intervention, petition, or application wherein a party
asserts his claim for relief.

(2) Any violation of this Circular shall be a cause for the dismissal of the complaint,
petition, application or other initiatory pleading, upon motion and after
hearing. However, any clearly willful and deliberate forum shopping by any party and
his counsel through the filing of multiple complaints or other initiatory pleadings to
obtain favorable action shall be a ground for summary dismissal thereof and shall
constitute direct contempt of court. Furthermore, the submission of a false
certification or non-compliance with the undertakings therein, as provided in
Paragraph 1 hereof, shall constitute indirect contempt of court, without prejudice to
disciplinary proceedings against the counsel and the filing of a criminal action against
the guilty party (emphasis added).

Thus, violation of the circular on forum-shopping is a ground for


disciplinary action against an erring lawyer. [36]

The rule against forum-shopping and the necessity of a certification of


non-forum shopping under Administrative Circular No. 04-94 are basic
requirements in remedial law. Failure to comply with them constitutes gross
negligence. For being grossly negligent, not only in isolated instances but
repeatedly, respondent should be held liable.
Moreover, under Canon 12 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, respondent, as a lawyer, is duty-bound to assist in the speedy
and efficient administration of justice.In this connection, Rule 12.02 states that
a lawyer shall not file multiple actions arising from the same cause. By doing
precisely the foregoing, regardless of whether or not he intentionally and
brazenly resorted to such legal subterfuge to mislead the court, respondent
should be sanctioned.
However, we find the imposition of disbarment upon him to be unduly
harsh. The power to disbar must be exercised with great caution, and may
be imposed only in a clear case of misconduct that seriously affects the
standing and the character of the lawyer as an officer of the Court and as a
member of the bar. Disbarment should never be decreed where any lesser
penalty could accomplish the end desired. [37]

In Millare v. Montero, we suspended an erring lawyer for one year for


[38]

filing six appeals, complaints or petitions to frustrate the execution of an MTC


judgment, in violation of Rule 12.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility
and the rule on forum-shopping, among others. Accordingly, suspension for
one year from the practice of law would be an appropriate penalty to impose
on respondent for his failure to comply with the requirements under
Administrative Circular No. 04-94 on forum-shopping and the Code of
Professional Responsibility.
WHEREFORE, Atty. Nepthali P. Solilapsi is hereby SUSPENDED from the
practice of law for a period of one (1) year effective upon the finality of this
decision for violation of the prohibition against forum-shopping as provided in
Administrative Circular No. 04-94 and of the Code of Professional
Responsibility. He is WARNED that a repetition of similar misconduct will be
dealt with more severely.
SO ORDERED.
Bellosillo, J., (Chairman), Quisumbing, Austria-Martinez, and Callejo, Sr.,
JJ., concur.
FIRST DIVISION

A.M. No. RTJ-91-744 August 1, 2002

LEOPOLDO E. SAN BUENAVENTURA, complainant,


vs.
JUDGE ANGEL S. MALAYA, as Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 22, Naga City and
ATTY. OMAR M. C. ALAM, respondents.

RESOLUTION

KAPUNAN, J.:

Complainant Atty. Leopoldo San Buenaventura charges respondent Atty. Omar M.C. Alam with
bribing respondent Judge Angel S. Malaya of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Naga City, Branch
22 in order to secure a favorable order. Also charged by complaint of receiving bribe money was
Judge Milagros Caguioa of the Pasig RTC, Branch 165 but the complaint was dismissed as against
her in view of her retirement prior to the filing of complaint.1

From the pleadings and the Investigating Justice’s Report appears the following antecedents:

The administrative complaint stems from two related cases. The first is Civil Case No. R-
570, entitled "Irene P. Mariano (now Irene P. Relucio), plaintiff, vs. Francisco M. Bautista,
defendant," pending before respondent Judge Malaya. The second is Special Proceeding No. 8872,
captioned "In the Matter of the Allowance of the Will of Irene Pena Relucio, Rolando S. Relucio,
applicant, vs. Jose P. Mariano and Erlinda Mariano Villanueva, oppositors," assigned to then Judge
Caguioa. 1âwphi1.nêt

Complainant was the former counsel of Jose Mariano and Erlinda Mariano-Villanueva in Civil Case
No. R-570. Complainant’s clients were legal representatives appointed by the court in said case with
the power to administer the property of the estate of the original plaintiff, Irene P. Mariano. On the
other hand, respondent Atty. Alam was the collaborating counsel for the defendant, Francisco
Bautista in the same civil case. He was also the collaborating counsel for Jose Mariano and Erlinda
Mariano-Villanueva in SP No. 8872. After the money judgment in favor of Francisco Bautista was
fully satisfied, respondent lawyer was retained as collaborating counsel for Jose Mariano and Erlinda
Mariano Villanueva in Civil Case No. R-570.

On January 29, 1990, complainant, in behalf of his clients, filed a motion in Civil Case No. R-570 to
withdraw the balance of the proceeds of the auction sale and the consigned rentals to pay the estate
and real estate taxes. Respondent Judge Malaya denied the motion in view of a temporary
restraining order issued by the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 19533. Complainant did not
move for the reconsideration of the order denying the motion, purportedly because the denial was
sufficiently grounded on the law and the facts.

Meanwhile, in SP No. 8872, upon motion of respondent Atty. Alam, counsel for the heirs of the
deceased Jose Mariano, Judge Caguioa appointed Danilo David S. Mariano as special administrator
of the estate of the late Irene Pena Mariano (Relucio), per Order dated February 27, 1990.

On May 29, 1990, respondent Atty. Alam, representing the heirs of Jose P. Mariano and the special
administrator, filed a motion in Civil Case No. R-570 for the reconsideration of the Order dated
February 27, 1990. He pointed out that the motion to withdraw the balance of the proceeds was filed
by complainant Atty. San Buenaventura; that Atty. San Buenaventura is no longer the counsel for
Erlinda Marinao-Villanueva and that the new attorney-in-fact interposes no objection to the motion
for reconsideration. He also stressed that while the temporary restraining order issued by the Court
of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. 19533 was broad in scope, the writ of preliminary injunction issued by the
appellate court was limited to "enjoining the public respondent from enforcing the writ of possession
affecting the subject property covered by TCT No. 20201 and the private respondent from disposing
it." He added that the matter of withdrawing the balance of the proceeds of the sale and consigned
rentals is outside the prohibition of the injunctive writ.

Finding the motion meritorious, respondent Judge Malaya issued an Order dated June 4, 1990
granting the motion for reconsideration thus allowing special administrator Danilo David S. Mariano
to withdraw the balance of the proceeds of the auction sale deposited with the Clerk of Court, Naga
City:

WHEREFORE, the Court hereby directs as follows:

a) On the motion to pay realty taxes due the City Government of Naga the special
administrator Danilo David S. Mariano is authorized to withdraw from the auction sale
balance deposited with the Clerk of Court, RTC Naga the sum of P95,941.31 to pay the said
realty tax on subject property for the years 1981-1989. The Clerk of Court is hereby
instructed that 50% of P47, 870.00 of said amount be paid in check payable to the "city
government of Naga City" care of the City Treasurer, with the balance to the said estate of
Macario Mariano care of said special administrator;

b) On the motion for reconsideration of the Order of this Court dated February 27, 1990, the
said Order is hereby RECONSIDERED. The said Estate, thru said special administrator
Danilo David S. Mariano is hereby authorized to withdraw whatever money/ies held in
deposit by the Clerk of Court, RTC Naga, representing the balance of auctional minus the
realty tax payment and other service fees due said Office allowable by law;

c) x x x.

SO ORDERED.2

Complainant alleges that in consideration of said Order, respondent Judge Malaya of received bribe
money in the amount of P60,000.00 from respondent Atty. Alam. In his letter-complaint dated
September 27, 1991, Atty. San Buenaventura charged:

1. JUDGE MILAGROS V. CAGUIOA, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, National Capital
Judicial Region, Branch 165, Pasig, Metro Manila, for receiving bribe money in the amount of
FIFTY THOUSAND (P50,000.00) PESOS from DANILO DAVID S. MARIANO and ATTY.
OMAR M.C. ALAM as evidenced by handwritten and typewriteen reports, Annexes "A" and
"B", of DAVID S. MARIANO in liquidating the P337,000.00 balance of the auction money
paid for the real estate properties of the Estate of Dona Irene P. Mariano-Relucio, the
probate proceedings (IN THE MATTER OF THE ALLOWANCE OF THE WILL OF IRENE P.
RELUCIO - SP. PROC. NO. 8872) which is pending in her sala. The said FIFTY
THOUSAND (P50,000.00) bribe money was given to the said Judge upon the instruction by
and thru ATTY. OMAR M.C. ALAM, counsel of the administrator DANILO DAVID S.
MARIANO and with the latter’s consent and approval, apparently in exchange for her
ORDER, Annex "C" appointing accused DANILO DAVID S. MARIANO, as Special
Administrator of the said estate, despite lack of qualifications as such and in the absence of
due notice and court hearing in gross violation of the Rules of Court and applicable
jurisprudence, and to the prejudice and disadvantage of the other heirs and the creditors of
the estate.

