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1. Aba vs. De Guzman .....................................................................................................................................................

1
2. Atty. Dela Cruz vs. Saladero ....................................................................................................................................... 8
3. Lazuna vs. Magsalin .................................................................................................................................................. 10
4. Mendoza vs. Mendoza & Navarro ............................................................................................................................ 13
5. Sorreda vs. Kho ......................................................................................................................................................... 19
6. Chan vs. Coloma-Javier ............................................................................................................................................ 21
7. Campugan vs. Tolentino et al................................................................................................................................... 22
8. Foster vs. Agtang ...................................................................................................................................................... 26
9. Yupagco-Nakpil vs. Uy .............................................................................................................................................. 32
10.Valdez vs. Dabon ...................................................................................................................................................... 34
11.Ricafort vs. Medina ................................................................................................................................................... 40
12.Vazquez vs. Lim ........................................................................................................................................................ 43
13.Dumanlag vs Blanco ................................................................................................................................................ 45
14.Cruz vs. Reyes .......................................................................................................................................................... 48
15.Reyes vs. Nieva ........................................................................................................................................................ 54
16.Flores-Salado vs. Villanueva ................................................................................................................................... 62
17.Arsenio vs. Tabuzo ................................................................................................................................................... 65
18.Fuji vs. de la Cruz ..................................................................................................................................................... 67
19.Chua vs. Tan-Sollano ............................................................................................................................................... 71
20.Capinpin vs. Cesa ..................................................................................................................................................... 73
21.Ignacio vs. Alviar ...................................................................................................................................................... 76
22.Castro vs. Bigay & Siapno ....................................................................................................................................... 80
23. Alicias vs. Baclig ..................................................................................................................................................... 83

1. Aba vs. De Guzman

SECOND DIVISION

SIAO ABA, MIKO LUMABAO, A.C. No. 7649


ALMASIS LAUBAN, and
BENJAMIN DANDA, Present:
Complainants,
- versus -
ATTYS. SALVADOR DE GUZMAN, JR.,
WENCESLAO PEEWEE TRINIDAD,
and ANDRESITO FORNIER, Promulgated:
Respondents. December 14, 2011
x--------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

CARPIO, J.:
The Case

This is an administrative complaint filed by Siao Aba, Miko Lumabao, Almasis Lauban and Benjamin Danda
(complainants) against lawyers Salvador De Guzman, Jr., Wenceslao Peewee Trinidad, and Andresito Fornier
(respondents). Complainants claim that respondents instigated and filed fabricated criminal complaints against them
before the Iligan City Prosecutors Office for Large Scale and Syndicated Illegal Recruitment and Estafa under I.S. No.
06-1676 and I.S. No. 06-1835.1 Complainants pray for the imposition of the grave penalty of disbarment upon
respondents.2 Attached to complainants letter-complaint is the Joint Counter-Affidavit and Affidavit of
Complaint3 allegedly submitted by complainants in the preliminary investigation of the criminal complaints.

The Facts

Complainants claim that in January 2006 they met former Pasay City Regional Trial Court Judge Salvador P. De
Guzman, Jr. (De Guzman) in Cotabato City. 4 De Guzman allegedly persuaded them to file an illegal recruitment case
(I.S. No. 2006-C-31, Lauban, et al. vs. Alvarez, Amante, Montesclaros, et al.) against certain persons, in exchange for
money.5 De Guzman allegedly represented to complainants that his group, composed of Pasay City Mayor Wenceslao
1
Peewee Trinidad (Trinidad), Atty. Andresito Fornier (Fornier), Everson Lim Go Tian, Emerson Lim Go Tian, and
Stevenson Lim Go Tian (Go Tian Brothers), were untouchable.6

In the third week of February 2006, complainants allegedly received from De Guzman a prepared Joint Complaint-
Affidavit with supporting documents, which they were directed to sign and file. 7 The Joint Complaint-Affidavit and
supporting documents were allegedly fabricated and manufactured by De Guzman. 8

During the I.S. No. 2006-C-31 proceedings before the Cotabato City Prosecutors Office, complainants allegedly
received several phone calls from De Guzman, Trinidad, Fornier, and the Go Tian brothers, all of them continuously
telling complainants to pursue the case.9 When complainants asked De Guzman what would happen if a warrant of
arrest would be issued, De Guzman allegedly replied, Ipa tubus natin sa kanila, perahan natin sila. 10

Complainants claim they were bothered by their conscience, and that is why they told De Guzman and his group that
they planned to withdraw the criminal complaint in I.S. No. 2006-C-31.11Complainants were allegedly offered by
respondents ₱200,000.00 to pursue the case, but they refused.12 Complainants were once again allegedly offered by
respondents One Million Pesos (₱1,000,000.00) to pursue the case until the end, but they refused again.13 For this
reason, respondents allegedly orchestrated the filing of fabricated charges for syndicated illegal recruitment and estafa
(I.S. No. 06-1676 and I.S. No. 06-1835) against complainants in Iligan City. 14 On 30 November 2006, Aba claims to
have received a text message from De Guzman, saying, Gud p.m. Tago na kayo. Labas today from Iligan Warrant of
Arrest. No Bail. Dating sa Ctbto pulis mga Wednesday. Gud luck kayo. 15
In support of their allegations in the administrative complaint, complainants submitted the allegedly fabricated
complaint,16 supporting documents,17 letter of De Guzman to Cotabato City Councilor Orlando Badoy,18 De Guzmans
Affidavit of Clarification submitted in I.S. No. 2006-C-31,19 and other relevant documents. Subsequently, complainants
filed a Motion to Dismiss Complaint against Atty. Trinidad and Atty. Fornier, 20 and prayed that the complaint be
pursued against De Guzman.

Trinidad, on the other hand, in his Comment filed with this Court 21 and Position Paper filed with the Commission on Bar
Discipline,22 denied all the allegations in the complaint. Trinidad vehemently declared that he has never communicated
with any of the complainants and has never been to Cotabato.23 He further claimed that the subscribed letter-complaint
does not contain ultimate facts because it does not specify the times, dates, places and circumstances of the meetings
and conversations with him.24 Trinidad asserted that the complaint was a fabricated, politically motivated charge,
spearheaded by a certain Joseph Montesclaros (Montesclaros), designed to tarnish Trinidads reputation as a lawyer
and city mayor.25 Trinidad claims that Montesclaros was motivated by revenge because Montesclaros mistakenly
believed that Trinidad ordered the raid of his gambling den in Pasay City. 26 Trinidad also claims that he, his family
members and close friends have been victims of fabricated criminal charges committed by the syndicate headed by
Montesclaros.27
Trinidad pointed out that this syndicate, headed by Montesclaros, is abusing court processes by filing fabricated
criminal complaints of illegal recruitment in remote areas with fabricated addresses of defendants.28 Since the
defendants addresses are fabricated, the defendants are not informed of the criminal complaint, and thus the
information is filed with the court.29Consequently, a warrant of arrest is issued by the court, and only when the warrant
of arrest is served upon the defendant will the latter know of the criminal complaint. 30 At this point, Montesclaros
intervenes by extorting money from the defendant in order for the complainants to drop the criminal complaint. 31 To
prove the existence of this syndicate, Trinidad presented the letter of Eden Rabor, then a second year law student in
Cebu City, to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and to this Court, requesting these institutions to
investigate the syndicate of Montesclaros, who has victimized a Canadian citizen who was at that time jailed in Cebu
City due to an extortion racket.32 Trinidad also presented the Decision of Branch 65 of the Regional Trial Court of
Tarlac City on the illegal recruitment charge against his friend, Emmanuel Cinco, which charge was dismissed
because the charge was fabricated, as admitted by complainants themselves. 33

Trinidad further claimed that, in some cases, the Montesclaros syndicate included some of their members as
respondents to divert suspicion.34 Trinidad pointed out that his wife was a victim of this fabricated criminal charge of
illegal recruitment filed in Marawi City.35 Fortunately, when the warrant of arrest was being served in Pasay City Hall,
Trinidads wife was not there.36 Lastly, Trinidad declared that Montesclaros has perfected the method of filing fabricated
cases in remote and dangerous places to harass his victims.37

Fornier, on the other hand, in his Comment filed with this Court38 and Position Paper filed with the Commission on Bar
Discipline,39 claimed that in his 35 years as a member of the bar, he has conducted himself professionally in
accordance with the exacting standards of the legal profession. 40 Fornier denied knowing any of the complainants, and
also denied having any dealings or communication with any of them. He likewise claimed that he has not filed, either
for himself or on behalf of a client, any case, civil, criminal or otherwise, against complainants. 41 Fornier claimed that
2
he was included in this case for acting as defense counsel for the Go Tian Brothers in criminal complaints for illegal
recruitment.42 Fornier claimed that the Go Tian Brothers are victims of an extortion racket led by Montesclaros.43 For
coming to the legal aid of the Go Tian Brothers, Fornier exposed and thwarted the plan of the group of Montesclaros to
extort millions of pesos from his clients.44 Fornier claimed that the filing of the complaint is apparently an attempt of the
syndicate to get even at those who may have exposed and thwarted their criminal designs at extortion. 45 Fornier prays
that the Court will not fall prey to the scheme and machinations of this syndicate that has made and continues to make
a mockery of the justice system by utilizing the courts, the Prosecutors Offices, the Philippine National Police and the
Philippine Overseas Employment Administration in carrying out their criminal activities.46 Lastly, Fornier claimed that
complainants failed to establish the charges against him by clear, convincing and satisfactory proof, as complainants
affidavits are replete with pure hearsay, speculations, conjectures and sweeping conclusions, unsupported by specific,
clear and convincing evidence.47

De Guzman, on the other hand, instead of filing a Comment with this Court, filed a Motion to Dismiss Complaint 48 on
the ground that the Joint Counter-Affidavit and Affidavit of Complaint attached to the Letter-Complaint, which was
made the basis of this administrative complaint, are spurious.49 According to the Certification issued by the Office of
the City Prosecutor in Iligan City, complainants Lauban, Lumabao and Aba, who were charged for violation of Republic
Act No. 8042 (Migrant Workers Act), which charge was subsequently dismissed through a Joint Resolution rendered
by the Prosecutor, did not submit any Joint Counter-Affidavit in connection with the charge, nor did they file any
Affidavit of Complaint against any person. 50

In his Position Paper filed with the Commission on Bar Discipline,51 De Guzman stated he is an 81-year old retired
Regional Trial Court judge.52 He pointed out that there are no details regarding the allegations of grave and serious
misconduct, dishonesty, oppression, bribery, falsification of documents, violation of lawyers oath and other
administrative infractions.53 De Guzman invited the attention of the Investigating Commissioner to his Affidavit of
Clarification which he submitted in I.S. No. 2006-C-31 to deny any participation in the preparation of the criminal
complaint and to narrate in detail how he became involved in this case which was masterminded by Montesclaros.54 In
his Affidavit of Clarification,55 De Guzman claimed that he had no participation in the preparation of the criminal
complaint in I.S. No. 2006-C-31, and he was surprised to receive a photocopy of the counter-affidavit of Rogelio
Atangan, Atty. Nicanor G. Alvarez, Lolita Zara, Marcelo Pelisco and Atty. Roque A. Amante, Jr., implicating him in the
preparation of the complaint.56 De Guzman stated that he was surprised to find his and his clients names in the
counter-affidavit, and for this reason, felt under obligation to make the Affidavit of Clarification. 57 Lastly, De Guzman
declared that he has no familiarity with the complainants or Tesclaros Recruitment and Employment Agency, nor with
other respondents in the complaint, but he believes that Atty. Roque A. Amante, Jr. and Atty. Nicanor G. Alvarez are
the key players of Joseph L. Montesclaros in the illegal recruitment business. 58

During the mandatory conference hearings on 28 November 200859 and 13 March 2009,60 none of the complainants
appeared before the Investigating Commissioner to substantiate the allegations in their complaint despite due notice. 61

Report and Recommendation


of the Commission on Bar Discipline

The recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner of the Commission on Bar Discipline reads:

In view of the foregoing, the charges against the Respondent Trinidad and Fornier are deemed to be without
basis and consequently, the undersigned recommends DISMISSAL of the charges against them.

As to Respondent de Guzman, a former Regional Trial Court Judge, there is enough basis to hold him
administratively liable. Accordingly, a penalty of SUSPENSION for two (2) months is hereby recommended.62

The Investigating Commissioner found, after a careful perusal of the allegations in the complaint as well as in the
attachments, that complainants failed to substantiate their charges against respondents Trinidad and Fornier. 63 Other
than bare allegations, complainants did not adduce proof of Trinidad and Forniers supposed involvement or
participation directly or indirectly in the acts constituting the complaint. 64 In addition, complainants, on their own
volition, admitted the non-participation and non-involvement of Trinidad and Fornier when complainants filed
their Motion to Dismiss Complaint against Atty. Trinidad and Atty. Fornier Only.65 For these reasons, the Investigating
Commissioner recommended that the charges against Trinidad and Fornier be dismissed for utter lack of merit.

On the other hand, the Investigating Commissioner stated that De Guzman failed to deny the allegations in the Letter-
Complaint or to explain the import of the same.66 Moreover, De Guzman failed to controvert the truly vicious evidence
against him:
3
But what should appear to be a truly vicious evidence for Respondent is the letter he sent to Orlando D.
Badoy, City Councilor, Cotabato City dated February 16, 2006. This letter was alleged in and attached to the
Joint Counter-Affiavit with Affidavit of Complaint. The letter had confirmed the allegation of his travel to
Cotabato City to file charges against persons he did not identify. He intriguingly mentioned the name Ben
Danda as the one to whom he handed the complaint. Danda, incidentally, was one of those who executed the
Letter of Complaint along with Siao Aba, Miko Lumabao, Benjamin Danda and Almasis Lauban which was
filed before the Supreme Court.67

The Decision of the Board of Governors of the


Integrated Bar of the Philippines
The Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines adopted the recommendation of the Investigating
Commissioners Report and Recommendation on the dismissal of the charges against Fornier and Trinidad. 68 In De
Guzmans case, the Board of Governors increased the penalty from a suspension of two (2) months to a suspension of
two (2) years from the practice of law for his attempt to file illegal recruitment cases to extort money:

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED with modification, and
APPROVED the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the above-entitled case,
herein made part of this Resolution as Annex A and finding the recommendation fully supported by the
evidence on record and the applicable laws and rules, and considering that the case against Respondents
Trinidad and Fornier is without merit, the same is hereby DISMISSED. However, Atty. Salvador De Guzman,
Jr. is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for two (2) years for his attempt to file illegal recruitment
cases in order to extort money.69

The Issue

The issue in this case is whether Trinidad, Fornier and De Guzman should be administratively disciplined based on the
allegations in the complaint.

The Ruling of this Court

We adopt the Decision of the Board of Governors and the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating
Commissioner on the dismissal of the charges against Trinidad and Fornier.

We reverse the Decision of the Board of Governors and the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating
Commissioner with regard to De Guzmans liability, and likewise dismiss the charges against De Guzman.

Presumption, Burden of Proof and Weight of Evidence

Section 3(a), Rule 131 of the Rules of Court provides that a person is presumed innocent of crime or wrongdoing. This
Court has consistently held that an attorney enjoys the legal presumption that he is innocent of charges against him
until the contrary is proved, and that as an officer of the court, he is presumed to have performed his duties in
accordance with his oath.70

Burden of proof, on the other hand, is defined in Section 1 of Rule 131 as the duty of a party to present evidence on
the facts in issue necessary to establish his claim or defense by the amount of evidence required by law. In disbarment
proceedings, the burden of proof rests upon the complainant, and for the court to exercise its disciplinary powers, the
case against the respondent must be established by convincing and satisfactory proof. 71

Weight and sufficiency of evidence, under Rule 133 of the Rules of Court, is not determined mathematically by the
numerical superiority of the witnesses testifying to a given fact. It depends upon its practical effect in inducing belief for
the party on the judge trying the case.72

Consequently, in the hierarchy of evidentiary values, proof beyond reasonable doubt is at the highest level, followed by
clear and convincing evidence, then by preponderance of evidence, and lastly by substantial evidence, in that
order.73 Considering the serious consequences of the disbarment or suspension of a member of the Bar, the Court has
consistently held that clearly preponderant evidence is necessary to justify the imposition of administrative penalty on a
member of the Bar.74

4
Preponderance of evidence means that the evidence adduced by one side is, as a whole, superior to or has greater
weight than that of the other.75 It means evidence which is more convincing to the court as worthy of belief than that
which is offered in opposition thereto.76 Under Section 1 of Rule 133, in determining whether or not there is
preponderance of evidence, the court may consider the following: (a) all the facts and circumstances of the case; (b)
the witnesses manner of testifying, their intelligence, their means and opportunity of knowing the facts to which they
are testifying, the nature of the facts to which they testify, the probability or improbability of their testimony; (c) the
witnesses interest or want of interest, and also their personal credibility so far as the same may ultimately appear in
the trial; and (d) the number of witnesses, although it does not mean that preponderance is necessarily with the
greater number.

When the evidence of the parties are evenly balanced or there is doubt on which side the evidence preponderates, the
decision should be against the party with the burden of proof, according to the equipoise doctrine. 77
To summarize, the Court has consistently held that in suspension or disbarment proceedings against lawyers, the
lawyer enjoys the presumption of innocence, and the burden of proof rests upon the complainant to prove the
allegations in his complaint. The evidence required in suspension or disbarment proceedings is preponderance of
evidence. In case the evidence of the parties are equally balanced, the equipoise doctrine mandates a decision in
favor of the respondent.
De Guzmans Liability

The Court reverses the Decision of the Board of Governors and the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating
Commissioner regarding De Guzmans liability for the following reasons: (a) the documents submitted by complainants
in support of their complaint are not credible; (b) complainants did not appear in any of the mandatory conference
proceedings to substantiate the allegations in their complaint; and (c) complainants were not able to prove by
preponderance of evidence that De Guzman communicated with them for the purpose of filing fabricated illegal
recruitment charges for purposes of extortion.

The documents submitted by complainants are clearly not credible. First, complainants submitted a Joint Counter-
Affidavit and Affidavit of Complaint, which contained all their allegations of misconduct against De Guzman, Trinidad
and Fornier. Complainants misled the Investigating Commissioner, the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, and this Court into believing that the Joint Counter-Affidavit and Affidavit of Complaint was submitted to
the Office of the City Prosecutor in Iligan to rebut the illegal recruitment charges against them. TheJoint Counter-
Affidavit and Affidavit of Complaint purportedly appears to be subscribed and sworn to before a prosecutor. After
inquiry by De Guzman, however, the Office of the City Prosecutor of Iligan issued a Certification denying the
submission of this document by complainants:

This is to certify that based on available records of the Office, ALMASIS LAUBAN, MIKO LUMABAO and SIAO
ALBA were among the respondents named and charged with Violation of Republic Act No. 8042 under I.S. No.
06-1835, Page 254, Vol. XVI, and I.S. No. 06-1676, Page 240, Vol. XVI, which complaints were dismissed thru
a Joint Resolution dated December 29, 2006 rendered by the Office.
This is to certify further that the abovenamed persons did not submit any Joint Counter-Affidavit in connection
to the complaints filed against them, and neither did they file any Affidavit of Complaint against any
person.78 (Emphasis supplied)

To repeat, complainants deceived and misled the Investigating Commissioner, the Board of Governors of the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and this Court into believing that the Joint Counter-Affidavit and Affidavit of
Complaint, which contained all their allegations of misconduct, were submitted and sworn to before a prosecutor. This
deception gives doubt to the credibility of the other documents complainants submitted in support of their
administrative charges against respondents. Worse, complainants submitted falsified documents to the Investigating
Commissioner, the Board of Governors, and this Court.

Second, De Guzman, Fornier and Trinidad all claim that complainants are part of a syndicate headed by Montesclaros
that has perfected the filing of fabricated criminal charges. Given this claim that complainants are well-adept in filing
fabricated criminal charges supported by fabricated documents, this Court is more cautious in appreciating the
supporting documents submitted by complainants. Complainants bear the burden of proof to establish that all the
documents they submitted in support of their allegations of misconduct against respondents are authentic.
Unfortunately, complainants did not even attend any mandatory conference called by the Investigating Commissioner
to identify the documents and substantiate or narrate in detail the allegations of misconduct allegedly committed by
respondents. To make matters worse, the Joint Counter-Affidavit and Affidavit of Complaint complainants attached to
their Letter-Complaint, which supposedly contained all their allegations of misconduct against respondents, is

5
spurious, not having been submitted to the Office of the City Prosecutor of Iligan, despite purportedly having the
signature and seal of the prosecutor.

Third, the allegations of complainants lack material details to prove their communication with De Guzman. If De
Guzman really called and texted them that a warrant of arrest would be issued, what mobile number did De Guzman
use? Out of the voluminous documents that complainants submitted, where is the warrant for their arrest? What is their
occupation or profession? Who are these complainants? These questions are unanswered because complainants did
not even bother to attend any mandatory conference called by the Investigating Commissioner, despite due notice. For
this reason, the allegations of De Guzmans misconduct are really doubtful.

Lastly, the supposedly vicious evidence against De Guzman, which was a letter he allegedly sent to Cotabato City
Councilor Orlando Badoy, is not credible. This letter states:

Dear Orly,

Thank you very much for a wonderful visit to Cotabato City. I learned much about the South and the way of life
there.

It took me time to prepare the complaint to be filed. In the meantime, the son-of-a-gun filed charges against us
in Marawi City! I have addressed the affidavit-complaint directly to your man, Ben Danda, with instructions for
him and the other two complainants to sign the same before an assistant prosecutor and file with City
Prosecutor Bagasao. But we are relying on you to orchestrate the whole thing, from the prosecutor to the RTC
Judge, especially the warrants of arrest.

Thank you and best regards.79

The signatures of De Guzman in his Affidavit of Clarification and in the purported letter have material discrepancies. At
the same time, complainants did not even explain how they were able to get a copy of the purported letter.
Complainants did not present the recipients, Orlando Badoy or Atty. Francis V. Gustilo, to authenticate the letter. In
addition, none of the complainants appeared before the Investigating Commissioner to substantiate their allegations or
authenticate the supporting documents.
The Investigating Commissioner, on the other hand, put a lot of weight and credibility into this purported letter:

Again, to the extreme amazement of the undersigned, Respondent failed to offer denial of the letter or explain
the import of the same differently from what is understood by the Complainants. But even with that effort, the
letter is so plain to understand. Verily, the undersigned cannot ignore the same and the message it conveys. 80

Generally, the letter would have been given weight, if not for the fact that complainants, whom respondents claim are
part of an extortion syndicate, are consistently involved in the fabrication of evidence in support of their criminal
complaints. Moreover, contrary to the Investigating Commissioners observation, De Guzman actually denied any
involvement in the preparation of complainants criminal complaint in I.S. No. 2006-C-31. In his Affidavit of Clarification,
De Guzman stated:

5. Undersigned has no participation in the above-captioned complaint, but to his surprise, he recently
received a photocopy of (a) the counter-affidavit of Rogelio Atangan, (b) Atty. Nicanor G. Alvarez, (c)
Lolita Zara, (d) Marcelo Pelisco, and (e) Atty. Roque A. Amante Jr. (his records at the Surpeme Court
does not have any Daryll);
6. Undersigned counsels name and that of his clients appear in the counter-affidavit of Atty. Nicanor G.
Alcarez (Montesclaros lawyer who appeared in the sala of Pasay RTC Judge Francisco Mendiola as
against the undersigned), or Marcelo Pelisco, a known henchman of Montesclaros and a squatter at
the Monica Condominium, and Atty. Amante, and for this reason, undersigned counsel feels under
obligation to make this affidavit of clarification for the guidance of the Investigating Prosecutor;

xxx
4.4. Undersigned has no familiarity with the Tesclaros Recruitment & Employment Agency nor with the
complainants (except for Laura Timbag Tuico of Cotabato City), nor with the other respondents, but he
believes that Atty. Roque A. Amante Jr. and Atty. Nicanor G. Alvarez are the key players of Joseph L.
Montesclaros in the illegal recruitment business.81

6
For these reasons, the Court finds that the documents submitted by complainants in support of their complaint against
De Guzman are not credible. Accordingly, the Court dismisses the charges against De Guzman.

De Guzman enjoys the legal presumption that he committed no crime or wrongdoing. Complainants have the burden
of proof to prove their allegations of misconduct against De Guzman. Complainants were not able to discharge this
burden because the documents they submitted were not authenticated and were apparently fabricated. Also,
complainants did not appear in the mandatory conference proceedings to substantiate the allegations in their
complaint. In disbarment proceedings, what is required to merit the administrative penalty is preponderance of
evidence, which weight is even higher than substantial evidence in the hierarchy of evidentiary values. Complainants
were not able to prove by preponderance of evidence that De Guzman communicated with them and persuaded them
to file fabricated charges against other people for the purpose of extorting money. In fact, even if the evidence of the
parties are evenly balanced, the Court must rule in favor of De Guzman according to the equipoise doctrine. For these
reasons, the Court reverses the Decision of the Board of Governors and the Report and Recommendation of the
Investigating Commissioner, and accordingly dismisses the charges against De Guzman.

Trinidads and Forniers Liabilities

The Court adopts the findings of fact and the report and recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner with
respect to Trinidads and Forniers liabilities:

A careful persusal of the allegations in as well as the attachments to the Joint Counter Affidavit with Affidavit of
Complaint reveals that Complainants failed miserably to substantiate their charges against Respondents.
Other than their bare allegations, the Complainants did not adduce proof of Respondents supposed
involvement or participation directly or indirectly in the acts complained of. For instance, they failed to prove
though faintly that Respondents had gone to Cotabato City to personally induce and persuade the
complainants to file illegal recruitment charges against Atty. Nicanor G. Alvarez and sixteen (16) others or that
they have prodded and stirred them to do so as they did by any form of communication. The supposed
telephone call the Respondents and their supposed cohorts had made during the proceedings before the
Cotabato City Prosecutors Office to the Complainants is unbelievable and absurd. It is inconceivable that
Complainants could have answered the calls of six (6) persons during a serious proceeding such as the
inquest or preliminary investigation of a criminal complaint before the City Prosecutor. To the undersigned, the
fallacy of the allegation above strongly militates against the reliabiity of Complainants charges against
Respondents.

xxx

But on top of all, the Complainants had by their own volition already made unmistakable Respondents non-
participation or non-involvement in the charges they have filed when they wittingly filed their Motion to Dismiss
Complaint against Atty. Trinidad and Atty. Fornier Only. The undersigned realizes only too well that the filing of
a Motion to Dismiss is proscribed in this Commission, however, any such pleading must be appreciated as to
its intrinsic merit. A clear reading of the same reveals that the Complainants had wanted to clarify that they
have erroneously included Respondents Trinidad and Fornier as parties to the case. In particular, they
explained that they had no communication or dealings whatsoever with the said lawyers as to inspire belief
that the latter had some involvement in their charges. The undersigned finds the affidavit persuasive and for
that he has no reason to ignore the import of the same as a piece of evidence. 82

At any rate, we consider the case against Trinidad and Fornier terminated. Under Section 12(c) of Rule 139-B, the
administrative case is deemed terminated if the penalty imposed by the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines is less than suspension or disbarment (such as reprimand, admonition or fine), unless the complainant
files a petition with this Court within 15 days from notice:

c. If the respondent is exonerated by the Board or the disciplinary sanction imposed by it is less than
suspension or disbarment (such as admonition, reprimand, or fine) it shall issue a decision exonerating respondent or
imposing such sanction. The case shall be deemed terminated unless upon petition of the complainant or other
interested party filed with the Supreme Court within fifteen (15) days from notice of the Boards resolution, the Supreme
Court orders otherwise.

Here, complainants did not appeal the Decision of the Board of Governors dismissing the charges against Trinidad and
Fornier. In fact, complainants filed with this Court a Motion to Dismiss Complaint Against Trinidad and Fornier.

7
WHEREFORE, we AFFIRM the Decision of the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, adopting
the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner, and DISMISS the charges against Attys.
Wenceslao Peewee Trinidad and Andresito Fornier for utter lack of merit. We REVERSE the Decision of the Board of
Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, modifying and increasing the penalty in the Report and
Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner, and accordingly DISMISS the charges against Atty. Salvador P.
De Guzman, Jr. also for utter lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

2. Atty. Dela Cruz vs. Saladero

[A.C. No. 6580. August 3, 2005]


DELA CRUZ vs. SALADERO
SECOND DIVISION
Sirs/Mesdames:
Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated AUG 3 2005.
A.C. No. 6580 (CBD 03-1175) (Atty. Miniano B. Dela Cruz vs. Atty. Remegio D. Saladero, Jr.)
A complaint dated December 16, 2003 was filed by Atty. Miniano B. Dela Cruz before the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) charging respondent of violating the lawyer's oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility by
filing disbarment, criminal and administrative cases against complainant without legal and factual bases, for submitting
false affidavits, for refusing his invitation to have a "brotherly" talk as fellow lawyer to clarify the matters between
complainant and respondent's clients and for filing a prohibited pleading.
Specifically, complainant accuses respondent of: filing, through Adoracion Losloso, a baseless disbarment case
against him supported by two false affidavits; sending complainant a letter charging him of estafa and ignoring
complainant's reply thereto; refusing complainant's invitation to a "brotherly" talk; filing an estafa case through
falsification of public document and four other criminal complaints against herein complainant, through Losloso, which
were eventually dismissed for being groundless; filing an HLURB case in behalf of Losloso and Nestor Aguirre without
verifying the truth of their claims; filing a motion to dismiss the ejectment case filed by complainant against Losloso
before the barangay knowing that such is a prohibited pleading; and helping Losloso to file motions to inhibit a
prosecutor in Pasig for alleged bias.[1]cralaw
Respondent filed an answer contending that: he merely acted as counsel of the parties who filed cases against
complainant and out of the 17 cases filed by Adoracion Losloso against complainant, respondent only handles four
which are still pending resolution; it would be premature to say that said cases were filed only to harass complainant;
there is no showing that respondent is moved by malice or bad faith in agreeing to act as counsel of Losloso; Losloso
also alleged that it was a public attorney who was assisting her in all her cases by preparing the various pleadings in
court; and it is only because said public attorney could not appear in court that she asked the assistance of respondent
and eventually engaged the legal services of respondent when the public attorney died. [2]cralaw
On February 17, 2004, complainant filed a Reply to the answer reiterating his earlier claims which respondent
countered with a Rejoinder asserting the same denials.[3]cralaw
A mandatory conference was held on April 16, 2004 and on said date, IBP Commissioner Rebecca Villanueva-Maala
directed the parties to submit their respective position papers.[4]cralaw On June 7, 2004, she submitted her report
dated June 7, 2004, finding that:
...In the case at hand, complainant failed to present a clear, convincing and satisfactory evidence to prove that
respondent has been moved by malice and bad faith in accepting to serve as legal counsel of Mrs. Adoracion Losloso.
Moreover, records show that the cases, where respondent acted as counsel for Mrs. Losloso have not been resolved,
and therefore, it could not be determined yet whether or not they are meritorious. [5]cralaw
She then recommended that the instant case of disbarment filed against respondent be dismissed for lack of
merit.[6]cralaw
On July 30, 2004, the IBP Board of Governors passed a Resolution thus:
RESOLUTION NO. XVI-2004-349
CBD Case No. 03-1175
Atty. Miniano B. dela Cruz vs.

8
Atty. Remegio D. Saladero, Jr.
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby ADOPTED and APPROVED, the Report and
Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner of the above-entitled case, herein made part of this
Resolution as Annex "A"; and, finding the recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the
applicable laws and rules, and considering that the complaint lacks merit, the case is hereby
DISMISSED.[7]cralaw
On October 19, 2004, complainant filed before this Court a Motion for Reconsideration on the grounds that: the report
and recommendation of IBP Commissioner Maala is not based on correct records of the case; Maala's report and
recommendation did not consider the violations of respondent under Sec. 20 of Rule 138 [8]cralaw of the Rules of Court,
Canons 1,[9]cralaw 8[10]cralaw and 12,[11]cralaw and Rules 1.02, 1.03, and 1.04 of the Code of Professional
Conduct;[12]cralaw the report and recommendation did not discuss the failure of respondent to conduct an investigation
to ascertain the veracity of the complaint for Estafa, disbarment and complaint before the HLURB, among others; and
the Resolution of the IBP Board of Governors erred in approving the incomplete and defective report of Maala and
should therefore be set aside.[13]cralaw
On December 28, 2004, complainant filed a Supplement to the Motion for Reconsideration emphasizing the issue that
respondent filed groundless cases against him.[14]cralaw
On April 13, 2005, respondent filed a Comment stating that: complainant, instead of filing a petition from the resolution
of the IBP Board of Governors, pursuant to Rule 139-B, Sec. 12(c), erroneously filed a motion for reconsideration;
contrary to the allegations of complainant, respondent acted in good faith and studied the supporting documents of
Losloso first before sending complainant the demand letter; respondent was not the one who filed the cases before the
HLURB, the Prosecutors' Office and the IBP; respondent came into the picture long after these cases have been filed;
respondent agreed to handle the said cases based on his honest assessment that there is a valid cause of action
against complainant;[15]cralaw the investigating IBP commissioner was not biased in requiring respondent to submit his
position paper despite his failure to attend the mandatory hearing on time; respondent agreed to the order of Maala
requiring both parties to submit position papers and it was only when the commissioner dismissed his complaint that
complainant raised the issue of bias; respondent enjoys the presumption that he is innocent of the charges against him
and complainant has failed to convincingly prove that respondent has acted in bad faith in the manner by which he has
handled the cases pending between complainant and Losloso, et al.; complainant himself has filed several cases
against Losloso (cancellation of contract, estafa and perjury) which have been dismissed; since these cases were also
found to be without merit, complainant, following his line of reasoning, should also be considered as having harassed
Losloso in violation of his oath as a lawyer.[16]cralaw
First of all, we are treating herein motion for reconsideration as a petition referred to in Rule 139-B, Sec. 12(c).
After reviewing the records of this case, we find the report and recommendation of the IBP Investigating
Commissioner, as adopted by the IBP Board of Governors, to be well-founded.
Well-settled is the rule that he who alleges must prove his allegations. If the complainant, upon whom rests the burden
of proving his cause of action, fails to show in a satisfactory manner the facts upon which he bases his claim, the
respondent is under no obligation to prove his exception or defense. [17]cralaw
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.[18]cralaw But his guilt cannot be presumed.[19]cralaw A mere charge or
allegation of wrongdoing will not suffice.[20]cralaw There must be sufficient evidence to support the charge.[21]cralaw
In this case, complainant accuses respondent of filing baseless charges against him. Apart from his bare allegations,
however, complainant failed to show that respondent did in fact file baseless cases against him. As borne by the
records, the complaint, as well as the motions for reconsideration of the denial thereof, for estafa through falsification
of public document, was filed by Adoracion Losloso;[22]cralaw the disbarment case before the IBP were filed by
Losloso, Sheila Bones-Lei and Nestor Aguirre;[23]cralaw while the HLURB case was filed by Losloso and
Aguirre.[24]cralaw Aside from complainant's allegations, there is no proof that respondent prodded said individuals to
file cases against herein complainant. Adoracion Losloso even executed a sworn statement expressing that it was
Atty. Ramon Vera of the Public Attorney's Office in Pasig who helped her in filing the cases before the fiscal, the
HLURB and the IBP. She also categorically stated that herein respondent only entered the picture after the said cases
had already been filed and that he did not have any participation in the drafting of said complaints. She also explained
that out of the 20 cases filed between her and herein complainant, respondent only participated in four cases which
are still pending resolution.[25]cralaw
Apart from complainant's naked assertions, there is also no proof anywhere in the records that respondent filed false
affidavits to support the disbarment case against complainant in the IBP. Neither is there any showing that respondent

9
filed a prohibited pleading, In any case, we cannot see how such pleading, if ever one was filed, could be a basis for
disbarment. Neither could respondent's refusal to have a "brotherly talk over a cup of coffee" with complainant or
respondent's act of helping Losloso file a motion to inhibit a prosecutor in Pasig for alleged bias could be a basis for
disciplinary action.
What is only clear is that herein respondent sent complainant a letter dated May 17, 2001 demanding that complainant
give Losloso, et al. their commission for the sale of a property in Antipolo based on a Memorandum of Agreement,
otherwise Losloso, et al. would be constrained to file appropriate criminal, civil and administrative complaints against
herein complainant.[26]cralaw We cannot, based on this letter alone, say that respondent was moved by malice or bad
faith.
We reiterate that in disbarment proceedings, such as the case at bar, the burden of proof rests upon the complainant.
This Court will exercise its disciplinary powers only if the complainant establishes his case by clear, convincing and
satisfactory evidence. In the absence of convincing or clearly preponderant evidence, the complaint for disbarment
against respondent is correctly dismissed[27]cralaw by the IBP Board of Governors.
WHEREFORE, the Motion for Reconsideration, filed by Atty. Miniano Dela Cruz, is DENIED for lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.

3. Lazuna vs. Magsalin

A.C. No. 7687 December 3, 2014


RAUL C. LANUZA and REYNALDO C. RASING, Complainants,
vs.
ATTYS. FRANKIE O. MAGSALIN III and PABLO R. CRUZ, Respondents.
x-----------------------x
A.C. No. 7688
RAUL C. LANUZA and REYNALDO C. RASING, Complainants,
vs.
ATTYS. FRANKIE O. MAGSALIN III, PETER ANDREWS GO and PABLO R. CRUZ, Respondents.