2. JUDGE ANGEL S. MALAYA, Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 22, Fifth
Judicial Region, Naga City, for RECEIVING bribe money in the amount of SIXTY
THOUSAND (P60,000.00), from Danilo David S. Mariano, but actually and personally
handed to him by Ms. LYDIA GAYA, upon his instruction, in two letter envelopes, P50,000.00
for Judge Malaya and the other P10,000.00 for the Executive Judge (Nepomuceno) as
alleged by Judge Malaya, and, ORDERING, Annexes "D" and "E", without due notice and
proper hearing, the released of the P337,709.51, deposited in court (under his sala), to the
accused Administrator, instead of paying the said amount directly to the City Treasurer of
Naga for real estate taxes due the estate, as moved and prayed for, in a motion Annex "G"
filed, by the undersigned complainant, thereby causing undue injury to the other heirs of the
decedent and the creditors of the estate, including the government for non-payment of taxes
and GIVING the administrator and his relatives and their lawyer unwarranted benefit,
advantage and preference in the discharge of his judicial function through manifest partiality
and evident bad faith.

3. ATTY. OMAR M.C. ALAM, as officer of the court, in persuading, inducing or influencing
the aforementioned judges to issue Orders that are grossly violative of the Rules of Court
and existing jurisprudence and in actually and personally GIVING the bribe money of FIFTY
THOUSAND (P50,000.00) PESOS to JUDGE MILAGROS V. CAGUIOA and SIXTY
THOUSAND (P60,000.00) PESOS to JUDGE ANGEL S. MALAYA.3

Attached to the complaint is Annex "A"4 which appears to be a list of expenses, handwritten,
unsigned and stating:

50,000. - Judge Malaya S.O.P.

10,000. - Judge Nepomuceno S.O.P

15,000. - Processing fees/Sheriff/Transportation/Freight of


Furnitures Fixtures From OLV House

50,000. - Judge Caguiao S.O.P.

10,000. - BIR (Atty. Tomas Cariño)

10,000. - Casureco/Fire Dept For Installation of Electricity

5,000. - City Engineer’s Office

150,000

Annex "B," consisting of one page, is a typewritten breakdown of the proceeds from the auction sale.
Under the heading "LEGAL/EXPENSES" the amount of P50,000.00 appears before the entry "Judge
Malaya’s S.OP.," thus:

LIQUIDATION OF PROCEEDS

FROM AUCTION SALE


P 337,709.51 --- AMOUNT OF PROCEEDS

EXPENSES:

I TAXES

P47,870 - OR No. 6354241 - Paid to City Government for Real Property Taxes

II LEGAL/EXPENSES

P 25,000 - Administrator’s Bond

50,000 - Judge Malaya’s S. OP.

10,000 - Judge Nepomuceno’s S. OP.

50,000 - Atty. Omar Alam

15,000 - Processing S.OP/Sheriff’s fee/ Freight of fixtures, etc.

________

P150,000

xxx

Appended as Annex "H"5 to the complaint is the Affidavit of one Ms. Lydia Gaya detailing the
circumstances of the alleged bribery:

1.- In the morning of June 4, 1990, I was with Atty. Omar M.C. Alam inside the chamber of
Judge Angel S. Malaya after the hearing of the Motion for Reconsideration filed by Atty. Alam
in the sala of the said judge;

2. - On that occasion and inside the chamber of the said judge, Atty. Omar M.C. Alam
offered an amount to Judge Angel S. Malaya on a "package deal" for him to grant the Motion
for Reconsideration filed by the former in order to withdraw the balance of the proceeds
coming from the money judgment on the auctioned property owned by the estate;

3. - On June 5, 1990, Atty. Omar M.C. Alam left for Manila leaving me a verbal instruction to
follow up the Order from Judge Malaya;

4. - After receiving a copy of the Order granting the Motion for Reconsideration, I brought it to
the Clerk of Court for the preparation of the voucher, after which the voucher was forwarded
to the Executive Judge, Judge Nepomuceno, for his signature who suspended the release of
the voucher without the Certificate of the Finality of the Judgement;

5. - Because of that requirement, I went back to the chamber of Judge Malaya informing him
about it, and he told me that it is not necessary because it was just a carry over of the
previous withdrawal of the money judgment paid to Mr. Francisco Bautista and told me that
he will make some arrangement with Judge Nepomuceno;
6. - That is where I asked him already how much was the commitment of Atty. Omar M.C.
Alam and he answered that it was FIFTY THOUSAND (P50,000.00) PESOS for him and
another TEN THOUSAND (P 10,000.00) PESOS for Judge Nepomuceno, and Judge Angel
S. Malaya demanded a partial payment of TEN THOUSAND (P10,000.00) PESOS for he
needed to be sent to Manila for his children for tuition fees;

7. - The day after Danilo S. Mariano gave me an envelope containing money which I
personally handed to Judge Angel S. Malaya in the presence of the wife of Danilo David S.
Mariano and him inside the chamber;

8. - I waited for Judge Malaya inside his chamber and after a while he returned and gave me
the voucher already signed by Judge Nepomuceno and I gave the same to the clerk of court
who forwarded the same to the Provincial Capitol;

9. - After a few days, the check in the name of the Clerk of Court of Camarines Sur was
forwarded to her office who endorsed the same and instructed one of her subordinates to
encash the said check in the amount of THREE HUNDRED THIRTY SEVEN THOUSAND
SEVEN HUNDRED NINE PESOS and FIFTY ONE CENTAVOS (P337,709.51) PESOS
while I and Danilo David S. Mariano were waiting inside the office of the said Clerk of Court;

10. - After lunch the said subordinate of the Clerk of Court arrived with the money and turned
it over to the Clerk of Court who took from that money FORTY SEVEN THOUSAND EIGHT
HUNDRED SEVENTY (P47,870.00) PESOS pertaining to taxes due to the City government
of Naga as per Order of Judge Angel S. Malaya;

11. - The entire balance was handed by the Clerk of Court to the Administrator of the Estate,
Danilo David S. Mariano who proceeded with me to Bank of Philippines Islands, Naga City
and opened an account under his name and thereafter we went home;

12. - The next day at about 9:30 a.m., Danilo David S. Mariano came to my pad requesting
me to accompany him to go to the bank to withdraw some money as his commitment to
Judge Malaya;

13. - After he withdrew the money from Bank of Philippine Islands, Naga City Branch, I and
Danilo David S. Mariano went straight to the sala of Judge Malaya and on the stairs up to the
said office, Danilo David S. Mariano handed to me two envelopes containing money and
instructed me to give the same to Judge Angel S. Malaya which I handed down to the said
judge in his presence without opening the envelopes, and thereafter, we immediately left for
home;

14. - In the morning of April 10, 1991, I went to the sala of Judge Angel S. Malaya to show to
him an affidavit executed by Danilo David S. Mariano denying the handing out the money to
the said judge; who, upon seeing the affidavit, asked me to request Atty. Leopoldo E. San
Buenaventura for a conference at Hotel Mirabella at Naga City;

15. - I told Atty. Leopoldo E. San Buenaventura who was then attending to a case in the sala
of Judge Julian Ocampo in an adjoining building, who acceeded to such request and we
followed Judge Angel S. Malaya to the said Hotel Mirabella a little later after attending the
said hearing;

16. - The three of us, Judge Malaya, Atty. San Buenaventura and I joined in one table at the
second floor of said hotel and took our merienda;
17. - It is in this occasion, that Judge Angel S. Malaya requested Atty. San Buenaventura not
to include them in this problem because were it not for me and Atty. Omar M.C. Alam who
made the offer which he did not demand anyway, but accepted the same thinking that you
are in good terms, referring to Atty. San Buenaventura and Atty. Omar M.C. Alam who had
the same common stand;

18. - The judge asked Atty. San Buenaventura to make a deal for three times shaking hands
with him for which Atty. San Buenaventura was silent for the first two shaking of hands, but
on the third time told the judge that his back was pushed hard to the wall by them that the
answer depends on Atty. Omar M.C. Alam and Danilo David S. Mariano for which the judge
promised to go to Manila and talk to Atty. Omar M.C. Alam and to see Atty. San
Buenaventura in his office about it and even checking his address at Mile Long Building if it
is still the same, after which the Judge left earlier and the two of us likewise left the said
restaurant;

19. - I am executing this affidavit to state the truth and to attest to the fact that I was just
instructed by Atty. Omar M.C. Alam to follow up the papers with the office of Judge Angel S.
Malaya and to further instructions from Danilo David S. Mariano to give the money to said
judge without touching the money contained in the envelopes.-

Annex "I" is Atty. San Buenaventura’s own Affidavit alleging that:

1. - In the morning of April 10, 1991, I was requested by Judge Angel S. Malaya, thru Lydia
R. Gaya, to see him at Hotel Mirabella, Naga City, and after finishing my hearing in the sala
of Judge Julian Ocampo, I proceeded with her and my group of relatives and friends, in the
person of Pio Alcantara, Tino Encinas, Nido Encinas, Freddie Badiola and Baids Rivera,
whom I left in the corridor of said hotel;

2. - When I and Lydia R. Gaya arrived at the restaurant of that hotel at the second floor, the
said judge was already there waiting for us, and after ordering merienda, we, referring to
Lydia, I and Judge Angel S. Malaya had a conversation regarding the Mariano case;

3. - Judge Angel S. Malaya directly admitted and confessed to me, in front of Lydia R. Gaya,
that he accepted the money because of the offer of Atty. Omar M.C. Alam and without
demanding for it, thinking that I and Atty. Alam are in good terms;

4. - In three instances, during that merienda meeting, the said Judge Angel S. Malaya
offered "a deal" which I did not answer or make any comment, except on the third time when
I told him that Atty. Omar Alam and Danilo David S. Mariano had pushed my back behind the
wall too hard that I cannot do anything about it now; otherwise, I am now the one appearing
to be the liar;

5. - At this instance, Judge Malaya requested me "not to implicate them" and offered to see
Atty. Omar Alam and bring him to my office to talk about this matter and volunteered to settle
the same, and even asked if my office is still situated at Mile Long Building at Makati, which I
readily answered in the affirmative;

6. - After finishing our merienda, the said Judge left ahead and leaving I and Lydia Gaya
behind.

7. - Thereafter, I rejoined my group of relatives and friends and left the said Hotel and we
proceeded home and Lydia R. Gaya left also for home.
8. - I am executing this affidavit to document the admission and confession of Judge Angel
S. Malaya, in the presence of Lydia Gaya, of his receipt of the bribe money in the Mariano
case.

Finally, Annex "G"6 is the Affidavit of one Salvador N. Rivera, who was allegedly present when Ms.
Gaya narrated that she gave the bribe money to respondent Judge Malaya.

Handwritten at the bottom of the page are the words, "Submitted by: Danny Mariano."

In this Court’s Resolution dated May 28, 1992, respondents Judge Malaya and Atty. Alam were
directed to file their respective comments.

Respondent Judge filed his comment on August 4, 1992, while Atty. Alam filed his comment only on
August 1, 1994.

In his comment dated August 4, 1992, his reply to complainant’s rejoinder dated January 13, 1993
and supplemental comment dated June 25, 1993, respondent Judge denied the charges against
him. The Report of the Investigating Justice summarizes the defenses interposed by respondent
Judge, including, among others:

1. The issuance of the June 4, 1990 Order was proper and regular. The motion for
reconsideration was filed by co-respondent Atty. Alam and was set for hearing on June 4,
1990. The motion also stated that Atty. San Buenaventura ceased to be the counsel for and
attorney-in-fact of Erlinda Mariano-Villanueva. If a party litigant disagrees with an order of a
judge, it is his right to challenge it in a proper forum, not in an administrative case against the
judge.

2. There was no undue advantage or benefit derived by any party or creditors as a result of
the issuance of the June 4, 1990 Order. First, the desired payment was ordered paid to the
City Government of Naga. Second, the balance was released neither to Jose Mariano or
Erlinda Mariano-Villanueva, nor to the surviving spouse Rolando Relucio (2nd marriage). It
was released to the estate of Macario and Irene Mariano. Moreover, the special
administrator was duly bonded.

3. Complainant lawyer filed the complaint to get even with respondent Judge for having been
dismissed as counsel and attorney-in-fact of Erlinda Mariano Villanueva. After respondent
Judge denied the right to redemption of complainant’s client, Erlinda Villanueva, complainant
was terminated as counsel and attorney-in-fact, as a result of which he lost his contingent
fees.

4. There are glaring inconsistencies in the charges filed by complainant. In the letter-
complaint, complainant alleged that it was Atty. Alam who actually and personally gave the
bribe money to respondent Judge. In his affidavit, he stated that when respondent Judge
received the bribe money coming from Danilo David S. Mariano, it was personally handed to
respondent Judge by Ms. Lydia Gaya.

5. There are material and substantial inconsistencies in the two sworn statements of Lydia
Gaya. In her first sworn statement, she allegedly handed an envelope containing money to
the respondent Judge. The inference is that Gaya did not know how much was inside the
envelope. However, in her supplemental affidavit she mentioned that she handed to
respondent Judge a partial payment of ten thousand pesos.
Too, the letter-complaint alleged that respondent Judge received 60,000.00 as bribe money.
However, in the sworn statements of Lydia Gaya, the bribe money allegedly received by
respondent Judge totalled P70,000.00.

6. Lydia Gaya has an ax to grind against the Marianos, and in order to hit back at them, she
joined forces with complainant.

7. Respondent vehemently denied receiving the bribe. In his meeting with complainant and
Lydia Gaya at Mirabella Hotel, he denied having received bribe money from Danilo David
Mariano. It was complainant who demanded from respondent Judge to put pressure on the
estate administrator to voluntarily resign and for him to render a favorable decision in favor of
complainant in an annulment of marriage pending before his sala.7

Attached as Annex "11"8 to respondent Judge’s comment is a "Supplemental Affidavit" executed by


Lydia Gaya, which affidavit was filed before the Ombudsman.9

Annexes "12" to "14"10 of respondent Judge’s comments are affidavits executed by Danilo Mariano,
the special administrator of the estate of Irene Mariano (Relucio). Mr. Mariano vehemently denied
bribing respondent Judge and expressed his confidence in the latter’s integrity. He also dismissed
the "alleged handwritten and typewritten liquidation reports"11 as fabrications, and claimed that the
charges were ill-motivated and done to spite the Mariano family.

For his part, respondent Atty. Alam likewise refuted the charges against him. Respondent lawyer
claimed that he was not present and he has no knowledge of the enforcement of the order releasing
the P337,707.51. Complainant’s own client, who was also respondent’s client, never complained
about the release of the balance of the auction sale.

In a "Manifestation"12 dated April 14, 1993, complainant accused respondent Judge of "trying to
suppress the evidence" in the present administrative case "by asking the principal witness, Lydia R.
Gaya, to sign an Affidavit retracting ... her previous sworn statements . . ." Ms. Gaya allegedly
declined the offer of P30,000 to P50,000 for her retraction. She executed an Affidavit, attached to
the manifestation, stating that:

AFFIDAVIT

1.- On September 18, 1992, Judge Angel S. Malay requested for a meeting primarily to
discuss the case OMB No. 0-91-2189 in the chamber of Regional Trial Court Judge in Iriga
City, whom I will be constrained to name as my witness if Judge Angel S. Malaya will dispute
the statements herein;

2.- On that meeting, Judge Angel S. Malaya asked me to retract my previous statements in
the Affidavit I executed before Notary Public Benjamin A. Moraleda and the Supplemental
Affidavit I executed before Tanodbayan Special Prosecutor, Victor A. Pascual, which were
both submitted to the Ombudsman in the aforesaid case;

3.- Judge Angel S. Malaya presented to me an affidavit already prepared for my signature,
Annex "A" hereof, which I pulled out a copy, after reading the contents without him noticing it,
but seen by the unnamed Judge and Mrs. Maria Vda. De Nido whom I requested to
accompany me to witness what will happen during that meeting, knowing the habit of Judge
Angel S. Malaya in distorting the truth;
4.- After reading the annexed affidavit and after pulling out a copy without his knowledge, I
declined the request of Judge Angel S. Malaya and refused to sign the same for it contains
falsehood and not the truth, and, worse, because of his sounding me of and other people
with a financial consideration of THIRTY FIVE THOUSAND (P35,000.00) PESOS to FIFTY
THOUSAND (P50,000.00) PESOS.13

Subsequently, complainant filed another "Manifestation"14 attached to which was an unsigned


"Affidavit," which respondent Judge purportedly asked Ms. Gaya to execute. The "Affidavit"15 was
supposed to be a retraction by Ms. Gaya of her previous affidavits accusing respondents of bribery.
The "Affidavit" states in full:

AFFIDAVIT

I, LYDIA R. GAYA, of legal age, Filipino, married with residence and postal address at No. 7,
Blumentritt Street, Naga City, after having been duly sworn to in accordance with law, hereby
declare and say, that:

1. I have executed an affidavit on April 29, 1991 in Quezon City sworn to before Benjamin A.
Moraleda, Notary Public a law associate of Atty. Leopoldo San Buenaventura, in connections
with the letter-complaint filed by Atty. Leopoldo San Buenaventura with the OMBUDSMAN
(OMB No. 0-91-2189) against Judge Angel S. Malaya, Presiding Judge, RTC Br. 22, Naga
City, and others and thereto marked as Annex "H", for violation of RA 3019;

2. I have also executed a Supplemental Affidavit on October 30, 1991 in the City of Manila,
sworn to before Victor A. Pascual, Tanod-bayan Special Prosecutor, also in connection with
OMB-No. 0-91-2289, and duly filed in said case;

3. In connection with said affidavit and supplemental affidavit executed by me, I was
harassed, intimidated and threatened by Atty. Leopoldo San Buenaventura that should I
refuse to cooperate with him I shall be included as an accused together with Judge Malaya,
Judge Milagros Caguios, Atty. Omar MC Alam, and Danilo Mariano in a case he then
intended to file before the OMBUDSMAN;

4. Because of the harassment, intimidation and threats aforesaid I reluctantly signed the said
affidavit already prepared by Atty. Leopoldo San Buenaventura, who did not even allow me
to read the affidavit which signed on April 29, 1991. Moreover, being a woman, the threat,
intimidation and harassment were taking a serious effect on my health and mental state;

5. In my affidavit, which was already prepared, of which I was not allowed to read,
particularly paragraph 13, but which I learned about much later, it says:

"13. After he withdrew the money from the Bank of the Philippine Islands, Naga City
Branch, I and Danilo David S. Mariano went straight to the sala of Judge Malaya and
on the stairs up to the said office Danilo David S. Mariano handed to me two
envelopes containing money and instructed me to give the same to Judge Angel S.
Malaya which I handed down to the said judge in his presence without opening the
envelopes, and thereafter we immediately left for home;

is not a statement I voluntarily gave. What I handed and gave to Judge Malaya was an open
envelope containing, not money but a compliance motion attaching the list of movable
property belonging to the Mariano’s inside the auctioned property;
6. When on April 10, 1991 Judge Malaya, Atty. Leopoldo San Buenaventura and myself met
at Hotel Mirabella, Naga City, alleged in my affidavit said Judge Malaya emphatically denied
having asked, demanded, or received bribe money from Atty. Omar MC Alam, the Mariano’ s
and myself, or have ever admitted having received bribe money;

7. After the denial by Judge Malaya of having asked, demanded or received bribe money,
again Atty. Leopoldo San Buenaventura harassed, intimidated and threatened me that
should I refuse to sign a Supplemental affidavit something will happen to me, so I reluctantly
signed said Supplemental Affidavit even without reading to ensure my safety;

On April 27, 1994, the office of the Court Administrator received a letter16 from Lydia R. Gaya,
attached to which was an Affidavit dated March 1994, stating that she was retracting her statements
regarding the alleged bribery of respondent Judge:

I LYDIA R. GAYA, of legal age, filipino, married, residing at 3105 Davila St., Pasong Tamo,
Makati, Mero Manila after having been duly sworn according to law, deposes and say that:

1. On april 29, 1991 I have executed a sworn affidavit, in connection with the sworn letter-
complaint filed by the Atty. Leopoldo San Buenaventura with the OMBUDSMAN (OMB No. 0-
91-2289) against Judge Angel S. Malaya, RTC Br. 22, Naga City, Judge Milagros Caguioa,
RTC Br. 165, Pasig, MM, Atty. Omar MC Alam, and Danilo David Mariano;

1. In said affidavit I stated, among others -

"13. After he withdrew the money from the Bank of the Philippine Islanda, Naga City,
I and Danilo S. Mariano went straight to the sala of Judge Malaya and on the stairs
up to the said office, Danilo David S. Mariano handed to me two envelopes
containing money and instructed me to give the same to Judge Angel S. Malaya
which I hand down to said Judge in his presence without opening the envelopes, and
thereafter we left for home;"

3. On October 30, 1991 I also executed a supplemental affidavit, in which it is stated, among
others,

"10. After he withdrew the money from the Bank of the Philippine Islands, Naga City
Branch , I and Danilo David S. Mariano went straight to the sala of Judge Malaya and
on the stairs up the said office, Danilo David S. Mariano handed to me two
envelopes, one containing P50,000.00 and the other P10,000.00 containing money
and instructed me to give the same to Judge Angel S. Malaya which I handed down
to said Judge in his presence without opening the envelopes, and thereafter we
immediately left for home;"

4. I hereby freely and voluntarily RETRACT both statements in the affidavit and
supplemental affidavit, because the statements are not true. I never handed Judge Malaya
any envelope containing money at anytime in his office or elsewhere. 1âw phi 1.nêt

5. The Affidavit and supplemental affidavit aforesaid were already prepared by Atty.
Leopoldo San Buenaventura in his office for me to sign, and who promised to help and take
care, and I affixed my signature because I and Atty. Lepoldo San Buenaventura had a
common reason to hate, gripe, against Helen and Danilo Mariano, who refused to honor their
promise to give me the apartment owned the said Marianos’ I was then occupying in Naga
City. And on the part of Atty. San Buenaventura, having lost in the redemption incident/case
he handled for his client Erlinda Mariano-Buenaventura, before Judge Malaya, he suspected
Judge Malaya, and Helen and Danilo Mariano as the cause for Atty. San Buenaventuras’
removal as both attorney-in-fact and counsel, thereby losing control of the estate, now worth
P100 Million and his 25% share of said estate by way of attorney’s fees per contract.

6. I have done Judge angel S. Malaya a very grave wong and injustice by false imputation of
receiving bribe money when Judge Malaya never received money from me, and to ease the
pain of conscience bothering me now, I do hereby RETRACT those aforesaid wrong
imputation.

7. Of Atty. Omas MC Alam whom I also alleged to have given instructions to me on the
matter of the bribe money, I freely and voluntarily state now that Atty. Omar MC Alam never
gave me instructions regarding the giving of bribe money.

8. I have really caused injustice to Judge Angel S. Malaya, his honor, integrity and career,
and my conscience is bothering me, hence I hereby RETRACT all my statements in the said
affidavit and supplemental affidavit I have signed.

AFFIANT FURHTER SAYETH NONE.

Makati, Metro Manila, March 1994.

(Sgd.) LYDIA R. GAYA


LYDIA R. GAYA
Affiant.

In her letter, Ms. Gaya claimed that she was "bothered by [her] conscience, causing [her] sleepless
nights because [she has] done a grave injustice to Judge Angel S. Malaya and Atty. Omar MC
Alam."

On July 28, 1995, the Court referred the case to Justice Ruben Reyes of the Court of Appeals for
investigation, report and recommendation.

On April 26, 2001, Justice Reyes submitted his report recommending the exculpation of respondents
for insufficiency of evidence. He explained:

An administrative complaint where the respondents stand to face the penalty of dismissal or
disbarment is akin to a criminal action which may result in the loss of life or liberty of the
accused. Hence, the rule that it is the prosecution who has the burden of proof equally
applies to an administrative proceeding. The Supreme Court will exercise its disciplinary
power only if the complainant establishes his or her case by clear, convincing and
satisfactory evidence. (Narag vs. Narag, 291 SCRA 451).

First. Complainant has no personal knowledge on how the alleged bribery and its
acceptance took place. He relies heavily on the sworn statements of Lydia Gaya. However,
as mentioned in respondent Judge’s defenses, Gaya’s statements do not jibe with the
complainant’s story. There is uncertainty on who actually delivered the bribe money. In
paragraph 3 of the letter-complaint, it is alleged that it was respondent Atty. Alam who
"actually and personally" gave the bribe money to respondent Judge Malaya and Judge
Milagros Caguioa. On the other hand, in paragraph 2 of the complaint and in the affidavit of
Lydia Gaya, it is stated that respondent Judge received the bribe money from Ms. Lydia
Gaya.

Second. The sworn statements of Lydia Gaya are replete with inconsistencies on material
points. In her April 29, 1991 affidavit, she stated that Danilo David S. Mariano handed to her
the two envelopes, one containing P10,000.00 and another containing P50,000.00. She
allegedly delivered them to the judge without opening the envelope. She, however, did not
explain why she came to know the total amount she allegedly handed to the judge when she
admitted that she did not open the envelope.