DECISION
MENDOZA, J.:
Before the Court are two (2) separate administrative cases for disbarment filed by complainants Raul C. Lanuza
(Lanuza) and Reynaldo C. Rasing (Rasing), docketed as A.C. No. 7687, against lawyers Frankie O. Magsalin III (Atty.
Magsalin) and Pablo R. Cruz (Atty. Cruz) and A.C. No. 7688 against Atty. Magsalin, Atty. Cruz and Atty. Peter Andrew
Z. Go (Atty. Go) for alleged fraud, deceit, malpractice, and gross misconduct in violation of Section 27, Rule 138 of the
Rules of Court and the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR).
The Court eventually consolidated the two cases as they both involve the same parties, revolve around the sameset of
facts, and raise exactly the same issues.
The Facts
These disbarment cases stemmed from a labor case filed by complainant Lanuza against Philippine Hoteliers, Inc.
(PHI), which operated the Dusit Hotel Nikko (Dusit Hotel), a client of respondents Atty. Magsalin, Atty. Cruz and Atty.
Go, all from the law firm, P.R. Cruz Law Offices (PRC Law Office). Both the Labor Arbiter and the National Labor
Relations Commission (NLRC)decided in favor of PHI. Lanuza appealed the NLRC decision before the Court of
Appeals (CA).
A.C. No. 7688
On March 23, 2007, the CA rendered a decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 92642, favoring Lanuza and directing PHI to
reinstate him with full backwages.
According to Lanuza, his legal counsel, Atty. Solon R. Garcia (Atty. Garcia), received the Notice of Judgment and their
copy of the CA Decision on March 28, 2007 at his law office located in Quezon City. Subsequently, Atty. Garcia
received by registered mail the Compliance1 and Motion for Reconsideration,2 both dated April 12, 2007, filed by PHI
and signed by Atty. Magsalin. In the said pleadings, PHI stated that it received Notice of Judgment with a copy of the
CA decision on April 10, 2007. This information caused Atty. Garcia to wonder why the postman would belatedly
deliver the said Notice of Judgment and the CA decision to the PRC Law Office, which was also located in Quezon
10
City, thirteen (13) days after he received his own copies. Afterwards, Atty. Garcia requested the Quezon City Central
Post Office (QCCPO) for a certification as to the date of the actual receipt of the Notice of Judgment with the CA
decision by the PRC Law Office. In the October 31, 2007 Certification,3 issued by Llewelyn F. Fallarme (Fallarme),
Chief of the Records Section, QCCPO, it was stated that the Registered Letter No. S-1582 addressed to Atty.
Magsalin was delivered by Postman Rosendo Pecante (Postman Pecante)and duly received by Teresita Calucag on
March 29, 2007, supposedly based on the logbook of Postman Pecante.
With the October 31, 2007 Certification as basis, the complainants lodged the disbarment complaint against Attys.
Magsalin, Go and Cruz, which was docketed as A.C. No. 7688.
A.C. No. 7688
In A.C. No. 7688, the complainants alleged that Teresita "Tess" Calucag (Calucag), secretary of PRC Law Office,
altered the true date of receipt of the Notice of Judgment withthe CA decision when she signed and stamped on the
registry return receipt the date, April 10, 2007, to mislead the CA and the opposing party that they received their copy
of the CA decision on a later date and not March 29, 2007. The complainants added that the alteration was very
evident on the registry return receipt which bore two (2) stamped dates of receipt, with one stamped date "snowpaked"
or covered with a liquid correction fluid to conceal the true date written on the registry return receipt. They inferred that
Calucag concealed whatcould probably be the true date of receipt, and that the respondents must have induced
Calucag to alter the true date of receipt because they stood to benefit from the additional thirteen (13) days to prepare
their motion for reconsideration.
In their defense, the respondents denied the complainants’ allegations and countered that they actually received the
Notice of Judgment and their copy of the CA Decision on April 10, 2007 based on the Registry Return Receipt4 (1st
return receipt) that was sent back to CA. Stamped on the 1st return receipt was "RECEIVED APRIL 10 2007" and
signed by Calucag in front and within the full view of Postman Pecante. The respondents claimed that examining and
finding that the return receipt had been faithfully accomplished and the date indicated therein to be true and accurate,
Postman Pecante accepted the said return receipt. As borne out by the records, the 1st return receipt pertaining to the
CA decision was duly returned to the CA as the sender. Eventually, Atty. Magsalin filed the required Compliance.
Considering that Atty. Cruz was out of the country from April 5, 2007, to May 6, 2007, based on a Bureau of
Immigration certification,5 Atty. Magsalin requested Atty. Go, a senior associate in their law office, to review PHI’s
motion for reconsideration of the decision. Afterwards, Atty. Go signed the said motion for reconsideration and had it
filed with the CA.
Relying on the date indicated in the return receipt, respondents stated the date, April 10, 2007, in the filed compliance
and motion for reconsideration.
To oppose complainants’ assertion of Calucag’s application of "snowpake" in the 1st return receipt allegedly to conceal
the true date of receipt of the CA decision, the respondents secured a Certification 6 from the CA, which stated the
following:
This is to certify that the Registry Return Receipt dated March 23, 2007, attached to the dorsal portion of page 209 of
the rollo of the above-captioned case, asper careful observation, reveals no "snowpaked" portion and that the white
mark that appears on the upper, center portion of the subject Registry Return Receipt bearing the stamp mark of
receipt ofP.R. Cruz Law Offices is a part of the white envelope that contained the decisionof this Court which stuck to
the said Return Receipt.
A.C. No. 7687
As the records would show, PHI moved for reconsideration of the said CA decision, but the CA denied the motion in its
July 4, 2007 Resolution.
On July 10, 2007, Atty. Garcia received by registered mail the Notice of Resolution from the CA. Thereafter, Atty.
Garcia received by registered mail the Compliance,7 dated July 26, 2007, filed by PHI, through the PRC Law Office. In
the said Compliance, it was stated that the Notice of Resolution was received on July 23, 2007 based on the Registry
Return Receipt8 (2nd return receipt) sent back to the CA.
Again wondering about the delay in the delivery of the registered mail to the respondents, Atty. Garciarequested the
QCCPO to issue a certification as to the date of the actual receipt of the said Notice of Resolution by the PRC Law
Office. Inthe October 25, 2007 Certification9 issued by the QCCPO, Chief of the Records Section Fallarme, stated that
the Registered Letter No. S-114 addressed to Atty. Magsalin was delivered by Postman Pecante and duly received by
Calucag on July 16, 2007, based on the logbook of Postman Pecante.
The October 25, 2007 Certification became the basis of the other disbarment complaint against Attys. Magsalin and
Cruz docketed as A.C. No. 7687.

11
In A.C. No. 7687, the complainants claimed that Attys. Magsalin and Cruz must have induced Calucag to alter the true
date of receipt of the Notice of Resolution or at least had the knowledge thereof when she signed and stamped on the
2nd return receipt the date- July 23, 2007. They contended that Attys. Magsalin and Cruz stood to benefit from the
additional seven (7) days derived from the alleged altered date asthey, in fact, used the altered date in their
subsequent pleading. Attys. Magsalin and Cruz falsely alleged such in the compliance filed before the CA; the motion
for extension of time to file a petition for review on certiorari;10 and the petition for review on certiorari11 filed before this
Court. The complainants insinuated that Atty. Magsalin and Atty. Cruz deliberately misled the CA and this Court by
filing the above-mentioned pleadings with the full knowledge that they were already time barred.
In their defense, Attys. Magsalin and Cruz denied the allegations in the complaint and retorted that they actually
received the subject Notice of Resolution on the date - July 23, 2007 as indicated in the 2nd return receipt which was
also duly accepted by Postman Pecante and appropriately returned to the CA as sender. Relying on the date, July 23,
2007, as indicated in 2nd return receipt, Atty. Magsalin, on behalf of PHI, filed the compliance and the other pleadings
before the CA and this Court concerning CA-G.R. SP No. 92642. The respondents asserted that the date in the 2nd
return receipt deserved full faith and credence as it was clearly indicated by Calucag, witnessed by Postman Pecante
and ultimately processed by the QCCPO to be duly returnedto the CA.
Referral to the IBP
In its April 2, 200812 and June 16, 200813 Resolutions, the Court referred the said administrative cases tothe Integrated
Bar of the Philippines (IBP)for investigation, report and recommendation.
The complainants and the respondents all appeared at the scheduled mandatory conference held before the
Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD). Thereafter, the parties filed their respective position papers.
IBP’s Report and Recommendation
A.C. No. 7687
In its March 9, 2009 Report and Recommendation,14 Commissioner Salvador B. Hababag (Commissioner Hababag)
recommended that the administrative complaint be dismissed for lack of merit. It gave more credence to the date
indicated in the 2nd return receipt which bore no alteration and was duly accepted by Postman Pecante than the
October 25, 2007 Certification issued by the QCCPO. He stated that the 2nd return receipt did not contain any
alteration as to the stamping of the date - July 23, 2007, and that Postman Pecante would not have allowed and
accepted the 2nd return receipt from Calucag if it contained an inaccurate date other than the true date of receipt.
Finally, the CBD ruled that the complainants failed to demonstrate the specific acts constituting deceit, malpractice and
gross misconduct by evidence that was clear and free from doubt as to the act charged and as to the respondents’
motive.
On April 17, 2009, the IBP Board of Governors (IBP-BOG) resolved to adopt and approve the CBD report and
recommendation through its Resolution No. XVIII-2009-176.15 The complainants moved for reconsideration, but the
motion was denied.
A.C. No. 7688
In its Report and Recommendation,16 dated March 10, 2009, the CBD recommended that the complaint be dismissed
for lack of merit. It gave credence to the date indicated in the 1st return receipt as the actual and true date of receipt of
the Notice of Judgment with the attached CA decision by the respondents. It did not subscribe to the complainants’
theory that Calucag was induced by the respondents to conceal the true date of receipt by applying a liquid correction
fluid in the 1st return receipt. It found the the Certification issued by Atty. Teresita R. Marigomen sufficient to explain
the presence of the white substance appearing on the 1st return receipt.
On April 17, 2009, the IBP-BOG resolved to adopt and approve the CBD report and recommendation through its
Resolution No. XVIII-2009-178.17 The complainants moved for reconsideration, but the motion was denied.
With their motions for reconsideration in the two cases denied, the complainants filed their respective petitions for
review before this Court.
ISSUE
The vital issue for the Court’s resolution is whether Attys. Magsalin, Cruz and Go should be held administratively liable
based on the allegations in the complaints.
The Court’s Ruling
The petitions lack merit.

12
The Court deems it appropriate to discuss A.C. Nos. 7687 and 7688 jointly as they essentially revolve around the
same circumstances and parties.
The burden of proof in disbarment and suspension proceedings always rests on the complainant.1âwphi1 The Court
exercises its disciplinary power only if the complainant establishes the complaint by clearly preponderant evidence that
warrants the imposition of the harsh penalty. As a rule, an attorney enjoys the legal presumption that he is innocent of
the charges made against him until the contrary is proved. An attorney is further presumed as an officer of the Court to
have performed his duties in accordance with his oath. 18
In the cases at bench, the Court finds the evidentiary records to be inconclusive, thus, insufficient to hold the
respondents liable for the acts alleged in the complaint.
Though there is a variance between the QCCPO Certifications and the Registry Return Receipts as to the dates of the
CA receipt of the notices, decision and resolution by the respondents, there is no clear and convincing evidence to
prove that the respondents intentionally and maliciously made it appear that they received the CA notices, decision
and resolution later than the dates stated in the QCCPO Certifications. The complainants would like to impress upon
the Court that the only logical explanation as to the discrepancy on the dates between the QCCPO Certifications and
the Registry Return Receipts was that the respondents must have induced Calucag toalter the true date of receipt by
the CA for the purpose of extending the period to file, the otherwise time barred, motion for reconsideration. Verily, this
leap of inference proffered by the complainants is merely anchored on speculation and conjecture and not in any way
supported by clear substantial evidence required to justify the imposition of an administrative penalty on a member of
the Bar.
Even if the postmaster's certifications were to merit serious consideration, the Court cannot avoid the legal reality that
the registry return card is considered as the official CA record evidencing service by mail. This card carries the
presumption that it was prepared in the course of official duties which have been regularly performed. Jn this sense, it
is presumed to be accurate, unless clearly proven otherwise.
The Court finds merit in the respondents' argument that had Calucag stamped an inaccurate date on the registry return
receipts, Postman Pecante, who witnessed and had full view of the receiving and stamping of the said registry return
receipts, would have called her attention to correct the same or would have refused to receive them altogether for
being erroneous. Here, Postman Pecante having accepted two registry return receipts with the dates, April 10,
200719 and .July 23, 2007,20 respectively, can only mean that the said postman considered the dates indicated therein
to be correct and accurate.
While the Court will not avoid its responsibility in meting out the proper disciplinary punishment upon lawyers who fail
to live up to their sworn duties, the Court will not wield its axe against those the accusations against whom are not
indubitably proven.
Accordingly, in the absence of a clear and convincing evidence, the complaint for disbarment should be dismissed.
WHEREFORE, the administrative complaints against Attys. Frankie O. Magsalin III and Pablo R. Cruz, in A.C. No.
7687; and the administrative complaint against Attys. Frankie O. Magsalin III, Peter Andrew S. Go and Pablo R. Cruz,
in A.C. No. 7688, are hereby DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.

4. Mendoza vs. Mendoza & Navarro

A.C. No. 6056, September 09, 2015


FELICISIMA MENDOZA VDA. DE ROBOSA, Complainant, v. ATTYS. JUAN B. MENDOZA AND EUSEBIO P.
NAVARRO, JR., Respondents.
DECISION
VILLARAMA, JR., J.:
Before us is a complaint for disbarment against Atty. Juan B. Mendoza (Atty. Mendoza) for alleged deceitful acts
against his client, and Atty. Eusebio P. Navarro, Jr. (Atty. Navarro) for negligence in the handling of his client's defense
in the collection case filed by Atty. Mendoza.
Factual Antecedents

Eladio Mendoza (Eladio) applied for original registration of two parcels of land (Lot Nos. 3771 and 2489) situated in
Calamba, Laguna before the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) at Los Banos, Laguna
and Land Management Bureau (LMB) in Manila.1 While his application was still pending, Eladio died leaving all his
13
children as heirs to his estate; among them is herein complainant Felicisima Mendoza Vda. De Robosa (Felicisima).
Eladio's children pursued the application and executed a Special Power of Attorney2 (SPA) in favor of Felicisima. Their
relative, Atty. Mendoza, prepared and notarized the said SPA. They also engaged the services of Atty. Mendoza as
their counsel in the proceedings before the CENRO and LMB.

On February 20, 1993, upon the behest of Atty. Mendoza, Felicisima signed a Contract for Service 3prepared by Atty.
Mendoza. The said contract stipulated that in the event of a favorable CENRO or LMB resolution, Felicisima shall
convey to Atty. Mendoza one-fifth (1/5) of the lands subject of the application or one-fifth (1/5) of the proceeds should
the same property be sold.

The CENRO and the LMB proceedings resulted in the dismissal of Felicisima and her siblings' application for Lot No.
2489 and the partial grant of their application for Lot No. 3771.4 The Bureau of Lands issued an Original Certificate of
Title (OCT) covering one-third (VV) or about 8,901 square meters of Lot No. 3771 in the names of Felicisima and her
siblings. Subsequently, Felicisima and her siblings sold the land to Greenfield Corporation (Greenfield) and received
the amount of P2,000,000.00 as down payment.

On October 15, 1998, Atty. Mendoza, joined by his wife Filomena S. Mendoza, filed in the Regional Trial Court (RTC)
of Tanauan, Batangas a Complaint5 against Felicisima and her siblings (Civil Case No. T-1080). Atty. Mendoza
claimed that except for the amount of P40,000.00, Felicisima and her siblings refused to pay his attorney's fees
equivalent to 1/5 of the proceeds of the sale of the land as stipulated in the Contract for Service.

In their Answer with Counterclaim,6 Felicisima and her siblings denied the "existence and authenticity of the x x x
Contract of Service," adding that it did not reflect the true intention of the parties as they only agreed to pay Atty.
Mendoza PI,500.00 per appearance and up to P1,500.00 for gasoline expenses. They also asserted that, based
on quantum meruit, Atty. Mendoza is not entitled to the claimed attorney's fees because they lost in one case and he
failed to accomplish the titling of the land awarded to them, which would have enhanced the value of the property.

Felicisima and her siblings hired the services of Atty. Navarro as their counsel in Civil Case No. T-1080.

On March 29, 2000, the RTC rendered judgment in favor of Atty. Mendoza and against Felicisima and her siblings.
The RTC ruled that Felicisima failed to substantiate her claim that she did not enter into a contingency contract for
legal services with Atty. Mendoza, and ordered Felicisima to pay Atty. Mendoza P1,258,000.00 (for the land sold at
P7,120,800.00) representing attorney's fees as well as the total cost of suit. 7

Atty. Navarro then filed a Notice of Appeal8 on behalf of Felicisima. However, Atty. Mendoza moved for an execution
pending appeal with the RTC. Since no opposition was filed by Felicisima and her siblings, the RTC granted the said
motion and issued a writ of execution, which resulted in the levy and eventual transfer of Felicisima's properties
covered by Transfer Certificate of Title Nos. T-433859 and T-433860 in favor of Atty. Mendoza as the highest bidder in
the execution sale.9

Meanwhile, the Court of Appeals (CA) ordered Felicisima to file an appellant's brief but Atty. Navarro failed to file the
same within the period granted by the CA. Consequently, the CA dismissed Felicisima's appeal for non-compliance
with Section 1(e), Rule 50 of the Revised Rules of Court.10

On June 3, 2003, Felicisima filed a complaint-affidavit for disbarment before this Court against Atty. Mendoza for
allegedly deceiving her into signing the Contract for Service by taking advantage of her illiteracy, and against Atty.
Navarro for dereliction of duty in handling her case before the CA causing her properties to be levied and sold at public
auction.11

Felicisima alleges that Atty. Mendoza made her sign a document at her house without the presence of her siblings.
Said document (Contract for Service) was written in English which she does not understand. She claims that Atty.
Mendoza told her the document will shield her from her siblings' possible future claims on the property because she
alone is entitled to the property as her siblings did not help her in processing the application for original registration.
She was not given a copy of the said document and she discovered only during the trial that Atty. Mendoza anchors
his claim over Vs of proceeds from the sale of the land awarded by the CENRO and LMB on the same document she
had signed.12

As to Atty. Navarro, Felicisima claims that her case before the CA was neglected despite repeated follow-ups on her
part. She also points out that Atty. Navarro abandoned her case before the RTC when the latter failed to file an
opposition to Atty. Mendoza's motion for execution pending appeal, which resulted in the loss of her properties. 13
14
In his Comment,14 Atty. Mendoza avers that he has been a lawyer since 1954 and retired sometime in 1983 due to
partial disability. Fie went back to practicing his profession in 1996 on a selective basis due to his disability but
completely stopped a year after. Being 82 years of age at the time of filing his comment, Atty. Mendoza admits that he
is now totally disabled, cannot walk on his own, cannot even write and sign his name, and can only move about with
the help of his family for he has been suffering from a severe case of "acute gouty arthritic attack" which causes
extreme difficulty in moving virtually all his joints. He points out that he had previously handled pro bono a concubinage
case filed by Felicisima against her husband, having yielded to her repeated pleas as she was then financially hard-up
and psychologically distraught. For the application with the CENRO and LMB, he agreed to be paid for his legal
services on a contingent basis, which contract was subsequently found by the RTC to be valid. When it was time to
collect his attorney's fees, Felicisima and her siblings refused to pay him without any justifiable reason and even
threatened to shoot him if he continued to press for his compensation. This left Atty. Mendoza with no other recourse
but to avail of the judicial process to enforce his claim.

Replying to the comment of Atty. Mendoza, Felicisima maintains that she did not understand the contents of the
Contract for Service and if it was truly their agreement (contingent basis) they would not have given money to Atty.
Mendoza amounting to P66,000.00. in fact, she points out that Atty. Mendoza failed to recover one of the lands applied
for and to have the land awarded to them titled because he became ill. Further, she denies the allegation that she and
her siblings threatened to shoot Atty. Mendoza for how could they do it to a lawyer who will certainly have them jailed.
Besides, he never mentioned such incident during the hearing of the case.

On his part, Atty. Navarro asserts that he did his best to win Felicisima's case although he was unsuccessful. He
explains that even before handling Felicisima's case, he had been saddled by many cases involving politicians and
sympathizers, having previously served as councilor in the Municipality of Sto. Tomas, Batangas for two consecutive
terms. He thus emphasized to Felicisima that in order to "keep the case alive", he could file the Notice of Appeal in her
behalf, and instructed her to look for another lawyer who has the time to attend to her case and that she would return
to him only when she failed to get one. However, Atty. Navarro admits that since he was too preoccupied with so many
cases in the local courts, he had altogether forgotten about Felicisima's case, not having seen her again as per their
agreement.

Atty. Navarro avers that after a long time Felicisima suddenly showed up at his office complaining why there was no
appellant's brief filed on her behalf at the CA. He claims that Felicisima blamed her and even accused him of conniving
with Atty. Mendoza. Felicisima would not accept his explanation and she obviously failed to understand his earlier
instruction as he had filed the Notice of Appeal precisely to give her enough time to secure the services of a new
lawyer having told her that he was quite busy with his other cases. He therefore pleads for mercy and compassion if he
had somehow committed some lapses considering that this is the first time he was charged administratively in his
almost 39 years of law practice and that he is too willing to take complainant's cause if not for such apparent
miscommunication between a lawyer and his client.15

On December 7, 2005, the Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation,
report and recommendation.16

On November 6, 2006, Felicisima filed a position paper 17 reiterating that Atty. Mendoza clearly abused the trust and
confidence she reposed in him, depriving her of her material possessions by filing suit to enforce the Contract for
Service. She asserted that they could not have entered into a contract with Atty. Mendoza for the conveyance of a
portion of the land to be awarded by the Bureau of Lands as his attorney's fees because they already agreed to pay
his fee per hearing plus transportation expenses and the sum of P40,000.00. She contended that Atty. Mendoza
should be held liable for deceit and misrepresentation for tricking her to sign, to her detriment, a document that she did
not understand.

As to Atty. Navarro, Felicisima maintained that he abandoned his responsibility to monitor and keep her updated of the
status of her case before the CA. She also alleges that Atty. Navarro made it appear to her that he had already filed
the appellant's brief when, in fact, there was no such undertaking. She thus prayed that Atty. Navarro be held liable for
negligence in the conduct and manner of handling her case before the CA.
IBP's Report and Recommendation

After two postponements, the mandatory conference was finally held on September 25, 2006 where all parties
appeared except for Atty. Mendoza. Upon termination of the hearing, the parties were required to file their position
papers but only Felicisima complied.
15
On March 6, 2007, the Investigating Commissioner of the IBP-Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) submitted her
Report and Recommendation18 finding Atty. Mendoza guilty of taking advantage of Felicisima's ignorance just to have
the Contract for Service signed. She held that Atty. Mendoza violated Canon 17 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility (CPR) that a lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and shall be mindful of the trust and
confidence reposed on him, as well as Rule 20.04, Canon 20 which exhorts lawyers to avoid controversies with clients
concerning matters of compensation and to resort to judicial action only to prevent imposition, injustice or fraud. 19

As to Atty. Navarro, the Investigating Commissioner held that his participation in politics affected his law practice and
caused him to forget about Felicisima's case. Having failed to file the appellant's brief as ordered by the CA, Atty.
Navarro even filed a Motion to Withdraw Appearance at a very late stage, leaving no time for Felicisima to secure the
services of another lawyer. His infraction caused the eviction of Felicisima and her children from their residence by
virtue of the writ of execution and public auction of her real properties. The Investigating Commissioner further said
that Atty. Navarro's acts showed lack of diligence in violation of Canon 18 of the CPR and his Lawyer's Oath. 20

The Investigating Commissioner recommended that both Atty. Mendoza and Atty. Navarro be suspended for two (2)
years from the practice of law.21

On September 19, 2007, the IBP Board of Governors issued a Resolution 22 modifying the Investigating
Commissioner's Report and Recommendation by lowering the period of suspension from two (2) years to six (6)
months.

Atty. Navarro filed a motion for reconsideration23 contending that the IBP Board of Governors failed to consider that
after the filing of the Notice of Appeal, there was no more lawyer-client relationship between him and Felicisima.
Insisting that there was a miscommunication between him and Felicisima regarding his instruction that she should
engage the services of another lawyer after the filing of the Notice of Appeal, he stressed that she only later found it
difficult to scout for a new lawyer because she was being charged exorbitant acceptance fees. Hence, Felicisima
should be held equally negligent in not hiring the services of another lawyer despite a clear understanding to this
effect. He further cites the lack of communication between him and Felicisima, which resulted in the late filing of the
Notice of Withdrawal that she volunteered to file a long time ago.

In her comment to Atty. Navarro's motion for reconsideration, Felicisima reiterated that Atty. Navarro should be held
liable for negligence in failing to update her of the status of the case and admitting such oversight. She claims that
despite several demands, Atty. Navarro ignored them and made himself scarce. 24

On February 28, 2012, the IBP-CBD forwarded the case to this Court for proper disposition pursuant to Section 12,
Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court. Among the records transmitted was the Resolution dated January 15, 2012 denying
the motion for reconsideration filed by Atty. Navarro.25cralawred
The Court's Ruling

The Court has consistently held that in suspension or disbarment proceedings against lawyers, the lawyer enjoys the
presumption of innocence, and the burden of proof rests upon the complainant to prove the allegations in his
complaint. The evidence required in suspension or disbarment proceedings is preponderance of evidence. In case the
evidence of the parties are equally balanced, the equipoise doctrine mandates a decision in favor of the
respondent.26 For the Court to exercise its disciplinary powers, the case against the respondent must be established
by clear, convincing and satisfactory proof.27

Preponderance of evidence means that the evidence adduced by one side is, as a whole, superior to or has greater
weight than that of the other.28 It means evidence which is more convincing to the court as worthy of belief than that
which is offered in opposition thereto.29 Under Section 1 of Rule 133, in determining whether or not there is
preponderance of evidence, the court may consider the following: (a) all the facts and circumstances of the case; (b)
the witnesses' manner of testifying, their intelligence, their means and opportunity of knowing the facts to which they
are testifying, the nature of the facts to which they testify, the probability or improbability of their testimony; (c) the
witnesses' interest or want of interest, and also their personal credibility so far as the same may ultimately appear in
the trial; and (d) the number of witnesses, although it does not mean that preponderance is necessarily with the
greater number.

After a thorough review of the evidence and pleadings submitted by the parties, we hold that Felicisima was able to
prove her charges against Atty. Navarro but not Atty. Mendoza.
16
Contract for Service with Atty. Mendoza
a contract for contingent fees

The Contract for Service dated February 20, 1993 reads:cralawlawlibrary


That the client hereby employs the Attorney as their counsel for the titling and recovery of their two parcels of land
situated at Barangay Maunong, Calamba, Laguna, [Lot] No. 2489 with an area of approximately 21,784 Square Meters
and [L]ot No. 3771 with an area of more or less 26,703 and in consideration of the services of the attorney, the client
agrees to pay the following:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

1. For the prosecution of said proceedings (titling and recovery of the said parcels of land and hearing at the Land
Management Bureau, Manila, and at the Office of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office at Los
Bafios, Laguna the client will give the Attorney one fifth (1/5[)] of the said two parcels of land or one fifth (1/5[)] of the
selling price of the said properties if sold.

Said Attorney hereby accepts said employment on said terms and conditions and to do his best care, skill and ability,
and at all times to protect the rights and interest of said client.

2. That the expenses of the proceedings, and such others as filing fees, expenses of publication, costs legally taxable
and all others shall be for the account of the client.30chanrobleslaw

We cannot sustain the finding of the IBP that Atty. Mendoza misled Felicisima into signing the above contract which
supposedly was intended to protect her from the claims of her siblings who did not spend for the application with the
CENRO and LMB. Such finding was based solely on the statements of Felicisima in her affidavit-complaint. While
Felicisima made a reference to her testimony before the RTC, she did not attach the transcript of stenographic notes of
the said testimony detailing the circumstances of her signing the Contract for Service. Neither is the receipt by Atty.
Mendoza of the sum of P40,000.00 after Felicisima and her siblings sold the land, by itself an indication of fraud and
deceit in the execution of the Contract for Service.

Upon the other hand, Atty. Mendoza presented the RTC Decision in Civil Case No. T-1080 dated March 29, 2000, the
relevant portions of which state:cralawlawlibrary
It is not disputed that Atty. Mendoza was paid PI,000.00 for every appearance and he was also given P300.00 for
hiring a vehicle and driver for each scheduled hearing. He also received P40,000.00 from Felicisima Mendoza when
defendants' one-third portion of Lot No. 3771 was sold.

Atty. Mendoza filed the instant case to collect one-fifth of the sale price of defendants' land which was sold for
P7,120,800.00 or the amount of P1,424,000.00 minus the amount of P40,000.00 he received, or the amount of
P1,384,000.00.

During her testimony, Felicisima Mendoza admitted the authenticity of the Special Power of Attorney whereby her
brothers and sisters authorized her to secure the services of the plaintiff Juan Mendoza adding that it was in writing, in
English and was explained to her before she signed it; that on the basis of the authority given her by her brothers and
sisters she engaged the services of Atty. Mendoza; that the signature in the document, entitled Contract of Service, is
that of her name which she signed in "his house."

On the basis of the evidence, the Court finds no ground to support Felicisima's claim that she did not enter into any
written agreement with the plaintiff, Juan Mendoza, for the latter to render legal services and the corresponding
compensation therefor as set forth in the Contract of Service. However, the Court finds that the amounts received by
the plaintiff Juan Mendoza from defendant Felicisima Mendoza during the course of his legal services for the twenty
hearings in the amount of P1,300.00 per hearing or a total of P26,000.00 should also be deducted from his claim of
P1,384,000.00 leaving an unpaid balance of PI,258,000.00 due plaintiff Juan Mendoza for legal services rendered the
defendants.31chanrobleslaw

Given the above finding of the RTC that Felicisima in fact entered into a contract for legal services with Atty. Mendoza,
thus debunking her defense in her Answer denying the existence and authenticity of the said document, it appears that
Felicisima raised the issue of voluntariness of her signing the Contract for Service only during the hearing when she
supposedly testified that, having reached only Grade IV and trusting completely her lawyer cousin, Atty. Mendoza who
told her that the document will protect her from the claims of her siblings, she actually signed the Contract for
Service.32 The RTC, however, found the evidence adduced by Felicisima as insufficient to defeat Atty. Mendoza's
claim for attorney's fees. Said judgment had attained finality and even pending appeal was already executed on motion
17
by Atty. Mendoza.

It bears to stress that a contingent fee arrangement is valid in this jurisdiction and is generally recognized as valid and
binding but must be laid down in an express contract.33 The validity of contingent fees depends, in large measure,
upon the reasonableness of the amount fixed as contingent fee under the circumstances of the case. 34 Nevertheless,
when it is shown that a contract for a contingent fee was obtained by undue influence exercised by the attorney upon
his client or by any fraud or imposition, or that the compensation is clearly excessive, the Court must, and will protect
the aggrieved party.35

Apart from the allegations in her affidavit-complaint, Felicisima failed to establish by clear and satisfactory proof of the
deception allegedly committed by Atty. Mendoza when she agreed in writing for the latter's contingent fees. Fraud and
irregularity in the execution of their contingency fee contract cannot be deduced from the fact alone that Atty. Mendoza
filed suit to enforce their contract.

Atty. Navarro 's Gross Negligence

With respect to Atty. Navarro, the facts on record clearly established his failure to live up to the standards of diligence
and competence of the legal profession.

Lawyers engaged to represent a client in a case bear the responsibility of protecting the latter's interest with warmth,
zeal and utmost diligence.36 They must constantly keep in mind that their actions or omissions would be binding on the
client.37

In this case, Atty. Navarro agreed to represent Felicisima and her siblings in Civil Case No. T-1080 and as their
counsel he filed the Answer with Counterclaim. He likewise attended the hearings of the case until the RTC rendered
an adverse judgment. However, after filing the Notice of Appeal, nothing was heard of again from him. He did not file
any opposition when Atty. Mendoza moved for execution pending appeal, which resulted in the sale of Felicisima's
properties at public auction and eventual eviction of Felicisima and her children from the said premises. Worse, he
failed to file an appellant's brief despite receipt of the order from the CA directing him to do so within the period
specified therein, and to file a motion for reconsideration when the appeal was dismissed due to non-filing of such
brief. His motion for extension of time to submit an appellant's brief was filed 93 days late and was thus denied by the
CA. Barely a week after, he filed a notice of withdrawal of appearance bearing the conformity of his clients which was
granted. It is evident from the foregoing that Atty. Navarro failed to inform Felicisima of the status of the case so that
the latter was surprised upon being served the eviction order of the court and eventual dismissal by the CA of their
appeal.

Canon 18 of the CPR mandates that a lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence. Rule 18.03 further
provides that a lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him and his negligence in connection therewith shall
render him liable.

Thus:cralawlawlibrary
Once he agrees to take up the cause of a client, a lawyer owes fidelity to such cause and must always be mindful of
the trust and confidence reposed in him. He must serve the client with competence and diligence and champion the
latter's cause with wholehearted fidelity, care and devotion. Elsewise stated, he owes entire devotion to the interest of
the client, warm zeal in the maintenance and defense of his client's rights, and the exertion of his utmost learning and
ability to the end that nothing be taken or withheld from his client, save by the rules of 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.38chanrobleslaw

Atty. Navarro's asseveration that he had instructed Felicisima to look for another lawyer and given them the Notice of
Withdrawal of Appearance for them to file in the CA, fails to convince. If it is true that he did not agree to continue
being Felicisima's counsel before the CA, he should have immediately filed the Notice of Withdrawal of Appearance
himself after filing the Notice of Appeal. Despite receipt of the order to file appellant's brief from the CA, he did not
inform Felicisima about it nor did he inquire from the latter whether they already secured the services of a new
counsel. That such withdrawal was filed long after the expiration of the period to file appellant's brief and the denial by
the CA of the motion for extension also belatedly filed by him, clearly indicate that he never updated Felicisima on the
18
status of their appeal, such information being crucial after Atty. Mendoza succeeded in having the judgment executed
pending appeal.

Atty. Navarro, in fact, admitted that he forgot about Felicisima's case due to his political activities. Despite having
received notices from the CA, he allowed the period of filing the appellant's brief to lapse and failed to file a motion for
extension before such period expired. He did file a motion for extension but only three months later and when such
motion was denied, he finally moved to withdraw from the case. There being no appellant's brief filed, the CA granted
Atty. Mendoza's motion to dismiss the appeal. Under the circumstances, Atty. Navarro was grossly negligent in his
duties, resulting in great prejudice to Felicisima who lost her properties to satisfy the judgment in favor of Atty.
Mendoza.

We have held that the failure of counsel to submit the appeal brief for his client within the reglementary period
constitutes inexcusable negligence39 an offense that entails disciplinary action.40 The filing of a brief within the period
set by law is a duty not only to the client, but also to the court.41 The failure to file an appellate court brief without any
justifiable reason thus deserves sanction.42

Atty. Navarro's negligent handling of Felicisima's case was exacerbated by his failure to inform her of the status of her
case. There was no mention in his pleadings of any attempt on his part to contact Felicisima at the crucial stages when
Atty. Mendoza moved for execution pending appeal and the CA sent a directive for the filing of the appellant's brief. If
indeed, he had already instructed Felicisima to look for another lawyer, he should have apprised her of these
developments and explained to her the urgency of filing the notice of withdrawal of appearance and entry of
appearance of a new counsel she may have already engaged.

Atty. Navarro's failure to communicate vital information to his client violated Rule 18.04 which provides:cralawlawlibrary
Rule 18.04 A lawyer shall keep the client informed of the status of his case and shall respond within a reasonable time
to the client's request for information.chanrobleslaw

The lawyer's duty to keep his client constantly updated on the developments of his case is crucial in maintaining the
client's confidence. Indeed, the relationship of lawyer-client being one of confidence, there is ever present the need for
the lawyer to inform timely and adequately the client of important developments affecting the client's case. The lawyer
should not leave the client in the dark on how the lawyer is defending the client's interests.43

In cases involving a lawyer's failure to file a brief or other pleading before an appellate court, this Court has imposed
suspension from the practice of law for periods ranging from three to six months, and in most serious cases, even
disbarment.44

We find the recommendation of the IBP-Board of Governors to suspend Atty. Navarro from the practice of law for six
months appropriate under the circumstances. Considering that this is his first administrative offense, such penalty, and
not disbarment as prayed for by complainant, serves the purpose of protecting the interest of the public and the legal
profession. For this Court will exercise its power to disbar only in clear cases of misconduct that seriously affects the
standing and character of the lawyer as an officer of the court and a member of the bar. 45chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Atty. Eusebio P. Navarro, Jr. GUILTY of violation of Rule 18.03 and Rule
18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, and is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for six (6)
months effective upon finality of this Decision, with warning that a repetition of the same or similar violation shall be
dealt with more severely. The charges against Atty. Juan B. Mendoza are DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

Velasco, Jr., Peralta, Perez,* and Jardeleza, JJ., concur.

5. Sorreda vs. Kho

SECOND DIVISION
A.C. No. 10635, August 26, 2015
NOEL S. SORREDA, Complainant, v. ATTY. DAVID L. KHO, Respondent.
RESOLUTION
CARPIO, J.:
The Case
19
Before the Court is an administrative case filed by Noel S. Sorreda (Sorreda) against Atty. David L. Kho (Kho) for
malpractice and/or gross misconduct.
The Facts
The records reveal that on 3 October 2006 Marissa L. Macarilay (Macarilay), through her then counsel Sorreda, 1 filed
an administrative complaint2 against Kho before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), docketed as CBD Case
No. 06-1866 (Macarilay's complaint). Sorreda withdrew as counsel for Macarilay on 10 March 2007.3 On 5 December
2007, Sorreda filed with the IBP the present complaint 4against Kho, which contained exactly the same allegations in
Macarilay's complaint. Sorreda alleged that: (1) Macarilay, through him as counsel, filed an arbitration case against
Candelaria Kholoma (Candelaria) and Imelda Kholoma (Imelda), Kho's clients, before the Construction Industry
Arbitration Commission (CIAC); (2) Kho notarized Candelaria and Imelda's affidavit in the arbitration case despite
being disqualified under the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice, since Candelaria and Imelda are Kho's sister-in-law and
niece, respectively; (3) Kho did not furnish Macarilay and Sorreda a copy of his comment on their motion for
substitution of arbitrator; (4) Kho did not countervail the manifestation alleging the mendacity of Kho and his clients; (5)
Kho intentionally delayed the receipt of Macarilay's motion for time extension; (6) Kho advised Robert Kholoma
(Robert), the husband of Candelaria, to forcibly eject Macarilay's watchman in the disputed property; (7) Kho notarized
the answer filed by the Kholomas in the case for forcible entry; (8) Kho also notarized the Special Power of Attorney
(SPA) executed by the Kholomas, which amounted to "self-notarization," because "the one being given power is the
law firm of Kho Antonio Velasco & Payos Law Offices, of which [Kho] is the premier partner"; (9) Kho notarized the
SPA with only one of the three signatories exhibiting her cedula; (10) Kho also notarized the petition for review filed by
Candelaria and Imelda before the Court of Appeals; and (11) Kho and his clients deliberately failed to furnish the CIAC
with a copy their appeal.
In his Answer,5 Kho admitted that he notarized Candelaria and Imelda's affidavit, answer in the case for forcible entry,
SPA, and petition for review. Kho, however, alleged that he acted in good faith for he believed that the decision
in Aznar Brothers Realty Co. v. Court of Appeals,6 where only "those convicted of the crime involving moral turpitude
were disqualified to notarize documents," was still the prevailing rule. Kho pleaded for liberality in the application of the
then recently enacted 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice, since there was no damage caused by the notarization. He
admitted that he was not yet fully conversant with the new rules. As to the other allegations, Kho claimed that those
were unsubstantiated conclusions, conjectures and speculations. Kho admitted his failure to furnish Sorreda with a
copy of the comment on the motion for substitution of arbitrator and his failure to furnish the CIAC with a copy of his
clients' appeal. However, he alleged that no damage was caused and he immediately furnished the copies of the
pleadings upon discovery of his inadvertence.
Finally, Kho claimed that "Macarilay's penchant for deliberate forum shopping and splitting a cause of action, albeit
baseless and unfounded, must be sanctioned."7 In an Order8 dated 29 January 2009, IBP Commissioner Romualdo A.
Din, Jr. (IBP Commissioner) denied Sorreda's motion to consolidate the present complaint with Macarilay's complaint,
because there was already a report and recommendation by a different commissioner in Macarilay's complaint. On 4
August 2009, Kho filed an urgent manifestation,9 pleading for the dismissal of the present case. Kho attached a copy
of this Court's Resolution10 dated 30 March 2009, where the Third Division of this Court resolved to close and
terminate CBD Case No. 06-1866 (docketed as A.C. No. 8161), considering that no motion for reconsideration was
filed against the IBP Resolution11 dismissing the case for lack of merit, and no petition for review was filed before the
Court.
The Ruling of the IBP
In a Report and Recommendation dated 31 May 2011,12 the IBP Commissioner recommended the dismissal of the
present complaint against Kho because Sorreda failed to establish his allegations by clear, convincing, and
satisfactory evidence. The IBP Commissioner also found that Sorreda did not establish how Kho's alleged violation of
the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice, if proven, would damage Macarilay. In Resolution No. XX-2013-10713 issued on
12 February 2013, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the IBP Commissioner's Report and
Recommendation, dismissing the complaint for lack of evidence. In Resolution No. XXI-2014-22114 issued on 2 May
2014, the IBP Board of Governors likewise denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Sorreda, since the Board
found no cogent reason to reverse its initial findings and the matters raised were reiterations of those which had
already been taken into consideration.
The Ruling of the Court
We dismiss the complaint against Kho. Applying the principle of res judicata or bar by prior judgment, the Court finds
that the present administrative case becomes dismissible. Section 47, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court enunciates the
rule of res judicata or bar by prior judgment.15 It provides that a final judgment on the merits rendered by a court of
competent jurisdiction is conclusive as to the rights of the parties and their privies, and constitutes an absolute bar to
subsequent actions involving the same claim, demand, or cause of action. 16 A.C. No. 8161 and the present case have
substantially identical parties, refer to the same subject matter, raise the same issue, and claim the same relief. The
present complaint is a mere duplication of Macarilay's complaint in A.C. No. 8161. Thus, the Resolution of this Court in
20
A.C. No. 8161 is conclusive in the present case. Furthermore, Sorreda failed to discharge the burden of proving Kho's
administrative liability by clear preponderance of evidence.
The legal presumption is that an attorney is innocent of the charges against him until the contrary is proved. 17 The
burden of proof in disbarment and suspension proceedings always rests on the complainant,18 and the burden is not
satisfied when complainant relies on mere assumptions and suspicions as evidence. 19 Considering the serious
consequences of disbarment and suspension, this Court has consistently held that clear preponderant evidence is
necessary to justify the imposition of administrative penalty.20 In the present case, Sorreda did not substantiate his
allegations, and he relied on his own assumptions and suspicions. Sorreda did not show how Kho's alleged actions
amount to malpractice or gross misconduct, which will subject Kho to administrative sanction. Sorreda cannot shift the
burden of proof to Kho by asking him to rebut his allegations. It is axiomatic that one who alleges an act has the onus
of proving it.21 If the burden of proof is not overcome, the respondent is under no obligation to prove his defense. 22
WHEREFORE, we DISMISS the complaint against respondent Atty. David L. Kho. Costs against complainant. SO
ORDERED. Del Castillo, Mendoza Leonen, and Jardeleza, JJ., concur.