Third. The records show that on January 29, 1995, the Sandiganbayan dismissed Criminal
Case No. 18969 against respondents for failure to prosecute. (Rollo, p. 307). The main
witness for the prosecution in the person of Lydia Gaya failed to show up during the
scheduled hearings, despite due notice. Earlier, under date of April 13, 1994, witness Lydia
Gaya sent a letter addressed to the Supreme Court submitting her sworn statement dated
March 17, 1994 where she recanted her previous statements against respondents.

xxx.

The dismissal of the criminal case and the affidavit of recantation executed by the principal
witness has left the evidence for the complainant in shambles.

Fourth. The sworn statement of Salvador Rivera has also no probative value. It smacks of
hearsay. It merely stated that Lydia Gaya informed affiant and complainant on how the
alleged bribery happened.

Fifth. On the charge that respondent Judge violated the rules when he issued the
questioned order and as a result of which it allegedly caused undue injury to the other heirs
of the decedent and the creditors of the estate, the same is without merit.

It is a matter of public policy that in the absence of fraud, dishonesty or corruption, the acts of
a judge in his judicial capacity are not subject to disciplinary action even though such acts
are erroneous. (Boquiren vs. Del Rosario-Cruz, 244 SCRA 702 [1995]). A judge cannot be
administratively held liable for an erroneous ruling on first impression and malice cannot be
inferred from his having rendered an order rectifying an earlier impression without proof
beyond doubt of a conscious and deliberate intent on his part to commit injustice by such
acts (Castanos vs. Escano, Jr., 251 SCRA 174 [1995]).

Respondent judge adequately explained why he granted the motion for reconsideration.
Moreover, not one among the alleged affected parties, such as the other litigants and
creditors, protested the questioned order. Hence, it cannot be said that it created undue
injury to them.

Sixth. There is a grain of truth to the defense of the respondent judge that the filing of this
case was ill-motivated, being retaliatory in nature, arising from the dismissal Of the complaint
as counsel and attorney-in-fact of Erlinda Mariano Villanueva. He lost a valuable client as a
result of two unfavorable orders issued by the respondent judge. The first is the order
denying the right of redemption of his client; the second is the order denying his own motion
to withdraw the balance of the proceeds of the auction sale. 1âwphi 1.nêt

In Castanos vs. Escano, supra, citing the case of Lopez vs. Fernandez, it was held that:
"Numerous administrative charges against erring judges have come to this Court and
We viewed them with utmost care, because proceedings of this character, according
to BF Horilleno [43 Phil 212 (1922)], as set forth in the opinion of Justice Malcolm,
are in their nature highly penal in character and are to be governed by the rules of
law applicable to criminal cases. The charges must therefore be proved beyond
reasonable doubt. This 1922 decision has been subsequently adhered to in a
number of cases decided by this Court.

Undoubtedly, the foregoing discussion equally applies to the case of respondent Atty. Alam.
There is no appreciable evidence to support the charge that he induced or influenced either
Judge Malaya or Judge Caguioa to issue any improper order or that he bribed any of these
judges.17

The Court finds the foregoing assessment consistent with the sparse evidence presented by
complainant.

ACCORDINGLY, the complaint is DISMISSED for insufficiency of evidence.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Vitug, Ynares-Santiago, and Austria-Martinez, JJ., concur.


EN BANC

[A.C. No. 2797. October 4, 2002]

ROSAURA P. CORDON, complainant, vs. JESUS


BALICANTA, respondent.

RESOLUTION
PER CURIAM:

On August 21, 1985, herein complainant Rosaura Cordon filed with this Court a
complaint for disbarment, docketed as Administrative Case No. 2797, against Atty.
Jesus Balicanta. After respondents comment to the complaint and complainants reply
thereto, this Court, on March 29, 1995 referred the matter to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP, for brevity) for investigation, report and recommendation within 90
days from notice. Commissioner George Briones of the IBP Commission on Bar
Discipline was initially tasked to investigate the case. Commissioner Briones was later
on replaced by Commissioner Renato Cunanan. Complainant filed a supplemental
complaint which was duly admitted and, as agreed upon, the parties filed their
respective position papers.
Based on her complaint, supplemental complaint, reply and position paper, the
complainant alleged the following facts:
When her husband Felixberto C. Jaldon died, herein complainant Rosaura Cordon
and her daughter Rosemarie inherited the properties left by the said decedent. All in all,
complainant and her daughter inherited 21 parcels of land located in Zamboanga City.
The lawyer who helped her settle the estate of her late husband was respondent Jesus
Balicanta.
Sometime in the early part of 1981, respondent enticed complainant and her
daughter to organize a corporation that would develop the said real properties into a
high-scale commercial complex with a beautiful penthouse for complainant. Relying on
these apparently sincere proposals, complainant and her daughter assigned 19 parcels
of land to Rosaura Enterprises, Incorporated, a newly-formed and duly registered
corporation in which they assumed majority ownership. The subject parcels of land were
then registered in the name of the corporation.
Thereafter, respondent single-handedly ran the affairs of the corporation in his
capacity as Chairman of the Board, President, General Manager and Treasurer. The
respondent also made complainant sign a document which turned out to be a voting
trust agreement. Respondent likewise succeeded in making complainant sign a special
power of attorney to sell and mortgage some of the parcels of land she inherited from
her deceased husband. She later discovered that respondent transferred the titles of the
properties to a certain Tion Suy Ong who became the new registered owner thereof.
Respondent never accounted for the proceeds of said transfers.
In 1981, respondent, using a spurious board resolution, contracted a loan from the
Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP, for brevity) in the amount of Two Million Two
Hundred Twenty Pesos (P2,220,000) using as collateral 9 of the real properties that the
complainant and her daughter contributed to the corporation. The respondent ostensibly
intended to use the money to construct the Baliwasan Commercial Center (BCC, for
brevity). Complainant later on found out that the structure was made of poor materials
such as sawali, coco lumber and bamboo which could not have cost the corporation
anything close to the amount of the loan secured.
For four years from the time the debt was contracted, respondent failed to pay even
a single installment. As a result, the LBP, in a letter dated May 22, 1985, informed
respondent that the past due amortizations and interest had already accumulated to
Seven Hundred Twenty-nine Thousand Five Hundred Three Pesos and Twenty-five
Centavos (P729,503.25). The LBP made a demand on respondent for payment for the
tenth time. Meanwhile, when the BCC commenced its operations, respondent started to
earn revenues from the rentals of BCCs tenants. On October 28, 1987, the LBP
foreclosed on the 9 mortgaged properties due to non-payment of the loan.
Respondent did not exert any effort to redeem the foreclosed properties. Worse, he
sold the corporations right to redeem the mortgaged properties to a certain Hadji
Mahmud Jammang through a fake board resolution dated January 14, 1989 which
clothed himself with the authority to do so. Complainant and her daughter, the majority
stockholders, were never informed of the alleged meeting held on that date. Again,
respondent never accounted for the proceeds of the sale of the right to
redeem. Respondent also sold to Jammang a parcel of land belonging to complainant
and her daughter which was contiguous to the foreclosed properties and evidenced by
Transfer Certificate of Title No. 62807. He never accounted for the proceeds of the sale.
Sometime in 1983, complainants daughter, Rosemarie, discovered that their
ancestral home had been demolished and that her mother, herein complainant, was
being detained in a small nipa shack in a place called Culianan. Through the help of
Atty. Linda Lim, Rosemarie was able to locate her mother. Rosemarie later learned that
respondent took complainant away from her house on the pretext that said ancestral
home was going to be remodeled and painted. But respondent demolished the
ancestral home and sold the lot to Tion Suy Ong, using another spurious board
resolution designated as Board Resolution No. 1, series of 1992. The resolution
contained the minutes of an alleged organizational meeting of the directors of the
corporation and was signed by Alexander Wee, Angel Fernando, Erwin Fernando and
Gabriel Solivar. Complainant and her daughter did not know how these persons
became stockholders and directors of the corporation. Respondent again did not
account for the proceeds of the sale.
Complainant and her daughter made several demands on respondent for the
delivery of the real properties they allegedly assigned to the corporation, for an
accounting of the proceeds of the LBP loan and as well as the properties sold, and for
the rentals earned by BCC. But the demands remained unheeded. Hence, complainant
and her daughter, in a letter dated June 4, 1985, terminated the services of respondent
as their lawyer and repeated their demands for accounting and turn-over of the
corporate funds, and the return of the 19 titles that respondent transferred to the
corporation. They also threatened him with legal action in a letter dated August 3, 1985.
Soon after, complainant found out from the Securities and Exchange Commission
(SEC, for brevity) that Rosaura Enterprises, Inc., due to respondents refusal and
neglect, failed to submit the corporations annual financial statements for 1981, 1982
and 1983; SEC General Information Sheets for 1982, 1983 and 1984; Minutes of
Annual Meetings for 1982, 1983 and 1984; and Minutes of Annual Meetings of Directors
for 1982, 1983 and 1984.
Complainant also discovered that respondent collected rental payments from the
tenants of BCC and issued handwritten receipts which he signed, not as an officer of
the corporation but as the attorney-at-law of complainant. Respondent also used the
tennis court of BCC to dry his palay and did not keep the buildings in a satisfactory
state, so much so that the divisions were losing plywood and other materials to thieves.
Complainant likewise accused respondent of circulating rumors among her friends
and relatives that she had become insane to prevent them from believing whatever
complainant said. According to complainant, respondent proposed that she legally
separate from her present husband so that the latter would not inherit from her and that
respondent be adopted as her son.
For his defense, respondent, in his comment and position paper, denied employing
deceit and machination in convincing complainant and her daughter to assign their real
properties to the corporation; that they freely and voluntary executed the deeds of
assignment and the voting trust agreement that they signed; that he did not single-
handedly manage the corporation as evidenced by certifications of the officers and
directors of the corporation; that he did not use spurious board resolutions authorizing
him to contract a loan or sell the properties assigned by the complainant and her
daughter; that complainant and her daughter should be the ones who should render an
accounting of the records and revenues inasmuch as, since 1984 up to the present, the
part-time corporate book-keeper, with the connivance of the complainant and her
daughter, had custody of the corporate records; that complainant and her daughter
sabotaged the operation of BCC when they illegally took control of it in 1986; that he
never pocketed any of the proceeds of the properties contributed by the complainant
and her daughter; that the demolition of the ancestral home followed legal procedures;
that complainant was never detained in Culianan but she freely and voluntarily lived with
the family of P03 Joel Constantino as evidenced by complainants own letter denying
she was kidnapped; and that the instant disbarment case should be dismissed for being
premature, considering the pendency of cases before the SEC and the Regional Trial
Court of Zamboanga involving him and complainant.
Based on the pleadings and position papers submitted by the parties,
Commissioner Renato Cunanan, in his report[1] dated July 1, 1999, recommended
respondents disbarment based on the following findings:
A. The complainant, Rosaura Jaldon-Cordon and her daughter, Rosemarie were
stockholders of a corporation, together with respondent, named Rosaura Enterprises,
Inc.