6. Chan vs. Coloma-Javier

THIRD DIVISION
A.C. No. 9831, March 09, 2016
CHAN SHUN KUEN, Complainant, v. COMMISSIONERS LOURDES B. COLOMA-JAVIER, GREGORIO O. BILOG III,
RAUL TAGLE AQUINO AND ATTY. JOYRICH M. GOLANGCO, Respondent.
RESOLUTION
REYES, J.:
The instant disbarment case filed by Chan Shun Kuen (complainant), the General Manager and Chief Executive
Officer of Compromise Enterprises Corporation (CEC), against Commissioners Lourdes B. Coloma-Javier, Gregorio O.
Bilog III and Raul Tagle Aquino, and Deputy Executive Clerk Atty. Joyrich M. Golangco (respondents), all from the
National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), is an offshoot of the labor case entitled Felisa B. Toribio, et ah, v.
Compromise Enterprises Corporation and/or Margaret So Chan.

The said labor case for illegal dismissal, unpaid service incentive leave and 13 th month pay was decided against CEC;
hence, it was ordered to pay separation pay in lieu of reinstatement in the sum of P5,543,807.57.1 CEC, however,
failed to appeal the said decision, thus it became final and executory. The complainants in the labor case moved for
the execution of the said decision, hence, a Writ of Execution was issued and was duly served. Accordingly, the sheriff
levied the property covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 19784 belonging to CEC.

By a Decision2 dated October 16, 2007, the labor case was resolved by the NLRC Third Division in favor of the
complainants therein. CEC filed several motions and appeal before the NLRC but all were ruled against it.

Instead of filing an appeal with the appellate court, the complainant opted to file a series of complaints, administrative
and criminal, against one or several of the respondents of the NLRC before different bodies.3

Undaunted with the dismissal of all the cases he filed against the respondents, the complainant once again came to
this Court with a Verified Complaint4 for disbarment claiming that the respondents connived with each other in writing
its Decision dated October 16, 2007 for the said labor case and alleging that Commissioner Tito F. Genilo's
(Commissioner Genilo) signature was forged by a personnel of the Third Division, as well as the December 10, 2007
Letter of Commissioner Genilo regarding his inhibition in the said case.

In compliance with the Court's directive,5 the respondents filed their Comment6 asserting in the main that the
complainant committed forum shopping for having filed identical complaints in various forms, against the same
respondents before different bodies. The respondents branded the complaint as motivated by malice and retorted that
the complainant has been using the Court and several quasi-judicial bodies as a means to overturn the decision of the
Labor Arbiter in his desperate attempt to stop the execution proceedings on his property by maliciously and repeatedly
filing baseless, unfounded and frivolous harassment suits against them.

After examining the instant complaint, the Court resolves to dismiss it outright.

To begin with, the main issue in disbarment cases is whether or not a lawyer has committed serious professional
misconduct sufficient to cause disbarment. The test is whether the lawyer's conduct shows him or her to be wanting in
moral character, honesty, probity, and good demeanor; or whether it renders him or her unworthy to continue as an
21
officer of the court. The burden of proof rests upon the complainant; and the Court will exercise its disciplinary power
only if the complainant establishes the complaint with clearly preponderant evidence.7

Guided by the foregoing tenets, the disbarment complaint against the respondents has no leg to stand on. The
particular acts alleged by the complainant against the respondents, which to his mind, were grounds for disbarment,
have no merit and seem too far-fetched. The respondents cannot be disbarred merely on complainant's bare allegation
that the respondents connived with each other in writing its decisions, resolutions and orders against his company, and
that Commissioner Genilo's signature was forged by a personnel of the NLRC Third Division. These acts particularized
by the complainant are mere allegations and he has nothing but hollow suppositions to bolster his complaint.

Even if the Court were to gauge the assailed actions of the respondents, there was no evidence to show that the
respondents committed the acts complained of. No specific incidents and sufficient evidence can be gathered to show
that the respondents had committed misconduct, dishonesty, falsehood, or had misused the rules of procedure. There
was no indication whatsoever of any connivance or manifest partiality to prejudice the complainant. Neither was there
proof that the decisions, resolution, or orders of the respondents were attended by bad faith, malice or gross
negligence. As it turned out, the charges levelled against the respondents were imaginary and unworthy of serious
consideration because it was clear from the start that the acts particularized in the complaint pertain to the
respondents' capacity as NLRC commissioners. Besides, the sincerity of the charge against the respondents is
cynical.

Upon scrutiny of the records of this case, it would reveal that the complaint was an ill-motivated bid to disbar the
respondents, who were merely exercising their judicial function as NLRC Commissioners. Hence, there is a veneer of
truth in the allegation of the respondents that the complaint is a vindictive charge of the complainant meant to vex,
harass, humiliate and punish them in performing their duty, as well as to get even with them for deciding the labor case
against the complainant. The Court had already held that "[t]o allow complainant to trifle with the Court, to make use of
the judicial process as an instrument of retaliation, would be a reflection on the rule of law."8

The Court also noted that the instant complaint is a virtual duplicate of previous administrative complaints which this
Court had already dismissed in A.C. No. 80409 and A.C. No. 8621,10 there being no prima facie case. Clearly, all the
cases filed by the complainant before the different bodies essentially revolve around the same circumstances and
parties involving the decisions, resolutions, and orders relative to the abovementioned labor case.

From the foregoing, it is clear that the case should be dismissed for utter lack of merit. Nonetheless, the complainant's
propensity in incessantly filing baseless complaints against the respondents should be curtailed. To allow every party
who lost in a case to file multiple suits against those who did not decide in his favor would unreasonably clog the
dockets of the court with unscrupulous cases. Considering that this has already been complainant's third attempt to file
a baseless suit against the respondents before this Court, it is deemed proper to admonish him and sternly warn him
that he shall be dealt with more severely should he commit a similar act against a member of the Bar.chanrobleslaw

WHEREFORE, the Court resolves to DISMISS the disbarment complaint against Commissioners Lourdes B. Coloma-
Javier, Gregorio O. Bilog III, Raul Tagle Aquino, and Atty. Joyrich M. Golangco for lack of merit. Complainant Chan
Shun Kuen is hereby ADMONISHED for filing the malicious complaint, WITH STERN WARNING that a repetition shall
be dealt with more severely as indirect contempt of the Court.

SO ORDERED.cralawlawlibrary

Velasco, Jr., (Chairperson), Peralta, Perez, and Jardeleza, JJ., concur.

7. Campugan vs. Tolentino et al

FIRST DIVISION
A.C. No. 8261, March 11, 2015
JESSIE T. CAMPUGAN AND ROBERT C. TORRES, Complainants, v. ATTY. FEDERICO S. TOLENTINO, JR., ATTY.
RENATO G. CUNANAN, ATTY. DANIEL F. VICTORIO, JR., AND ATTY. ELBERT T. QUILALA, Respondents.

A.C. No. 8725

JESSIE T. CAMPUGAN AND ROBERT C. TORRES, Complainants, v. ATTY. CONSTANTE P. CALUYA, JR., AND
ATTY. ELBERT T. QUILALA, Respondent.
22
DECISION
BERSAMIN, J.:
In this consolidated administrative case, complainants Jessie T. Campugan and Robert C. Torres seek the disbarment
of respondents Atty. Federico S. Tolentino, Jr., Atty. Daniel F. Victorio, Jr., Atty. Renato G. Cunanan, Atty. Elbert T.
Quilala and Atty. Constante P. Caluya, Jr. for allegedly falsifying a court order that became the basis for the
cancellation of their annotation of the notice of adverse claim and the notice of lis pendens in the Registry of Deeds in
Quezon City.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Antecedents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atty. Victorio, Jr. asserted in his Comment dated August 17, 2009 12 that complainant Robert Torres had been actively
involved in the proceedings in Civil Case No. Q-07-59598, which included the mediation process; that the
23
complainants, after having aggressively participated in the drafting of the amicable settlement, could not now claim that
they had been deceived into entering the agreement in the same way that they could not feign ignorance of the
conditions contained therein; that he did not commit any abandonment as alleged, but had performed in good faith his
duties as the counsel for the complainants in Civil Case No. Q-07-59598; that he should not be held responsible for
their representation in other proceedings, such as that before the LRA, which required a separate engagement; and
that the only payment he had received from the complainants were those for his appearance fees of P1,000.00 for
every hearing in the RTC.

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

Atty. Quilala stated in his Comment dated September 1, 200914 that it was Atty. Caluya, Jr., another Deputy Register of
Deeds, who was the actual signing authority of the annotations that resulted in the cancellation of the affidavit of
adverse claim and the notice of lis pendens on TCT No. N-290546; that the cancellation of the annotations was
undertaken in the regular course of official duty and in the exercise of the ministerial duty of the Register of Deeds; that
no irregularity occurred or was performed in the cancellation of the annotations; and that the Register of Deeds was
impleaded in Civil Case No. Q-07-59598 only as a nominal party, thereby discounting any involvement in the
proceedings in the case.

Atty. Cunanan did not file any comment.15

As the result of Atty. Quilala's allegation in his Comment in A.C. No. 8261 that it had been Atty. Caluya, Jr.'s signature
that appeared below the cancelled entries, the complainants filed another sworn disbarment complaint dated August
26, 2010 alleging that Atty. Caluya, Jr. had forged the signature of Atty. Cunanan. 16 This disbarment complaint was
docketed as A.C. No. 8725, and was later on consolidated with A.C. No. 826117 because the complaints involved the
same parties and rested on similar allegations against the respondents.

Atty. Quilala filed his Comment in A.C. No. 8725 to belie the allegation of forgery and to reiterate the arguments he had
made in A.C. No. 8261.18 On his part, Atty. Caluya, Jr. manifested that he adopted Atty. Quilala's Comment. 19
Ruling

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

Well entrenched in this jurisdiction is the rule that a lawyer may be disciplined for misconduct committed either in his
professional or private capacity. The test is whether his conduct shows him to be wanting in moral character, honesty,
probity, and good demeanor, or whether his conduct renders him unworthy to continue as an officer of the
Court.20 Verily, Canon 7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility mandates all lawyers to uphold at all times the
dignity and integrity of the Legal Profession. Lawyers are similarly required under Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the same
Code not to engage in any unlawful, dishonest and immoral or deceitful conduct. Failure to observe these tenets of the
Code of Professional Responsibility exposes the lawyer to disciplinary sanctions as provided in Section 27, Rule 138
of the Rules of Court, as amended, viz.:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Section 27. Disbarment or suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court, grounds therefor. — A member of the bar may
be disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any deceit, malpractice, or other gross
misconduct in such office, grossly immoral conduct, or by reason of his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude,
or for any violation of the oath which he is required to take before the admission to practice, or for a wilful disobedience
appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority so to do. The practice of soliciting cases at law for the
purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice.
The complainants' allegations of the respondents' acts and omissions are insufficient to establish any censurable
conduct against them.

Section 10 of Presidential Decree No. 1529 (Property Registration Decree) enumerates the general duties of the
Register of Deeds, as follows:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Section 10. General functions of Registers of Deeds. - x x x

It shall be the duty of the Register of Deeds to immediately register an instrument presented for registration dealing
with real or personal property which complies with all the requisites for registration. He shall see to it that said
24
instrument bears the proper documentary science stamps and that the same are properly canceled. If the instrument is
not registrable, he shall forthwith deny registration thereof and inform the presenter of such denial in writing, stating the
ground or reason therefor, and advising him of his right to appeal by consulta in accordance with Section 117 of this
Decree. (Emphasis supplied)
The aforementioned duty of the Register of Deeds is ministerial in nature.21 A purely ministerial act or duty is one that
an officer or tribunal performs in a given state of facts, in a prescribed manner, in obedience to the mandate of a legal
authority, without regard to or the exercise of his own judgment upon the propriety or impropriety of the act done. If the
law imposes a duty upon a public officer and gives him the right to decide how or when the duty shall be performed,
such duty is discretionary, not ministerial. The duty is ministerial only when its discharge requires neither the exercise
of official discretion nor the exercise of judgment.22

In Gabriel v. Register of Deeds of Rizal,23 the Court underscores that registration is a merely ministerial act of the
Register of Deeds, explaining:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
xxx [W]hether the document is invalid, frivolous or intended to harass, is not the duty of a Register of Deeds to decide,
but a court of competent jurisdiction, and that it is his concern to see whether the documents sought to be registered
conform with the formal and legal requirements for such documents.
In view of the foregoing, we find no abuse of authority or irregularity committed by Atty. Quilala, Atty. Cunanan, and
Atty. Caluya, Jr. with respect to the cancellation of the notice of adverse claim and the notice of lis pendens annotated
on TCT No. N-290546. Whether or not the RTC order dated May 16, 2008 or the letter-request dated June 30, 2008
had been falsified, fraudulent or invalid was not for them to determine inasmuch as their duty to examine documents
presented for registration was limited only to what appears on the face of the documents. If, upon their evaluation of
the letter-request and the RTC order, they found the same to be sufficient in law and t]o be in conformity with existing
requirements, it became obligatory for them to perform their ministerial duty without unnecessary delay. 24

Should they be aggrieved by said respondents' performance of duty, complainants were not bereft of any remedy
because they could challenge the performance of duty by bringing the matter by way of consultawith the LRA, as
provided by Section 11725 of Presidential Decree No. 1529. But, as enunciated in Gabriel v. Register of Deeds of
Rizal,26 it was ultimately within the province of a court of competent jurisdiction to resolve issues concerning the validity
or invalidity of a document registered by the Register of Deeds.

The complainants charge Atty. Victorio, Jr. and Atty. Tolentino, Jr. with having conspired with each other to guarantee
that the parties in Civil Case No. Q-59598 would enter into the amicable settlement, and then to cause the cancellation
of the affidavit of adverse claim and notice of lis pendens annotated on TCT No. N-290546. The complainants further
fault Atty. Victorio, Jr. with having abandoned their cause since the issuance of the RTC of its order dated May 16,
2008.

The complainants' charges are devoid of substance.

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

Even assuming that Atty. Victorio, Jr. and Atty. Tolentino, Jr. initiated ahd participated in the settlement of the case,
there was nothing wrong in their doing so. It was actually their obligation as lawyers to do so, pursuant to Rule 1.04,
Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, viz.:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
RULE 1.04 - A lawyer shall encourage his clients to avoid, end or settle a controversy if it will admit of a fair settlement.
In fine, the presumption of the validity of the amicable settlement of the complainants and the defendants in Civil Case
No. Q-07-59598 subsisted.28

Anent the complainants' charge of abandonment against Atty. Victorio, Jr., Rule 18.03 and Rule 18.04, Canon 18 of
the Code of Professional Responsibility are applicable, to wit:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
CANON 18 - A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence.

Rule 18.03 - A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith
shall render him liable.
25
Rule 18.04 - A lawyer shall keep the client informed of the status of his case and shall respond within a reasonable
time to the client's request for information.
There is no issue that the complainants engaged the services of Atty. Victorio, Jr. as their counsel in Civil Case No. Q-
07-59598. Atty. Victorio, Jr. served as such counsel. With Atty. Victorio, Jr. assistance, the complainants obtained a
fair settlement consisting in receiving half of the proceeds of the sale of the property in litis, without any portion of the
proceeds accruing to counsel as his legal fees. The complainants did not competently and persuasively show any
unfaithfulness on the part of Atty. Victorio, Jr. as far as their interest in the litigation was concerned. Hence, Atty.
Victorio, Jr. was not liable for abandonment.

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

WHEREFORE, the Court DISMISSES the baseless disbarment complaints against Atty. Federico S. Tolentino, Jr.,
Atty. Renato G. Cunanan, Atty. Daniel F. Victorio, Jr., Atty. Elbert T. Quilala and Atty. Constante P. Caluya, Jr.

SO ORDERED.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

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

8. Foster vs. Agtang

EN BANC
A.C. No. 10579, December 10, 2014
ERLINDA FOSTER, Complainant, v. ATTY. JAIME V. AGTANG, Respondent.
DECISION
PER CURIAM:
This refers to the Resolution1 of the Board of Governors (BOG), Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), dated March
23, 2014, affirming with modification the findings of the Investigating Commissioner, who recommended the
suspension of respondent Atty. Jaime V. Agtang (respondent) from the practice of law for one (1) year for ethical
impropriety and ordered the payment of his unpaid obligations to complainant.

From the records, it appears that the IBP, thru its Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD), received a complaint2, dated
May 31, 2011, filed by Erlinda Foster (complainant) against respondent for “unlawful, dishonest, immoral and
deceitful”3 acts as a lawyer.

In its July 1, 2011 Order,4 the IBP-CBD directed respondent to file his Answer within 15 days from receipt of the order.
Respondent failed to do so and complainant sent a query as to the status of her complaint. On October 10, 2011, the
Investigating Commissioner issued the Order5 setting the case for mandatory conference/hearing on November 16,
2011. It was only on November 11, 2011, or five (5) days before the scheduled conference when respondent filed his
verified Answer.6

During the conference, only the complainant together with her husband appeared. She submitted a set of documents
contained in a folder, copies of which were furnished the respondent. The Investigating Commissioner 7 indicated that
the said documents would be reviewed and the parties would be informed if there was a need for clarificatory
questioning; otherwise, the case would be submitted for resolution based on the documents on file. The Minutes 8 of
the mandatory conference showed that respondent arrived at 11:10 o’clock in the morning or after the proceeding was
terminated.

On December 12, 2011, the complainant filed her Reply to respondent’s Answer.

On April 18, 2012, complainant submitted copies of the January 24, 2012 Decisions 9 of the Municipal Trial Court in
26
Small Claims Case Nos. 2011-0077 and 2011-0079, ordering respondent [defendant therein] to pay complainant and
her husband the sum of P100,000.00 and P22,000.00, respectively, with interest at the rate of 12% per annum from
December 8, 2011 until fully paid, plus cost of suit.10

Complainant’s Position

From the records, it appears that complainant was referred to respondent in connection with her legal problem
regarding a deed of absolute sale she entered into with Tierra Realty, which respondent had notarized. After their
discussion, complainant agreed to engage his legal services for the filing of the appropriate case in court, for which
they signed a contract. Complainant paid respondent P20,000.00 as acceptance fee and P5,000.00 for incidental
expenses.11

On September 28, 2009, respondent wrote a letter12 to Tropical Villas Subdivision in relation to the legal problem
referred by complainant. He then visited the latter in her home and asked for a loan of P100,000.00, payable in sixty
(60) days, for the repair of his car. Complainant, having trust and confidence on respondent being her lawyer, agreed
to lend the amount without interest. A promissory note13 evidenced the loan.

In November 2009, complainant became aware that Tierra Realty was attempting to transfer to its name a lot she had
previously purchased. She referred the matter to respondent who recommended the immediate filing of a case for
reformation of contract with damages. On November 8, 2009, respondent requested and thereafter received from
complainant the amount of P150,000.00, as filing fee.14 When asked about the exorbitant amount, respondent cited the
high value of the land and the sheriffs’ travel expenses and accommodations in Manila, for the service of the summons
to the defendant corporation. Later, complainant confirmed that the fees paid for the filing of Civil Case No. 14791-65,
entitled Erlinda Foster v. Tierra Realty and Development Corporation, only amounted to P22,410.00 per trial court
records.15

During a conversation with the Registrar of Deeds, complainant also discovered that respondent was the one who
notarized the document being questioned in the civil case she filed. When asked about this, respondent merely replied
that he would take a collaborating counsel to handle complainant’s case. Upon reading a copy of the complaint filed by
respondent with the trial court, complainant noticed that: 1] the major differences in the documents issued by Tierra
Realty were not alleged; 2] the contract to buy and sell and the deed of conditional sale were not attached thereto; 3]
the complaint discussed the method of payment which was not the point of contention in the case; and 4] the very
anomalies she complained of were not mentioned. Respondent, however, assured her that those matters could be
brought up during the hearings.

On April 23, 2010, respondent wrote to complainant, requesting that the latter extend to him the amount of P70,000.00
or P50,000.00 “in the moment of urgency or emergency.”16 Complainant obliged the request and gave respondent the
sum of P22,000.00.

On August 31, 2010, respondent came to complainant’s house and demanded the sum of P50,000.00, purportedly to
be given to the judge in exchange for a favorable ruling. Complainant expressed her misgivings on this proposition but
she eventually gave the amount of P25,000.00 which was covered by a receipt,17 stating that “it is understood that the
balance of P25,000.00 shall be paid later after favorable judgment for plaintiff Erlinda Foster.” On November 2, 2010,
respondent insisted that the remaining amount be given by complainant prior to the next hearing of the case, because
the judge was allegedly asking for the balance. Yet again, complainant handed to respondent the amount of
P25,000.00.18

On September 29, 2010, complainant’s case was dismissed. Not having been notified by respondent, complainant
learned of the dismissal on December 14, 2010, when she personally checked the status of the case with the court.
She went to the office of respondent, but he was not there. Instead, one of the office staff gave her a copy of the order
of dismissal.

On December 15, 2010, respondent visited complainant and gave her a copy of the motion for reconsideration. On
January 15, 2011, complainant went to see respondent and requested him to prepare a reply to the comment filed by
Tierra Realty on the motion for reconsideration; to include additional facts because the Land Registration Authority
would not accept the documents unless these were amended; and to make the additional averment that the defendant
was using false documents.

On January 18, 2011, respondent’s driver delivered to complainant a copy of the reply with a message from him that
the matters she requested to be included were mentioned therein. Upon reading the same, however, complainant
27
discovered that these matters were not so included. On the same occasion, the driver also asked for P2,500.00 on
respondent’s directive for the reimbursement of the value of a bottle of wine given to the judge as a present.
Complainant was also told that oral arguments on the case had been set the following month.19

On February 2, 2011, complainant decided to terminate the services of respondent as her counsel and wrote him a
letter of termination,20 after her friend gave her copies of documents showing that respondent had been acquainted
with Tierra Realty since December 2007. Subsequently, complainant wrote to respondent, requesting him to pay her
the amounts he received from her less the contract fee and the actual cost of the filing fees. Respondent never replied.

Respondent’s Position

In his Answer,21 respondent alleged that he was 72 years old and had been engaged in the practice of law since March
1972, and was President of the IBP Ilocos Norte Chapter from 1998 to 1999. He admitted the fact that he notarized the
Deed of Absolute Sale subject of complainant’s case, but he qualified that he was not paid his notarial fees therefor.
He likewise admitted acting as counsel for complainant for which he claimed to have received P10,000.00 as
acceptance fee and P5,000.00 for incidental fees. Anent the loan of P100,000.00, respondent averred that it was
complainant, at the behest of her husband, who willingly offered the amount to him for his patience in visiting them at
home and for his services. The transaction was declared as “no loan” and he was told not to worry about its payment.
As regards the amount of P150,000.00 he received for filing fees, respondent claimed that the said amount was
suggested by the complainant herself who was persistent in covering the incidental expenses in the handling of the
case. He denied having said that the sheriffs of the court would need the money for their hotel accommodations.
Complainant’s husband approved of the amount. In the same vein, respondent denied having asked for a loan of
P50,000.00 and having received P22,000.00 from complainant. He also denied having told her that the case would be
discussed with the judge who would rule in their favor at the very next hearing. Instead, it was complainant who was
bothered by the possibility that the other party would befriend the judge. He never said that he would personally
present a bottle of wine to the judge.

Further, respondent belied the Registrar’s comment as to his representation of Tierra Realty in the past. Respondent
saw nothing wrong in this situation since complainant was fully aware that another counsel was assisting him in the
handling of cases. Having been fully informed of the nature of her cause of action and the consequences of the suit,
complainant was aware of the applicable law on reformation of contracts. Finally, by way of counterclaim, respondent
demanded just compensation for the services he had rendered in other cases for the complainant.

Reply of Complainant

In her Reply,22 complainant mainly countered respondent’s defenses by making reference to the receipts in her
possession, all evidencing that respondent accepted the amounts mentioned in the complaint. Complainant also
emphasized that respondent and Tierra Realty had relations long before she met him. While respondent was
employed as Provincial Legal Officer of the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte, he was involved in the preparation
of several documents involving Flying V, an oil company owned by Ernest Villavicencio, who likewise owned Tierra
Realty. Complainant insisted that the amount of P100,000.00 she extended to respondent was never considered as
“no loan.”

On June 26, 2012, complainant furnished the Investigating Commissioner copies of the Resolution, dated June 20,
2012, issued by the Office of the City Prosecutor of Laoag City, finding probable cause against respondent for estafa. 23

Findings and Recommendation of the IBP

In its July 3, 2012 Report and Recommendation,24 the Investigating Commissioner found respondent guilty of ethical
impropriety and recommended his suspension from the practice of law for one (1) year.

In its September 28, 2013 Resolution, the IBP-BOG adopted and approved with modification the recommendation of
suspension by the Investigating Commissioner and ordered respondent to return to complainant: 1) his loan of
P122,000.00; and 2) the balance of the filing fee amounting to P127,590.00.

Respondent received a copy of the said resolution on January 16, 2014 to which he filed a motion for
reconsideration.25 Complainant filed her opposition thereto, informing the IBP-BOG that an information charging
respondent for estafa had already been filed in court and that a corresponding order for his arrest had been issued. 26

In its March 23, 2014 Resolution, the IBP-BOG denied respondent’s motion for reconsideration but modified the
28
penalty of his suspension from the practice of law by reducing it from one (1) year to three (3) months. Respondent
was likewise ordered to return the balance of the filing fee received from complainant amounting to P127,590.00.

No petition for review was filed with the Court.

The only issue in this case is whether respondent violated the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR).
The Court’s Ruling

The Court sustains the findings and recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner with respect to respondent’s
violation of Rules 1 and 16 of the CPR. The Court, however, modifies the conclusion on his alleged violation of Rule
15, on representing conflicting interests. The Court also differs on the penalty.

Rule 1.0, Canon 1 of the CPR, provides that “[a] lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful
conduct.” It is well-established that a lawyer’s conduct is “not confined to the performance of his professional duties. A
lawyer may be disciplined for misconduct committed either in his professional or private capacity. The test is whether
his conduct shows him to be wanting in moral character, honesty, probity, and good demeanor, or whether it renders
him unworthy to continue as an officer of the court.”27

In this case, respondent is guilty of engaging in dishonest and deceitful conduct, both in his professional and private
capacity. As a lawyer, he clearly misled complainant into believing that the filing fees for her case were worth more
than the prescribed amount in the rules, due to feigned reasons such as the high value of the land involved and the
extra expenses to be incurred by court employees. In other words, he resorted to overpricing, an act customarily
related to depravity and dishonesty. He demanded the amount of P150,000.00 as filing fee, when in truth, the same
amounted only to P22,410.00. His defense that it was complainant who suggested that amount deserves no iota of
credence. For one, it is highly improbable that complainant, who was then plagued with the rigors of litigation, would
propose such amount that would further burden her financial resources. Assuming that the complainant was more than
willing to shell out an exorbitant amount just to initiate her complaint with the trial court, still, respondent should not
have accepted the excessive amount. As a lawyer, he is not only expected to be knowledgeable in the matter of filing
fees, but he is likewise duty-bound to disclose to his client the actual amount due, consistent with the values of
honesty and good faith expected of all members of the legal profession.

Moreover, the “fiduciary nature of the relationship between the counsel and his client imposes on the lawyer the duty to
account for the money or property collected or received for or from his client.”28Money entrusted to a lawyer for a
specific purpose but not used for the purpose should be immediately returned. A lawyer’s failure to return upon
demand the funds held by him on behalf of his client gives rise to the presumption that he has appropriated the same
for his own use in violation of the trust reposed in him by his client. Such act is a gross violation of general morality as
well as of professional ethics. It impairs public confidence in the legal profession and deserves punishment.29

It is clear that respondent failed to fulfill this duty. As pointed out, he received various amounts from complainant but
he could not account for all of them. Worse, he could not deny the authenticity of the receipts presented by
complainant. Upon demand, he failed to return the excess money from the alleged filing fees and other expenses. His
possession gives rise to the presumption that he has misappropriated it for his own use to the prejudice of, and in
violation of the trust reposed in him by, the client.30 When a lawyer receives money from the client for a particular
purpose, the lawyer is bound to render an accounting to the client showing that the money was spent for the intended
purpose. Consequently, if the lawyer does not use the money for the intended purpose, the lawyer must immediately
return the money to the client.31

Somewhat showing a propensity to demand excessive and unwarranted amounts from his client, respondent displayed
a reprehensible conduct when he asked for the amount of P50,000.00 as “representation expenses” allegedly for the
benefit of the judge handling the case, in exchange for a favorable decision. Respondent himself signed a receipt
showing that he initially took the amount of P 25,000.00 and, worse, he subsequently demanded and received the
other half of the amount at the time the case had already been dismissed. Undoubtedly, this act is tantamount to gross
misconduct that necessarily warrants the supreme penalty of disbarment. The act of demanding a sum of money from
his client, purportedly to be used as a bribe to ensure a positive outcome of a case, is not only an abuse of his client’s
trust but an overt act of undermining the trust and faith of the public in the legal profession and the entire Judiciary.
This is the height of indecency. As officers of the court, lawyers owe their utmost fidelity to public service and the
administration of justice. In no way should a lawyer indulge in any act that would damage the image of judges, lest the
public’s perception of the dispensation of justice be overshadowed by iniquitous doubts. The denial of respondent and
his claim that the amount was given gratuitously would not excuse him from any liability. The absence of proof that the
said amount was indeed used as a bribe is of no moment. To tolerate respondent’s actuations would seriously erode
29
the public’s trust in the courts.

As it turned out, complainant’s case was dismissed as early as September 29, 2010. At this juncture, respondent
proved himself to be negligent in his duty as he failed to inform his client of the status of the case, and left the client to
personally inquire with the court. Surely, respondent was not only guilty of misconduct but was also remiss in his duty
to his client.

Respondent’s unbecoming conduct towards complainant did not stop here. Records reveal that he likewise violated
Rule 16.04, Canon 16 of the CPR, which states that “[a] lawyer shall not borrow money from his client unless the
client’s interests are fully protected by the nature of the case or by independent advice. Neither shall a lawyer lend
money to a client except, when in the interest of justice, he has to advance necessary expenses in a legal matter he is
handling for the client.” In his private capacity, he requested from his client, not just one, but two loans of considerable
amounts. The first time, he visited his client in her home and borrowed P100,000.00 for the repair of his car; and the
next time, he implored her to extend to him a loan of P70,000.00 or P50,000.00 “in the moment of urgency or
emergency” but was only given P22,000.00 by complainant. These transactions were evidenced by promissory notes
and receipts, the authenticity of which was never questioned by respondent. These acts were committed by
respondent in his private capacity, seemingly unrelated to his relationship with complainant, but were indubitably
acquiesced to by complainant because of the trust and confidence reposed in him as a lawyer. Nowhere in the
records, particularly in the defenses raised by respondent, was it implied that these loans fell within the exceptions
provided by the rules. The loans of P100,000.00 and P22,000.00 were surely not protected by the nature of the case
or by independent advice. Respondent’s assertion that the amounts were given to him out of the liberality of
complainant and were, thus, considered as “no loan,” does not justify his inappropriate behavior. The acts of
requesting and receiving money as loans from his client and thereafter failing to pay the same are indicative of his lack
of integrity and sense of fair dealing. Up to the present, respondent has not yet paid his obligations to complainant.

Time and again, the Court has consistently held that deliberate failure to pay just debts constitutes gross misconduct,
for which a lawyer may be sanctioned with suspension from the practice of law. Lawyers are instruments for the
administration of justice and vanguards of our legal system. They are expected to maintain not only legal proficiency,
but also a high standard of morality, honesty, integrity and fair dealing so that the people’s faith and confidence in the
judicial system is ensured. They must, at all times, faithfully perform their duties to society, to the bar, the courts and
their clients, which include prompt payment of financial obligations.32

Verily, when the Code or the Rules speaks of “conduct” or “misconduct,” the reference is not confined to one’s
behavior exhibited in connection with the performance of the lawyer’s professional duties, but also covers any
misconduct which, albeit unrelated to the actual practice of his profession, would show him to be unfit for the office and
unworthy of the privileges which his license and the law vest him with. Unfortunately, respondent must be found guilty
of misconduct on both scores.

With respect to respondent’s alleged representation of conflicting interests, the Court finds it proper to modify the
findings of the Investigating Commissioner who concluded that complainant presented insufficient evidence of
respondent’s “lawyering” for the opposing party, Tierra Realty.

Rule 15.03, Canon 15 of the CPR, provides that “[a] lawyer shall not represent conflicting interest except by written
consent of all concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts.” The relationship between a lawyer and his/her client
should ideally be imbued with the highest level of trust and confidence. This is the standard of confidentiality that must
prevail to promote a full disclosure of the client’s most confidential information to his/her lawyer for an unhampered
exchange of information between them. Needless to state, a client can only entrust confidential information to his/her
lawyer based on an expectation from the lawyer of utmost secrecy and discretion; the lawyer, for his part, is duty-
bound to observe candor, fairness and loyalty in all dealings and transactions with the client. Part of the lawyer’s duty
in this regard is to avoid representing conflicting interests.” 33 Thus, even if lucrative fees offered by prospective clients
are at stake, a lawyer must decline professional employment if the same would trigger the violation of the prohibition
against conflict of interest. The only exception provided in the rules is a written consent from all the parties after full
disclosure.

The Court deviates from the findings of the IBP. There is substantial evidence to hold respondent liable for
representing conflicting interests in handling the case of complainant against Tierra Realty, a corporation to which he
had rendered services in the past. The Court cannot ignore the fact that respondent admitted to having notarized the
deed of sale, which was the very document being questioned in complainant’s case. While the Investigating
Commissioner found that the complaint in Civil Case No. 14791-65 did not question the validity of the said contract,
and that only the intentions of the parties as to some provisions thereof were challenged, the Court still finds that the
30
purpose for which the proscription was made exists. The Court cannot brush aside the dissatisfied observations of the
complainant as to the allegations lacking in the complaint against Tierra Realty and the clear admission of respondent
that he was the one who notarized the assailed document. Regardless of whether it was the validity of the entire
document or the intention of the parties as to some of its provisions raised, respondent fell short of prudence in action
when he accepted complainant’s case, knowing fully that he was involved in the execution of the very transaction
under question. Neither his unpaid notarial fees nor the participation of a collaborating counsel would excuse him from
such indiscretion. It is apparent that respondent was retained by clients who had close dealings with each other. More
significantly, there is no record of any written consent from any of the parties involved.

The representation of conflicting interests is prohibited “not only because the relation of attorney and client is one of
trust and confidence of the highest degree, but also because of the principles of public policy and good taste. An
attorney has the duty to deserve the fullest confidence of his client and represent him with undivided loyalty. Once this
confidence is abused or violated the entire profession suffers.”34

Penalties and Pecuniary Liabilities

A member of the Bar may be penalized, even disbarred or suspended from his office as an attorney, for violation of the
lawyer’s oath and/or for breach of the ethics of the legal profession as embodied in the CPR. 35 For the practice of law
is “a profession, a form of public trust, the performance of which is entrusted to those who are qualified and who
possess good moral character.”36 The appropriate penalty for an errant lawyer depends on the exercise of sound
judicial discretion based on the surrounding facts.37

Under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court, a member of the Bar may be disbarred or suspended on
any of the following grounds: (1) deceit; (2) malpractice or other gross misconduct in office; (3) grossly immoral
conduct; (4) conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude; (5) violation of the lawyer's oath; (6) willful disobedience of
any lawful order of a superior court; and (7) willful appearance as an attorney for a party without authority. A lawyer
may be disbarred or suspended for misconduct, whether in his professional or private capacity, which shows him to be
wanting in moral character, honesty, probity and good demeanor, or unworthy to continue as an officer of the court.

Here, respondent demonstrated not just a negligent disregard of his duties as a lawyer but a wanton betrayal of the
trust of his client and, in general, the public. Accordingly, the Court finds that the suspension for three (3) months
recommended by the IBP-BOG is not sufficient punishment for the unacceptable acts and omissions of respondent.
The acts of the respondent constitute malpractice and gross misconduct in his office as attorney. His incompetence
and appalling indifference to his duty to his client, the courts and society render him unfit to continue discharging the
trust reposed in him as a member of the Bar.

For taking advantage of the unfortunate situation of the complainant, for engaging in dishonest and deceitful conduct,
for maligning the judge and the Judiciary, for undermining the trust and faith of the public in the legal profession and
the entire judiciary, and for representing conflicting interests, respondent deserves no less than the penalty of
disbarment.38

Notably, the Court cannot order respondent to return the money he borrowed from complainant in his private capacity.
In Tria-Samonte v. Obias,39 the Court held that it cannot order the lawyer to return money to complainant if he or she
acted in a private capacity because its findings in administrative cases have no bearing on liabilities which have no
intrinsic link to the lawyer’s professional engagement. In disciplinary proceedings against lawyers, the only issue is
whether the officer of the court is still fit to be allowed to continue as a member of the Bar. The only concern of the
Court is the determination of respondent’s administrative liability. Its findings have no material bearing on other judicial
actions which the parties may choose against each other.