Per the Articles of Incorporation marked as Annex A of Complainants Position Paper,


complainants subscription consists of 55% of the outstanding capital stock while her
daughters consists of 18%, giving them a total of 73%. Respondents holdings consist
of 24% while three other incorporators, Rosauro L. Alvarez, Vicente T. Maalac and
Darhan S. Graciano each held 1% of the capital stock of the corporation.

B. On April 5, 1981, complainant and her daughter Rosemarie Jaldon executed two
Deeds of Transfer and Assignment conveying and transferring to the corporation 19
parcels of land in exchange for shares of stock in the corporation.

xxx xxx xxx

C. Both Deeds of Assignment particularly page 3 thereof indicate that respondent


accepted said assignment of properties and titles in behalf of the corporation as
Treasurer. The deeds were signed on April 5, 1981.

xxx xxx xxx

Together, therefore, complainant and her daughter owned 1,711 shares of the 1,750
shares comprising the authorized capital stock of the corporation of 97% thereof.

No increase in capitalization was applied for by the corporation.

F. Respondent claims in his Comment, his Answer and his Position Paper that on
April 4, 1981 he was elected as Chairman and Director and on April 5, 1981 he was
elected President of the corporation. Respondents own Annexes marked as G and G-1
of his Comment show that on April 4, 1981 he was not only elected as Chairman and
Director as he claims but as Director, Board Chairman and President. The purported
minutes was only signed by respondent and an acting Secretary by the name of
Vicente Maalac.

Said Annex does not show who was elected Treasurer.

Respondents Annex H and H-1 shows that in the alleged organizational meeting of the
directors on April 5, 1981 a certain Farnacio Bucoy was elected Treasurer. Bucoys
name does not appear as an incorporator nor a stockholder anywhere in the documents
submitted.
The purported minutes of the organizational meeting of the directors was signed only
by respondent Balicanta and a Secretary named Verisimo Martin.

G. Since respondent was elected as Director, Chairman and President on April 4, 1981
as respondents own Annexes G to G-1 would show, then complainants claim that
respondent was likewise acting as Treasurer of two corporations bear truth and
credence as respondent signed and accepted the titles to 19 parcels of land ceded by
the complainant and her daughter, as Treasurer on April 5, 1981 after he was already
purportedly elected as Chairman, President and Director.

H. Respondent misleads the Commission into believing that all the directors signed
the minutes marked as Exhibit H to H-1 by stating that the same was duly signed by
all the Board of Directors when the document itself shows that only he and one
Verisimo Martin signed the same.

He also claims that all the stockholders signed the minutes of organizational meeting
marked as Annexes G and G-1 of his Comment yet the same shows that only the
acting Chairman and acting Secretary signed.

I. Respondent claims that the Board or its representative was authorized by the
stockholders comprising 2/3 of the outstanding capital stock, as required by law, to
mortgage the parcels of land belonging to the corporation, which were all assigned to
the corporation by complainant and her daughter, by virtue of Annex I and I-1:
attached to his Comment.

The subject attachment however reveals that only the following persons signed their
conformity to the said resolution: respondent Balicanta who owned 109 shares,
Vicente Maalac (1 share), Daihan Graciano (1 share).

Complainants who collectively held a total of 1,711 shares out of


the 1,750 outstanding capital stock of the corporation were not represented in the
purported stockholders meeting authorizing the mortgage of the subject properties.

The 2/3 vote required by law was therefore not complied with yet respondent
proceeded to mortgage the subject 9 parcels of land by the corporation.

J. Respondent further relies on Annex J of his Comment, purportedly the minutes of a


special meeting of the Board of Directors authorizing him to obtain a loan and
mortgage the properties of the corporation dated August 29, 1981. This claim is
baseless. The required ratification of 2/3 by the stockholders of records was not
met. Again, respondent attempts to mislead the Commission and Court.
K. Further, the constitution of the Board is dubious. The alleged minutes of the
organizational meeting of the stockholders electing the members of the Board, have
not been duly signed by the stockholders as shown in respondents annex G which was
purportedly the organizational meeting of the stockholders.

L. Also, Annex J of respondents Comment which purportedly authorized him to


obtain a loan and to mortgage the 9 parcels of land was only signed by himself and a
secretary.

M. In said Annex 'J' of respondents Comment he stated that complainant Rosaura


Cordon was on leave by virtue of a voting trust agreement allegedly executed by
complainant in his favor covering all her shares of stock. The claim is baseless. The
voting trust referred to by respondent (annex D of his Comment), even if it were
assumed to be valid, covered only 266 shares of complainants yet she owned a total of
1,039 shares after she and her daughter ceded in favor of the corporation 19 parcels of
land.

Being a former lawyer to complainant, respondent should have ensured that her
interest was safeguarded. Yet, complainant was apparently and deliberately left our
(sic) on the pretext that, she had executed a voting trust agreement in favor of
respondent.

It is suspicious that complainant was made to sign a voting trust agreement on 21


August 1981 and immediately thereafter, the resolutions authorizing respondent to
obtain a loan and to mortgage the 9 parcels of land were passed and approved.

N. It is also highly irregular for respondent who is a lawyer, to allow a situation to


happen where, with the exclusion of complainant as director the result was that there
remained only 4 members of the Board,.

O. Respondents own pleadings submitted to the Commission contradict each


other.

1. For instance, while in his Comment respondent DENIES that he employed deceit
and machination in convincing the complainant and her daughter to sign the articles of
incorporation of Rosaura Enterprises and in ceding to the corporation 19 parcels of
land in Zamboanga City, because they freely, intelligently and voluntarily signed the
same, yet, in his Position Paper, respondent took another stance.

In paragraphs 1.1 and 1.2 of his Position Paper which was submitted 12 years later,
respondent claimed that it was actually the idea of Atty. Rosaura L. Alvarez that a
corporation be put up to incorporate the estate of the late Felixberto D. Jaldon.
2. Likewise, respondent claimed that complainant and her daughter were not directors,
hence they were not notified of meetings, in paragraph 2-6 (c) of his Comment he
blamed the other stockholders and directors for the corporations inability to comply
with the Land Banks demands saying that they have consistently failed since 1982 to
convene (1.) for the annual stockholders meetings and (i.i) for the monthly board
meeting.

His own pleadings claim that he had been the Chairman/President since 1981 to the
present. If (sic) so, it was his duty to convene the stockholders and the directors for
meetings.