To rule otherwise would in effect deprive respondent of his right to appeal since administrative cases are filed directly
with the Court. Furthermore, the quantum of evidence required in civil cases is different from the quantum of evidence
required in administrative cases. In civil cases, preponderance of evidence is required. Preponderance of evidence is
“a phrase which, in the last analysis, means probability of the truth. It is evidence which is more convincing to the court
as worthier of belief than that which is offered in opposition thereto.”40 In administrative cases, only substantial
evidence is needed. Substantial evidence, which is more than a mere scintilla but is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, would suffice to hold one administratively
liable.41Furthermore, the Court has to consider the prescriptive period applicable to civil cases in contrast to
administrative cases which are, as a rule, imprescriptible.42

Thus, the IBP-BOG was correct in ordering respondent to return the amount of P127,590.00 representing the balance
31
of the filing fees he received from complainant, as this was intimately related to the lawyer-client relationship between
them. Similar to this is the amount of P50,000.00 which respondent received from complainant, as representation
expenses for the handling of the civil case and for the purported purchase of a bottle of wine for the judge. These were
connected to his professional relationship with the complainant. While respondent’s deplorable act of requesting the
said amount for the benefit of the judge is stained with mendacity, respondent should be ordered to return the same as
it was borne out of their professional relationship. As to his other obligations, respondent was already adjudged as
liable for the personal loans he contracted with complainant, per the small claims cases filed against him.

All told, in the exercise of its disciplinary powers, “the Court merely calls upon a member of the Bar to account for his
actuations as an officer of the Court with the end in view of preserving the purity of the legal profession.” 43 The Court
likewise aims to ensure the proper and honest administration of justice by “purging the profession of members who, by
their misconduct, have proven themselves no longer worthy to be entrusted with the duties and responsibilities of an
attorney.”44

WHEREFORE, finding the respondent, Atty. Jaime V. Agtang, GUILTY of gross misconduct in violation of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, the Court hereby DISBARS him from the practice of law and ORDERS him to pay the
complainant, Erlinda Foster, the amounts of P127,590.00, P50,000.00 and P2,500.00.

Let a copy of this Decision be sent to the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the
Office of the Court Administrator to be circulated to all courts.

SO ORDERED.

Sereno, (Chief Justice), Carpio, Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-De Castro, Del Castillo, Villarama, Jr., Mendoza, Reyes,
Perlas-Bernabe, and Leonen, JJ., concur.
Brion, J., on leave.
Peralta, J., no part.
Bersamin, Perez, and Jardeleza, JJ., on official leave.

9. Yupagco-Nakpil vs. Uy

FIRST DIVISION
A.C. No. 9115 September 17, 2014
REBECCA MARIE UY YUPANGCO-NAKPIL, Complainant,
vs.
ATTY. ROBERTO L. UY, Respondent.
RESOLUTION
PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:
This is an administrative case against respondent Atty. Roberto L. Uy (respondent) for unprofessional and unethical
conduct, stemming from a complaint filed by private complainant Rebecca Marie Uy Yupangco-Nakpil (Rebecca),
represented by her attorney-in-fact, Bella Asuncion Pollo (Bella).
The Facts
Rebecca is the natural niece and adopted daughter of the late Dra. Pacita Uy y Lim (Pacita). 1 She was adjudged as
the sole and exclusive legal heir of Paci ta by virtue of an Order 2 dated August 10, 1999 issued by the Regional Trial
Court of Manila, Branch 34 in SPEC. PROC. No. 95-7520 l (SP 95-75201). At the time of her death, Pacita was a
stockholder in several corporations primarily engaged in acquiring, developing, and leasing real properties, namely, Uy
Realty Company, Inc. (URCI), Jespajo Realty Corporation, Roberto L. Uy Realty and Development Corporation, Jesus
Uy Realty Corporation, Distelleria La Jarolina, Inc., and Pacita Lim Uy Realty, Inc. 3
In her Complaint4 filed on May 9, 2005,5 Rebecca, through her attorney-in fact, Bella, averred that respondent, her
alleged illegitimate halfcousin,6 continuously failed and refused to comply with the court order in SP 95-75201
declaring her as the successor-in-interest to all of Pacita’s properties, as well as her requests for the accounting and
delivery of the dividends and other proceeds or benefits coming from Pacita’s stockholdings in the aforementioned
corporations.7 She added that respondent mortgaged a commercial property covered by Transfer Certificate of Title
32
No. T-133606 (subject property) in favor of Philippine Savings Bank in the total amount of 54,000,000.00,8 despite an
existing Trust Agreement9 executed on October 15, 1993 (subject Trust Agreement) wherein respondent, in his
capacity as President of URCI, already recognized her to be the true and beneficial owner of the same. 10Accordingly,
she demanded that respondent return the said property by executing the corresponding deed of conveyance in her
favor together with an inventory and accounting of all the proceeds therefrom, but to no avail.11 In this relation,
Rebecca claimed that it was only on September 2, 2005 or after she had already instituted various legal actions and
remedies that respondent and URCIagreed to transfer the subject property to her pursuant to a compromise
agreement.12
In his Answer With Compulsory Counterclaim,13 respondent denied Rebecca’s allegations and raised the affirmative
defenses of forum shopping and prescription. He pointed out that Rebecca had filed several cases raising the single
issue on the correct interpretation of the subject trust agreement. He also contended that the parties’ transactions in
this case were made way back in 1993 and 1995 without a complaint having been filed until Bella came into the picture
and instituted various suits covering the same issue.14 As such, he sought the dismissal of the complaint, and further
prayed for the payment of moral damages and attorney’s fees by way of counterclaim.15
On September 8, 2005, Rebecca filed a Motion to Withdraw Complaint16 in CBD Case No. 05-1484 for the reason that
"the facts surrounding the same arose out of a misunderstanding and misapprehension of the real facts surrounding
their dispute."17
However, on October 6, 2005, Bella filed a Manifestation with Leave of Court to File Motion for Intervention, 18praying
that the investigation of the charges against respondent continue in order to weed out erring members of the legal
profession.19
The Report and Recommendation of the IBP
On October 8, 2007, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Investigating Commissioner issuedhis Report and
Recommendation,20 finding respondent guilty of serious misconduct in violation of Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility (Code), and, thus, recommended the penalty of suspension for a period of six (6) months. 21
On matters of procedure, the Investigating Commissioner opined that Rebecca’s motion to withdraw did notserve as a
bar for the further consideration and investigation ofthe administrative case against respondent. As basis, he cites
Section 5, Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court which provides that "[n]o investigation shall be interrupted or terminated by
reason of the desistance, settlement, compromise, restitution, withdrawal of the charges, or failure of the complainant
to prosecute the same." Separately, the Investigating Commissioner denied the claim of forum shopping, noting that
disciplinary cases are sui generis and may, therefore, proceed independently. 22
On the merits of the charge, the Investigating Commissioner observed that respondent lacked the good moral
character required from members of the Bar when the latter failed to comply with the demands of Rebecca under the
subject trust agreement, not to mention his unworthy and deceitful acts of mortgaging the subject property without the
former’s consent. In fine, respondent was found guilty of serious misconduct in violation of Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the
Code, for which the above-stated penalty was recommended.23
In a Resolution24 dated November 10, 2007, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the Investigating
Commissioner’s Report and Recommendation.
The Issue Before the Court
The basic issue in this case is whether or not respondent should be held administratively liable.
The Court’s Ruling
Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code, as itis applied to the members of the legal profession, engraves an overriding
prohibition against any form of misconduct, viz.:
CANON 1 - A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, OBEY THE LAWS OF THE LAND AND PROMOTE
RESPECT FOR LAW AND LEGAL PROCESSES.
Rule 1.01 - A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.
The gravity of the misconduct – determinative as it is of the errant lawyer’s penalty – depends on the factual
circumstances of each case.
Here, the Court observes that the squabble which gave rise to the present administrative case largely constitutes an
internal affair, which had already been laid to rest by the parties. This is clearly exhibited by Rebecca’s motion to
withdraw filed in this case as well as the compromise agreement forged in Civil Case No. 04-108887 which involves
the subject property’s alleged disposition in violation of the subject trust agreement. As the Court sees it, his failure to

33
complywith the demands of Rebecca – which she takes as an invocation of her rights under the subject trust
agreement – as well as respondent’s acts of mortgaging the subject property without the former’s consent, sprung from
his own assertion of the rights he believed he had over the subject property. The propriety of said courses of action
eludes the Court’s determination,for that matter had never been resolved on its merits in view of the aforementioned
settlement. Rebecca even states in her motion to withdraw that the allegations she had previously made arose out of a
"misapprehension of the real facts surrounding their dispute" and even adds that respondent "had fully explained to
[her] the real nature and extent of her inheritance x x x toher entire satisfaction," leading her to state that she is "now
fully convinced that [her] complaint has no basis in fact and in law." 25 Accordingly, with the admitted misstatement of
facts, the observations of the Investigating Commissioner, as adopted by the IBP, hardly hold water so as to support
the finding of "serious misconduct" which would warrant its recommended penalty.1âwphi1
Be that as it may, the Court, nonetheless, finds that respondent committed some form of misconduct by, as admitted,
mortgaging the subject property, notwithstanding the apparent dispute over the same. Regardless of the merits of his
own claim, respondent should have exhibited prudent restraint becoming of a legal exemplar. He should not have
exposed himself even to the slightest risk of committing a property violation nor any action which would endanger the
Bar's reputation. Verily, members of the Bar are expected at all times to uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal
profession and refrain from any act or omission which might lessen the trust and confidence reposed by the public in
the fidelity, honesty, and integrity of the legal profession.26 By no insignificant measure, respondent blemished not only
his integrity as a member of the Bar, but also that of the legal profession. In other words, his conduct fell short of the
exacting standards expected of him as a guardian of law and justice. Although to a lesser extent as compared to what
has been ascribed by the IBP, the Court still holds respondent guilty of violating Rule 1. 01, Canon 1 of the Code.
Considering that this is his first offense as well as the peculiar circumstances of this case, the Court believes that a fine
of ₱15,000.00 would suffice.
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Roberto L. Uy is found GUILTY of violating Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility. Accordingly, he is ordered to pay a FINE of ₱15,000.00 within ten (10) days from receipt
of this Resolution. Further, he is STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar acts will be dealt with
more severely.
Let a copy of this Resolution be attached to respondent's record in this Court as attorney. Further, let copies of this
Resolution be furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of the Court Administrator, which is
directed to circulate them to all the courts in the country for their information and guidance.
SO ORDERED.
ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
Associate Justice

10.Valdez vs. Dabon

EN BANC
A.C. No. 7353, November 16, 2015
NELSON P. VALDEZ, Petitioner, v. ATTY. ANTOLIN ALLYSON DABON, JR., Respondent.
DECISION
PER CURIAM:
This is an administrative complaint for disbarment filed by Nelson P. Valdez (Nelson) against Atty. Antolin Allyson M.
Dabon, Jr. (Atty. Dabon) anchored on the ground of grossly immoral and indecent conduct which transgressed the
high moral standards required for membership in the Bar.

The Position of the Complainant

Complainant Nelson charged respondent Atty. Dabon, a Division Clerk of Court of the Court of Appeals (CA), with
gross immorality for allegedly carrying on an adulterous relationship with his wife, Sonia Romero Valdez (Sonia), which
was made possible by sexual assaults and maintained through threat and intimidation.

In his Affidavit-Complaint,1 dated September 13, 2006, Nelson averred, among others, that he married Sonia on
January 28, 1998 in Paniqui, Tarlac; that Sonia was employed as Court Stenographer of the CA from 1992 until her
resignation on May 15, 2006;2 that Sonia admitted to have had an adulterous and immoral relationship with Atty.
Dabon, from 2000 to 2006, a span of more than five years; that he came to know of the relationship only on April 18,
2006 after receiving an anonymous text message hinting/stating about the existence of an illicit affair between the two;
and that initially, Sonia denied the affair but eventually broke down and admitted her sexual liaison with Atty. Dabon
34
when confronted with a text message he received from Atty. Jocelyn Dabon (Atty. Joy), the wife of the respondent, on
May 4, 2006 at about 9:47 o'clock in the morning, which stated:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Nelson, Jun and I were separating I will file an annulment anytime soon, although I'm in great pain, I ask for your
apology and forgiveness for everything he is leaving for US and I hope he evolves into a strong and mature person
there. D cya masamang tao, just emotional and easily manipulated. Sana don't blame him entirely bee. he is d type
that never initiate things. He is passive and tame. He was honest with me and I hope Sonia would find d courage to tell
d truth to you. I just pray for peace and fresh start for all of us. I just want to go on with my life and use above all these
for my son's sake. I love jun and I appeal to you n asana wala ka maisip sa atin lahat. Just as I have accepted
everything. Salamat sa panahon at pangunawa. God bless.3cralawlawlibrary

Nelson also asserted that Sonia confessed her infidelity and described her extramarital affair with Atty. Dabon to have
been attended by sexual assaults and maintained through intimidation and threats of exposure, humiliation and
embarrassment.

In her own Affidavit,4 dated September 13, 2006 and attached to the complaint, Sonia narrated that her illicit
relationship with Atty. Dabon started sometime in November 2000 and ended in March 2006 when she, bothered by
her conscience, decided to break it off; that Atty. Dabon relentlessly pursued her for years and even admitted that he
fell in love with her the first time he laid eyes on her; that on November 13, 2000, Atty. Dabon lured her to what
appeared to be a mere friendly lunch date, managed to put sleep-inducing drug into her food or drink causing her to
feel drowsy and weak and, thereafter, brought her to Victoria Court Motel where he sexually molested her while she
was asleep; that she opted to keep silent about the incident for fear of its adverse repercussions of shame and
embarrassment to her and her family; that she pleaded with Atty. Dabon to leave her and forget what had happened,
but the respondent instead taunted her by laughing at her misery; that since then, Atty. Dabon succeeded in having
repeated carnal knowledge of her once or twice a week through intimidation and threats; that Atty. Dabon threatened
her that he would tell everyone that she had been playing around with him, if she would not yield to his lascivious
cravings; and that she suffered in silence for years and submitted herself to the bestial desires of Atty. Dabon, until she
even thought that she was in love with him.

Sonia further claimed that after years of living in deception and infidelity, she decided to call it quits with Atty. Dabon
sometime in March 2006 but he could not let go of their relationship; that Atty. Dabon started pestering and threatening
her through phone calls and handwritten messages in vile attempts to persuade her to continue their illicit affair; that
despite their break-up, Atty. Dabon still pursued his lustful quest by bringing her to Anito Motel, along Quirino Avenue
on March 10, 2006, but she foiled his plan when she went ballistic prompting the respondent to drive her back to the
CA; that on March 13, 2006, Atty. Dabon forcibly boarded her car and pleaded for forgiveness and reconciliation but
she remained firm in her resolve to end the affair; that she had to seek the assistance of her officemates, Atty. Heiddi
Venecia Barrozo (Atty. Barrozo) and Atty. Aileen T. Ligot (Atty. Ligot), just to convince Atty. Dabon to alight from her
car as the said incident had already drawn the attention of several employees within the vicinity of the CA parking lot;
that Atty. Dabon used the members of his staff to relay his messages and deliver his handwritten letters to her; that
Atty. Dabon, angered by her repeated rejection, went berserk and sent her a letter which stated, among others, that he
could no longer stand her constant avoidance of him and that he would divulge their illicit relationship to her husband;
that it numbed her with fright, so she called Atty. Joy, without disclosing her identity, and told her that Atty. Dabon was
harassing an employee at the CA; that Atty. Dabon sent a text message to Nelson telling him of the extramarital affair;
that Atty. Joy called up Nelson and informed him that her husband, Atty. Dabon, had confessed to her the illicit
relationship; and that when she was asked by Nelson, she initially denied the affair for fear of reprisal but, afterwards,
admitted the truth and explained to him that she was merely a victim of Atty. Dabon's threat and intimidation which led
to their illicit relationship.

Nelson further stated that Atty. Dabon's willful, flagrant and shameless conduct was in gross defiance of the customs,
values and sense of morality of the community. He prayed for the disbarment of Atty. Dabon whose immoral acts
showed his lack of moral character, honesty, probity, and good demeanor and, hence, unworthy to continue as an
officer of the court. Nelson alleged that he had previously filed an administrative complaint for "Gross Immorality"
against Atty. Dabon before the CA.

Together with Sonia's Affidavit, Nelson also attached to his Affidavit-Complaint for disbarment, the Joint
Affidavit5 executed by Atty. Barrozo and Atty. Ligot on May 19, 2006; the Affidavit 6 of Virginia D. Ramos (Ramos),
dated May 19, 2006; and the Affidavit7 of Marie Iris Magdalene Minerva (Minerva), dated May 22, 2006, wherein the
said affiants corroborated the declaration of Sonia in her affidavit.

The Position of Atty. Dabon

35
Respondent Atty. Dabon strongly refuted the accusation against him claiming that the same was baseless and
unfounded and that the complaint for disbarment was merely calculated to harass, annoy and besmirch his reputation.

In his Comment,8 Atty. Dabon denied the charges of grossly immoral and unlawful acts through sexual assaults,
abuses, threats and intimidation. He posited that the allegations of spouses Nelson and Sonia in their respective
affidavits were nothing but pure fabrication solely intended to malign his name and honor. In support of his prayer for
the dismissal of the present disbarment case, Atty. Dabon proffered the following
arguments:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

First, complainant Nelson had no personal knowledge of the alleged illicit relationship between him and Sonia. He
relied heavily on the sworn statement of Sonia which was replete with inconsistencies and incredible and preposterous
claims which defied logic and common sense, thus, revealing the fallacy of the subject complaint. He contended that it
was highly improbable for him, a married lawyer at that, to suddenly turn crazy and abandon all cares just to satisfy his
purported lustful hungerness by sexually assaulting Sonia, "an ordinary plain-looking 43-year old woman with two (2)
teen aged children."9

Second, nowhere in the administrative complaint of Nelson previously filed before the CA was there any mention of
any sexual assault he allegedly committed against Sonia or of an adulterous relationship that was maintained through
threats and intimidation. Surprisingly, such allegations were included in the present complaint for disbarment. He also
pointed out that Nelson did not attach to his administrative complaint before the CA the September 13, 2006 Affidavit
of Sonia containing grave imputations against him. Such omissions were indicative that the serious charges against
him were mere concoctions and afterthoughts designed to attain Nelson's desire to come up with a graver accusation
against him. The filing of the complaint for disbarment was motivated by vengeance against him as Nelson was
consummed by his suspicion that he had seduced Sonia which led to the deterioration of their marriage. He was a
victim caught in the crossfire between the troubled couple, Nelson and Sonia.

Third, there was no truth to Sonia's allegation that he was attracted to her from the first time he saw her much less
pursued her relentlessly. He and Sonia were just close friends. He was Sonia's confidante. She would usually confide
in him her personal woes and problems especially those concerning her husband, Nelson. It was Sonia who
aggressively sought his companionship and frequented his office, bringing food, fruits and other goodies. The said
visits were attested to by Mary Jane Tulalian and Imelda Adan in their respective affidavits, 10 both dated April 30,
2008. His friendship with Sonia turned sour when she learned of his plan to settle for good in the Unites States with his
family. Sonia began to avoid him. He exerted efforts to make her understand his decision, but to no avail.

Fourth, the cards expressing Sonia's affection towards him as well as the expensive gifts she gave him belied her
claim that she was sexually assaulted and that she resisted his alleged sexual advances.

Fifth, it was unlikely that Sonia would not tell anyone the grave injustice and abuses that she allegedly suffered in his
hands or report the matter to the police considering her length of service in the Judiciary and her familiarity on how the
criminal justice system worked.

Sixth, he denied Nelson's allegation that he confessed to his wife, Atty. Joy, his illicit relationship with Sonia. He also
denied that the alleged text messages, quoted by Nelson and Sonia in their respective affidavits, were sent by him or
his wife. All were part of an elaborate scheme to force him to immediately resign as Division Clerk of Court from the
CA.

Lastly, it was not true that he harassed Sonia through text messages and phone calls. It was he who was the victim of
harassment from Nelson, who orchestrated a series of events that compelled him to leave the country earlier than
scheduled for fear that an untoward incident might happen to him.

On August 15, 2007, the Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report
and recommendation.11

After the parties had submitted their respective verified position papers, Investigating Commissioner Manuel T. Chan
(Investigating Commissioner Chan) of the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) rendered his Report and
Recommendation,12 dated October 2, 2008, finding that the charge against respondent Atty. Dabon had been
sufficiently proven. The recommendatory portion of the report reads:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
WHEREFORE, this Commissioner, after a thorough and exhaustive review of the facts and applicable legal provisions,
recommends that respondent be found guilty of gross immoral conduct and, accordingly, be disbarred and dropped
from the Roll of Attorneys.13cralawlawlibrary
36
On December 11, 2008, the Board of Governors of the IBP adopted and approved the recommendation and issued
Resolution No. XVIII-2008-653, the pertinent portion of which reads:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and APPROVED the Report and
Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner of the above-entitled case, herein made part of this Resolution as
Annex "A"; and, finding the recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws and
rules, and finding Respondent guilty of gross immoral conduct, Atty. Antolin Allyson M. Dabon, Jr. is hereby
DISBARRED and his name be stricken off from the Roll of Attorneys. 14ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
cralawlawlibrary

Atty. Dabon filed a motion for reconsideration of Resolution No. XVIII-2008-653, but it was denied by the IBP Board of
Governors in its Resolution No. XX-2012-550,15 dated December 14, 2012.

After due consideration, the Court resolves to adopt the findings and recommendation of the IBP-CBD.

Lawyers have been repeatedly reminded by the Court that possession of good moral character is both a condition
precedent and a continuing requirement to warrant admission to the Bar and to retain membership in the legal
profession.This proceeds from the lawyer's bounden duty to observe the highest degree of morality in order to
safeguard the Bar's integrity,16 and the legal profession exacts from its members nothing less. Lawyers are called upon
to safeguard the integrity of the Bar, free from misdeeds and acts constitutive of malpractice. Their exalted positions as
officers of the court demand no less than the highest degree of morality. 17

The Court explained in Arnobit v. Atty. Arnobit18 that "as officers of the court, lawyers must not only in fact be of good
moral character but must also be seen to be of good moral character and leading lives in accordance with the highest
moral standards of the community. A member of the bar and an officer of the court is not only required to refrain from
adulterous relationships or keeping a mistress but must also so behave himself as to avoid scandalizing the public by
creating the impression that he is flouting those moral standards." Consequently, any errant behavior of the lawyer, be
it in his public or private activities, which tends to show deficiency in moral character, honesty, probity or good
demeanor, is sufficient to warrant suspension or disbarment. 19

In the case at bench, the Court subscribes to the IBP's opinion that there was substantial evidence showing that Atty.
Dabon did have an illicit relationship with Nelson's legal wife.

To begin with, the Court notes from the respondent's Comment that he appeared to be perplexed as to whether or not
he would admit his extramarital liaisons with Sonia. As Investigating Commissioner Chan stated in his report, Atty.
Dabon interposed a blanket denial of the romantic involvement but at the same time, he seemed to have tacitly
admitted the illicit affair only that it was not attended by sexual assaults, threats and intimidations. The Court also
observed that he devoted considerable effort to demonstrate that the affair did not amount to gross immoral conduct
and that no sexual abuse, threat or intimidation was exerted upon the person of Sonia, but not once did he squarely
deny the affair itself.

In other words, the respondent's denial is a negative pregnant, a denial coupled with the admission of substantial facts
in the pleading responded to which are not squarely denied. Stated otherwise, a negative pregnant is a form of
negative expression which carries with it an affirmation or at least an implication of some kind favorable to the adverse
party. Where a fact is alleged with qualifying or modifying language and the words of the allegation as so qualified or
modified are literally denied, it has been held that the qualifying circumstance alone is denied while the fact itself is
admitted.20 It is clear from Atty. Dabon's Comment that his denial only pertained as to the existence of a forced illicit
relationship. Without a categorical denial thereof, he is deemed to have admitted his consensual affair with Sonia.

More telling of the existence of a romantic relationship are the notes and cards 21 that Sonia sent to Atty. Dabon
containing personal and intimate messages in her own handwriting. The messages conveyed Sonia's affection towards
him as she even referred to him as "hon" or "honey." There were also gifts she gave him on special occasions such as
signature shoes, watch and shirts. It also appeared that Sonia frequently visited him in his office either to bring him
food, fruits and other goodies or to invite him to lunch which apparently displayed her emotional attachment to him.
Curiously, the foregoing was never refuted by Sonia. Such "ego-boosting admissions"22 of Atty. Dabon indeed proved
that a consensual relationship between him and Sonia existed.

It has not escaped the Court's attention either that Atty. Dabon really tried hard to win back Sonia because he could
not let go of their relationship, even to the point of pestering her with his persistent pleas for reconciliation. In one
instance, Atty. Dabon boarded Sonia's car and refused to alight unless she would talk to him. Sonia had to seek the
37
assistance of her officemates, Atty. Barrazo and Atty. Ligot, who pleaded with him to alight from the vehicle. Moreover,
Atty. Dabon made several attempts to communicate with Sonia in the hope of rekindling their relationship through
letters and phone calls but she remained firm in her stand to avoid him. Such incident was recounted by Ramos and
Minerva in their respective affidavits.

Incidentally, vis-a-vis Nelson's overwhelming evidence of said harassments, he offered only denials which was self-
serving and weak under the law on evidence. Other than his general claim that Atty. Barrazo, Atty. Ligot, Ramos, and
Minerva were biased witnessess because they were former officemates of Sonia, the respondent did not even bother
to proffer his own version of the supposed harassment incidents.

In light of the above disquisition, the Court finds Sonia's allegation that the illicit relationship was made possible by
sexual assaults and maintained through threat and intimidations, to be untrue. Certainly, a sexually abused woman
could not be expected to lavish her oppressor with expensive gifts or pay him affectionate compliments or words of
endearment. The natural reaction of a victim of a sexual molestation would be to avoid her ravisher. In this case,
however, it appeared that Sonia continually remained in the company of Atty. Dabon for more than five years, even
inviting him for lunch-outs and frequenting his office to bring food whenever the latter was preoccupied with his
workload and could not go out with her to eat. Verily, Sonia's actuations towards Atty. Dabon are in stark contrast to
the expected demeanor of one who had been repeatedly sexually abused.

Further, the Court cannot fathom why Sonia never reported the alleged sexual abuse to the police, if such was the
truth. She could have placed the respondent behind bars and put an end to her claimed misery. Also, the Court cannot
lend credence to Sonia's claim that she merely succumbed to the respondent's sexual advances because of his
continuous threats of public exposure and humiliation. It must be stressed that Atty. Dabon would be in a much more
precarious situation if he would carry out such threats, as this would exposed himself to countless criminal and
administrative charges. The Court believes that Nelson's allegation of sexual assaults and continuing threat and
intimidation was not established by clear preponderant evidence. The Court is left with the most logical conclusion that
Sonia freely and wittingly entered into an illicit and immoral relationship with Atty. Dabon sans any threat and
intimidation.

Consequently, the Court quotes with approval the following observations of Investigating Commissioner Chan on this
score, thus:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Sorting out the maze of technicalities, denials and evasions of the respondent as well as the oftentimes exaggerated
language of complainant or his wife, Sonia, and the self-exculpatory declarations of Sonia, this Commissioner
considers the following facts as established:
1. Respondent and Sonia are both married, not to each other, but to other persons, and each is aware of
this fact, or should have known such fact at the start of their illicit relationship because they were
officemates at that time;
2. Respondent and Sonia engaged in an intimate and sexual relationship, intermittent perhaps, for a
period of about six years starting 2000 up to 2006;
3. Respondent and Sonia, despite protestations of Sonia that respondent assaulted her using drugs and
employing threats and blackmail to maintain the relationship, appeared to have entered into such illicit
relationship voluntarily and also appeared to have been fueled by their deep emotional needs, if not
mutual lust, as shown by the fact that the illicit relationship lasted for six long years;
4. Respondent and Sonia, despite the protestation of Sonia to the contrary, were not really ready to give
up the illicit relationship even if they were fully aware of its immorality or its devastating effect on their
respective marriages and careers as shown by the fact that both respondent and Sonia did not
voluntarily confess to their respective spouses their dark secret, but were only discovered by
complainant through other channels.23
cralawlawlibrary

For what ethical breaches then may Atty. Dabon be held liable?

The Code of Professional Responsibility provides:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary


Rule 1.01- A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.

Canon 7- A lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession, and support the activities of
the Integrated Bar.

Rule 7.03- A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor should he,
whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession.cralawlawlibrary
38
Morality in our liberal society today is probably a far cry from what it used to be. Notwithstanding this permissiveness,
lawyers, as keepers of public faith, are burdened with a high degree of social responsibility and, hence, must handle
their personal affairs with greater caution.24 Indeed, those who have taken the oath to assist in the dispensation of
justice should be more possessed of the consciousness and the will to overcome the weakness of the flesh.

It has been repeatedly held that to justify suspension or disbarment, the act complained of must not only be immoral,
but grossly immoral.25 A grossly immoral act is one that is so corrupt as to constitute a criminal act, or so unprincipled
as to be reprehensible to a high degree or committed under such scandalous or revolting circumstances as to shock
the common sense of decency. It is willful, flagrant, or shameless as to show indifference to the opinion of good and
respectable members of the community.26

In the case at bench, Atty. Dabon's intimate relationship with a woman other than his wife showed his moral
indifference to the opinion of the good and respectable members of the community. It manifested his disrespect for the
laws on the sanctity of marriage and for his own marital vow of fidelity. It showed his utmost moral depravity and low
regard for the fundamental ethics of his profession. Indeed, he has fallen below the moral bar. Such detestable
behavior warrants a disciplinary sanction. Even if not all forms of extramarital relations are punishable under penal law,
sexual relations outside of marriage are considered disgraceful and immoral as they manifest deliberate disregard of
the sanctity of marriage and the marital vows protected by the Constitution and affirmed by our laws. 27

In Advincula v. Macabata,28 the Court elucidated as to what disciplinary sanction should be imposed against a lawyer
found guilty of misconduct. Thus:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Xxx. "When deciding upon the appropriate sanction, the Court must consider that the primary purposes of disciplinary
proceedings are to protect the public; to foster public confidence in the Bar; to preserve the integrity of the profession;
and to deter other lawyers from similar misconduct. Disciplinary proceedings are means of protecting the
administration of justice by requiring those who carry out this important function to be competent, honorable and
reliable men in whom courts and clients may repose confidence. While it is discretionary upon the Court to impose a
particular sanction that it may deem proper against an erring lawyer, it should neither be arbitrary and despotic nor
motivated by personal animosity or prejudice, but should ever be controlled by the imperative need to scrupulously
guard the purity and independence of the bar and to exact from the lawyer strict compliance with his duties to the
court, to his client, to his brethren in the profession and to the public.

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

The penalty for maintaining an illicit relationship may either be suspension or disbarment, depending on the
circumstances of the case.29 In case of suspension, the period would range from one year 30 to indefinite suspension,
as in the case of Cordova v. Cordova,31 where the lawyer was found to have maintained an adulterous relationship for
two years and refused to support his family. On the other hand, there is a string of cases where the Court meted out
the extreme penalty of disbarment, to wit:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

In Toledo v. Toledo,32 a lawyer was disbarred from the practice of law, when he abandoned his lawful wife and
cohabited with another woman who had borne him a child.

In Obusan v. Obusan, Jr.,33 a lawyer was disbarred after the complainant proved that he had abandoned her and
maintained an adulterous relationship with a married woman. The Court declared that the respondent failed to maintain
the highest degree of morality expected and required of a member of the Bar.

In Cojuangco, Jr. v. Palma,34 the respondent lawyer was disbarred when he abandoned his lawful wife and three
children, lured an innocent woman into marrying him and misrepresented himself as a "bachelor" so he could contract
marriage in a foreign land.

In Dantes v. Dantes,35 disbarment was imposed as a penalty on the respondent lawyer who maintained illicit
39
relationships with two different women during the subsistence of his marriage to the complainant. The Complainant's
testimony, taken in conjunction with the documentary evidence, sufficiently established that the respondent breached
the high and exacting moral standards set for members of the law profession.

In Villatuya v. Tabalingcos,36 the respondent lawyer was disbarred because he was found to have entered into
marriage twice while his first marriage was still subsisting. The Court declared that he exhibited a deplorable lack of
that degree of morality required of him as a member of the Bar. He made a mockery of marriage, a sacred institution
demanding respect and dignity.

In the case at bench, Atty. Dabon's misconduct and unrepentant demeanor clearly showed a serious flaw in his
character, his moral indifference to the sanctity of marriage and marital vows, and his outright defiance of established
norms. All these could not but put the legal profession in disrepute and place the integrity of the administration of
justice in peril. Accordingly, the Court finds the need for the imposition of the extreme administrative penalty of
disbarment.

WHEREFORE, finding the respondent Atty. Antolin Allyson M. Dabon, Jr. GUILTY of Gross Immorality, the Court
hereby DISBARS him from the practice of law.

Let respondent's name be stricken from the Roll of Attorneys immediately. Furnish the Bar Confidant, the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines and all court throughout the country with copies of this Decision.

SO ORDERED.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

Sereno, CJ., Carpio, Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-De Castro, Brion, Peralta, Bersamin, Del Castillo, Villarama, Jr., Perez,
Mendoza, Reyes, Perlas-Bernabe, Leonen, and Jardeleza, JJ., cocnur.

11.Ricafort vs. Medina

EN BANC
May 31, 2016
A.C. No. 5179
DIONNIE RICAFORT, Complainant,
vs.
ATTY. RENE O. MEDINA, Respondent.
RESOLUTION
LEONEN, J.:
Complainant Dionnie Ricafort filed a complaint for disbarment1 against respondent Atty. Rene 0. Medina on December
10, 1999.2
Complainant alleged that at about 7:30 a.m. on October 4, 1999, his tricycle sideswiped respondent's car along
Sarvida Street in Surigao City.3 Respondent alighted from his car and confronted complainant. Respondent allegedly
snapped at complainant, saying: "Wa ka makaila sa aka?" ("Do you not know me?") Respondent proceeded to slap
complainant, and then left.4
Later, Manuel Cuizon, a traffic aide, informed complainant of the plate number of respondent's car. 5 Complainant later
learned that the driver of the car was Atty. Rene 0. Medina, a provincial board member of Surigao del Norte. 6
According to complainant, he felt "hurt, embarrassed[,] and humiliated."7 Respondent's act showed arrogance and
disrespect for his oath of office as a lawyer. Complainant alleged that this act constituted gross misconduct. 8
Attached to complainant's letter were his Affidavit,9 Manuel Cuizon's Affidavit, 10 and a letter11 dated October 27, 1999
signed by Mayor Arlencita E. Navarro (Mayor Navarro), League of Mayors President of Surigao del Norte Chapter. In
her letter, Mayor Navarro stated that respondent slapped complainant and caused him great humiliation. 12 Thus,
respondent should be administratively penalized for his gross misconduct and abuse of authority:
Dear Mr. Chief Justice:
This is to bring to your attention an incident that occurred last October 4, 1999 in Surigao City, committed by Provincial
Board Member Rene O. Medina.

40
The said public official slapped in full public view a certain Donnie Ricafort, a tricycle driver, causing great humiliation
on the person. We believe that such conduct is very unbecoming of an elected official. Considering the nature and
purpose of your Office, it is respectfully submitted that appropriate action be taken on the matter as such uncalled for
abuse consists of gross misconduct and abuse of authority.
Attached herewith is a copy of the affidavit of the victim and the petition of the Municipal Mayors League of Surigao del
Norte.
Thank you very much for your attention and more power.
Very truly yours,
(Sgd.)
Mayor ARLENCITA E. NAVARRO
Mayor's League President
Surigao del Norte Chapter13
(Emphasis in the original)
Attached to Mayor Navarro's letter were two (2) pages containing the signatures of 19 Mayors of different
municipalities in Surigao Del Norte.14 In his Comment, 15 respondent denied slapping complainant. He alleged that the
incident happened while he was bringing his 10-year-old son to school. 16 He further alleged that complainant's
reckless driving caused complainant's tricycle to bump the fender of respondent's car. 17 When respondent alighted
from his car to check the damage, complainant approached him in an unfriendly manner. 18 Respondent pushed
complainant on the chest to defend himself. 19 Sensing, however, that complainant was not making a move against his
son and himself, respondent asked complainant if his tricycle suffered any damage and if they should wait for a traffic
officer.20 Both parties agreed that they were both too busy to wait for a traffic officer who would prepare a sketch. 21 No
traffic officer was present during the incident.22
Four or five days after the traffic incident, respondent became the subject of attacks on radio programs by the
Provincial Governor's allies, accusing him of slapping the tricycle driver. 23 He alleged that complainant's Affidavit was
caused to be prepared by the Provincial Governor as it was prepared in the English language, which was unknown to
complainant.24 Respondent was identified with those who politically opposed the Provincial Governor. 25
According to respondent, the parties already settled whatever issue that might have arisen out of the incident during
the conciliation proceedings before the Office of the Punong Barangay of Barangay Washington, Surigao City. 26During
the proceedings, respondent explained that he pushed complainant because of fear that complainant was carrying a
weapon, as he assumed tricycle drivers did.27 On the other hand, complainant explained that he went near respondent
to check if there was damage to respondent's car.28 As part of the settlement, respondent agreed to no longer demand
any indemnity for the damage caused by the tricycle to his car.29
Attached to respondent's Comment was the Certification30 dated October 27, 2006 of the Officer-in-Charge Punong
Barangay stating that the case had already been mediated by Punong Barangay Adriano F. Laxa and was amicably
settled by the parties.31
On December 5, 2006, this Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for investigation, report, and
recommendation.32
Only respondent appeared in the Mandatory Conference set by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines on July 20,
2007.33 Integrated Bar of the Philippines Commissioner Jose I. De La Rama, Jr. (Commissioner De La Rama) noted
the Certification from Barangay Washington, Surigao City attesting that the case between the parties had already been
settled. 34
Commissioner De La Rama supposed that this settlement "could be the reason why the complainant has not been
appearing in this case[.]"35 The Mandatory Conference was reset to September 21, 2007.36
In the subsequent Mandatory Conference on September 21, 2007, only respondent appeared. 37 Hence, the
Commission proceeded with the case exparte.38
In his Report39 dated July 4, 2008, Commissioner De La Rama recommended the penalty of suspension from the
practice of law for 60 days from notice for misconduct and violation of Canon 7, Rule 7 .03 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, thus:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, it is with deep regret to recommend for the suspension of Atty. Rene O.
Medina from the practice of law for a period of sixty ( 60) days from notice hereof due to misconduct and violation of
Canon 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, for behaving in an scandalous manner that tends to discredit
the legal profession. 40 (Emphasis in the original)
41
Commissioner De La Rama found that contrary to respondent's claim, there was indeed a slapping incident. 41 The
slapping incident was witnessed by one Manuel Cuizon, based on: (1) the photocopy of Manuel Cuizon's Affidavit
attached to complainant's complaint;42 and (2) the signatures on the League of Mayors' letter dated October 29, 1999
of the Surigao Mayors who believed that respondent was guilty of gross misconduct and abuse of authority and should
be held administratively liable.43
On August 14, 2008, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board of Governors issued the Resolution 44 adopting and
approving with modification Commissioner De La Rama's recommendation, thus:
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and APPROVED, with modification,
the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner of the above-entitled case, herein made part of
this Resolution as Annex "A "; and, finding the recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the
applicable laws and rules, and considering Respondent's misconduct and violation of Canon 7. 03 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, for behaving in a scandalous manner, Atty. Rene O. Medina is hereby SUSPENDED from
the practice of law for thirty (30) days.45 (Emphasis in the original)
Respondent moved for reconsideration 46 of the Board of Governors' August 14, 2008 Resolution. The Motion for
Reconsideration was denied by the Board of Governors in the Resolution47 dated March 22, 2014.
We resolve whether respondent Atty. Rene O. Medina should be held administratively liable.
There is sufficient proof to establish that respondent slapped complainant.
Respondent's defense consists of his denial that the slapping incident happened. 48 He stresses complainant's seeming
disinterest in and lack of participation throughout the case and hints that this administrative case is politically
motivated.49
It is true that this Court does not tolerate the unceremonious use of disciplinary proceedings to harass its officers with
baseless allegations. This Court will exercise its disciplinary power against its officers only if allegations of misconduct
are established.50 A lawyer is presumed to be innocent of the charges against him or her. He or she enjoys the
presumption that his or her acts are consistent with his or her oath.51 Thus, the burden of proof still rests upon
complainant to prove his or her claim.52
In administrative cases against lawyers, the required burden of proof is preponderance of evidence, 53 or evidence that
is superior, more convincing, or of "greater weight than the other."54
In this case, complainant discharged this burden.
During the fact-finding investigation, Commissioner De La Rama-as the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board of
Governors also adoptedfound that the slapping incident actually occurred. 55
The slapping incident was not only alleged by complainant in detail in his signed and notarized
Affidavit;56complainant's Affidavit was also supported by the signed and notarized Affidavit57 of a traffic aide present
during the incident. It was even the traffic aide who informed complainant of respondent's plate number. 58
In finding that complainant was slapped by respondent,59 Commissioner De La Rama gave weight to the letter sent by
the League of Mayors and ruled that "the people's faith in the legal profession eroded" 60 because of respondent's act
of slapping complainant.61 The Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board of Governors correctly affirmed and adopted
this finding.
The League of Mayors' letter, signed by no less than 19 Mayors, strengthened complainant's allegations. Contrary to
respondent's claim that it shows the political motive behind this case, the letter reinforced complainant's credibility and
motive. The presence of 19 Mayors' signatures only reinforced the appalling nature of respondent's act. It reflects the
public's reaction to respondent's display of arrogance.
The purpose of administrative proceedings is to ensure that the public is protected from lawyers who are no longer fit
for the profession. In this instance, this Court will not tolerate the arrogance of and harassment committed by its
officers.
Canon 7, Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides:
Rule 7.03 - A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor shall he
whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession.
By itself, the act of humiliating another in public by slapping him or her on the face hints of a character that disregards
the human dignity of another.1awp++i1 Respondent's question to complainant, "Wa ka makaila sa ako?"