Respondent appeared able to convene the stockholders and directors when he needed
to make a loan of p2.2 million; when he sold the corporations right of redemption over
the foreclosed properties of the corporation to Jammang, when he sold one parcel of
land covered by TCT 62,807 to Jammang in addition to the 9 parcels of land which
were foreclosed, and when he sold the complainants ancestral home covered by TCT
No. 72,004.

It is thus strange why respondent claims that the corporation could not do anything to
save the corporations properties from being foreclosed because the stockholders and
directors did not convene.

This assertion of respondent is clearly evident of dishonest, deceitful and immoral


conduct especially because, in all his acts constituting conveyances of corporate
property, respondent used minutes of stockholders and directors meetings signed only
by him and a secretary or signed by him and persons who were not incorporators
much less stockholders.

It is worthy of note that in respondents Exhibits 15, 16, 17 and 18 of his position
paper, there were 7 new stockholders and complainant appeared to have only 266
shares to her name while her daughter Rosemarie had no shares at all. Respondent did
not present any proof of conveyance of shares by complainant and her daughter.

It is further worth noting that complainants voting trust (annex D of respondents


Comment) where she allegedly entrusted 266 shares to respondent on August 21,
1981 had only a validity of 5 years. Thus, she should have had her entire holdings of
1,283 shares back in her name in August 1986.

Respondents purported minutes of stockholders meeting (Exhs. 15 and 17) do not


reflect this.
There was no explanation whatsoever from respondent on how complainant and her
daughter lost their 97% control holding in the corporation.

3. As a further contradiction in respondents pleadings, we note that in paragraph 2.7.C


of his Comment he said that only recently, this year, 1985, the complainant and her
aforenamed daughter examined said voluminous supporting receipts/documents which
had previously been examined by the Land Bank for loan releases, during which
occasion respondent suggested to them that the corporation will have to hire a full-
time book-keeper to put in order said voluminous supporting receipts/documents, to
which they adversely reacted due to lack of corporate money to pay for said book-
keeper. But in respondents Position Paper par. 6.3 he stated that:

Anyway, it is not the respondent but rather the complainant who should render a
detailed accounting to the corporation of the corporate records as well as
corporate revenues/income precisely because since 1994 to the present:

(a). The corporate part-time book-keeper Edilberto Benedicto, with the


indispensable connivance and instigation of the complainant and her daughter,
among others, has custody of the corporate records, xxx

4. In other contradictory stance, respondent claims in par. 7.3 of his position paper
that complainant and her daughter sabotaged the BCC operations of the corporation
by illegally taking over actual control and supervision thereof sometime in 1986, xxx

Yet respondents own exhibits in his position paper particularly Exhibit 15 and 16
where the subject of the foreclosed properties of the corporation comprising the
Baliwasan Commercial Center (BCC) was taken up, complainant and her daughter
were not even present nor were they the subject of the discussion, belying respondents
claim that the complainant and her daughter illegally took actual control of BCC.

5. On the matter of the receipts issued by respondent evidencing payment to him of


rentals by lessees of the corporation, attached to the complaint as Annexes H to H-17,
respondent claims that the receipts are temporary in nature and that subsequently
regular corporate receipts were issued. On their face however the receipts clearly
appear to be official receipts, printed and numbered duly signed by the respondent
bearing his printed name.

It is difficult to believe that a lawyer of respondent stature would issue official


receipts to lessees if he only meant to issue temporary ones.

6. With regard to respondents claim that the complainant consented to the sale of her
ancestral home, covered by TCT No. T-72,004 to one Tion Suy Ong for which he
attached as Exhibit 22 to his Position Paper the minutes of an annual meeting of the
stockholders, it behooves this Commission why complainants signature had to be
accompanied by her thumb mark. Furthermore, complainants signature appears
unstable and shaky. This Office is thus persuaded to believe complainants allegation
in paragraph 3b of her position paper that since September 1992 up to March 1993
she was being detained by one PO# (sic) Joel Constantino and his wife under
instructions from respondent Balicanta.

This conclusion is supported by a letter from respondent dated March 1993, Annex H
of complainants position paper, where respondent ordered Police Officer Constantino
to allow Atty. Linda Lim and Rosemarie Jaldon to talk to Tita Rosing.

The complainants thumb mark together with her visibly unstable shaky signature
lends credence to her claim that she was detained in the far flung barrio of Culianan
under instructions of respondent while her ancestral home was demolished and the lot
sold to one Tion Suy Ong.

It appears that respondent felt compelled to over-ensure complainants consent by


getting her to affix her thumb mark in addition to her signature.

7. Respondent likewise denies that he also acted as Corporate Secretary in addition to


being the Chairman, President and Treasurer of the corporation. Yet, respondent
submitted to this commission documents which are supported to be in the possession
of the Corporate Secretary such as the stock and transfer book and minutes of
meetings.

The foregoing findings of this Commission are virtual smoking guns that prove on no
uncertain terms that respondent, who was the legal counsel of complainant in the latter
part of the settlement of the estate of her deceased husband, committed unlawful,
immoral and deceitful conduct proscribed by Rule 1.01 of the code of professional
responsibility.

Likewise, respondent clearly committed a violation of Canon 15 of the same code


which provides that A lawyer should observe candor fairness and loyalty in all his
dealings and transactions with his client.

Respondents acts gravely diminish the publics respect for the integrity of the
profession of law for which this Commission recommends that he be meted the
penalty of disbarment.
The pendency of the cases at the SEC and the Regional Trial Court of Zamboanga
filed by complainant against respondent does not preclude a determination of
respondents culpability as a lawyer.

This Commission cannot further delay the resolution of this complaint filed in 1985
by complainant, and old widow who deserves to find hope and recover her confidence
in the judicial system.

The findings of this office, predominantly based on documents adduced by both


parties lead to only one rather unpalatable conclusion. That respondent Atty. Jesus F.
Balicanta, in his professional relations with herein complainant did in fact employ
unlawful, dishonest, and immoral conduct proscribed in no uncertain terms by Rule
1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. In addition, respondents actions
clearly violated Canon 15 to 16 of the same Code.

It is therefore our unpleasant duty to recommend that respondent, having committed


acts in violation of the Canons of Professional Responsibility, thereby causing a great
disservice to the profession, be meted the ultimate sanction of disbarment. [2]