42
("Do you not know me?") confirms such character and his potential to abuse the profession as a tool for bullying,
harassment, and discrimination.
This arrogance is intolerable. It discredits the legal profession by perpetuating a stereotype that is unreflective of the
nobility of the profession. As officers of the court and of the law, lawyers are granted the privilege to serve the public,
not to bully them to submission.
Good character is a continuing qualification for lawyers. 62 This Court has the power to impose disciplinary sanctions to
lawyers who commit acts of misconduct in either a public or private capacity if the acts show them unworthy to remain
officers of the court. 63
This Court has previously established that disciplinary proceedings against lawyers are sui generis. 64 They are neither
civil nor criminal in nature. They are not a determination of the parties' rights. Rather, they are pursued as a matter of
public interest and as a means to determine a lawyer's fitness to continue holding the privileges of being a court officer.
In Tiaya v. Gacott:65
Public interest is its primary objective, and the real question for determination is whether or not the attorney is still a fit
person to be allowed the privileges as such. Hence, in the exercise of its disciplinary powers, the Court merely calls
upon a member of the Bar to account for his actuations as an officer of the Court with the end in view of preserving the
purity of the legal profession and the proper and honest administration of justice by purging the profession of members
who by their misconduct have proved themselves no longer worthy to be entrusted with the duties and responsibilities
pertaining to the office of an attorney. In such posture, there can thus be no occasion to speak of a complainant or a
prosecutor. 66
As in criminal cases, complainants in administrative actions against lawyers are mere witnesses. They are not
indispensable to the proceedings. It is the investigative process and the finding of administrative liability that are
important in disciplinary proceedings. 67
Hence, complainant's absence during the hearings before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines is not a bar against a
finding of administrative liability.
WHEREFORE, the findings of fact of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines are ADOPTED and APPROVED.
Respondent Atty. Rene O. Medina is found to have violated Canon 7, Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, and is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for three (3) months.
Let copies of this Resolution be attached to the personal records of respondent as attorney, and be furnished to the
Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the Office of the Court Administrator for proper
dissemination to all courts throughout the country.
SO ORDERED.
MARVIC M.V.F. LEONEN
Associate Justice

12.Vazquez vs. Lim

July 11, 2016


A.C. No. 9492
PLUTARCO E. VAZQUEZ, Complainants
vs.
ATTY. DAVID LIM QUECO KHO, Respondent
DECISION
SERENO, CJ.:
This case for disbarment was filed by complainant Plutarco E. Vazquez (Vazquez) against respondent Atty. David Lim
Queco Kho (Atty. Kho). In his verified Complaint1 filed with this Court on 11 July 2012, Vazquez alleges that Atty. Kho
violated the lawyer's oath that he "will do no falsehood.2" He further claims that respondent transgressed Rule 1.01 of
the Code of Professional Responsibility.3
FACTS
Vazquez and Atty. Kho were both members of the Coalition of Associations of Senior Citizens in the Philippines
(Coalition), an accredited party-list group that participated in the national elections of 10 May 2010. The Complaint
43
arose from an allegedly false statement made in respondent's Certificate of Acceptance of Nomination for the
Coalition. Complainant contested the truth of the statement made under oath that Atty. Kho was a natural-born Filipino
citizen.4
In his Complaint, Vasquez asserted that respondent was a Chinese national. He reasoned that when Atty. Kho was
born on 29 April 1947 to a Chinese father (William Kho) and a Filipina mother (Juana Lim Queco), respondent’s
citizenship followed that of his Chinese father pursuant to the 1935 Constitution. Moreover, Vasquez argued that since
respondent has elected Filipino citizenship, the act presupposed that the person electing was either an alien, of
doubtful status, or a national of two countries.5
Upon receipt of the Complaint, the Court through its First Division issued a Resolution6 dated 26 November 2012
requiring Atty. Kho to file his comment on the Complaint within 10 days from receipt of the Notice. Alleging he received
the Court’s Resolution on 18 February 2013, he filed his Comment7 on 27 February 2013. As to the alleged falsity of
his statement, Atty. Kho countered that when he was born on 29 April 1947, his Filipina mother was not yet married to
his Chinese father, and that his parents only got married on 8 February 1977 or some 30 years after his birth. He then
averred that according to the 1935 Constitution, his citizenship followed that of his Filipina mother, and thus he was a
natural-born Filipino citizen.8
On the matter of his electing Filipino citizenship, respondent explained that since he was already a natural-born
Filipino, his subsequent election of Philippine citizenship on 25 February 1970 was superfluous and had no effect on
his citizenship. Having established his natural-born status, he concluded that he had not committed any falsehood in
his Certificate of Acceptance of Nomination, and that complainant had no cause of action to have him disbarred. 9
Apart from defending his natural-born status, Atty. Kho also moved to dismiss the Complaint on the ground of forum
shopping. He claimed that Vazquez had filed three (3) cases in which the latter raised the issue of respondent's
citizenship: (1) the present disbannent case; (2) a quo warranto proceeding with the House of Representatives
Electoral Tribunal (HRET); and (3) a criminal complaint for perjury lodged with the City Prosecutor of Quezon City.
Atty. Kho alleged that both the quo warranto and the perjury cases had already been dismissed by the HRET10 and the
City Prosecutor respectively.11 Finally, he raised jurisdictional questions, arguing that the proper remedy to attack his
citizenship was not a disbarment case, but rather quo warranto.12
In answer to respondent's Comment, Vazquez filed with the Court a Reply to Comment 13 on 11 March 2013. He
claimed therein that at the time of election of Philippine citizenship by respondent on 25 February 1970, the latter's
mother was already a Chinese national by virtue of her marriage to respondent's father who was Chinese.
Complainant also opposed respondent's assertion that the latter's parents were not yet married when he was born on
29 April 1947.14 Complainant further cited respondent's Certificate of Live Birth, which stated that the latter's parents
were married at the time he was born.15
That being so, complainant averred that at the time Atty. Kho was born, his mother was already a Chinese national.
Thus, complainant concluded that respondent's election of Filipino citizenship was fatally defective, since the latter's
parents were both Chinese at the time of his election.16 Furthermore, complainant alleged that the marriage of
respondent's parents on 8 February 1977 was just a ploy to put a semblance of legitimacy to his prior election of
Filipino citizenship. Lastly, complainant denied the forum shopping charge, saying the three cases he had filed against
respondent had different causes of action and were based on different grounds. 17
On 8 April 2013, the Court issued a Resolution referring the administrative case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
(IBP) for investigation, report, and recommendation or decision.18 At the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD),
the case was docketed as CBD Case No. 13-3885. Commissioner Victor Pablo C. Trinidad (Commissioner Trinidad)
was designated as investigating commissioner. In a Notice dated 14 August 2013, he set the case for mandatory
conference/hearing oh 19 September 2013 and ordered the parties to submit their mandatory conference briefs. 19
With both parties present at the scheduled mandatory conference/hearing, Commissioner Trinidad ordered them to
submit their respective position papers within ten (10) days, after which the case would be deemed submitted for
report and recommendation.20 Only the respondent submitted a conference brief 21 and position paper.22
IBP's REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
On 3 November 2013, Commissioner Trinidad promulgated his Report and Recommendation (Report) 23 finding Atty.
Kho "innocent of the charges" and recommended that the case be dismissed for utter lack of merit. Upon weighing the
evidence presented by both parties, Commissioner Trinidad found no merit to the allegation that respondent had
committed dishonesty and deceitfulness when he indicated in his verified Certificate of Acceptance of Nomination that
he was a natural-born citizen.24
Commissioner Trinidad said that respondent Atty. Kho, as a natural-born Filipino citizen, fell under the category of
someone who was born of a Filipino mother before 17 January 1973, and who elected Philippine citizenship upon
44
reaching the age of majority.25 On the matter of jurisdiction, the IBP-CBD said that it had jurisdiction to hear the matter,
since the issue was whether respondent violated his lawyer's oath and the relevant provisions of the Code of
Professional Responsibility. Although it acknowledged that citizenship cannot be attacked collaterally, it ruled that it
had to make a finding thereon, since the alleged dishonesty hinged on that very matter. The IBP-CBD clarified though,
that its ruling was limited and "cannot strip or sustain the respondent of his citizenship." 26
Lastly, the IBP-CBD found Vazquez guilty of forum shopping since in all the three cases he had filed, he was
questioning whether or not lespondent was a natural-born citizen. It said that the actions filed by complainant involved
the same transactions, the same essential facts and circumstances, as well as identical subject matter and issues.27
On 10 August 2014, the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution No. XXI-2014-519, which adopted and approved
the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner dismissing the case against Atty. Kho.
THE RULING OF THE COURT
We adopt and approve the IBP Report and Recommendation and dismiss the instant administrative case against
respondent for lack of merit.
This disbarment case centers on whether Atty. Kho violated his lawyer's oath that he shall do no falsehood and that he
shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral, or deceitful conduct. According to complainant, a violation occurred
when respondent declared in his verified Certificate of Acceptance of Nomination that he was a natural-born Filipino
citizen. Although the question of one's citizenship is not open to collateral attack, 28 the Court acknowledges the IBP-
CBD's pronouncement that it had to make a limited finding thereon, since the alleged dishonesty hinged on this issue.
We have constantly ruled that an attack on a person's citizenship may only be done through a direct action for its
nullity.29 A disbarment case is definitely not the proper venue to attack someone's citizenship. For the lack of any ruling
from a competent court on respondent's citizenship, this disbarment case loses its only leg to stand on and, hence,
must be dismissed.
WHEREFORE, the instant Administrative Complaint for violation of the lawyer's oath and the Code of Professional
Responsibility filed against Atty. David Lim Queco Kho is hereby DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.

13.Dumanlag vs Blanco

FIRST DIVISION
A.C. No. 8825, August 03, 2016
BUDENCIO DUMANLAG, Complainant, v. ATTY. JAIME M. BLANCO, JR., Respondent.
DECISION
SERENO, C.J.:
Before this Court is an administrative Complaint for Disbarment against respondent Atty. Jaime M. Blanco for rejecting
complainant's claim over a parcel of land based on a Spanish Title.
FACTUAL ANTECEDENTS

Under Transfer Certificate of Title No. (TCT) 79146,1 El Mavic Investment and Development Co., Inc. (EMIDCI)
appears to be the registered owner of the land it occupies at the corner of Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard and C. de
Dios Street in Sampaloc, Manila (Sampaloc property).

Complainant Budencio Dumanlag sent a letter dated 9 August 2010 to EMIDCI's President, Victoriano Chung, claiming
to be an agent of the Heirs of Don Mariano San Pedro (the Heirs of San Pedro) based on a Special Power of Attorney
dated 14 October 1999.2 Complainant asserted that the Heirs of San Pedro, and not EMIDCI, owned the Sampaloc
property, predicating such claim on a Spanish Title, Titulo de Propriedad No. (T.P.) 4136.3 He further stated in the
letter that the Heirs of San Pedro were selling the Sampaloc property, and that he had given EMIDCI the option to buy
it.

Victoriano Chung referred the matter to EMIDCI's counsel, respondent4 Atty. Jaime M. Blanco, Jr. (Atty. Blanco), who
rejected the claim. In a letter5 dated 16 August 2010, the latter explained that the Supreme Court had declared T.P.
4136 null and void in Intestate Estate of the Late Don Mariano San Pedro y Esteban v. Court of Appeals. 6 Demand
was made on Dumanlag and his principals to cease and desist from further harassing EMIDCI.

Complainant sent another letter to Mr. Chung dated 1 September 2010.7 While acknowledging the Court's decision,
the former alleged that Intestate Estate excluded the Heirs of San Pedro from the enumeration of persons prohibited
45
from selling lands covered by T.P. 4136, including the Sampaloc property.

Atty. Blanco rejected complainant's claim once more through another letter 8 dated 13 September 2010. He reasoned
that the Supreme Court Decision held that the heirs were specifically prohibited from exercising any act of ownership
over the lands covered by T.P. 4136.

On 22 October 2010, complainant filed this administrative case for disbarment against Atty. Blanco, alleging that Mr.
Chung was a squatter on the Sampaloc Property and Atty. Blanco had unjustly prevented the exercise of
complainant's rights over the same.9chanrobleslaw

In his Verified Comment,10 Atty. Blanco alleged that the Complaint was frivolous, unfounded and retaliatory. He
averred, among others, that complainant, in his second demand letter to Mr. Chung, had attached two draft pleadings.
The first was a draft petition for certiorari against the latter;11 the second, a draft complaint for disbarment against Atty.
Blanco.12 According to respondent, these drafts were meant to intimidate him and Mr. Chung. True enough, after Atty.
Blanco sent his second letter to complainant, the latter filed with the Court of Appeals the draft petition, which was later
dismissed. Complainant subsequently filed the Complaint for Disbarment.

Atty. Blanco also moved that the Court direct complainant to show cause why the latter should not be cited for indirect
contempt. Respondent stated that Intestate Estate declared in its fallo that agents of the Heirs of San Pedro were
disallowed from exercising any act of ownership over lands covered by T.P. 4136.
FINDINGS OF THE INVESTIGATING COMMISSIONER

Investigating Commissioner Michael G. Fabunan of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) rendered a Report and
Recommendation13 for the dismissal of the Complaint for lack of merit, based on the following grounds: 1) the
complaint was patently frivolous, and 2) it was intended to harass respondent. He recommended that the Court issue
an order directing complainant Dumanlag to show cause why he should not be cited for indirect
contempt.14chanrobleslaw

The IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution No. XXI-2014-418 adopting and approving the Report and
Recommendation of the investigating commissioner.15chanrobleslaw

No petition for review has been filed with this Court.


RULING OF THE COURT

The Complaint must be dismissed for utter lack of merit.

A lawyer is charged with the duty to defend "the cause of his client with wholehearted fidelity, care, and
devotion."16 Nevertheless, the Code of Professional Responsibility circumscribes this duty with the limitation that
lawyers shall perform their duty to the client within the bounds of law. 17 In this case, Atty. Blanco performed this duty to
his client without exceeding the scope of his authority.

As early as 1996, this Court declared in Intestate Estate that T.P. 4136 was null and void.18 In said case, the Heirs of
San Pedro claimed ownership of a total land area of approximately 173,000 hectares on the basis of a Spanish
title, Titulo de Propriedad Numero 4136 dated 25 April 1894. The claim covered lands in the provinces of Nueva Ecija,
Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Quezon, and even cities in Metro Manila such as Quezon City, Caloocan City, Pasay City,
City of Pasig and City of Manila.

This Court dubbed the theory of the petitioners therein as "the most fantastic land claim in the history of the
Philippines."19 In discarding the claim, We relied on Presidential Decree No. 892, which abolished the system of
registration under the Spanish Mortgage Law and directed all holders of Spanish Titles to cause their lands to be
registered under the Land Registration Act within six months from date of effectivity of the law or until 16 August 1976.
The Heirs of San Pedro failed to adduce a certificate of title under the Torrens system that would show that T.P. 4136
was brought under the operation of P.D. 892. We therefore declared that the T. P. was null and void, and that no rights
could be derived therefrom.

Given the nullity of T.P. 4136, the claim of the Heirs of San Pedro against EMIDCI has no legal basis. On the other
hand, the records reveal that the Sampaloc property is registered in the name of EMIDCI as TCT 79146 under the
Torrens system. As such, the TCT enjoys a conclusive presumption of validity. 20chanrobleslaw

Hence, complainant had a baseless claim, which Atty. Blanco correctly resisted. In writing the two letters rejecting
46
complainant's claim, he merely acted in defense of the rights of his client. In doing so, he performed his duty to
EMIDCI within the bounds of law.

Consequently, there was no misconduct to speak of on the part of Atty. Blanco. In fact, he should even be commended
as he remained steadfast, in maintaining the cause of his client even as he was subjected to harassment. As will be
discussed below, complainant, in his second demand letter, threatened Atty. Blanco with the filing of a disbarment
case.

Complainant maliciously filed the


complaint.

As a rule, a complainant should not be penalized for the exercise of the right to litigate. 21 But the rule applies only if the
right is exercised in good faith.22 When a groundless complaint is filed in bad faith, the Court has ' to step in and
penalize the erring complainant.23chanrobleslaw

The policy of insulation from intimidation and harassment encourages lawyers to stay their course and perform their
duties without fear.24 They are better able to function properly and ultimately contributes "to the efficient delivery and
proper administration of justice."25cralawred On the other hand, failure to shield lawyers from baseless suits serves
"only to disrupt, rather than promote, the orderly administration of justice."26chanrobleslaw

In this case, complainant knew fully well that his complaint was totally unfounded. We note that he acknowledged the
existence of Our ruling in Intestate Estate, in his second letter to Chung. Complainant unquestionably knew of the
nullity of the Spanish title in favor of his principals; yet, he insisted on his unfounded claim by sending a second
demand letter to Chung. Complainant even had the audacity to state that Intestate Estate excluded the Heirs of San
Pedro from the enumeration of persons prohibited from selling lands covered by T.P. 4136. The dispositive portion of
the Decision clearly states that the heirs, as well as the agents of the estate of San Pedro, were enjoined from
exercising any act of dominion over the lands covered by T.P. 4136. At this juncture, it is appropriate to quote the
pertinent portion of the fallo of the Decision, which states:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
In G.R. No. 106496, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibraryx x x x

(4) The heirs, agents, privies and/or anyone acting for and in behalf of the estate of the late Mariano San Pedro y
Esteban are hereby disallowed to exercise any act of possession or ownership or to otherwise, dispose of in any
manner the whole or any portion of the estate covered by Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136; and they are hereby ordered
to immediately vacate the same, if they or any of them are in possession thereof.
Given the above considerations, the Complaint filed against respondent is nothing but an attempt to intimidate, harass
and coerce him into acceding to the demands of complainant. This is the only logical conclusion that can be derived
from the filing of a Complaint for Disbarment that is baseless — a fact that complainant was very much aware of.

Complainant even admitted during the mandatory conference before the investigating commissioner that he had
attached the draft of the administrative complaint against respondent to his second letter to Mr. Chung.27 Undoubtedly,
the attachment of the draft complaint to the letter was meant to intimidate Atty. Blanco. It was a threat should he reject
the demand of Dumanlag.

The penalty for filing a malicious complaint varies from censure to a fine as high as P5,000.

In Lim v. Antonio,28 the Court censured the complainant who was motivated by revenge and bad faith when he filed an
unfounded complaint for disbarment against the respondent lawyer. In Scares, Jr. v. Gonzales-Alzate, 29 we likewise
censured the complainant for filing a disbarment complaint that was similarly motivated.

For the filing of an unfounded complaint against a clerk of court, the Court issued a stern warning to the complainant
lawyer in Dela Victoria v. Orig-Maloloy-on.30The latter was found to have been in contempt of court and was fined in
the amount of P2,000.

The Court imposed a stiffer penalty of P5,000 on the complainant attorneys in Prieto v. Corpuz31 and Arnado v.
Suarin. Their complaints against a judge and a court sheriff, respectively, were found to be groundless.

Considering the circumstances present in this case, complainant appears to be devious, persistent and incorrigible,
such that mere censure as penalty would not suffice. He has trifled with the Court, using the judicial process as an
47
instrument to willfully pursue a nefarious scheme. The imposition of a P5,000 fine is appropriate.

Complainant Defied the Order in


Intestate Estate.

For making a demand on EMIDCI to recognize the claim of ownership of the Heirs of San Pedro, complainant appears
to have disobeyed the order of the Court in Intestate Estate, insofar as the Court enjoined agents of the estate from
exercising any act of possession or ownership over the lands covered by the T.P. For this reason, the Court finds it
appropriate to direct the complainant to show cause why he should not be cited for indirect contempt for failing to
comply with the order given in that Decision. Indirect contempt is committed when there is "[disobedience of or
resistance to a lawful writ, process, order, or judgment of a court."33chanrobleslaw

WHEREFORE, the Court RESOLVES to: (a) DISMISS the administrative complaint for disbarment against Atty. Jaime
M. Blanco for utter lack of merit; (b) IMPOSE a FINE of P5,000 on complainant Budencio Dumanlag for filing a
malicious complaint; and (c) DIRECT complainant to SHOW CAUSE why he should not be cited for indirect contempt
for failing to comply with our final and executory Decision dated 18 December 1996, insofar as it enjoins agents of the
Estate of Mariano San Pedro from exercising acts of possession or ownership or to otherwise dispose of any land
covered by T. P. 4136.

Leonardo-De Castro, Bersamin, Perlas-Bernabe, and Caguioa, JJ., concur.

14.Cruz vs. Reyes

THIRD DIVISION
A.C. No. 9090, August 31, 2016
TEODORO B. CRUZ, JR., Complainant, v. ATTYS. JOHN G. REYES, ROQUE BELLO AND CARMENCITA A. ROUS-
GONZAGA, Respondents.
RESOLUTION
PEREZ, J.:
This is a Motion for Reconsideration1 of the Resolution2 of the Court dated 22 August 2012 finding respondent Atty.
John G. Reyes guilty of "negligence of contumacious proportions" and suspending him from the practice of law for a
period of one (1) year.
The Facts

The present case arose out of a petition for disbarment filed by Atty. Teodoro B. Cruz, Jr. (complainant) charging
respondent Atty. John G. Reyes (respondent) with intentional misrepresentation, knowingly handling a case involving
conflict of interest, falsification, knowingly alleging untruths in pleadings and unethical conduct, based on the following
incidents:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibraryThe First Incident

(Intentional Misrepresentation and Knowingly Handling a Case Involving Conflict of Interest)

Complainant alleged that respondent entered his appearance as counsel for Mayor Rosito Velarde (Mayor Velarde) of
Tinambac, Camarines Sur, in an election protest case that was on appeal before the Commission on Elections
(COMELEC). The case, entitled "Racquel 'BIBI' Reyes de Guzman, Protestant, versus Mayor Rosito Velarde,
Protestee," originated from the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Calabanga, Branch 63, Camarines Sur. According to the
petition for disbarment, "an incident occurred" in the course of the trial which forced Mayor Velarde to bring an incident
up to the COMELEC on certiorari.3chanrobleslaw

While the case was being tried at the RTC level, protestant Raquel Reyes De Guzman (De Guzman) was represented
by the Sales Law Office of Naga City, although Atty. Roque Bello (Atty. Bello), who indicated in the pleadings that his
address is in Cainta, Rizal, was the chief counsel. Mayor Velarde, on the other hand, was represented by Atty.
Gualberto Manlagnit (Atty. Manlagnit) from Naga City. Atty. Manlagnit prepared the pleadings in connection with the
appeal to the COMELEC but, according to complainant, unknown to Atty. Manlagnit, another pleading was filed before
the COMELEC, which pleading was apparently prepared in Cainta, Rizal but was signed by respondent whose given
address is in Quezon City.4chanrobleslaw

Complainant explained that De Guzman used to be allied with former Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella (Speaker
48
Fuentebella) under the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) party, whereas Mayor Velarde was a member of the
Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP) party, led by Camarines Sur Governor Luis R. Villafuerte (Gov. Villafuerte).
The Fuentebellas and the Villafuertes are known to be politically at odds with each other. However, De Guzman
subsequently changed her political allegiance and became affiliated with the Villafuertes by transferring to the LDP
party. Mayor Velarde, on the other hand, became an ally of the Fuentebellas under the NPC. 5chanrobleslaw

According to complainant, Atty. Bello agreed to represent De Guzman in the election protest case because she was a
political ally of Speaker Fuentebella. Complainant emphasized that Atty. Bello has always represented the political
interests of the Fuentebellas. There is, therefore, no doubt that Atty. Bello is the lawyer of the Fuentebellas.6 As a
result, with the sudden shifting of the political loyalty of De Guzman and Mayor Velarde, Atty. Bello suddenly stopped
appearing for De Guzman in the protest case without formally withdrawing as her counsel. 7 Mayor Velarde now had to
be defended by Atty. Bello because he is already an ally of the Fuentebellas. However, Atty. Bello cannot actively
defend Mayor Velarde because he appeared for De Guzman before the RTC. 8 Thus, complainant concluded, Atty.
Bello found the expedient of passing the case to his clandestine partner, respondent Atty. Reyes, making the latter
guilty of representing conflicting interests,9 in violation of Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

The Second Incident

(Falsification, Knowingly Alleging Untruths in Pleadings and Unethical Conduct)

On or before 15 December 2003, former Speaker Fuentebella filed his Certificate of Candidacy (COC) for
Congressman of the 3rd District of Camarines Sur. Complainant also filed a COC for the same position. Subsequently,
a certain Ebeta P. Cruz (Ebeta) and a certain Marita Montefalcon Cruz-Gulles (Marita) likewise filed their respective
COCs for the aforementioned position. The former is an indigent laundry woman from San Jose, Camarines Sur, while
the latter was a former casual laborer of the municipal government of Tigaon, Camarines Sur. 10 Clearly, both Ebeta
Marita had no real intention of running for the position for which they filed their COC, but were merely instigated to do
so in order to confuse the electorate of the district, to the disadvantage of complainant. Consequently, complainant
filed a petition to declare Ebeta and Marita as nuisance candidates. 11chanrobleslaw

In connection with the petition to declare Ebeta and Marita as nuisance candidates, complainant filed a Memorandum
with the COMELEC through the Office of the Camarines Sur Provincial Election Supervisor (PES). Pertinent portions
of the Memorandum were quoted by the complainant in his petition for disbarment, 12 to wit:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary1. Complainant received a copy of the Verified Answer of Marita signed by respondent as
counsel, whose given address is in Quezon City;

2. From the Answer, it was made to appear that Marita caused the preparation thereof, read the allegations therein
contained, and understood them. It was also made to appear that Marita signed the verification;

3. During the hearing at the PES in San Jose, Pili, Camarines Sur, on 23 January 2004, respondent appeared
and:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
a.) on record, admitted that the signature appearing on the Verified Answer is his;

b.) officially manifested that he was hired by Marita as her counsel to prepare the Verified Answer;

c.) officially confirmed that the allegations in the Verified Answer were supplied by Marita; and cralawlawlibrary

d.) said that Marita was in his office in Quezon City when she "signed" the Verified Answer.
4. Marita arrived at the hearing to file a formal withdrawal of her COC. She was immediately put on the witness stand
wherein she testified that:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
a.) she did not know respondent;

b.) she never solicited his legal services, particularly, to file the Verified Answer;

c.) she never supplied the allegations contained in the Answer;

d.) the signature appearing in the Answer is not her signature; and cralawlawlibrary

e.) she could not have signed the verification in the Answer in Quezon City on 15 January 2004 because she was in
Bicol on that date.13chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
49
The petition for disbarment also alleged that respondent admitted to Attys. Adan Marcelo Botor and Atty. Manlagnit -
complainant's counsels in the petition for disqualification before the PES-COMELEC — that Atty. Bello merely gave the
Verified Answer to him already signed and notarized.14chanrobleslaw

For his part, respondent narrated the following version of the events:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibraryAnent the first incident, respondent alleged that he first met Atty. Bello sometime in May,
2003 when the latter was introduced to him by a friend. A few months after their meeting, Atty. Bello called him up to
ask if he could handle a case to be filed with the COMELEC since Atty. Bello had so many cases to handle. The case
would be to secure a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) with application for a Writ of Preliminary Injunction from the
COMELEC.15chanrobleslaw

According to respondent, he informed Atty. Bello that he has never before handled an election case, much less one
with an application for a TRO with Preliminary Injunction. Atty. Bello assured him that things would be difficult at first,
but he would assist respondent and things will tuna out easier. Due to the assurance given and his desire for a more
comprehensive experience in law practice, respondent agreed to accept the case. Since he made it clear from the start
that he has no knowledge or experience in election cases, he was never part of the preparations in connection with the
case. Atty. Bello simply called him up for a meeting when the pleading was ready so that he could sign the same. They
agreed to meet somewhere in Timog, Quezon City and after he read the pleading and sensing that there was no
problem, he signed the same inside Atty. Bello's car. Thereafter, he attended the initial hearing of the case, during
which, the parties were required to submit their respective Memoranda.16chanrobleslaw

Respondent claimed that up to that point, there were no indications about the true nature of the case. However, when
he was preparing the required Memorandum, he found telltale signs. After his two appearances before the COMELEC
and the submission of the Memorandum, respondent declared that he never knew what happened to the case as he
formally withdrew therefrom immediately upon knowing the circumstances of the case. He maintained that he cannot
be held guilty of representing conflicting interests because he never handled any previous case involving either of the
parties in the COMELEC case. Moreover, he was not properly apprised of the facts and circumstances relative to the
case that would render him capable of intelligently deciding whether or not to accept the case. He likewise did not
receive a single centavo as attorney's, acceptance or appearance fees in connection with the case. He agreed to
handle the same simply to accommodate Atty. Bello and to improve his skills as a lawyer and never for monetary
considerations.17chanrobleslaw

With respect to the second incident, respondent related that he was at home in Pangasinan on 17 January 2004 when
he received a call from Atty. Bello asking him to attend a hearing in Camarines Sur. He declined the request three
times due to his tight schedule. Atty. Bello pleaded, saying that even on Saturdays, hearings could be scheduled.
Thus, even if he did not want to attend the hearing due to its distance and because of his full calendar, he could not
refuse because he really did not schedule appointments and/or hearings on Saturdays. All that was told him regarding
the case was that a congressional candidate was being disqualified and a lawyer is needed to defend him and his
candidacy. Respondent alleged that according to Atty. Bello, the candidate was qualified and financially capable of
funding his campaign. Nevertheless, he clarified from Atty. Bello if the candidate is not a nuisance candidate and Atty.
Bello allegedly replied: "Qualified na qualified naman talaga eh." Respondent added that it was not disclosed to him
that the disqualification case involved a candidate for the third congressional district of Camarines Sur. He was simply
informed that the scheduled hearing of the disqualification case would be on 23 January 2004 in Naga
City.18chanrobleslaw

Since respondent was in Pangasinan and due to the fact that the deadline for the filing of the necessary pleading was
nearing, Atty. Bello advised respondent that he would just prepare the Answer and sign for respondent's name in the
pleading. Respondent maintained that he would not have agreed to Atty. Bello's proposal, had it not been for the
pressed urgency, trusting that he would not get into any trouble.19chanrobleslaw

While waiting for the scheduled date of the hearing to arrive, he wondered why he has not been furnished a copy of
the pleading or given additional instructions relative to the case. Atty. Bello, in the meantime;, has ceased to
communicate with him and suddenly became inaccessible. He thus toyed with the impression that he was being left
out of the case for reasons he could not then understand.20chanrobleslaw

According to respondent, he was able to get a copy of the Answer only when he was already in Naga City and it was
only then and there, while reading it, that he realized that the case was, in reality, about a nuisance candidate and that
the client he was to appear for was, indeed, a nuisance candidate. What was even more surprising to him was that the
copy of the Answer that was given to him was unsigned: neither by him nor by his supposed client. It was likewise not
50
notarized. Finding the indefensibility of his client and in order not to make matters worse, he opted to appear and just
submit the case for resolution. To prove this point, respondent alleged that all he had with him for the hearing were
only the unsigned and unnotarized Answer, the petition to declare Ebeta and Marita as nuisance candidates, his case
calendar and nothing else. Fie had not in his person any evidence whatsoever in support of the defense of his client.
Respondent added that even at this point, he had no knowledge that his supposed client "had already jumped ship."
More importantly, he did not know that her signature on the Answer was forged, precisely because the copy of the
Answer that1 was given to him was unsigned.21chanrobleslaw

Before the start of the hearing, respondent started looking for his client but she could not be found. He, nevertheless,
proceeded to the hearing for it was immaterial to him whether she was present or not as ho had already planned to
simply submit the case for resolution. Unfortunately, respondent claimed, the proceedings before the PES started as a
casual conversation with the lawyers for herein complainant and went on to a full trial, "wittingly or
unwittingly."22chanrobleslaw

Respondent admitted that, during the hearing, he acknowledged; that the signature appearing on the Answer was his.
He alleged that despite his personal aversion and objection to certain allegations in the Answer, he could not anymore
deny the signature above his printed name, even if it was only signed for and in his behalf, because he had previously
agreed, although unwillingly, that his name be signed in the pleading. It, therefore, came as a surprise to him that of all
the questions that can be asked of him during the trial, he was questioned about his signature. Belatedly he realized
that he should have objected to the line of questioning as he was being presented as an unwilling witness for therein
petitioner. However, without sufficient exposure in the legal practice and wanting of the traits of a scheming lawyer, he
failed to seasonably object to the line of questioning.23chanrobleslaw

Nevertheless, respondent vehemently denied complainant's allegation that he admitted having seen Marita sign the
document in his presence. According to him, he vividly recalls his response to the then query whether or not Marita
signed the document in his presence as: "I suppose that is her signature." Likewise, when queried further on the ideal
that the pleading should be signed by Marita in his presence as her counsel, he allegedly responded: "While it is the
ideal, sometimes we lawyers, like you and I, sign documents even if the client is not around due to our busy
schedules." He pointed out to the two lawyers of herein complainant that whether Marita signed the Answer in his
presence or not is inconsequential since he was not the notary public who notarized the Answer. He argued that his
signature pertains to the allegations in the Answer, while the signature of his client forms part of the verification and
certification and that it is the duty of the notary public to see to it that the person signing the pleading as a party is
really the person referred to in the verification/certification. 24chanrobleslaw

Finally, respondent declared that except for the modest appearance, cum transportation fees that he received, there
was no monetary consideration for handling the petition to declare Ebeta and Marita as nuisance candidates. He
explained that when the case was offered to him, it was in haste and under a tenor of urgency that the only impression
he got was that the client was well-to-do and could wage a decent campaign and was really a qualified candidate. He
repeated the words of Atty. Bello: "qualified na qualifed sya." He emphasized that all he wanted was to expand his
experience and practice as a lawyer. 25cralawredchanrobleslaw

In his report and recommendation dated 17 April 2007, Investigating Commissioner Edmund T. Espina found
respondent guilty of the charges against him and recommended that he be meted the penalty of suspension for one (1)
month. The report, in part, reads:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
It taxes the undersigned Commissioner's imagination, however, that respondent disclaims any knowledge in the above
incidents and that he was just a "willing victim" of the rather scheming tactics of a fellow lawyer, who, surprisingly he
did not even thought (sic) of running after and holding liable, even after all these charges filed against him. Be that as it
may, it cannot be denied that respondent himself had knowledge of and allowed himself to be used by whoever should
be properly held liable for these fraud and misrepresentation.

As regards the second incident, respondent argues that he could not be held guilty of forgery, misrepresentation, and
other related offenses. x x x If at all, respondent was forced to unwittingly represent an 'unwilling' client, all in the name
of accommodation. Undersigned Commissioner disagrees.

Respondent violated Rule 15.03 of Canon 15 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Respondent should have
evaluated the situation first before agreeing to be counsel for an unknown client. x x x

Undersigned Commissioner finds sufficient legal basis for disciplinary action against respondent for the various
misrepresentations and later, admissions before the COMELEC when confronted with his "supposed client", claiming
that it was Arty. Roque [sic] who merely gave him instructions and whose requests he merely accommodated. x x x
51
His shortcomings when he accepted to be a counsel for an unknown client in the COMELEC protest (first incident) is in
itself, already deplorable but to repeat the same infraction in the petition for disqualification (in the second incident)
constitutes negligence of contumacious proportions. It is even worse that respondent has attempted to mitigate his
liability by professing ignorance or innocence of the whole thing, a matter that, too, is inexcusable. Clearly, it is a lame
excuse that respondent did offer. By his own confession, he was woefully negligent. 26chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
On 19 September 2007, Resolution No. XVIII-2007-99 was passed by the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines (IBP) resolving to adopt and approve the above report and recommendation of the Investigating
Commissioner. It thereafter forwarded the report to: the Supreme Court as required under Section 12(b), Rule 139-B of
the Rules of Court.27chanrobleslaw

On 22 August 2012, the Court issued the questioned Resolution adopting the above-quoted findings of the IBP
Investigating Commissioner. The Court, however, increased the period of suspension from the recommended one (1)
month to one (1) year. The same Resolution also resolved to:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
xxxx

2. IMPLEAD Attys. Roque Bello and Carmencita A. Rous-Gonzaga in this administrative proceedings;
and cralawlawlibrary

3. REMAND the whole records of this case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for further Investigation, report and
recommendation with respect to the charges against ATTY. ROQUE BELLO and ATTY. CARMENCITA A. ROUS-
GONZAGA.
Respondent is now before us seeking a reconsideration of the aforementioned Resolution insofar as the penalty
imposed against him is concerned.

Respondent points out that from the very start, he had been very candid as to the factual backdrop of the present
case. He never denied that he should have evaluated the situation first before agreeing to be a counsel for an
unknown client. He does not refute, nor does he argue against, the finding of the Commission on Bar Discipline that he
was remiss in his duties as a lawyer when he accommodated the requests of a fellow lawyer to represent an unknown
client. However, respondent argues, such negligence is not the negligence "of contumacious proportions" warranting
the imposition of the penalty of suspension. Likewise, such negligence is not tantamount to having knowledge of the
alleged fraud and misrepresentation, for the simple reason that he did not know the details of the election case until its
hearing on 23 January 2004 in Naga City. He maintains that if such fraud and misrepresentation really exists, his "only
fault was that he allowed himself to be duped to unwittingly represent an 'unwilling' client, all in the name of
accommodation."
Our Ruling

We find respondent's motion for reconsideration partially meritorious.