On September 30, 1999, while Commissioner Cunanans recommendation for


respondents disbarment was pending review before Executive Vice-President and
Northern Luzon Governor Teofilo Pilando, respondent filed a motion requesting for a
full-blown investigation and for invalidation of the entire proceedings and/or remedial
action under Section 11, Rule 139-B, Revised Rules of Court, alleging that he had
evidence that Commissioner Cunanans report was drafted by the lawyers of
complainant, Attys. Antonio Cope and Rita Linda Jimeno. He presented two unsigned
anonymous letters allegedly coming from a disgruntled employee of Attys. Cope and
Jimeno. He claimed to have received these letters in his mailbox.[3]
Respondents motion alleging that Attys. Antonio Cope and Rita Linda Jimeno
drafted Commissioner Cunanans report was accompanied by a complaint praying for
the disbarment of said lawyers including Commissioner Cunanan. The complaint was
docketed as CBD Case No. 99-658. After Attys. Cope and Jimeno and Commissioner
Cunanan filed their answers, a hearing was conducted by the Investigating Committee
of the IBP Board of Governors.
On May 26, 2001, the IBP Board of Governors issued a resolution [4] dismissing for
lack of merit the complaint for disbarment against Attys. Cope and Jimeno and
Commissioner Cunanan. And in Adm. Case No. 2797, the Board adopted and approved
the report and recommendation of Commissioner Cunanan, and meted against herein
respondent Balicanta the penalty of suspension from the practice of law for 5 years for
commission of acts of misconduct and disloyalty by taking undue and unfair advantage
of his legal knowledge as a lawyer to gain material benefit for himself at the expense of
complainant Rosaura P. Jaldon-Cordon and caused serious damage to the
complainant.[5]
To support its decision, the Board uncovered respondents fraudulent acts in the
very same documents he presented to exonerate himself. It also took note of
respondents contradictory and irreconcilable statements in the pleadings and position
papers he submitted. However, it regarded the penalty of disbarment as too severe for
respondents misdeeds, considering that the same were his first offense. [6]
Pursuant to Section 12 (b), Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court,[7] the said resolution in
Administrative Case No. 2797 imposing the penalty of suspension for 5 years on
respondent was automatically elevated to this Court for final action. On the other hand,
the dismissal of the complaint for disbarment against Attys. Cope and Jimeno and
Commissioner Cunanan, docketed as CBD Case No. 99-658, became final in the
absence of any petition for review.
This Court confirms the duly supported findings of the IBP Board that respondent
committed condemnable acts of deceit against his client. The fraudulent acts he carried
out against his client followed a well thought of plan to misappropriate the corporate
properties and funds entrusted to him. At the very outset, he embarked on his devious
scheme by making himself the President, Chairman of the Board, Director and
Treasurer of the corporation, although he knew he was prohibited from assuming the
position of President and Treasurer at the same time. [8] As Treasurer, he accepted in
behalf of the corporation the 19 titles that complainant and her daughter co-owned. The
other treasurer appointed, Farnacio Bucoy, did not appear to be a stockholder or
director in the corporate records. The minutes of the meetings supposedly electing him
and Bucoy as officers of the corporation actually bore the signatures of respondent and
the secretary only, contrary to his claim that they were signed by the directors and
stockholders.
He likewise misled the IBP investigating commission in claiming that the mortgage
of 9 of the properties of the corporation previously belonging to complainant and her
daughter was ratified by the stockholders owning two-thirds or 67% of the outstanding
capital stock when in fact only three stockholders owning 111 out of 1,750 outstanding
shares or 6.3% assented thereto. The alleged authorization granting him the power to
contract the LBP loan for Two Million Two Hundred Twenty Pesos (P2,220,000) was
also not approved by the required minimum of two-thirds of the outstanding capital stock
despite respondents claim to the contrary. In all these transactions, complainant and her
daughter who both owned 1,711 out of the 1,750 outstanding shares of the corporation
or 97.7% never had any participation. Neither were they informed thereof.
Clearly, there was no quorum for a valid meeting for the discussion and approval of
these transactions.
Respondent cannot take refuge in the contested voting trust agreement supposedly
executed by complainant and her daughter for the reason that it authorized respondent
to represent complainant for only 266 shares.
Aside from the dishonest transactions he entered into under the cloak of sham
resolutions, he failed to explain several discrepancies in his version of the facts. We
hereby reiterate some of these statements noted by Commissioner Cunanan in his
findings.
First, respondent blamed the directors and the stockholders who failed to convene
for the required annual meetings since 1982. However, respondent appeared able to
convene the stockholders and directors when he contracted the LBP debt, when he sold
to Jammang the corporations right of redemption over the foreclosed properties of the
corporation, when he sold one parcel of land covered by TCT No. 62807 to Jammang,
when he mortgaged the 9 parcels of land to LBP which later foreclosed on said
mortgage, and when he sold the complainants ancestral home covered by TCT No.
72004.
Second, the factual findings of the investigating commission, affirmed by the IBP
Board, disclosed that complainant and her daughter own 1,711 out of 1,750 shares of
the outstanding capital stock of the corporation, based on the Articles of Incorporation
and deeds of transfer of the properties. But respondents evidence showed that
complainant had only 266 shares of stock in the corporation while her daughter had
none, notwithstanding the fact that there was nothing to indicate that complainant and
her daughter ever conveyed their shares to others.
Respondent likewise did not explain why he did not return the certificates
representing the 266 shares after the lapse of 5 years from the time the voting trust
certificate was executed in 1981.[9]
The records show that up to now, the complainant and her daughter own 97% of the
outstanding shares but respondent never bothered to explain why they were never
asked to participate in or why they were never informed of important corporate
decisions.
Third, respondent, in his comment, alleged that due to the objection of complainant
and her daughter to his proposal to hire an accountant, the corporation had no formal
accounting of its revenues and income. However, respondents position paper
maintained that there was no accounting because the part-time bookkeeper of the
corporation connived with complainant and her daughter in keeping the corporate
records.
Fourth, respondents claim that complainant and her daughter took control of the
operations of the corporation in 1986 is belied by the fact that complainant and her
daughter were not even present in the alleged meeting of the board (which took place
after 1986) to discuss the foreclosure of the mortgaged properties. The truth is that he
never informed them of such meeting and he never gave control of the corporation to
them.
Fifth, Commissioner Cunanan found that:

5. on the matter of the receipts issued by respondent evidencing payment to him of


rentals by lessees of the corporation, attached to the complaint as Annexes H to H-17,
respondent claims that the receipts are temporary in nature and that subsequently
regular corporate receipts were issued. On their face however the receipts clearly
appear to be official receipts, printed and numbered duly signed by the respondent
bearing his printed name.
It is difficult to believe that a lawyer of respondents stature would issue official
receipts to lessees if he only meant to issue temporary ones. [10]

Sixth, respondent denies that he acted as Corporate Secretary aside from being the
Chairman, President and Treasurer of the corporation. Yet respondent submitted to the
investigating commission documents which were supposed to be in the official
possession of the Corporate Secretary alone such as the stock and transfer book and
minutes of meetings.
Seventh, he alleged in his comment that he was the one who proposed the
establishment of the corporation that would invest the properties of the complainant but,
in his position paper, he said that it was a certain Atty. Rosauro Alvarez who made the
proposal to put up the corporation.
After a thorough review of the records, we find that respondent committed grave
and serious misconduct that casts dishonor on the legal profession. His misdemeanors
reveal a deceitful scheme to use the corporation as a means to convert for his own
personal benefit properties left to him in trust by complainant and her daughter.
Not even his deviousness could cover up the wrongdoings he committed. The
documents he thought could exculpate him were the very same documents that
revealed his immoral and shameless ways. These documents were extremely revealing
in that they unmasked a man who knew the law and abused it for his personal gain
without any qualms of conscience. They painted an intricate web of lies, deceit and
opportunism beneath a carefully crafted smokescreen of corporate maneuvers.
The Code of Professional Responsibility mandates upon each lawyer, as his duty to
society, the obligation to obey the laws of the land and promote respect for law and
legal processes. Specifically, he is forbidden to engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral
or deceitful conduct.[11] If the practice of law is to remain an honorable profession and
attain its basic ideal, those enrolled in its ranks should not only master its tenets and
principles but should also, in their lives, accord continuing fidelity to them.[12] Thus, the
requirement of good moral character is of much greater import, as far as the general
public is concerned, than the possession of legal learning.[13] Lawyers are expected to
abide by the tenets of morality, not only upon admission to the Bar but also throughout
their legal career, in order to maintain ones good standing in that exclusive and honored
fraternity.[14] Good moral character is more than just the absence of bad character. Such
character expresses itself in the will to do the unpleasant thing if it is right and the
resolve not to do the pleasant thing if it is wrong.[15] This must be so because vast
interests are committed to his care; he is the recipient of unbounded trust and
confidence; he deals with his clients property, reputation, his life, his all. [16]
Indeed, the words of former Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals Pompeyo
Diaz cannot find a more relevant application than in this case:

There are men in any society who are so self-serving that they try to make law serve
their selfish ends. In this group of men, the most dangerous is the man of the law who
has no conscience. He has, in the arsenal of his knowledge, the very tools by which he
can poison and disrupt society and bring it to an ignoble end. [17]

Good moral standing is manifested in the duty of the lawyer to hold in trust all
moneys and properties of his client that may come into his possession. [18] He is bound to
account for all money or property collected or received for or from the client. [19] The
relation between an attorney and his client is highly fiduciary in nature. Thus, lawyers
are bound to promptly account for money or property received by them on behalf of their
clients and failure to do so constitutes professional misconduct.[20]
This Court holds that respondent cannot invoke the separate personality of the
corporation to absolve him from exercising these duties over the properties turned over
to him by complainant. He blatantly used the corporate veil to defeat his fiduciary
obligation to his client, the complainant. Toleration of such fraudulent conduct was
never the reason for the creation of said corporate fiction.
The massive fraud perpetrated by respondent on the complainant leaves us no
choice but to set aside the veil of corporate entity. For purposes of this action therefore,
the properties registered in the name of the corporation should still be considered as
properties of complainant and her daughter. The respondent merely held them in trust
for complainant (now an ailing 83-year-old) and her daughter. The properties conveyed
fraudulently and/or without the requisite authority should be deemed as never to have
been transferred, sold or mortgaged at all. Respondent shall be liable, in his personal
capacity, to third parties who may have contracted with him in good faith.
Based on the aforementioned findings, this Court believes that the gravity of
respondents offenses cannot be adequately matched by mere suspension as
recommended by the IBP. Instead, his wrongdoings deserve the severe penalty of
disbarment, without prejudice to his criminal and civil liabilities for his dishonest acts.
WHEREFORE, respondent Attorney Jesus T. Balicanta is hereby DISBARRED.
The Clerk of Court is directed to strike out his name from the Roll of Attorneys.
SO ORDERED.
Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Carpio, Austria-
Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, and Callejo, Sr., JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Mendoza, and Sandoval-Gutierrez, JJ., on leave.