Considering the serious consequences of the disbarment or the suspension of a member of the Bar, clear
preponderant evidence is necessary to justify the imposition of the said administrative penalties 28 and the burden of
proof rests upon the complaint.29 "Preponderance of the evidence means that the evidence adduced by one side is, as
a whole, superior to or has a greater weight than that of the other. It means evidence which is more convincing to the
court as worthy of belief compared to the presented contrary evidence." 30 In the case at bar, complainant failed to
present clear and preponderant evidence in support of his claim that respondent "knowingly" handled a case involving
conflict of interest, "knowingly" alleged untruths in pleadings, and that he "intentionally" committed misrepresentation
and falsification.

In connection with the first incident, complainant alleged that respondent perpetrated acts constituting intentional
misrepresentation and knowingly handling a case involving conflict of interest when he appeared as counsel for Mayor
Velarde in the COMELEC case. Rule 15.03 of Canon 15 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides that "[a]
lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests except by written consent of all concerned given after a full disclosure of
the facts." Jurisprudence has provided three tests in determining whether a violation of this rule is present in a given
case, to wit:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
One test is whether a lawyer is duty-bound to fight for an issue or claim in behalf of one client and, at the same time, to
oppose that claim for the other client. Thus, if a lawyer's argument for one client has to be opposed by that same
lawyer in arguing for the other client, there is a violation of the rule.

Another test of inconsistency of interest is whether the acceptance of a new relation would prevent the full discharge of
the lawyer's duty of undivided fidelity and loyalty to the client or invite suspicion of unfaithfulness or double-dealing in
52
the performance of that duty. Still another test is whether the lawyer would be called upon in the new relation to use
against a former client any confidential information acquired through their connection or previous
employment.31 (Emphasis omitted)
Based on the foregoing criteria, there must be a previous lawyer-client relationship in order for the liability to attach.
Clearly, respondent cannot be held liable under any of the three aforementioned tests because he was never a
counsel for either party in the COMELEC case prior to the filing of the said action. Complainant, however, would have
us believe that respondent is the "furtive" or "clandestine" partner of Atty. Bello so as to justify his accusation that
respondent is guilty of representing conflicting interests. Complainant, however, failed to present sufficient evidence in
support of his allegation. The mere fact that respondent agreed to handle a case for Atty. Bello does not - alone -
prove that they are indeed partners. This Court is inclined to give more weight and credence to the explanation
proffered by respondent: that is, he accepted the case without being fully aware of the real facts and circumstances
surrounding it. His narration is straightforward enough to be worthy of belief, especially considering that he withdrew
from the case after he realized its true nature, as evidenced by the "Withdrawal as Counsel"32 he filed before the
COMELEC.

With respect to the charge of intentional misrepresentation, complainant failed to specify which act of respondent
constituted the alleged offense. If the alleged misrepresentation pertains to the act of respondent of signing the
pleading prepared by Atty. Bello, we do not agree with complainant and the same cannot be considered as
misrepresentation since respondent specified in his Comment that he read the pleading before he affixed his signature
thereto. He was, therefore, aware of the statements contained in the pleading and his act of signing the same signifies
that he agreed to the allegations therein contained. On the other hand, if the misrepresentation alleged by complainant
refers to the allegations in the pleading filed by respondent before the COMELEC, again, it cannot be said that there
was "intentional" misrepresentation on the part of respondent since, as admitted by respondent and as complainant
himself asserted, the allegations therein contained were supplied by Atty. Bello, which allegations, at that time the
pleading was signed, respondent did not know were inaccurate. As pointed out above, as soon as the true nature of
the situation revealed itself, respondent withdrew from the case.

Regarding the second incident, complainant claimed that, in connection with the petition to declare Marita as a
nuisance candidate, respondent committed falsification and knowingly alleged untruths, not only in Marita's Verified
Answer to the disqualification case against her, but during the hearing of the case, as well. As with the first incident,
respondent maintained that he accepted the case without being fully aware of the circumstances relative thereto, this
time because of the insistence and urgency with which Atty. Bello made the request.

We earlier noted respondent's candor in explaining his cause. His candidness about the events leading to this
administrative complaint against him is demonstrated by the following declarations he made: (1) having agreed to have
his name signed in the pleading on his behalf, he cannot now deny the signature above his printed name; 33 (2) he
believed the assurances of his fellow lawyers (counsels for herein complainant) that whatever may have been said in
confidence between them will not be revealed to anybody for whatever reason; 34 and (3) he failed to seasonably object
to the line of questioning relative to his signature on Marita's Answer, thereby incriminating himself and making him an
unwilling witness for the opposing party, because of his insufficient experience in the legal practice and as a result of
his lack of the traits of a scheming lawyer. 35 These straightforward statements, coupled with the legal presumption that
he is innocent of the charges against him until the contrary is proven,36 keep us from treating respondent's proffered
explanation as an indication of mendacity.37 This Court is, therefore, compelled to give him the benefit of the doubt and
apply in his favor the presumption that he acted in good faith, especially considering the failure of complainant to
present clear and convincing evidence in support of his allegations.

Thus, with respect to the charge that respondent "knowingly" alleged untruths in the supposed Verified Answer of
Marita, he admitted that

Marita's Answer was prepared by Atty. Bello, whom respondent likewise authorized to sign his name on the pleading
on his behalf. This statement was corroborated by complainant himself when he alleged in his petition for disbarment
that "Atty. John Reyes admitted to the two counsels of then candidate Teodoro Cruz, Jr. x x x that the Answer was
merely passed to him by Atty. Bello already signed and notarized." Consequently, respondent cannot be held liable for
"knowingly" alleging untruths for the simple reason that the allegations in the Answer were not supplied by him.

Neither can respondent be held guilty of falsification in connection with the forged signature of Marita. "The basic rule
is that mere allegation is not evidence and is not equivalent to proof. Charges based on mere suspicion and
speculation likewise cannot be given credence."38 Complainant merely alleged that Marita's signature in the Answer
"was forged either by Attorney Roque Bello or respondent x x x"39 and that respondent falsified or caused the
falsification of the signature because "he is the one who presented the same to the COMELEC, hence, presumed to be
53
the one who falsified the same."40 Other than this presumption and bare allegation, complainant has not adduced any
proof in support thereof. As a result, this Court cannot give any merit to his accusation.

The same is true in connection with complainant's allegation that respondent falsely testified and made
misrepresentations during the nuisance candidate case hearing before the PES by manifesting that he is the lawyer of
Marita, that the allegations in the Answer were supplied by Marita and that Marita was in his office when she signed
the Answer's verification. Apart from his allegations, complainant has not presented any evidence, as for instance, the
Transcript of Stenographic Notes (TSN) of the proceedings, to prove that respondent indeed made the statements
attributed to him and to enable this Court to properly evaluate the transgressions ascribed to respondent.

It is well to note that respondent vehemently denied having admitted seeing Marita sign the Verification before his
presence in his office in Quezon City. He insisted that his response, when queried about Marita's signature, was that:
"I suppose that is her signature." This Court finds it unreasonable - illogical, even - that after having admitted the
blunders he committed in this case, he would now deny this particular circumstance, unless he was in fact telling the
truth. In any case, as explained by respondent, it is of no moment whether or not he saw Marita sign the Verification
since he was not the notary public who notarized the Answer. Respondent's signature in the Answer refers to the
allegations therein, whereas the signature of Marita forms part of the Verification which states that "she has caused the
preparation of the foregoing Answer and has read the contents thereof which are true and correct of her own personal
knowledge." Respondent is, therefore, correct when he pointed out that it is the responsibility of the notary public
administering the oath to make sure that the signature in the Verification really belongs to the person who executed the
same.

It must be emphasized that "the Court exercises its disciplinary power only if the complainant establishes [his] case by
clear, convincing, and satisfactory evidence. x x x When the pieces of evidence of the parties are evenly balanced or
when doubt exists on the preponderance of evidence, the equipoise rule dictates that the decision be against the party
carrying the burden of proof."41chanrobleslaw

The foregoing notwithstanding, it cannot be said that respondent has no liability at all under the circumstances. His
folly, though, consists in his negligence in accepting the subject cases without first being fully apprised of and
evaluating the circumstances surrounding them. We, nevertheless, agree with respondent that such negligence is not
of contumacious proportions as to warrant the imposition of the penalty of suspension. This Court find the penalty of
suspension for one (1) year earlier imposed on respondent too harsh and not proportionate to the offense committed.
"The power to disbar or suspend must be exercised with great caution. Only in a clear case of misconduct that
seriously affects the standing and character of the lawyer as an officer of the Court and member of the bar will
disbarment or suspension be imposed as a penalty."42 The penalty to be meted out on an errant lawyer depends on
the exercise of sound judicial discretion taking into consideration the facts surrounding each case. 43chanrobleslaw

In this connection, the following circumstances should be taken into consideration in order to mitigate respondent's
responsibility: first respondent exhibited enough candor to admit that he was negligent and remiss in his duties as a
lawyer when he accommodated the request of another lawyer to handle a case without being first apprised of the
details and acquainted with the circumstances relative thereto; and second, since this is his first offense, respondent
"is entitled to some measure of forbearance."44chanrobleslaw

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, respondent's Motion for Reconsideration is PARTIALLY GRANTED. The Resolution
of the Court dated 22 August 2012 is hereby modified in that respondent Atty, John G. Reyes is REPRIMANDED for
his failure to exercise the necessary prudence required in the practice of the legal profession. He is
further WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar acts shall be dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Velasco, Jr., (Chairperson), Peralta, Reyes, and Jardeleza, JJ., concur.

15.Reyes vs. Nieva

Carrie-Anne Shaleen Caryle Reyes Vs. Atty. Ramon F. Nieva; A.C. No. 8560; September 6, 2016
DECISION
PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

54
For the Court’s resolution is the Complaint1 dated March 3, 2010 filed by complainant Carrie-Anne Shaleen Carlyle S.
Reyes (complainant) against respondent Atty. Ramon F. Nieva (respondent), praying that the latter be disbarred for
sexually harassing her.
The Facts
Complainant alleged that she has been working at the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) as an
Administrative Aide on a Job Order basis since October 2004. Sometime in January 2009, she was reassigned at the
CAAP Office of the Board Secretary under the supervision of respondent, who was then acting as CAAP Acting Board
Secretary. During complainant’s stint under respondent, she would notice that during office hours, respondent would
often watch ”pampagana” videos saved in his office laptop, all of which turned out to be pornographic films.
Complainant also averred that whenever respondent got close to her, he would hold her hand and would sometimes
give it a kiss. During these instances, complainant would remove her hands and tell him to desist. According to
complainant, respondent even offered her a cellular phone together with the necessary load to serve as means for
their private communication, but she refused the said offer, insisting that she already has her own cellular phone and
does not need another one. 2
Complainant also narrated that at about 5 o’clock in the afternoon of April 1, 2009, respondent texted her to wait for
him at the office. Fearing that respondent might take advantage of her, complainant convinced two (2) of her
officemates to accompany her until respondent arrived. Upon respondent’s arrival and seeing that complainant had
companions, he just told complainant and the other two (2) office staff to lock the door when they leave. 3
Complainant further recounted that on the following day, April 2, 2009, respondent called her on her cellular phone,
asked if she received his text message, and told her he would tell her something upon his arrival at the office. At about
9:30 in the morning of even date, respondent asked complainant to encode a memorandum he was about to dictate.
Suddenly, respondent placed his hand on complainant’s waist area near her breast and started caressing the latter’s
torso. Complainant immediately moved away from respondent and told him “sumosobra na ho kayo sir.” Instead of
asking for an apology, respondent told complainant he was willing to give her P2,000.00 a month from his own pocket
and even gave her a note stating “just bet (between) you and me, x x x kahit na si mommy,” referring to complainant’s
mother who was also working at CAAP. At around past 11 o’clock in the morning of the same day, while complainant
and respondent were left alone in the office, respondent suddenly closed the door, grabbed complainant’s arm, and
uttered “let’s seal it with a kiss,” then attempted to kiss complainant. This prompted complainant to thwart respondent’s
advances with her left arm, raised her voice in order to invite help, and exclaimed “wag naman kayo ganyan sir, yung
asawa nyo magagalit, sir may asawa ako.” After respondent let her go, complainant immediately left the office to ask
assistance from her former supervisor who advised her to file an administrative case 4 against respondent before the
CAAP Committee on Decorum and Investigation (CODI).5
Finally, complainant alleged that after her ordeal with respondent, she was traumatized and was even diagnosed by a
psychiatrist to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder with recurrent major depression. 6 Eventually,
complainant filed the instant complaint.
In his defense,7 respondent denied all of complainant’s allegations. He maintained that as a 79-year old retiree who
only took a position at the CAAP on a consultancy basis, it was very unlikely for him to do the acts imputed against
him, especially in a very small office space allotted for him and his staff. In this regard, he referred to his Counter-
Affidavit 8 submitted before the CODI, wherein he explained, inter alia, that: (a) while he indeed watches “interesting
shows” in his office laptop, he never invited anyone, including complainant, to watch with him and that he would even
close his laptop whenever someone comes near him; 9 ( b) he never held and kissed complainant’s hand because if
he had done so, he would have been easily noticed by complainant’s co-staffers; 10 (c) he did offer her a cellular
phone, but this was supposed to be an office phone which should not be used for personal purposes, and thus, could
not be given any sexual meaning; 11 (d) he did tell complainant to wait for him in the afternoon of April 1, 2009, but
only for the purpose of having an available encoder should he need one for any urgent matter that would arise; 12 and
( e) he would not do the acts he allegedly committed on April 2, 2009 as there were other people in the
office and that those people can attest in his favor. 13 Respondent then pointed out that the administrative case filed
against him before the CODI was already dismissed for lack of basis and that complainant was only being used by
other CAAP employees who were agitated by the reforms he helped implement upon his assumption as CAAP
consultant and eventually as Acting Corporate Board Secretary. 14
The IBP’s Report and Recommendation
In a Report and Recommendation 15 dated August 14, 2012, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Investigating
Commissioner recommended the dismissal of the instant administrative complaint against respondent. 16 He found
that complainant failed to substantiate her allegations against respondent, as opposed to respondent’s defenses which
are ably supported by evidence. Citing respondent’s evidence, the Investigating Commissioner opined that since the
CAAP Office of the Board Secretary was very small, it is implausible that a startling occurrence such as an attempted
55
sexual molestation would not be noticed by not only the other occupants of said office area, but also by those
occupying the office adjacent to it, i.e., the CAAP Operations Center, which is separated only by glass panels. Further,
the Investigating Commissioner drew attention to the investigation conducted by the CODI showing that the collective
sworn statements of the witnesses point to the eventual conclusion that none of the alleged acts of misconduct
attributed to respondent really occurred. 17
In a Resolution 18 dated May 10, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors (IBP Board) unanimously reversed the aforesaid
Report and Recommendation. As such, respondent was found guilty of committing sexual advances, and accordingly,
recommended that he be suspended from the practice of law for three (3) months.
In view of respondent’s Motion for Reconsideration, 19 the IBP Board
referred the case to the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) for
study, evaluation, and submission of an Executive Summary to the IBP
Board.20
In the Director’s Report21 dated July 8, 2014, the IBP-CBD National Director recommended that the current IBP Board
adhere to the report and recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner as it is supported by the evidence on
record; on the other hand, the reversal made by the previous IBP Board is bereft of any factual and legal bases, and
should therefore, be set aside. In this light, the current IBP Board issued a Resolution22 dated August 10, 2014 setting
aside the previous IBP Board’s Resolution, and accordingly, dismissed the administrative complaint against
respondent.
The Issue Before the Court
The essential issue in this case is whether or not respondent should be held administratively liable for violating the
Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR).
The Court’s Ruling
Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the CPR provides:
CANON 1 – A lawyer shall uphold the constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect for law and legal
processes.
Rule 1.01 -A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.
The provision instructs that “[a]s officers of the court, lawyers are bound to maintain not only a high standard of legal
proficiency, but also of morality, honesty, integrity, and fair dealing.”23
In similar light, Rule 7.03, Canon 7 of the CPR states:
CANON 7 – A lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession and support the activities
of the Integrated Bar.
xx xx
Rule 7.03 -A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor shall he,
whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession. Good moral
character is a trait that every practicing lawyer is required to possess. It may be defined as “what a person really is, as
distinguished from good reputation, or from the opinion generally entertained of him, or the estimate in which he is held
by the public in the place where he is known. Moral character is not a subjective term but one which corresponds to
objective reality.” 24 Such requirement has four (4) ostensible purposes, namely: (a) to protect the public; ( b) to
protect the public image of lawyers; ( c) to protect prospective clients; and ( d) to protect errant lawyers from
themselves. 25
In Valdez v. Dabon,26 the Court emphasized that a lawyer’s continued possession of good moral character is a
requisite condition to remain a member of the Bar, viz.:
Lawyers have been repeatedly reminded by the Court that possession of good moral character is both a condition
precedent and a continuing requirement to warrant admission to the Bar and to retain membership in the legal
profession. This proceeds from the lawyer’s bounden duty to observe the highest degree of morality in order to
safeguard the Bar’s integrity, and the legal profession exacts from its members nothing less. Lawyers are called upon
to safeguard the integrity of the Bar, free from misdeeds and acts constitutive of malpractice. Their exalted positions as
officers of the court demand no less than the highest degree of morality.
The Court explained in Arnobit v. Atty. Arnobit that “as officers of the court, lawyers must not only in fact be of good
moral character but must also be seen to be of good moral character and leading lives in accordance with the highest
moral standards of the community. A member of the bar and an officer of the court is not only required to refrain from

56
adulterous relationships or keeping a mistress but must also behave himself so as to avoid scandalizing the public by
creating the impression that he is flouting those moral standards.” Consequently, any errant behavior of the lawyer, be
it in his public or private activities, which tends to show deficiency in moral character, honesty, probity or good
demeanor, is sufficient to warrant suspension or disbarment. 27 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
Verily, 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 their good standing in this exclusive and honored fraternity. They may be
suspended from the practice of law or disbarred for any misconduct, even if it pertains to his private activities, as long
as it shows him to be wanting in moral character, honesty, probity or good demeanor. 28
After due consideration, the Court reverses the findings and recommendations of the IBP, and finds respondent
administratively liable for violations of the CPR, as will be explained hereunder.
To recapitulate, the IBP found that as compared to complainant’s purposedly bare and uncorroborated allegations,
respondent’s evidence point to the conclusion that none of the alleged sexual advances made by respondent against
complainant actually occurred. As such, it absolved respondent from any administrative liability. In support of such
finding, the IBP largely relied on the following: (a) the five (5) photographs 29 respondent submitted to the CODI to
show that respondent’s office space was so small that any commotion caused by a sexual harassment attempt would
have been easily noticed by the other occupants thereof; 30 and (b) the investigation conducted by the CODI per the
Transcript31 submitted by respondent where the witnesses said that they did not notice anything out of the ordinary on
April 2, 2009, the date when respondent’s alleged sexual advances against complainant were committed. 32 However,
the foregoing evidence, taken as a whole, did not actually refute complainant’s allegation that at around past 11 o’clock
in the morning of April 2, 2009, respondent closed the door, grabbed complainant’s right arm, uttered the words “let’s
seal it with a kiss” and attempted to kiss complainant despite the latter’s resistance.
A careful perusal of the aforesaid Transcript shows that at around past 11 o’clock in the morning of April 2, 2009, there
was a time that complainant and respondent were indeed left alone in the office:
Mr. Mendoza: Ngayon, puwede mo bang idescribe sa amin nung 9:30 to 11 :00 sinu-sino kayo doon?
Witness 1: Tatlo (3) lang kami sir po dun. Si Ma’am Carrie Anne [complainant], si sir Nieva [respondent] tsaka aka po.
Mr. Mendoza: So ikaw lang ang witness, ang taong naroon 9:30 to 11?
Witness 1: Yes sir.
xx xx
Mr. Mendoza: Saan kayo kumakain ng lunch?
Witness 1: Sa loob po kami naglulunch.
Mr. Mendoza: Pag nag-order ng pagkain minsan may natitira pa bang iba?
Witness 1: Itong po yung dalawa yung natira nung umalis po ako. Um … pagbalik ko po wala na po si Ma’am Caan
[complainant] si Ma’am Amy nalang po ang nandoon.
Mr. Mendoza: So siya [complainant] nalang at tsaka si Atty. Nieva [respondent] ang naiwan doon sa room? Eh nasaan
na yung ibang OJT pa?
Witness 1: Tatlo lang po kasi kami nun sir, nasa Land Bank po yung
dalawa.
Mr. Mendoza: So nasa Land Bank sila. So totoong may nangyari na dalawa lang ang naiwan sa kuwarto?
Witness 1: Opo nung mga quarter to 12 siguro po nun.
Mr. Mendoza: Ilang beses na may nangyayaring ganun na silang naiiwan doon sa kuwarto?
Witness 1: Yun lang po kasi yung natatandaan ko po sir na time na naiwan sila eh.
xx xx
Mr. Abesamis: Umalis ka sa room para bumili ng pagkain nandoon si Atty. Nieva [respondent]?
Witness 1: Andoon pa po silang dalawa [complainant and respondent]. Pero tapos na po silang magtype nun tas nag
decide na maglunch na eh.
Mr. Abesamis: Saan? Sino ang naiwan?

57
Witness 1: Dalawa pa lang sila sir pagbalik ko tatlo na sila pero wala naman po si Ma’am Caan [complainant]. Nung
umalis po aka si sir Nieva [respondent] tsaka si Ma’am Caan yung nandoon then pagbalik ko po wala na si Ma’am
Caan, si sir Nieva tsaka silang dalawa na po yung nandoon.
Mr. Abesamis: Ok. So wala na silang kasamang iba?
Witness 1: Opo. 33
The same Transcript also reveals that the CODI interviewed the occupants of the adjacent office, i.e., the CAAP
Operations Center, which, according to the IBP Investigating Commissioner, was only separated from complainant and
respondent’s office, i.e. the CAAP Office of the Board Secretary, by glass panels. Pertinent parts of the interview read:
Mr. Borja: Nung oras ng mga alas onse (11) pagitan ng alas onse (11) hanggang alas dose (12), nasaan ka joy
[Witness 4]?
Witness 4: Andun po sa ORCC [CAAP Operations Center].
Mr. Borja: Si ano naman Donna [Witness 5] ganun din? Kasi sinasabi dito noong bandang ganung oras past eleven
(11) parang nag-advance yata si Atty. Nieva [respondent] kay Ms. Reyes (Caan) [complainant] ngayon nung
chinachansingan siya parang ganun ang dating eh “I raised up my voice also, so that the OPCEN personnel will hear
of the alann” may narinig ba kayo na sumigaw siya?
Witness 4: Eh kasi sir wala pong braket yun yung time na ano yung RPCC
764 so nag-cocoordinate kami …
Mr. Borja: Ano yung 764?
Witness 4: Yung sa Tuguegarao yung nawawala siya so may alerfa tapos
ditressfa so intransi po kami … opo …
Mr. Borja: So busing-busy ka sa telepono?
Witness 4: Opo lahat kami.
Mr. Borja: Pati ikaw?
Witness 5: Opo.
Mr. Borja: Sinong walang ginagawa nun?
Witness 4: Wala kasi kanya-kanya kami ng coordination lahat kami nasa telepono.
Mr. Borja: Kaya kapag kumakalampag yung pader [sa] kabila hindi niyo maririnig?
Witness 4: Hindi siguro sir kasi kung nakasara din sila ng pinto tapos kanya-kanya kaming may kausap sa telepono
eh.
Mr. Borja: Kung hindi kayo nakikipag-usap ngayon wala kayong ginagawa, narinig niyo ang usapan doon sa kabila.
Witness 5: Yes sir.
Atty. Gloria: Lalo na pag malakas.
Mr. Borja: Pag malakas pero therein normal voice fang level.
Witness 4: Kasi minsan malakas din yung radio nila eh. Kung minsan kasi sir may mga music sila. Eto sir yung time na
kinuha … Dami nila eh … Lumabas nakita naming mga ano mga 10:45 na yan nabasa sir.
Mr. Borja: Pero ang pinag-uusapan natin lagpas ng alas onse (11) ha bago mag-alas dose (12) ang pinaka latest
message mo dito 02103106, 11 :06. So between 11:06 to 12 wala kayong …
Witness 4: Kasi nakikipag-coordination talaga kami kahit … kami lang nandoon sa telepono.
Mr. Borja: Written pero voice coordination niyo sa telepono kayo?
Witness 4: Tsaka naka log-in sa log book.
xx xx
Mr. Abesamis: Ma’am Joy [Witness 4] sabi niyo kanina naririnig niyo si sir [respondent] sa kabila kung wala kayong
kausap lalong-lalo na kapag malakas yung salita?
Witness 4: Opo.

58
Mr. Abesamis: So ibig sabihin kahit hindi malakas may possibility na maririnig niyo yung usapan kung walang radio?
Siguro if intelligible or knowledgeable pero maririnig mo sa kabila?
Witness 4: Kung mahina o normal yung usapan?
Mr. Abesamis: Normal na usapan, conversation.
Witness 4: Hindi siguro pag sarado sila.
Mr. Abesamis: Pero kung halimbawa sisigaw?
Witness 4: Maririnig siguro kasi kapag nagdidictate si Attorney [respondent] minsan naririnig namin.
Mr. Mendoza: Maski sarado yung pinto?
Witness 4: Ah opo.
Mr. Mendoza: Naririnig?
Witness 4: Kung malakas.
Mr. Mendoza: Ah kung malakas?
Witness 4: Opo.
Mr. Abesamis: So wala kayong naririnig man Zang kahit isang word na malakas doon sa kanila during the time na
nangyari ito?
Witness 4: Nung time na iyan wala kasi kaming maalala …
Mr. Abesamis: Walang possibility na narinig niyo pero mas busy kayo sa telephone operation.
Witness 4: Busy kami.
Mr. Abesamis: Hindi makikilatis yung ano …
Witness 4: Kasi may time na sumigaw na babae nga pero kala lang namin ah …
Mr. Abesamis: Nung date na iyon o hindi?
Witness 4: Hindi, hindi pa sigurado eh kasi …
Mr. Abesamis: Hindi yung date bang iyon ang sinasabi mo?
Witness 4: Hindi kasi busy talaga kami sa coordination nung ano eh nung time na iyon. Nasabay kasi eh nung time na
iyon hinahanap pa namin yung requirement.
Mr. Mendoza: Pero bago yung bago mag April 2, meron ba kayo na tuligan na nag-aanuhan ng ganun, nagrereklamo
tungkol kay Atty. Nieva [respondent], wala? May narinig kayong movie na parang sounding na porno ganun?
Witness 4: Wala music lang talaga sir.
Mr. Mendoza: So music.
Witness 4: Kung minsan kasi binubuksan nila yung door pag mainit yung kuwarto nila.
Mr. Borja: At that time hindi bukas iyon?
Witness 4: Kami ano eh may cover ng ano cartolina na white.
Mr. Borja: Makakatestify lang kayo sa audio eh, kasi wala kayong
nakikita. 34
The above-cited excerpts of the Transcript show that at around past 11 o’clock in the morning of April 2, 2009,
complainant and respondent were left alone in the CAAP Office of the Board Secretary as complainant’s officemates
were all out on errands. In this regard, it was error on the part of the IBP to hastily conclude from the testimonies of
complainant’s officemates who were interviewed by the CODI that nothing out of the ordinary happened. Surely, they
were not in a position to confirm or refute complainant’s allegations as they were not physically in the office so as to
make a credible testimony as to the events that transpired therein during that time.
Neither can the testimonies of those in the CAAP Operations Center be used to conclude that respondent did not do
anything to complainant, considering that they themselves admitted that they were all on the telephone, busy with their
coordinating duties. They likewise clarified that while their office is indeed separated from the CAAP Office of the
Board Secretary only by glass panels, they could not see what was happening there as they covered the glass panels
59
with white cartolina. In light of their preoccupation from their official duties as well as the fact that the glass panels were
covered, it is very unlikely for them to have noticed any commotion happening in the adjacent CAAP Office of the
Board Secretary.
Furthermore, the IBP should have taken the testimonies of the witnesses in the CODI proceedings with a grain of salt.
It bears noting that all those interviewed in the CODI proceedings were job order and regular employees of the CAAP.
Naturally, they would be cautious in giving any unfavorable statements against a high-ranking official of the CAAP –
such as respondent who was the Acting Board Secretary at that time – lest they earn the ire of such official and put
their career in jeopardy.
Thus, the IBP erred in concluding that such Transcript shows that respondent did not perform the acts complained of.
On the contrary, said Transcript proves that there was indeed a period of time where complainant and respondent
were left alone in the CAAP Office of the Board Secretary which gave respondent a window of opportunity to carry out
his acts constituting sexual harassment against complainant.
More importantly, records reveal that complainant’s allegations are adequately supported by a Certificate of Psychiatric
Evaluation35 dated April 13, 2009 stating that the onset of her psychiatric problems – diagnosed as post-traumatic
stress disorder with recurrent major depression – started after suffering the alleged sexual molestation at the hands of
respondent. Moreover, complainant’s plight was ably supported by other CAAP employees36 as well as a retired
Brigadier General of the Armed Forces of the Philippines 37 through various letters to authorities seeking justice for
complainant. Perceptibly, complainant would not seek help from such supporters, and risk their integrity in the process,
if none of her allegations were true. Besides, there is no evidence to establish that complainant was impelled by any
improper motive against respondent or that she had reasons to fabricate her allegations against him. Therefore,
absent any competent proof to the contrary, the Court finds that complainant’s story of the April 2, 2009 incident was
not moved by any ill-will and was untainted by bias; and hence, worthy of belief and credence. 38 In this regard, it
should be mentioned that respondent’s averment that complainant was only being used by other CAAP employees to
get back at him for implementing reforms within the CAAP was plainly unsubstantiated, and thus, a mere self-serving
assertion that deserves no weight in law.39
In addition, the Court notes that respondent never refuted complainant’s allegation that he would regularly watch
“pampagana” movies in his office-issued laptop. In fact, respondent readily admitted that he indeed watches
“interesting shows” while in the office, albeit insisting that he only does so by himself, and that he would immediately
close his laptop whenever anyone would pass by or go near his table. As confirmed in the Transcript 40 of the
investigation conducted by the CODI, these “pampagana” movies and “interesting shows” turned out to be
pornographic materials, which respondent even asks his male staff to regularly play for him as he is not well-versed in
using computers.41
Without a doubt, it has been established that respondent habitually watches pornographic materials in his office-issued
laptop while inside the office premises, during office hours, and with the knowledge and full view of his staff. Obviously,
the Court cannot countenance such audacious display of depravity on respondent’s part not only because his obscene
habit tarnishes the reputation of the government agency he works for – the CAAP where he was engaged at that time
as Acting Corporate Secretary – but also because it shrouds the legal profession in a negative light. As a lawyer in the
government service, respondent is expected to perform and discharge his duties with the highest degree of excellence,
professionalism, intelligence, and skill, and with utmost devotion and dedication to duty.42 However, his aforesaid
habit miserably fails to showcase these standards, and instead, displays sheer unprofessionalism and utter lack of
respect to the government position he was entrusted to hold. His flimsy excuse that he only does so by himself and
that he would immediately close his laptop whenever anyone would pass by or come near his table is of no moment,
because the lewdness of his actions, within the setting of this case, remains. The legal profession – much more an
engagement in the public service – should always be held in high esteem, and those who belong within its ranks
should be unwavering exemplars of integrity and professionalism. As keepers of the public faith, lawyers, such as
respondent, are burdened with a high degree of social responsibility and, hence, must handle their personal affairs
with greater caution. Indeed, those who have taken the oath to assist in the dispensation of justice should be more
possessed of the consciousness and the will to overcome the weakness of the flesh, as respondent in this case. 43
In the Investigating Commissioner’s Report and Recommendation adopted by the IBP Board of Governors, the
quantum of proof by which the charges against respondent were assessed was preponderance of evidence.
Preponderance of evidence “means evidence which is of greater weight, or more convincing than that which is offered
in opposition to it.”44 Generally, under Rule 133 of the Revised Rules on Evidence, this evidentiary threshold applies
to civil cases:
SECTION 1. Preponderance of evidence, how determined. – In civil cases, the party having the burden of proof must
establish his case by a preponderance of evidence. In determining where the preponderance or superior weight of
evidence on the issues involved lies, the court may consider all the facts and circumstances of the case, the witnesses’
60
manner of testifying, their intelligence, their means and opportunity of knowing the facts to which they are testifying,
the nature of the facts to which they testify, the probability or improbability of their testimony, their interest or want of
interest, and also their personal credibility so far as the same may legitimately appear upon the trial. The court may
also consider the number of witnesses, though the preponderance is not necessarily with the greater number.
(Emphasis supplied)
Nonetheless, in non-civil cases such as De Zuzuarregui, Jr. v. Soguilon 45 cited by the IBP Investigating
Commissioner, the Court had pronounced that the burden of proof by preponderance of evidence in disbarment
proceedings is upon the complainant. 46 These rulings appear to conflict with other jurisprudence on the matter which
contrarily hold that substantial evidence is the quantum of proof to be applied in administrative cases against lawyers.
47 The latter standard was applied in administrative cases such as Foster v. Agtang,48 wherein the Court had, in fact,
illumined that:
[T]he quantum of evidence required in civil cases is different from the quantum of evidence required in administrative
cases. In civil cases, preponderance of evidence is required. Preponderance of evidence is “a phrase which, in the last
analysis, means probability of the truth. It is evidence which is more convincing to the court as worthier of belief than
that which is offered in opposition thereto.” In administrative cases, only substantial evidence is needed. Substantial
evidence, which is more than a mere scintilla but is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion, would suffice to hold one administratively liable.49 (Emphasis supplied; citations
omitted)
Similarly, in Pena v. Paterno,50 it was held:
Section 5, in [comparison with] Sections 1 [(Preponderance of evidence, how proved)] and 2 [(Proof beyond
reasonable doubt)], Rule 133, Rules of Court states that in administrative cases, only substantial evidence is required,
not proof beyond reasonable doubt as in criminal cases, or preponderance of evidence as in civil cases. Substantial
evidence is that amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a
conclusion.51 (Emphasis supplied; citations omitted)
Based on a survey of cases, the recent ruling on the matter is Cabas v. Sususco,52 which was promulgated just this
June 15, 2016. In the said case, it was pronounced that:
In administrative proceedings, the quantum of proof necessary for a finding of guilt is substantial evidence, i.e., that
amount of relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Further, the
complainant has the burden of proving by substantial evidence the allegations in his complaint. The basic rule is that
mere allegation is not evidence and is not equivalent to proof. Charges based on mere suspicion and speculation
likewise cannot be given credence. “53 (Emphasis supplied)
Accordingly, this more recent pronouncement ought to control and therefore, quell any further confusion on the proper
evidentiary threshold to be applied in administrative cases against lawyers.
Besides, the evidentiary threshold of substantial evidence – as opposed to preponderance of evidence – is more in
keeping with the primordial purpose of and essential considerations attending this type of cases. As case law
elucidates, “[ d]isciplinary proceedings against lawyers are sui generis. Neither purely civil nor purely criminal, they do
not involve a trial of an action or a suit, but is rather an investigation by the Court into the conduct of one of its officers.
Not being intended to inflict punishment, it is in no sense a criminal prosecution. Accordingly, there is neither a plaintiff
nor a prosecutor therein. It may be initiated by the Court motu proprio. Public interest is its primary objective, and the
real question for determination is whether or not the attorney is still a fit person to be allowed the privileges as such.
Hence, in the exercise of its disciplinary powers, the Court merely calls upon a member of the Bar to account for his
actuations as an officer of the Court with the end in view of preserving the purity of the legal profession and the proper
and honest administration of justice by purging the profession of members who by their misconduct have proved
themselves no longer worthy to be entrusted with the duties and responsibilities pertaining to the office of an attorney.
In such posture, there can thus be no occasion to speak of a complainant or a prosecutor.”54
With the proper application of the substantial evidence threshold having been clarified, the Court finds that the present
charges against respondent have been adequately proven by this standard. Complainant has established her claims
through relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion – that is, that
respondent had harassed her and committed despicable acts which are clear ethical violations of the CPR. In fine,
respondent should be held administratively liable and therefore, penalized.
Jurisprudence provides that in similar administrative cases where the lawyer exhibited immoral conduct, the Court
meted penalties ranging from reprimand to disbarment. In Advincula v. Macabata, 55 the lawyer was reprimanded for
his distasteful act of suddenly turning the head of his female client towards him and kissing her on the lips. In De Leon
v. Pedrena, 56 the lawyer was suspended from the practice of law for a period of two (2) years for rubbing the female

61
complainant’s right leg with his hand, trying to insert his finger into her firmly closed hand, grabbing her hand and
forcibly placed it on his crotch area, and pressing his finger against her private part. While in Guevarra v. Eala57 and
Valdez v. Dahan, 58 the Court meted the extreme penalty of disbarment on the erring lawyers who engaged in
extramarital affairs. Here, respondent exhibited his immoral behavior through his habitual watching of pornographic
materials while in the office and his acts of sexual harassment against complainant. Considering the circumstances of
this case, the Court deems it proper to impose upon respondent the penalty of suspension from the practice of law for
a period of two (2) years.
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Ramon F. Nieva is found GUILTY of violating Rule 1.01, Canon 1, and Rule 7.03,
Canon 7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Accordingly, he is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law
for a period of two (2) years, effective upon the finality of this Decision, with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of
the same or similar acts will be dealt with more severely.
Let copies of this Decision be served on the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and all
courts in the country for their information and guidance and be attached to respondent’s personal record as attorney.
SO ORDERED.
Sereno, C. J., (Chairperson), Carpio, Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Del Castillo, Perez,
Mendoza, Reyes, Leonen, Jardeleza, and Caguioa, JJ.,concur.
Brion, J., on official leave.

16.Flores-Salado vs. Villanueva

EN BANC
A.C. No. 11099, September 27, 2016
LILY FLORES-SALADO, MINDA FLORES LURA, AND FE V. FLORES, Complainants, v. ATTY. ROMAN A.
VILLANUEVA, JR. Respondent.
DECISION
BERSAMIN, J.:
Disbarment proceedings based on falsification or forgery of public documents should not be the occasion to establish
the falsification or forgery. Such bases should first be duly and competently established either in criminal or civil
proceedings appropriate for that purpose.
The Case

We hereby consider and resolve the disbarment complaint lodged against Atty. Roman A. Villanueva, Jr. for allegedly
falsifying a public document concerning realty, and for allegedly concealing his true age m order to secure his
appointment as state prosecutor.
Antecedents

Lily Flores-Salado, Minda Flores-Lura, Anacorito Flores, Angel Flores, Jr., and Fe Flores presented their adverse
claim1 on the parcel of land situated in Nasipit, Agusan del Norte and registered under Transfer Certificate of Title
(TCT) No. 7919 of the Registry of Deeds of Agusan del Norte under the names of Spouses Roman Villanueva, Jr. and
Rosario L. Alipao.2 The Register of Deeds annotated the adverse claim on January 23, 2007 as Entry No. 67251.3 On
December 27, 2007, an affidavit of waiver/withdrawal, which appeared to have been signed by them, 4 was also
annotated on TCT No. 7919 as Entry No. 72573.5 On March 26, 2008, the Register of Deeds canceled TCT No.
7919,6 and issued two new TCTs in the name of the respondent.7chanrobleslaw

On October 29, 2009, complainants Lily Flores-Salado, Minda Flores Lura, and Fe Flores lodged their complaint with
the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) charging the respondent with gross dishonesty on the basis of their
assertion therein that they had not signed the affidavit of waiver/withdrawal. 8 They thereby further charged him with
dishonesty for concealing his true age in order to secure his appointment in 2006 as a state prosecutor. They avered
that he was disqualified for the position because he had already been 70 years old at the time of his
appointment,9 having been born on June 26, 1936; that they submitted as proof: (1) the residence certificate issued in
the name of "Isabelo Villanueva, Jr.," whom they claimed was the respondent himself, stating June 26, 1936 as his
birthdate;10 (2) the deed of extrajudicial partition of the estate of Roman Villanueva, Sr. showing that the respondent
was 14 years old when he signed the document as "Isabelo Villanueva";11 (3) the certification issued by the Municipal
Civil Registrar of Tupi, South Cotabato12 showing that he was 26 years old when he got married on December 24,
1961; and (4) the affidavits respectively executed by his siblings, Francisca V. Flores13 and Tarcela V.
Sajulan.14chanrobleslaw
62
The respondent denied the charges, and imputed ill-motives to the complainants in filing the disbarment complaint
against him.15 He contended that the complainants did not present sufficient proof showing that he had falsified the
affidavit of waiver/withdrawal; and asserted that the basis for the partition of the contested property had been the
compromise agreement entered into by him and his siblings, including Francisca, the complainants' mother;16 and that
he had been born on November 29, 1943, as indicated in his birth certificate. 17chanrobleslaw
IBP Report and Recommendation

After due hearing, Commissioner Victor C. Fernandez of the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) submitted
his report and recommendation18 finding the respondent liable for gross misconduct in relation to the forged the
affidavit of waiver/withdrawal, and recommended his two-year suspension from the practice of law. Commissioner
Fernandez dismissed the charge of dishonesty in relation to the respondent's age because his birth certificate
prevailed over the documents submitted by the complainants.19chanrobleslaw

On March 20, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors issued Resolution No. XX-2013-27820 adopting the report and
recommendation of Commissioner Fernandez, viz.:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
RESOLUTION NO. XX-2013-278
CBD Case No. 10-2684
Lily Salado, et al. vs.
Atty. Roman A. Villanueva, Jr.

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it 1s hereby unanimously ADOPTED and APPROVED the Report and
Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the above-entitled case, herein made part of this Resolution as
Annex "A," and finding the recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws and
rules and considering that Respondent was guilty of gross misconduct when he falsified an Affidavit of
Waiver/Withdrawal by reason of which TCT Nos. RT-8320 and 8381 in his name were issued, Atty. Roman A.
Villanueva, Jr. is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for two (2) years. However, the charge of falsifying his
age to qualify as DOJ Prosecutor is hereby Dismissed for lack of merit. 21 (Bold emphasis in the original)

The pat1ies respectively sought reconsideration.22 On June 6, 2015, the IBP Board of Governors denied the
respondent's motion for reconsideration but granted that of the complainants, to wit:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
RESOLUTION NO. XXI-2015-417
CBD Case No. 10-2684
Lily Salado, et al.
Atty. Roman A. Villanueva, Jr.

RESOLVED to DENY Respondent's Motion for Reconsideration, there being no cogent reason to reverse the findings
and resolution subject of the motion, it being a mere reiteration of the matters which had already been threshed out
and taken into consideration.

RESOLVED FUTHER, to GRANT the Complainants' Motion for Reconsideration, considering Respondent's gross
dishonesty by making himself younger when he applied as Public Prosecutor in the Department of Justice. Thus,
Resolution No. XX-2013-278, dated March 20, 2013, is hereby AFFIRMED with modification, increasing the penalty
imposed on Atty. Roman A. Villanueva, Jr. to Suspension from the practice of law for three (3) years.23 (Bold emphasis
in the original)

Issue

Should the respondent be suspended from the practice of law for gross misconduct and gross dishonesty?
Ruling of the Court

We reverse the findings and recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors considering that the charges were not
competently substantiated.
I
Falsification must be proved in the

63
appropriate criminal or civil proceeding,
not in the disbarment proceeding

The complainants support their allegations of falsification by presenting the affidavit of waiver/withdrawal itself and its
annotation on TCT No. 7919; and by denying their having signed the same. However, such proof was inadequate to
establish that the respondent had been the author of the alleged falsification of the affidavit of waiver/withdrawal.

We emphasize that allegations of falsification or forgery must be competently proved because falsification or forgery
cannot be presumed.24 As such, the allegations should first be established and determined in appropriate
proceedings,25cralawred like in criminal or civil cases, for it is only by such proceedings that the last word on the falsity
or forgery can be uttered by a court of law with the legal competence to do so. A disbarment proceeding is not the
occasion to determine the issue of falsification or forgery simply because the sole issue to be addressed and
determined therein is whether or not the respondent attorney is still fit to continue to be an officer of the court in the
dispensation of justice.26 Accordingly, we decline to rule herein whether or not the respondent had committed the
supposed falsification of the affidavit of waiver/withdrawal in the absence of the prior determination thereof in the
appropriate proceeding.

Moreover, the complainants have hereby challenged the due execution and authenticity of the affidavit of
waiver/withdrawal, a notarized document.27 In view of this, the complainants' mere denial of having signed the affidavit
of waiver/withdrawal did not suffice to overcome the positive value of it as a notarized document. 28 It is settled that
notarization converts a private document into a public document, whereby the document becomes entitled to full faith
and credit upon its face.29 The notarized document then has in its favor the presumption of regularity, and to overcome
the presumed regularity of its execution, whoever alleges the contrary should present evidence that is clear,
convincing and more than merely preponderant.30chanrobleslaw
II
The birth certificate is the best evidence
of the respondent's date of birth

The complainants have also charged the respondent with dishonesty for having concealed his true age in order to
secure his appointment as a state prosecutor. They have presented in support of the charge the residence certificate
issued in the name of one "Isabelo Villanueva, Jr."; an extrajudicial settlement signed by one "Isabelo Villanueva"; the
certificate issued by the Local Civil Registrar of Tupi, South Cotabato showing that the respondent was 26 years old
when he got married in 1 961; and the affidavits of the respondent's two siblings.

In contrast, the respondent submitted his certificate of birth that indicated his birthdate as "November 29, 1943."

Still, the complainants doubted the veracity of the respondent's bit1h certificate on the ground of its having been
belatedly registered at his own instance.

The Court nonetheless finds for the respondent.

Firstly, as previously emphasized, the allegation of the falsity of the affidavit of waiver/withdrawal should first be
determined in the appropriate criminal or civil proceeding, not in this proceeding for disbarment. Consequently, we
desist from definitively ruling on the weight of the evidence presented by the complainants.

Secondly, a birth certificate consists of entries related to the fact of birth in public records, and is made in the
performance of duty by the local civil registrar as a public officer.31 It is thus treated as the prima facie evidence of the
fact of one's birth, and can be rebutted only by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. 32 As such, the birth
certificate submitted by the respondent was decisive on the date of his birth in the absence of clearer and more
convincing contrary evidence.

Thirdly, the veracity of the respondent's birth certificate cannot be successfully assailed on the basis alone of its being
belatedly entered in the local civil registry. This is because the State expressly allows the late registration of births not
only at the instance of the father, mother, or guardian in case the person whose birth is to be registered is under 18
years of age, but also at the instance of the person himself when already of age.33chanrobleslaw

To accord with such policy of the State, the fact of late registration of the respondent's birth should not adversely affect
the validity of the entries made in his birth certificate.

And, finally, it is fitting to state that the complainants bore the burden of proof in this disbarment proceeding against the
64
respondent. They must establish their charges of falsification and dishonesty by convincing and satisfactory
proof.34 Surmises, suspicion and conjectures are not bases of finding his culpability. 35 The foregoing disquisitions on
the falsification show that the complainants did not discharge their burden of proof thereon. They also did not
convincingly establish that the respondent had willfully adjusted his true age to secure his appointment as a state
prosecutor. Indeed, the appointment happened on February 22, 2006 36 but his late registration of his birth occurred on
July 3, 2006.37 If the intention for the late registration was to make it appear that he st ill met the age requirement for
public prosecutors, he should have effected the late registration prior to the appointment, not several months
subsequently. In addition, he submitted a "Voter Certification" showing him to be a registered voter of Balagtas
(Bigaa), Bulacan on September 20, 2003, and to have been born on November 29, 1943. 38Under the circumstances,
that he had intentionally adjusted his birthdate to enable himself to meet the age requirement for the position of state
prosecutor three years later became plainly improbable.
III

Disbarment or suspension complaints against lawyers


in the public service involving their qualifications
should be initially investigated by the agencies or offices
having administrative supervision over them

The Court finds the need to clarify that although it may entertain a disbarment or suspension complaint brought against
a lawyer employed in the government service whether or not the complaint pertained to an act or conduct unrelated to
the discharge of his official functions,39 the investigation should be carried out by the agency or office having
administrative supervision over him or her when the allegations of the complaint relate to the qualifications of the
respondent to be appointed to the public office.

Accordingly, any questions pertaining to the qualifications of the respondent to be appointed as a state prosecutor
should be directed to the Secretary of Justice who had administrative supervision over him under the law, 40 and not to
this Court in the guise of the disbarment complaint. The complaint for disbarment is sui generis, and the proceeding
thereon should focus only on the qualification and fitness of the respondent lawyer to continue membership in the
Bar.41chanrobleslaw

WHEREFORE, the Court DISMISSES the disbarment complaint against Atty. Roman A. Villanueva, Jr. for lack of
factual and legal merit.

SO ORDERED.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Sereno, C.J, Velasco, Jr., Peralta, Del Castillo, Perez, Mendoza, Perlas-Bernabe, Leonen, Jardeleza, and Caguioa,
JJ., concur.
Carpio, J., wellness.
Leonardo-De Castro, J., official leave.
Brion, J., on leave.
Reyes, J., sick leave.

17.Arsenio vs. Tabuzo

THIRD DIVISION
April 24, 2017
A.C. No. 8658
FRANCIS C. ARSENIO, Complainant
vs.
ATTY. JOHAN A. TABUZO, Respondents
DECISION
TIJAM, J.:
Before this Court is a Complaint-Affidavit1 dated June 18, 2010 filed by Francis C. Arsenio (Arsenio), seeking the
disbarment of Atty. Johan A. Tabuzo (Atty. Tabuzo) for conduct unbecoming of a member of the Bar.
The Facts

65
This case stemmed from an administrative complaint filed by Arsenio before the Philippine Overseas Employment
Administration (POEA) against JS Contractor, a recruitment agency.2 During a scheduled hearing on May 10, 2000,
Atty. Tabuzo, the Overseas Employment Adjudicator who was assigned to hear the case, asked him to sign three
blank sheets of paper to which Arsenio complied.
A week after the scheduled hearing, Arsenio asked Atty. Tabuzo the reason why he was made to sign blank sheets of
paper. Atty. Tabuzo angrily said, "Bwiset! Napakakulit mo, doon mo malaman mamaya pagdating.ng kalaban
mo!" Thereafter, Arsenio called up the office of Senator Rene Cayetano who advised him to make a clarification
regarding the signed sheets of blank paper. Arsenio then approached Atty. Tabuzo but the latter again shouted at him
saying, "Bwiset! Goddamit! Alam mo ba na maraming abogado dito sa POEA na nagbebenta ng kaso?" Atty. Tabuzo
further said, "Sabihin mo sa Cayetano mo at abogado mo na baka masampal ko sa mga mukha nila ang pinirmahan
mong blanko! Sabihin mo na ang pangalan ko ay Atty. Romeo Tabuzo at kung hindi ka bumalik bukas ay mawawala
ang kaso mo!"3
Arsenio later on discovered that his case against JS Contractor was dismissed. Hence, he filed a complaint against
Atty. Romeo Tabuzo before the Office of the Ombudsman for violation of Republic Act (RA) No. 3019 or the "Anti-Graft
and Corrupt Practices Act. "
In a Resolution4 dated February 1, 2002, Graft Investigation Officer II Wilfred Pascasio ordered that an Information be
filed against Atty. Romeo Tabuzo upon finding of probable cause against him.
Atty. Tabuzo filed a Motion for Reconsideration alleging, among others, that there is no Atty. Romeo Tabuso in the
POEA and that he was never handed any copy of summons. He claimed that he was merely taking the initiative in
filing the said motion to clear his name as he believed he was the person referred to in the earlier Order of the Office of
the Ombudsman. Nonetheless, such motion was subsequently denied in an Order dated July 16, 2002.
Meanwhile, in a Decision dated December 6, 2011, the Regional Trial Court, Branch 213 of Mandaluyong City
acquitted Atty. Tabuzo for violation of RA No. 3019.1âwphi1
Subsequently, Arsenio filed the present Complaint-Affidavit before this Court. In a Resolution 5 dated November 24,
2010, this Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and
recommendation. The IBP Commission on Bar Discipline (IBPCBD) docketed the case as CBD Case No. 11-2912,
entitled "Francis C. Arsenio v. Atty. Johan Tabuzo ".
In his Omnibus Comment with Motion to Dismiss,6 Atty. Tabuzo denied the accusations against him, claiming that the
alleged unethical acts are baseless. He averred that he had never acted in any conduct unbecoming of a public officer
or uttered invectives and other alleged acts. To support his claim, he attached the Affidavits 7 of two (2) Overseas
Employment Adjudicators (OEA) who occupied the tables immediately adjacent to him in the Recruitment Regulations
Branch. In said Affidavits, the OEAs attested to the effect that no such incident or any untoward event that called for
attention transpired. Atty. Tabuzo also said that his constitutional right to due process was violated since he was not
notified of the case against him before the Office of the Ombudsman as he was never served nor had personally
received Orders from such Office.
The Resolutions of the IBP Commissioner and Board of Governors
In his Report and Recommendation, 8 Investigating Commissioner Atty. Eldrid Antiquierra recommended that
reprimand be imposed upon Atty. Tabuzo. The Investigating Commissioner ruled in such wise on the basis of the
sworn affidavit of Arsenio and the Resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman.
In a Resolution dated March 20, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors resolved to adopt and approve with modification
the said Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner upon finding that Atty. Tabuzo violated the
Lawyer's Oath and Rule 8.01 9 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Hence, the IBP Board of Governors
suspended Atty. Tabuzo from the practice of law for three months.
Atty. Tabuzo filed a Motion for Reconsideration but it was denied. 10

The Issue
Whether or not the instant disbarment complaint constitutes a sufficient basis to disbar Atty. Tabuzo.
The Court's Ruling
After examining the records of this case, the Court resolves to dismiss the instant disbarment complaint.
A case of suspension or disbarment is sui generis and not meant to grant relief to a complainant as in a civil case, but
is intended to cleanse the ranks of the legal profession of its undesirable members in order to protect the public and
the courts. 11

66
Jurisprudence is replete with cases reiterating that in disbarment proceedings, the burden of proof rests upon the
complainant. 12 In the recent case of Reyes v. Nieva, 13 this Court had the occasion to clarify that the proper
evidentiary threshold in disbarment cases is substantial evidence.
In this case, noteworthy is the fact that the reason advanced by the IBP-CBD in recommending reprimand against Atty.
Tabuzo is its consideration of the: (1) Resolution issued by the Office of the Ombudsman, which states that there was
probable cause against Atty. Tabuzo for violating RA 3019; and (2) Complaint-Affidavit of Arsenio, which alleges that
Atty. Tabuzo made offensive statements.
However, a careful scrutiny of the evidence presented reveals that the degree of proof indispensable in a disbarment
case was not met.
Firstly, the Resolution issued by the Office of the Ombudsman is predicated on the fact that the allegations of Arsenio
were uncontroverted; hence, the Office of the Ombudsman concluded that such allegations were true.
However, there was a seeming discrepancy as to the name of Atty. Tabuzo when a case against him was filed before
the Office of the Ombudsman. Undisputedly, the case before said Office was filed against a certain Atty. Romeo
Tabuso, when the name of herein respondent is Atty. Johan Tabuzo. As such, the respondent claimed that he failed to
controvert Arsenio' s claims because he never received any notice or order from the Office of the Ombudsman. In fact,
the said Resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman was made on the basis of the complaint of Arsenio alone since
Atty. Tabuzo failed to file his answer. 14 However, a reading of the RTC Decision reveals that Arsenio was able to
verify the identity of Atty. Johan Tabuzo, not as Atty. Romeo Tabuso, even before he filed his complaint before the
Office of the Ombudsman. It is confusing, therefore, why there was discrepancy as to the name of herein respondent
when a clarification was already made. Nevertheless, Atty. Tabuzo was acquitted 15 in a criminal case filed against him
on the basis of the Resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman.
Despite such acquittal, a well-settled finding of guilt in a criminal case will not necessarily result in a finding of liability in
the administrative case. Conversely, the acquittal does not necessarily exculpate one administratively. 16Thus, it is
proper to deal with the other evidence presented by Arsenio.
The Court, thus, finds that the Complaint-Affidavit of Arsenio failed to discharge the necessary burden of proof. In his
Sworn Affidavit, Arsenio merely narrated that Atty. Tabuzo uttered offensive statements and no other evidence was
presented to substantiate his claim. Emphatically, such Complaint-Affidavit is self-serving.
Summarily, the Resolution issued by the Office of the Ombudsman together with the Affidavit of Arsenio cannot be
considered as substantial evidence. For one, the Resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman was decided on the basis
of the failure of Atty. Tabuzo to controvert the allegations of Arsenio. Also, the Complaint-Affidavit was not sufficient as
no evidence was further offeted to prove the allegations contained therein.
While the quantum of evidence required in disbarment cases is substantial evidence, this Court is not persuaded to
exercise its disciplinary authority over Atty. Tabuzo.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court resolved to DISMISS the disbarment complaint against Atty. Johan A.
Tabuzo.
SO ORDERED.

18.Fuji vs. de la Cruz

SECOND DIVISION
[ A.C. No. 11043, March 08, 2017 ]
LIANG FUJI, COMPLAINANT, VS. ATTY. GEMMA ARMI M. DELA CRUZ, RESPONDENT.

RESOLUTION
LEONEN, J.:
Failure to exercise utmost prudence in reviewing the immigration records of an alien, which resulted in the alien's
wrongful detention, opens the special prosecutor in the Bureau of Immigration to administrative liability.

Before this Court is an administrative complaint[1] dated November 23, 2015 filed by Liang Fuji (Fuji) and his family,
against Bureau of Immigration Special Prosecutor Gemma Armi M. Dela Cruz (Special Prosecutor Dela Cruz) for gross
misconduct and gross ignorance of the law in relation to her issuance of a Charge Sheet against Fuji for overstaying.

Through a letter[2] dated December 8, 2015, Deputy Clerk of Court and Bar Confidant Atty. Ma. Cristina B. Layusa
directed the complainants to file a verified complaint "with supporting documents duly authenticated and/or affidavits of
67
persons having personal knowledge of the facts alleged"[3] in the complaint.

Complainants replied[4] by furnishing this Court with copies of the Verified Petition to Reopen S.D. O. No. BOC-2015-
357 (B.L.O. No. SBM-15-420) and for Relief of Judgment with Urgent Prayer for Immediate Consideration, and
Administrative Complaint (Verified Petition and Administrative Complaint),[5] which Fuji filed with the Board of
Commissioners of the Bureau of Immigration, and prayed that the same be treated as their verified complaint.
Complainants further informed this Court that they had difficulty obtaining certified true copies of the November 21,
2013 Order of the Board of Commissioners, which granted Fuji's Section 9(g) visa, Summary Deportation Order dated
June 17, 2015, and Warrant of Deportation from the Bureau of Immigration personnel who just gave them the "run[-
]around."[6] They alleged that the Bureau of Immigration personnel were not particularly helpful, and did not treat Fuji's
case with urgency.[7]

The facts of this case show that in a Summary Deportation Order [8] dated June 17, 2015, Fuji, a Chinese national, was
ordered deported for overstaying. From the Order, it appears that Special Prosecutor Dela Cruz was the special
prosecutor who brought the formal charge against Fuji and another person upon her finding that Fuji's work visa had
expired on May 8, 2013, with extension expired on December 6, 2013.[9] Special Prosecutor Dela Cruz found that Fuji
had overstayed for one (1) year and six (6) months in violation of Commonwealth Act No. 613, Section 37(a)(7).[10] Her
investigation was triggered by a complaint-affidavit dated April 30, 2015 of a certain Virgilio Manalo alleging that Fuji
and another person had defrauded him.[11]

On June 29, 2015, Fuji filed his Motion for Reconsideration.[12]

On July 28, 2015, the Bureau of Immigration Intelligence Division served Fuji's Warrant of Deportation, and thereafter
arrested him at Brgy. Maloma, San Felipe, Zambales with the assistance from local police. [13] Fuji was brought to and
detained at the Bureau of Immigration Detention Facility, National Capital Region Police Office, Taguig City. [14]

On October 9, 2015, the Board of Commissioners denied Fuji's Motion for Reconsideration. [15]

On November 23, 2015, Fuji filed his Verified Petition and Administrative Complaint.[16] Subsequently, on March 10,
2016, Fuji filed an Omnibus Motion to Reopen and Lift S.D.O. BOC-2015-357, and Release on Bail through counsel.[17]

On March 22, 2016, the Board of Commissioners issued a Resolution dismissing the deportation charge against Fuji
on the ground that "[t]he records show that Liang has a working visa valid until 30 April 2016 under Jiang Tuo Mining
Philippines, Inc. as Marketing Liason."[18] Fuji was directed to be released from Bureau of Immigration-Warden's
Facility on March 23, 2016.[19]

In his administrative complaint, Fuji alleged that his rights to due process were violated since he was not afforded any
hearing or summary deportation proceedings before the deportation order was issued against him.[20] Fuji further
alleged that Special Prosecutor Dela Cruz failed miserably in discharging her duties because a simple initial review of
the Bureau of Immigration records would have revealed that he was not overstaying because his Section 9(g) work
visa was valid until April 30, 2016.[21]

In her August 25, 2016 Comment,[22] respondent Special Prosecutor Dela Cruz denied that she committed any grave
misconduct.[23] She claimed that Fuji was accorded due process during the summary deportation proceedings.[24] He
was directed, through an Order dated May 14, 2015 of the Legal Division, to submit his Counter-
Affidavit/Memorandum, which he failed to do.[25] Fuji was also able to file his motion for reconsideration and verified
petition to reopen the case.[26]

Respondent further claimed that the Memorandum dated June 4, 2015 of the Bureau of Immigration - Management
Information System (BI-MIS) constituted a substantial evidence of Fuji's overstay in the country, hence, her formal
charge had legal basis.[27]

Respondent added that as a civil servant, she enjoyed the presumption of regularity in the performance of her
duties.[28] She had no intention to violate any law and did not commit any flagrant disregard of the rules, or unlawfully
used her station to procure some benefit for herself or for other persons. [29] Respondent pointed out that the
Ombudsman had in fact dismissed the complainant's charges against her. [30] She added that Fuji stated in his March
29, 2016 Affidavit of Desistance that he had mistakenly signed some documents including the administrative
complaint.[31]

We find respondent administratively liable for her negligence in her failure to ascertain the facts before levying the
68
formal charge against Fuji for overstaying.

Generally, this Court defers from taking cognizance of disbarment complaints against lawyers in government service
arising from their administrative duties, and refers the complaint first either to the proper administrative body that has
disciplinary authority over the erring public official or employee or the Ombudsman. [32]

For instance, in Spouses Buffe v. Gonzales,[33] this Court dismissed the disbarment complaint against former Secretary
of Justice Raul M. Gonzalez, former Undersecretary of Justice Fidel J. Exconde, Jr., and former Congressman
Eleandro Jesus F. Madrona, holding that the respondents were public officials being charged for actions involving their
official functions during their tenure, which should be resolved by the Office of the Ombudsman.[34] In that case, one (1)
of the respondents sought to dismiss the complaint on the ground of forum-shopping because he allegedly received an
order from the Office of the Ombudsman directing him to file a counter-affidavit based on the same administrative
complaint filed before the Office of the Bar Confidant.[35]

Again, in the fairly recent case of Alicias, Jr. v. Macatangay,[36] the Court dismissed the complaint against respondents
- government lawyers in the Civil Service Commission. The Court held that the acts or omissions alleged in the
complaint were "connected with their . . . official functions in the [Civil Service Commission] and within the
administrative disciplinary jurisdiction of their superior or the Office of the Ombudsman." [37] It would seem that the
complainant directly instituted a disbarment complaint with this Court instead of filing an administrative complaint
before the proper administrative body.

This case is an exception. Unlike the circumstances in Spouses Buffe and Alicias, Jr., the records here show that the
Office of the Ombudsman had previously dismissed Fuji's administrative complaint due to the pendency of his Verified
Petition and Administrative Complaint before the Bureau of Immigration, and considered the case closed.[38]

The Bureau of Immigration subsequently granted Fuji's petition to reopen his case and ordered his release. However, it
was silent as to the culpability of respondent on the charges levelled by Fuji.

Thus, with the termination of the administrative proceedings before the Office of the Ombudsman and the apparent
inaction of the Bureau of Immigration on complainant's administrative complaint, this Court considers it proper to take
cognizance of this case, and to determine whether there is sufficient ground to discipline respondent under its "plenary
disciplinary authority"[39] over members of the legal profession.[40]

Contrary to respondent's stance, Fuji's purported Affidavit of Desistance is not sufficient cause to dismiss this
administrative complaint. This Court has previously held that proceedings of this nature cannot be "interrupted or
terminated by reason of desistance, settlement, compromise, restitution, withdrawal of the charges or failure of the
complainant to prosecute the same."[41] The primary object of disciplinary proceedings is to determine the fitness of a
member to remain in the Bar. It is conducted solely for the public welfare, [42] and the desistance of the complainant is
irrelevant. What will be decisive are the facts borne out by the evidence presented by the parties. In Rayos-Ombac v.
Rayos:[43]

A case of suspension or disbarment may proceed regardless of interest or lack of interest of the complainant. What
matters is whether, on the basis of the facts borne out by the record, the charge of deceit and grossly immoral conduct
has been duly proven. This rule is premised on the nature of disciplinary proceedings. A proceeding for suspension or
disbarment is not in any sense a civil action where the complainant is a plaintiff and the respondent lawyer is a
defendant. Disciplinary proceedings involve no private interest and afford no redress for private grievance. They are
undertaken and prosecuted solely for the public welfare. They are undertaken for the purpose of preserving courts of
justice from the official ministration of persons unfit to practice in them. The attorney is called to answer to the court for
his conduct as an officer of the court. The complainant or the person who called the attention of the court to the
attorney's alleged misconduct is in no sense a party, and has generally no interest in the outcome except as all good
citizens may have in the proper administration of justice.[44]
II

Respondent Dela Cruz claimed that she issued the formal charge against Fuji for overstaying on the basis of the
Memorandum dated June 4, 2015 of the BI-MIS.[45] A copy of the Memorandum with attachments was attached to
respondent's Comment.[46]

69
However, nowhere in the Memorandum was it stated that Fuji "overstayed" or that "Liang's working visa expired on 8
May 2013 and his TVV expired on 6 December 2013"[47] as respondent claims. Relevant portions of the Memorandum
read:

For : ATTY. GEMMA ARMI M. DELA CRUZ


From : ACTING CHIEF, MIS DIVISION
REQUEST FOR IMMIGRATION STATUS; VISA EXTENSION PAYMENT, LATEST TRAVEL AND
Re :
DEROGATORY OF THE FOLLOWING:
1. MR./MS. LIANG FUJI
2. MR./MS. CHEN XIANG HE
3. MR./MS. JACKY CHANG HE
Date : 04 June 2015

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ------------------------

Further to your request for verification of Immigration Status; Visa Extension Payment and TRAVEL RECORD/S,
please find the result/s as follows:

....

Result/s : 1. LIANG FUJI


- Derogatory Record Not Found
- Latest Travel Record Found (Please see the attached files for your ready reference. NOTE: DOB: 18
October 1991)
- Immigration Status Found
- Latest Payment Record Found in BI-Main (Please see the attached files for your ready reference. NOTE:
DOB: 18 October 1991)[48]

....
The Memorandum merely transmitted copies of immigration records showing details of filing of applications, such as
official receipts, - and travel record of Fuji. It was respondent Dela Cruz who made the determination that Fuji
overstayed on the basis of the'documents transmitted to her by the BI-MIS.

Among the documents transmitted by the BI-MIS were computer print-outs showing details of official receipts dated
June 14, 2013, August 7, 2013, and November 19, 2013 for temporary visitor visa extension and official receipt dated
July 15, 2013 for an application for change of immigration status. Also, the travel records of Fuji show the following
details:

Date &
: 4 June 2015 3:05 PM
Time
Verifier : DIMARUCOT J
Database : TRAVEL - ARRIVAL

TRAVEL FLIGHT IMMIG


TRAVEL DATE PORT OFFIC3ER ACTION REMARKS
TIME NO STATUS
10-FEBRUARY-2014 11:34PM CZ377 9G NAIA 1 MIJARES ALLOWED
06-JANUARY-2012 11:51PM CZ377 9A NAIA 1 PARANGUE ALLOWED
22-SEPTEMBER-2011 11:25PM CZ377 9A NAIA 1 NUNEZ ALLOWED[49]
Fuji's travel records as of June 4, 2015, show his arrival in the Philippines on February 10, 2014 under a work visa
immigration status.[50]Simple prudence dictates that respondent Atty. Dela Cruz should have verified whether or not the
July 15, 2013 application for change of status had been approved by the Bureau of Immigration Commissioners,
especially since she had complete and easy access to the immigration records.

Respondent failed in the performance of her basic duties. Special prosecutors in the Bureau of Immigration should
exercise such degree of vigilance and attention in reviewing the immigration records, whenever the legal status and
documentation of an alien are at issue. For while a deportation proceeding does not partake of the nature of a criminal
action, it is however, a harsh and extraordinary administrative proceeding affecting the freedom and liberty of a
person.[51]

Respondent was expected to be reasonably thorough in her review of the documents transmitted to her by the BI-MIS,
70
especially as it may ultimately result in the deprivation of liberty of the prospective deportee. She should not have
simply relied on the handwritten note by a personnel from the BI-MIS at the bottom portion of the receipt dated
November 19, 2013 for 9A visa extension stating "Valid until: 06-Dec-2013." Had she inquired further, she would have
discovered that Fuji's application dated July 15, 2013 for conversion from temporary visitor visa (9A) to work visa (9G)
was approved by the Board of Commissioners on November 21, 2013 — or one (1) year and seven (7) months earlier
- with validity until April 30, 2016. Thus, even if Fuji's temporary visitor (9A) visa had expired on December 6, 2013 his
stay in the country was still valid under the 9G work visa.

Generally, a lawyer who holds a government office may not be disciplined as a member of the Bar for misconduct in
the discharge of her duties as a government official.[52] However, if said misconduct as a government official also
constitutes a violation of her oath as a lawyer and the Code of Professional Responsibility, [53] then she may be subject
to disciplinary sanction by this Court.

Atty. Dela Cruz failed to observe Rule 18.03 of the Code of the Professional Responsibility, which mandates that "a
lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him
liable." As a special prosecutor in the Bureau of Immigration, she is the representative, not of any private party, but of
the State. Her task was to investigate and verify facts to determine whether a ground for deportation exists, and if
further administrative action — in the form of a formal charge — should be taken against an alien.

Had respondent carefully reviewed the records of Fuji, she would have found out about the approval of Fuji's
application, which would negate her finding of overstaying. Because of her negligence, Fuji was deprived of his liberty
for almost eight (8) months, until his release on March 23, 2016.

Simple neglect of duty is defined as a failure to give attention to a task due to carelessness or indifference. [54] In this
case, respondent's negligence shows her indifference to the fundamental right of every person, including aliens, to due
process and to the consequences of her actions.

Lawyers in government service should be more conscientious with their professional obligations consistent with the
time-honored principle of public office being a public trust.[55] The ethical standards under the Code of Professional
Responsibility are rendered even more exacting as to government lawyers because they have the added duty to abide
by the policy of the State to promote a high standard of ethics, competence, and professionalism in public service. [56] In
this case, respondent's negligence evinces a failure to cope with the strict demands and high standards of public
service and the legal profession.

The appropriate sanction is discretionary upon this Court.[57] Under the Civil Service Rules,[58] the penalty for simple
neglect of duty is suspension for one (1) month and one (1) day to six (6) months. In previous cases, [59] this Court
imposed the penalty of suspension of three (3) months to six (6) months for erring lawyers, who were negligent in
handling cases for their clients. We find appropriate the penalty of suspension of three (3) months considering the
consequence of respondent's negligence. This suspension includes her desistance from performing her functions as a
special prosecutor in the Bureau of Immigration.

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Gemma Armi M. Dela Cruz is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for three (3)
months.

The respondent, upon receipt of this Resolution, shall immediately serve her suspension. She shall formally manifest
to this Court that her suspension has started, and copy furnish all courts and quasi-judicial bodies where she has
entered her appearance, within five (5) days upon receipt of this Resolution. Respondent shall also serve copies of her
manifestation on all adverse parties in all the cases she entered her formal appearance.

Let a copy of this Resolution be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant to be attached to Atty. Gemma Armi M. Dela
Cruz's personal record. Copies of this Resolution should also be served on the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for its
proper disposition, and the Office of the Court Administrator for circulation to all courts in the country.

SO ORDERED.

Carpio, (Chairperson), Peralta, Mendoza, and Jardeleza, JJ., concur.

19.Chua vs. Tan-Sollano

71
REYES, J.:
For resolution is the administrative complaint[1] for disbarment filed by complainants Greta A. Chua (Greta) and Edwin
S. Chua (Spouses Chua) against Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Teresa Belinda G. Tan-Sollano (SACP Tan-
Sollano), Deputy City Prosecutor Maria Gene Z. Julianda-Sarmiento (DCP Julianda-Sarmiento), Senior Deputy City
Prosecutor Eufrosino A. Sulla (SDCP Sulla), SACP Suwerte L. Ofrecio-Gonzales (SACP Ofrecio-Gonzales), and DCP
Joselito D.R. Obejas (DCP Obejas) (collectively, the respondents) for grave abuse of discretion, ignorance of the law,
abuse of power or authority, and gross misconduct.

Antecedent Facts

On October 12, 2015, Spouses Chua filed a Complaint[2] for Perjury and False Testimony against Atty. Rudy T.
Tasarra (Atty. Tasarra), Luz O. Talusan (Talusan), Po Yi Yeung Go, Jessica W. Ang, Ricky Ang, Eden C. Uy, and Ana
Tiu, before the Office of the City Prosecutor (OCP) of Manila docketed as XV-07-INV-15J-05513.

Spouses Chua alleged before the OCP of Manila that Talusan deliberately and wilfully committed perjury when she
narrated in her Complaint-Affidavits that on July 11, 2009, Spouses Chua issued 11 post-dated checks in favor of
Chain Glass Enterprises, Inc. (CGEI), with an amount of P112,521.00 each, as payment for assorted glass and
aluminum products. According to Spouses Chua, however, the said statement is not true because the said 11 post-
dated checks were actually issued on February 23, 2009 by Greta in replacement of their previous bounced checks.
Likewise, Atty. Tasarra and the members of the Board of Directors of CGEI were likewise impleaded therein for
offering Talusan's testimony.[3]

In a Resolution[4] dated December 28, 2015, SACP Tan-Sollano recommended the dismissal of the charges against
therein respondents for lack of probable cause. The same was recommended for approval by DCP Julianda-Sarmiento
and SDCP Sulla.

A Motion for Reconsideration[5] was filed by Spouses Chua but the same was denied in a Resolution[6] dated August 9,
2016 issued by SACP Ofrecio-Gonzales and approved by DCP Obejas after finding no cogent reason to reverse the
Resolution dated December 28, 2015 of SACP Tan-Sollano.

Aggrieved with such findings, Spouses Chua instituted the instant case and averred that the dismissal of XV-07-INV-
15J-05513 was inappropriate and highly irregular considering that the prosecution offered an "airtight
case/evidence."[7]

Ruling of the Court

After a careful review of the records of the present case, the Court finds that Spouses Chua failed to attribute clear and
preponderant proof to show that the respondents committed infractions in contravention with the standards provided
for by the Code of Professional Responsibility which would have warranted the imposition of administrative sanctions
against them.

"In administrative proceedings, the complainant has the burden of proving with substantial evidence the allegations in
the complaint. Mere allegation is not evidence and is not equivalent to proof."[8]

Here, considering that Spouses Chua failed to present substantial proof to show the prosecutors' culpability, the Court
cannot rule out the possibility that the instant administrative case was ill motivated being retaliatory in nature and
aimed at striking back at them for having participated in the dismissal of XV-07-INV-15J-05513, either as investigating
prosecutor or approving officer. In the absence of contrary evidence, what will prevail is the presumption that the
prosecutors involved herein have regularly performed their official duties.

Moreover, in Maquiran v. Judge Grageda,[9] the Court held that alleged error committed by judges in the exercise of
their adjudicative functions cannot be corrected through administrative proceedings but should instead be assailed
through judicial remedies.[10] Here, the same principle applies to prosecutors who exercise adjudicative functions in the
determination of the existence of probable cause to hold the accused for trial in court.

72
Verily, an administrative complaint is not an appropriate remedy where judicial recourse is still available, such as a
motion for reconsideration, an appeal, or a petition for certiorari.[11] In the present case, as narrated by Spouses Chua,
XV-07-INV-151-05513 is still pending and active. As such, Spouses Chua still has remedies to contest said ruling.

WHEREFORE, the instant administrative complaint against respondents Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Teresa
Belinda G. Tan-Sollano, Deputy City Prosecutor Maria Gene Z. Julianda-Sarmiento, Senior Deputy City Prosecutor
Eufrosino A. Sulla, Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Suwerte L. Ofrecio-Gonzales, and Deputy City Prosecutor Joselito
D.R. Obejas is DISMISSED and this case is considered CLOSED and TERMINATED.

SO ORDERED.

Sereno, C.J., Carpio, Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Del Castillo, Perlas-Bernabe, Leonen,
Jardeleza, Caguioa, and Tijam, JJ., concur.
Mendoza, J., on official leave.
Martires, J., on leave.

20.Capinpin vs. Cesa

THIRD DIVISION
[ A.C. No. 6933, July 05, 2017 ]
GREGORIO V. CAPINPIN, JR., COMPLAINANT, VS. ATTY. ESTANISLAO L. CESA, JR., RESPONDENT.

DECISION
TIJAM, J.:
Before this Court is an administrative complaint[1] filed by complainant Gregorio Capinpin, Jr., praying for the
suspension from the practice of law or disbarment of respondent Atty. Estanislao L. Cesa, Jr. for violating the Canons
of Professional Ethics in connection with the foreclosure of complainant's properties.

Factual Antecedents

On February 14, 1997, complainant executed a real estate mortgage (REM) [2] on his two lots in favor of Family
Lending Corporation (FLC) as security for a loan amounting to PhP 5 Million with interest at two percent (2%) per
month.

On April 29, 2002, due to complainant's default in payment, FLC, through its President Dr. Eli Malaya (Dr. Malaya),
initiated foreclosure proceedings against the mortgaged properties.[3]

Complainant availed of legal remedies to stop the said foreclosure proceedings, to wit: (1) he filed a case for damages
and injunction and also moved for the suspension of the sheriffs sale, wherein such motion for suspension was
granted but the injunctive relief was denied after hearings. Complainant's motion for reconsideration (MR) therein was
also denied; (2) he then filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for a temporary restraining order (TRO)
and/or writ of preliminary injunction (WPI) with the Court of Appeals (CA), wherein no TRO was granted due to some
deficiencies in the petition; (3) he also filed an annulment of REM with prayer for a WPI and/or TRO before the trial
court, wherein this time a WPI was issued to stop the auction sale. [4] This prompted FLC to file a petition
for certiorari before the CA, questioning the trial court's issuance of the injunctive writ. The CA nullified the said writ,
mainly on the ground of forum shopping, which was affirmed by this Court on review. [5] For these cases, FLC engaged
respondent's legal services.

The complaint alleges that during the above-cited proceedings, respondent, without the knowledge of his client FLC,
approached complainant to negotiate the deferment of the auction sale and the possible settlement of the loan
obligation at a reduced amount without resorting to the auction sale. Respondent allegedly represented himself as
being capable of influencing the sheriff to defer the auction sale, as well as his client FLC through Dr. Malaya to accept
the amount of PhP 7 Million to fully settle the loan obligation. For this, the complaint alleges that on April 13, 2005,
respondent demanded payment of professional fees amounting to Php 1 Million from complainant. [6] In fact,
complainant already gave the following amounts to respondent as payment of such professional fees: (1) PhP 50,000
check dated April 13, 2005; (2) PhP 25,000 check dated April 18, 2005; (3) PhP 75,000 check dated April 22, 2005; (4)
PhP 20,000 check dated May 16, 2005; (5) PhP 200,000 on June 30, 2005; and (6) PhP 30,000 on August 17,
73
2005.[7] Despite such payments, the auction sale proceeded.[8] Hence, the instant complaint.

For his part, respondent denies that he was the one who approached complainant for negotiation, the truth being that it
was complainant who asked for his help to be given more time to raise funds to pay the loan obligation. [9] Respondent
further avers that he communicated the said request to his client.[10] Aside from the checks dated April 13, 18, 22 and
May 16, 2005, which respondent claims to be advance payments of his attorney's fees, respondent avers that he did
not receive any other amount from the complainant.[11] All these, according to the respondent, were known to his
client.[12] In fact, in a Letter dated April 22, 2005 signed by the complainant and addressed to FLC through Dr. Malaya,
complainant expressly stated that he will negotiate for the payment of respondent's fees as FLC's counsel. [13]

On July 16, 2007, this Court referred the instant administrative case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for
investigation, report, and recommendation or decision.[14]

Report and Recommendation


of the Commission on Bar Discipline

In his Report and Recommendation[15] dated June 4, 2010, the Investigating Commissioner gave credence to
complainant's allegations that respondent, without the knowledge of his client, negotiated with the complainant for the
settlement of the loan obligation, and that the respondent demanded and received professional fees in negotiating the
said settlement.

According to the Investigating Commissioner, respondent's act of negotiating with the complainant on the deferment of
the auction sale and the settlement of the loan for a substantially reduced amount was highly improper as respondent's
primary duty, being FLC's counsel, was to protect the interest of FLC by seeing to it that the foreclosure proceedings
be done successfully to obtain the best amount possible to cover the loan obligation. [16] The Investigating
Commissioner explained that if a lawyer can collect professional fees or advanced payment thereof from the adverse
party, it results to a conflict of interest.[17] From the foregoing, the respondent was found to have violated Canon 15,
Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR), which states that a lawyer shall not represent conflicting
interests except by written consent of all concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts. [18]

The report further stated that the amounts collected by the respondent should be considered as money received from
his client; as such, he has the duty to account for and disclose the same to his client in accordance with Canon 16,
Rule 16.01 of the said Code.[19] The Investigating Commissioner found nothing on record that showed that respondent
made such accounting for or disclosure to his client.[20]

Hence, the Investigating Commissioner concluded that respondent was liable for malpractice and recommended that
he be suspended from the practice of law for one (1) year, thus:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing discussion, this Commissioner finds the respondent liable for malpractice and,
accordingly, recommends that respondent be meted a penalty of ONE (1) YEAR suspension from the practice of law
with a warning that a repetition of a similar offense will be dealt with more severity. [21]

Resolutions of the Board of Governors


Integrated Bar of the Philippines

On September 28, 2013, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Board of Governors issued Resolution No. XX-
2013-84,[22] which states:

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and APPROVED, the Report and
Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the above-entitled case, herein made part of this Resolution as
Annex "A", and finding the recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws and
rules and considering that Respondent violated Canon 15, Rule 15.03, and Canon 16, Rule 16.01 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, Atty. Estanislao L. Cesa, Jr. is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for one (1)
year.[23] (Emphasis supplied)

Respondent's MR[24] was denied in the IBP Board of Governor's Resolution No. XXI-2014-280[25] dated May 3, 2014 as

74
follows:

RESOLVED to DENY Respondent's Motion for Reconsideration, there being no cogent reason to reverse the findings
of the Commission and the resolution subject of the motion, it being a mere reiteration of the matters which had
already been threshed out and taken into consideration. Thus, Resolution No. XX-2013-84 dated September 28, 2013
is hereby AFFIRMED.[26]

Necessarily, We now give Our final action on this case.

Issue

Should Atty. Cesa, Jr. be administratively disciplined based on the allegations in the complaint and evidence on
record?

The Court's Ruling

We are in full accord with the findings of the Investigating Commissioner that respondent violated Canon 15, Rule
15.03 and Canon 16, Rule 16.01 of the CPR.

CANON 15 – A LAWYER SHALL OBSERVE CANDOR, FAIRNESS AND LOYALTY IN ALL HIS DEALINGS AND
TRANSACTIONS WITH HIS CLIENTS.

Rule 15.03 – A lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests except by written consent of all concerned given after a
full disclosure of the facts.

CANON 16 – A LAWYER SHALL HOLD IN TRUST ALL MONEYS AND PROPERTIES OF HIS CLIENT THAT MAY
COME INTO HIS POSSESSION.

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

Based on the records, We find substantial evidence to hold the respondent liable for violating Canon 15, Rule 15.03 of
the said Code. It must be stressed that FLC engaged respondent's legal services to represent it in opposing
complainant's actions to forestall the foreclosure proceedings. As can be gleaned from respondent's position paper,
however, it is admitted that respondent extended help to the complainant in negotiating with FLC for the reduction of
the loan payment and cessation of the foreclosure proceedings.[27] The case of Hornilla v. Salunat[28] is instructive on
the concept of conflict of interest, viz.:

There is conflict of interest when a lawyer represents inconsistent interests of two or more opposing parties. The test is
whether or not in behalf of one client, it is the lawyer's duty to fight for an issue or claim, but it is his duty to oppose it
for the other client. In brief, if he argues for one client, this argument will be opposed by him when he argues for the
other client. This rule covers not only cases in which confidential communications have been confided, but also those
in which no confidence has been bestowed or will be used. x x x. Another test of the inconsistency of interests is
whether the acceptance of a new relation will prevent an attorney from the full discharge of his duty of undivided fidelity
and loyalty to his client or invite suspicion of unfaithfulness or double[-]dealing in the performance thereof.[29]

Evidently, respondent was working on conflicting interests – that of his client, which was to be able to foreclose and
obtain the best amount they could get to cover the loan obligation, and that of the complainant's, which was to forestall
the foreclosure and settle the loan obligation for a lesser amount.

Indeed, the relationship between the lawyer and his client should ideally be imbued with the highest level of trust and
confidence. Necessity and public interest require that this be so. Part of the lawyer's duty to his client is to avoid
representing conflicting interests.[30]It behooves lawyers not only to keep inviolate the client's confidence, but also to
avoid the appearance of treachery and double-dealing for only then can litigants be encouraged to entrust their secrets
to their lawyers, which is of paramount importance in the administration of justice. [31]

Respondent's allegation that such negotiation was within the knowledge of his client will not exonerate him from the
clear violation of Rule 15.03 of the CPR. Respondent presented a number of documents to support his allegation that
all the communications between him and the complainant were relayed to his client but We find no record of any
written consent from any of the parties, especially from his client, allowing him to negotiate as such.
75
Respondent's admission that he received advance payments of professional fees from the complainant made matters
worse for him. As correctly found by the Investigating Commissioner, it was highly improper for respondent to accept
professional fees from the opposing party as this creates clouds of doubt regarding respondent's legal practice. As
aptly stated by the Investigating Commissioner, if a lawyer receives payment of professional fees from the adverse
party, it gives an impression that he is being paid for services rendered or to be rendered in favor of such adverse
party's interest, which, needless to say, conflicts that of his client's.

Simply put, respondent's professional fees must come from his client. This holds true even if eventually such fees will
be reimbursed by the adverse party depending on the agreement of the parties. Respondent cannot justify his act of
accepting professional fees from the complainant by alleging that such was in accordance with the arrangement
between his client and the complainant as there is no clear proof of such arrangement. The April 22, 2005
Letter[32] signed by the complainant and addressed to FLC through Dr. Malaya, invoked by the respondent, does not, in
any way, prove that there was an agreement between complainant and FLC. Moreover, the fact that respondent was
already receiving several amounts from the complainant even before the date of the said Letter, supposedly stating an
agreement between the complainant and FLC as regards the settlement of the loan obligation and the payment of his
professional fees, is also suspicious. Such circumstance reveals that even before the complainant and FLC have come
to such purported agreement, he was already receiving professional fees from the complainant. Respondent's
allegations to the effect that negotiations had already been going on between the parties through him via phone calls
even before that Letter do not hold water. To be sure, it would have been easy for the respondent, as a lawyer, to
present documentary proof of such negotiation and/or arrangements but respondent failed to do so.

At any rate, even assuming that there was indeed an arrangement between FLC and complainant that respondent's
professional fees shall be paid by the complainant, which will be later on deducted from whatever the latter will pay
FLC for the settlement of his loan obligation, respondent's act of accepting such payments from the complainant and
appropriating the same for his professional fees is still reprehensible. The said payments from the complainant are still
considered FLC's money; as such, respondent should have accounted the same for his client. As correctly found by
the Investigating Commissioner, there is nothing on record, aside from respondent's bare and self-serving allegations,
that would show that respondent made such accounting or disclosure to his client. Such acts are in violation of Canon
16, Rule 16.01 of the CPR above-cited.

In addition, this Court is baffled by the idea that complainant opted to pay respondent's professional fees first before
his loan obligation was even taken care of, and that FLC would actually agree to this.

This Court cannot overstress the duty of a lawyer to uphold, at all times, the integrity and dignity of the legal
profession. The ethics of the legal profession rightly enjoin lawyers to act with the highest standards of truthfulness, fair
play, and nobility in the course of their practice of law. Clearly, in this case, respondent failed to uphold such ethical
standard in his practice of law.

In view of the foregoing disquisition, We hold that respondent should be suspended from the practice of law for a
period of one (1) year as recommended by the Investigating Commissioner.

ACCORDINGLY, this Court AFFIRMS the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board of Governor's Resolution No. XX-
2013-84 dated September 28, 2013 and Resolution No. XXI-2014-280 dated May 3, 2014 and ORDERS the
suspension of Atty. Estanislao L. Cesa, Jr. from the practice of law for one (1) year effective immediately upon receipt
of this Decision.

Let a copy of this Decision be entered in the personal records of respondent as a member of the Bar, and copies
furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the Office of the Court
Administrator for circulation to all courts in the country.

SO ORDERED.

Bersamin, (Acting Chairperson), Reyes, Perlas-Bernabe,* and Jarpeleza, JJ., concur.

21.Ignacio vs. Alviar

THIRD DIVISION
July 17, 2017
76
A.C. No. 11482
JOCELYN IGNACIO, Complainant
vs.
ATTY. DANIEL T. ALVIAR, Respondent
DECISION
TIJAM, J.:
This is an administrative case filed by complainant Jocelyn Ignacio against respondent Atty. Daniel T. Alviar for
violation of Canon 11 , Rule 1.012 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR) for his alleged refusal to refund the
amount of acceptance fees; Canon 123, Rule 12.044 and Canon 185 Rule 18.036 for his alleged failure to appear in the
criminal case he is handling and to file any pleading therein.
The Facts
In March 2014, respondent was referred to complainant for purposes of handling the case of complainant's son who
was then apprehended and detained by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Quezon City. Respondent
agreed to represent complainant's son for a stipulated acceptance fee of PhPl00,000. Respondent further represented
that he could refer the matter to the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the alleged illegal arrest made on
complainant's son.7
After the initial payments of PhP20,000 and PhP30,000 were given to respondent, the latter visited complainant's son
at the PDEA detention cell.8 There, respondent conferred with complainant's son for some 20 minutes. After which,
respondent left.9
Respondent, through his secretary, secured from the Office of the Pasay City Prosecutor plain copies of the case
records. Respondent also verified twice from the Hall of Justice if the case was already filed in court. 10 It was at this
time that respondent asked, and was paid, the remaining balance of PhP50,000. Subsequently, respondent filed his
notice of appearance as counsel for complainant's son.11
Sometime in April 2014, complainant informed respondent that her son's arraignment was set on April 29, 2014.
Respondent, however, replied that he cannot attend said arraignment due to a previously scheduled hearing. He
committed to either find a way to attend the hearing or ask another lawyer-friend to attend it for him.
On April 26, 2014, complainant wrote a 1etter12 to respondent informing the latter that she had decided to seek the
intercession of another lawyer owing to the fact that respondent cannot attend her son's scheduled arraignment.
Complainant then requested that respondent retain a portion of the PhP 100,000 to fairly remunerate respondent for
the preparatory legal service he rendered. Respondent denies having received said letter. 13
On the date of the arraignment, neither respondent nor his promised alternate, appeared. When asked, respondent
replied that he forgot the date of arraignment.14
This incident prompted complainant to write another letter15 dated May 6, 2014 to respondent, requesting the latter to
formally withdraw as counsel and emphasized that respondent's withdrawal as counsel is necessary so that she and
her son can hire another lawyer to take his stead. In said letter, complainant also reiterated her request that a portion
of the PhPl00,000 be remitted to them after respondent deducts his professional fees commensurate to the
preparatory legal service he rendered.16
When respondent failed to take heed, complainant filed on June 16, 2014, the instant administrative complaint before
the Commission on Bar Discipline, Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
At the proceedings therein, respondent failed to attend the initial mandatory conferences and to file his responsive
pleading, citing as reason therefor the persistent threats to his life allegedly caused by a former client.17 Upon finally
submitting his Answer18 , respondent denied having neglected his duties to complainant's son.
Report and Recommendation
of the Commission on Bar Discipline
On January 21, 2016, the Investigating Commissioner found respondent liable for negligence under Rule 18.03 of the
CPR and recommended a penalty of six months suspension from the practice of law. The Investigating Commissioner
observed that while respondent performed some tasks as lawyer for complainant's son, such do not command a fee of
PhPl00,000. It was also emphasized that respondent's failure to attend the arraignment shows the latter's failure to
handle the case with diligence.19
As such, the Investigating Commissioner disposed:

77
WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, the undersigned recommends that respondent be meted out with the
penalty of suspension for six (6) months from the practice of law and ordered to restitute the amount of One Hundred
Thousand (Phpl00,000) Pesos to the complainant.
Respectfully Submitted.20
Resolution of the Board of Governors
of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
On February 25, 2016, the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution No. XXII-2016-17821 lowering the
recommended penalty to reprimand with stem warning, thus:
RESOLVED to ADOPT with modification the recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner reducing the penalty
to REPRJMAND WITH STERN WARNING.22
Pursuant to Rule 139-B, the records of the administrative case were transmitted by the IBP to the Court for final action.
Complainant further seeks a review23 of the Resolution No. XXII-2016-178 dated February 25, 2016.
The Issue
The threshold issue to be resolved is whether respondent is guilty of negligence in handling the case of complainant's
son.
The Ruling of the Court
The Court affirms the Resolution No. XXII-2016-178 dated February 25, 2016 of the IBP Board of Governors, reducing
the recommended penalty from six months to reprimand with stem warning. However, on the undisputed factual finding
that respondent only performed preparatory legal services for complainant's son, he is not entitled to the entire PhP
100,000 but only to fees determined on the basis of quantum meruit, Section 24, Rule 138, and Canon 20, Rule 20.01
of the CPR and that the remainder should be restituted to complainant.
Acceptance of money from a client establishes an attorney-client relationship and gives rise to the duty of fidelity to the
client's cause.24 Canon 1825 of the CPR mandates that once a lawyer agrees to handle a case, it is the lawyer's duty to
serve the client with competence and diligence.
In Voluntad-Ramirez v. Atty. Bautista26 , the Court citing Santiago v. Fojas27 expounds:
It is axiomatic that no lawyer is obliged to act either as adviser or advocate for every person who may wish to become
his client. He has the right to decline employment, subject, however, to Canon 14 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility. Once he agrees to take up the cause of [his] client, the lawyer owes fidelity to such cause and must
always be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him. He must serve the client with competence and diligence,
and champion the latter's cause with wholehearted fidelity, care and devotion. Elsewise stated, he owes entire
devotion to the interest of his client, warm zeal in the maintenance and defense of his client's rights, and the exertion of
his utmost learning and ability to the end that nothing be taken or withheld from his client, save by the rules of the law,
legally applied. This simply means that his client is entitled to the benefit of any and every remedy and defense that is
authorized by the law of the land and he may expect his lawyer to assert every such remedy or defense. If much is
demanded from an attorney, it is because the entrusted privilege to practice law carries with it the correlative duties not
only to the client but also to the court, to the bar, and to the public. A lawyer who performs his duty with diligence and
candor not only protects the interest of his client; he also serves the ends of justice, does honor to the bar, and helps
maintain the respect of the community to the legal profession. 28
We agree with the finding of the Investigating Commissioner that respondent failed to competently and diligently attend
to the legal matter entrusted to him. It is undisputed that respondent came to see complainant's son, his client, only
once for about 20 minutes and no more thereafter;29 it is likewise undisputed that respondent failed to attend the
scheduled arraignment despite the latter's commitment to either find a way to attend, or send a collaborating counsel
to do so;30 that he forgot the date of arraignment is an equally dismal excuse.
Equally revealing of respondent's negligence was his nonchalant attitude towards complainant's request for a refund of
a portion of, not even the entire, PhPl00,000. In his Answer before the IBP, respondent simply denied having received
any of the letters sent by complainant.31 Respondent's claim that it was complainant who failed to talk to him and his
admission that he "forgot about complainant"32 reveal his rather casual and lackadaisical treatment of the complainant
and the legal matter entrusted to him.
If it were true that complainant already failed to communicate with him, the least respondent could have done was to
withdraw his appearance as counsel. But even this measure, it appears, respondent failed to perform. His failure to
take such action speaks of his negligence.

78
In administrative proceedings, only substantial evidence is required to warrant disciplinary sanctions. Substantial
evidence is consistently defined as relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.33 While the Court finds respondent guilty of negligence, We cannot ascribe to him any unlawful, dishonest,
immoral or deceitful conduct nor causing undue delay and impediment to the execution of a judgment or misusing
court processes. As such, and consistent with current jurisprudence, We find the penalty of reprimand with stem
warning commensurate to his offense.34
As regards the restitution of the acceptance fees, We find it necessary to first distinguish between an attorney's fee
and an acceptance fee as the former depends on the nature and extent of the legal services rendered, while the other
does not.
On one hand, attorney's fee is understood both in its ordinary and extraordinary concept.35 In its ordinary concept,
attorney's fee refers to the reasonable compensation paid to a lawyer by his client for legal services rendered. While, in
its extraordinary concept, attorney's fee is awarded by the court to the successful litigant to be paid by the losing party
as indemnity for damages.36 In the present case, the Investigating Commissioner referred to the attorney's fee in its
ordinary concept.
On the other hand, acceptance fee refers to the charge imposed by the lawyer for mere acceptance of the case. The
rationale for the fee is because once the lawyer agrees to represent a client, he is precluded from handling cases of
the opposing party based on the prohibition on conflict of interest. The opportunity cost of mere acceptance is thus
indemnified by the payment of acceptance fee. However, since acceptance fee compensates the lawyer only for lost
opportunity, the same is not measured by the nature and extent of the legal services rendered. 37
In this case, respondent referred to the PhPl00,000 as his acceptance fee while to the complainant, said amount
answers for the legal services which respondent was engaged to provide. Preceding from the fact that complainant
agreed to immediately pay, as she, in fact, immediately paid the sums of PhP20,000, PhP30,000 and PhP50,000, said
amounts undoubtedly pertain to respondent's acceptance fee which is customarily paid by the client upon the lawyer's
acceptance of the case.
Be that as it may, the Court had not shied from ordering a return of acceptance fees in cases wherein the lawyer had
been negligent in the handling of his client's case. Thus, in Carino v. Atty. De Los Reyes,38 the respondent lawyer who
failed to file a complaint-affidavit before the prosecutor's office, returned the PhPl 0,000 acceptance fee paid to him
and was admonished to be more careful in the performance of his duty to his clients. Likewise, in Voluntad-Ramirez v.
Baustista,39 the respondent lawyer was ordered to return the PhP14,000 acceptance fee because he did nothing to
advance his client's cause during the six-month period that he was engaged as counsel.
This being the case, the next query to be had is how much of the acceptance fee should respondent
restitute.1âwphi1 In this regard, the principle of quantum meruit (as much as he deserves) may serve as a basis for
determining the reasonable amount of attorney's fees. Quantum meruit is a device to prevent undue enrichment based
on the equitable postulate that it is unjust for a person to retain benefit without working for it.
Also, Section 24, Rule 138 should be observed in determining respondent's compensation, thus:
SEC. 24. Compensation of attorney's; agreement as to fees. An attorney shall be entitled to have and recover from his
client no more than a reasonable compensation for his services, with a view to the importance of the subject matter of
the controversy, the extent of the services rendered, and the professional standing of the attorney. No court shall be
bound by the opinion of attorneys as expert witnesses as to the proper compensation, but may disregard such
testimony and base its conclusion on its own professional knowledge. A written contract for services shall control the
amount to be paid therefor unless found by the court to be unconscionable or unreasonable.
The criteria found in the Code of Professional Responsibility are also to be considered in assessing the proper amount
of compensation that a lawyer should receive. 40 Canon 20, Rule 20.01 provides:
CANON 20 A LAWYER SHALL CHARGE ONLY FAIR AND REASONABLE FEES.
Rule 20.01. A lawyer shall be guided by the following factors in determining his fees:
(a) The time spent and the extent of the services rendered or required;
(b) The novelty and difficulty of the question involved;
(c) The importance of the subject matter;
(d) The skill demanded;
(e) The probability of losing other employment as a result of acceptance of the proffered case;
(f) The customary charges for similar services and the schedule of fees of the IBP Chapter to which he belongs;
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(g) The amount involved in the controversy and the benefits resulting to the client from the service;
(h) The contingency or certainty of compensation;
(i) The character of the employment, whether occasional or established; and
(j) The professional standing of the lawyer.
Here, respondent only conferred once with the complainant's son for 20 minutes, filed his entry of appearance,
obtained copies of the case records and inquired twice as to the status of the case. For his efforts and for the particular
circumstances in this case, respondent should be allowed a reasonable compensation of PhP3,000. The remainder, or
PhP97,000 should be returned to the complainant.
WHEREFORE, We find Atty. Daniel T. Alviar LIABLE for violation of Canon 18 and Rule 18.03 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility and he is hereby REPRIMANDED with a stem warning that a repetition of the same or
similar act would be dealt with more severely. Atty. Daniel T. Alviar is ordered to RESTITUTE to complainant the
amount of PhP97,000 out of the Phpl00,000 acceptance fee.
SO ORDERED.

22.Castro vs. Bigay & Siapno

Eliezer F. Castro and Bethulia C. Casafrancisco Vs. Atty. John Bigay, Jr. and Atty. Juan Siapno, Jr.; A.C. No. 7824;
July 19, 2017
DECISION
TIJAM, J.:
This is a disbarment case against respondents Atty. John Bigay, Jr. (Atty. Bigay) and Atty. Juan Siapno, Jr. (Atty. Siapno)
filed by complainants Eliezer F. Castro (Eliezer) and Bethulia C. Casafrancisco (Bethulia).
The Facts

Originally, the complaint[1] filed directly to this Court imputed several violations, criminal and administrative in nature,
against respondents such as perjury, estafa through falsification of public documents, obstruction of justice, deceit, and
grave misconduct, among others. The case was then referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)-
Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) for investigation and recommendation. Upon preliminary conference, it was
agreed upon that the issues, stipulations, and admissions shall be limited to the pleadings filed before the said
office.[2] Thus, the factual backdrop of the case is as follows:
The complaint alleged that sometime in August 1989, Bethulia engaged Atty. Bigay’s legal services for the settlement of
her late father’s estate, which includes a 411-square meter parcel of land situated in Poblacion, Lingayen, Pangasinan.
Atty. Bigay also represented Bethulia in several cases related to the estate’s settlement.[3]
The complainants, however, discovered that Atty. Bigay had vested interest in having a share in the subject inheritance.
According to the complainants, Atty. Bigay, with the cooperation of Atty. Siapno, was able to transfer an 80 sq m portion
(subject property) of the said parcel of land to his and her wife’s name by simulating contracts of sale, to wit: (1) a Deed
of Absolute Sale dated June 1, 2005, covering the sale of the subject property to spouses Peter and Jocelyn Macaraeg
(Spouses Macaraeg); and (2) a Deed of Absolute Sale dated October 4, 2006, covering the sale of the subject property
to Atty. Bigay and his wife. These deeds were notarized by Atty. Siapno on the said dates. [4]
The instant complaint is, thus, filed against Atty. Bigay for having an interest in a property subject of litigation/s which he
is handling and for forging and simulating deeds to the prejudice of his client and the latter’s coheirs.[5]
For his part, Atty. Bigay denied being Bethulia’s counsel in 1989, averring that he passed the bar exam only in
1992.[6] Further, he averred that the subject estate had long been settled and the property subject of the deeds of sale
had been apportioned to Bethulia way back in 1984 through extrajudicial partition.[7] To show Bethulia’s ownership of the
411-sq m parcel of land prior to his and his wife’s acquisition of the 80 sq m portion thereof, Atty. Bigay presented: (1) a
Tax Declaration under Bethulia’s name; (2) annotations showing that Bethulia mortgaged the property to the bank in
1992 and 1996; (3) the Deed of Sale which shows that Bethulia sold the subject property to Macaraeg; (4) and a deed
of donation which shows that Bethulia donated the remaining 331 sq m portion of the said parcel of land in 2005.[8] These
circumstances, according to Atty. Bigay, clearly show that there was no irregularity in his and his wife’s acquisition of the
said portion, contrary to complainants’ imputations.

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For his part, Atty. Siapno denied having notarized the subject deeds of sale. Specifically, Atty. Siapno averred that the
said deeds are falsified, that his signatures therein as notary public were forged, and that he has never met Atty. Bigay,
Bethulia, and Macaraeg.[9]
Report and Recommendation of the IBP-CBD

Relying upon Atty. Siapno’s claim that his signatures in the subject deeds were forged and that he had never
personally met Atty. Bigay, Bethulia, and Macaraeg, the IBP-CBD was persuaded that the said deeds were falsified.
Then, by virtue of Atty. Bigay and his wife’s notorious claim over the property, the IBP-CBD theorized that the said
spouses are the only persons Interested in the property and the only beneficiary of the said simulated sales. The IBP-
CBD then proceeded to conclude that only a person who has a legal mentality would be able to formulate such tactic
to make it appear that Spouses Bigay were buyers in good faith. In addition, the IBP-CBD cited the principle that the
person who is in possession of a forged/falsified document and made use and benefited from the same is presumed to
be the forger/falsifier. Pinning the guilt mainly on Atty. Bigay, the IBP-CBD recommended in its November 6, 2009
Report and Recommendation,[10] thus:
WHEREFORE, it is most respectfully recommended that respondent John L. Bigay, Jr. be SUSPENDED for six (6)
months from the active practice of law. For respondent Juan C. Siapno, Jr., he is WARNED to be extra careful with his
notarial paraphernalia.[11]
The IBP Board of Governors Resolutions
On February 13, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors issued Resolution No. XX-2013-131,[12] which reads:
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and APPROVED, with modification, the
Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the above-entitled case, herein made part of this
Resolution as Annex “A”, and finding the recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable
laws and for using a falsified Deed of Sale and benefiting (sic), Atty. John L. Bigay, Jr. is hereby SUSPENDED from the
practice of law for three (3) months and Atty. Juan C. Siapno, Jr. is hereby WARNED to be circumspect in his notarial
transaction. (Emphasis supplied)
Atty. Bigay’s Motion for Reconsideration[13] was denied by the IBP Board of Governors in its Resolution No. XXI-2014-
187[14] dated March 23, 2014, thus:
RESOLVED to DENY Respondent’s Motion for Reconsideration, there being no cogent reason to reverse the findings
of the Commission and it being a mere reiteration of the matters which had already been threshed out and taken into
consideration. Thus, Resolution No. XX- 2013-131 dated February 13, 2013 is hereby AFFIRMED.[15]
Having a final say on the matter of disciplining members of the bar, We now resolve the instant complaint.
Issue

Should the respondents be held administratively liable based on the allegations in the pleadings of all parties on
record?
Our Ruling

It is well to remember that in disbarment proceedings, the burden of proof rests upon the complainant. For the Court to
exercise its disciplinary powers, the case against the respondent must be established by convincing and satisfactory
proof.[16]
It is settled that considering the serious consequences of the disbarment or suspension of a member of the Bar, the
Court has consistently held that preponderant evidence is necessary to justify the imposition of administrative penalty
on a member of the Bar.[17] Preponderance of evidence means that the evidence adduced by one side is, as a whole,
superior to or has greater weight than that of the other. It means evidence which is more convincing to the court as
worthy of belief than that which is offered in opposition thereto.[18]
In the absence of preponderant evidence, the presumption of innocence of the lawyer subsists and the complaint against
him must be dismissed.[19]
The IBP-CBD found Atty. Bigay guilty of forging the subject deeds of sale and using the same for his benefit, hence, it
recommended the latter’s suspension from the practice of law for six months. Atty. Siapno, on the other hand, was merely
warned to be extra careful with his notarial paraphernalia, the IBP-CBD relying on the latter’s allegations and denial.
However, the findings and conclusions of the IBP lack factual and legal support.
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As can be gleaned from the report and recommendation of the IBP CBD quoted hereunder, its findings were merely
based on bare allegations, assumptions, conjectures, and disputable legal presumption. Pertinent portions of the said
report and recommendation read:
Respondent John Bigay, Jr. was retained by complainant/petitioner Bethulia Casafrancisco as legal counsel/adviser of
the heirs of the late Luis M. Castro, for possible division/settlement of their inheritance among the said nine heirs. x x x.
Respondent Juan Siapno claimed that his signatures were falsified in [the subject deeds]. He further claimed that he had
not met personally respondent John Bigay. Also, Bethulia Casafrancisco, Peter Macaraeg, and Jocelyn Macaraeg did
not appear before him.
On the other hand, respondent John Bigay with the use of alleged falsified Deeds of Absolute Sale made it appear that
complainant Bethulia Casafrancisco sold portion of 80 square meters to Peter M. Macaraeg to simulate the sale not a
direct sale from Bethulia Casafrancisco to the spouses respondent John Bigay and Glenda Lee Bigay.
Spouses Atty. John L. Bigay and Glenda Lee J. Bigay are the only two persons appearing to have interest and benefited
on the sale x x x as clearly manifested in their Affidavit of Adverse Claim, Notice of Rights and Ownership and
photographs of the property showing that said property is already acquired by them. x x x.
Being the interested and now the owners of the above-mentioned portion of land, Atty. John L. Bigay and wife Glenda
Lee J. Bigay are presumed to know who really made the alleged forgery/falsification in this case. If it were true that there
was an agreement between Atty. Bigay and his client Bethulia C. Casafrancisco as to the payment of his legal services
to be taken from her share on the properties subject of litigations, why the [sic] diversionary tactic employed in the first
Deed of Absolute Sale from Bethulia C. Casafrancisco to the alleged fictitious spouses Peter and Jocelyn Macaraeg and
the latter to spouses Atty. John L. Bigay and Glenda Lee J. Bigay? This tactic, for sure, was planned by one of legal
mentality just to make it appear that they (Bigay) appear to be buyers in good faith and for value.
The facts and circumstances above explained squarely fall on that leading case of People v. Manansala were the court
held that “He who is in possession of a forged/falsified document and made use and benefited from the same
is presumed to be the forger/falsifier.” x x x.[20] (Emphasis supplied)
After a careful review of the factual backdrop of the case and available evidence on record, the Court finds that the
evidence submitted by the complainants, even if considered together with those presented by Atty. Siapno, fell short of
the required quantum of proof. Aside from bare allegations, no evidence was presented to clearly and convincingly
establish that Atty. Bigay engaged in unlawful and dishonest conduct, specifically, in forging and/or falsifying deeds of
sale for his benefit and dealing with the property of his client under litigation.
To begin with, the allegation of forgery was not clearly substantiated. There is nothing on record that would show that
the contracts were simulated, much less that the same were forged and/or falsified by Spouses Bigay. Atty. Siapno may
have corroborated complainants’ claim of forgery by alleging that he did not notarize and had never met the parties in
the said deeds. We, however, could not accept hook, line, and sinker, the unsupported and self-serving claims and
denial of Atty. Siapno. The complainants likewise did not adduce any evidence to support their imputations against Atty.
Bigay.
On the other hand, Atty. Bigay presented sufficient evidence against the accusations of forgery and engaging in the
prohibited practice of dealing with properties under litigation. He presented the notarized deeds of extrajudicial settlement
of estate and partition executed by Bethulia and her sisters in 1984, which shows that the 411 sq m portion of the subject
parcel of land had already been allocated to Bethulia way back in 1984 as her share in the estate. This was affirmed by
the deed of quitclaim and renunciation of rights executed by Bethulia and her sister Minerva in the same year. A tax
declaration was then issued in the name ofBethulia over the said property.
Further, the notarized Deed of Sale of the subject properly clearly states that the same was sold by Bethulia to Macaraeg.
Although the validity of the said deed was disputed, no sufficient proof was presented to support the claim of forgery or
irregularity in the execution of the same. That the subject property was no longer available for disposal, as the same was
already sold to Macaraeg, is affirmed by the deed of donation executed by Bethulia in favor of her children which covers
only 331 sq m of the 411-sq m parcel of land. Lastly, the Deed of Sale executed between Macaraeg and Spouses Bigay
over the subject property is existent albeit its validity was disputed, but then again, no proof was presented to support
the claim of invalidity.
Let it be made clear, however, that neither the IBP nor this Court has the authority to inquire into or determine the rights
of the parties, specifically the complainants and Atty. Bigay, over the property involved herein. We also do not attempt
to make any determination as to the validity or otherwise of the subject documents, or the regularity or otherwise of the
subject sales. Our function in this administrative case is limited to disciplining lawyers. [21] The pronouncements that We
make in this case, thus, are not determinative of any issues of law and facts regarding the parties’ legal rights over the
disputed property.
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At any rate, whether or not We take into consideration such pieces of evidence, the fact still remains that the records are
barren of any proof to support the accusations against Atty. Bigay in the instant administrative case.
Section 3(a), Rule 131 of the Rules of Court (Rules) provides that every person is presumed innocent of a crime or
wrongdoing. Thus, this Court has consistently held that an attorney enjoys the legal presumption that he or she is
innocent of the charges against him or her until the contrary is proved, and that as an officer of the court, he is presumed
to have performed his duties in accordance with his oath.[22]
Thus, without such required proof to overcome the presumption of innocence, this Court will not hesitate to dismiss an
administrative case against a member of the Bar.
As to Atty. Siapno’s liability, from his own admissions, it cannot be doubted that he is guilty of dereliction of duty as a
notary public. It was admitted that the questioned deeds of sale bore the impression of his notarial seal. He, however,
maintains that he did not notarize the said documents and that his signatures therein were forged, which, however, were
not proven in this case. He admitted that he has no sole access and control of his notarial seal as other persons could
make use of the same without his consent or knowledge.
In Gemina v. Atty. Madamba,[23] the Court held that:
A notary public is empowered to perform a variety of notarial acts, most common of which are the acknowledgment and
affirmation of documents or instruments. In the performance of these notarial acts, the notary public must be mindful of
the significance of the notarial seal affixed on documents. The notarial seal converts a document from a private to a
public instrument, after which it may be presented as evidence without need for proof of its genuineness and due
execution.
A notary public exercises duties calling for carefulness and faithfulness.[24]
The Notarial Law and the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice require a duly commissioned notary public to refrain from
committing any dereliction or any act which may serve as a cause for the revocation of his commission or the imposition
of administrative sanctions.[25] Thus, Atty. Siapno’s excuse cited above cannot absolve him from liability.
Anent the penalty, considering that this is Atty. Siapno’s first infraction and that it was not clearly proven that there was
indeed an illegal transaction in this case or that he participated therein, We find that the appropriate penalty is reprimand.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant administrative case against Atty. John Bigay, Jr. is DISMISSED. On
the other hand, Atty. Juan Siapno, Jr. is found guilty of violating the Notarial Law and is accordingly, meted out the
penalty of REPRIMAND, with the stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar act will be dealt with more severely.
Let copies of this Decision be furnished all courts, the Office of the Bar Confidant, and the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines for their information and guidance. The Office of the Bar Confidant is directed to append a copy of this
Decision to respondent’s record as member of the Bar.
SO ORDERED.
Velasco, Jr., (Chairperson), Bersamin, Jardeleza, and Reyes, Jr., JJ., concur.

23. Alicias vs. Baclig

THIRD DIVISION
[ A.C. No. 9919, July 19, 2017 ]
DR. EDUARDO R. ALICIAS, JR. COMPLAINANT, VS. ATTY. VIVENCIO S. BACLIG, RESPONDENT.

DECISION
TIJAM, J.:
Before Us is a complaint for disbarment[1] filed by complainant Eduardo R. Alicias, Jr. against Atty. Vivencio S. Baclig
(Atty. Baclig) for violation. of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR) and/or Lawyer's Oath.

The Facts

The case stemmed from the amended complaint[2] for declaration of nullity of void documents, recovery of ownership
and possession, accounting of the natural, industrial fruits derived from the illegal occupation of the subject property,
exercise of the right of legal redemption with damages, and application for a writ of preliminary injuction filed by
Eleuterio Lamorena, Higinio Rene Lamorena, Oscar Lamorena and Eloisa Lamorena, duly represented by their
Attorney-in-Fact, Marissa L. Peña, and Marissa L. Peña, in her own behalf (Lamorena, et. al.) against Robert R. Alicias
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(Robert) and Urvillo A. Paa (Paa), and herein complainant before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Vigan City. Said
complaint was filed in September 2012 and Atty. Baclig was hired by Lamorena, et. al. as their counsel.

In said amended complaint, Lamorena, et. al. questioned the occupancy of complainant and his co-defendants of a
certain parcel of land. Lamorena, et. al. claimed that they are entitled to possession of the same, being the surviving
heirs of the lawful owners of the subject property, spouses Vicente and Catalina Lamorena (Catalina).

Complainant and his co-defendants filed their Answer,[3] stressing, among others, that they legally acquired the subject
property by virtue of a contract of sale from its lawful owner, Catalina, as the same is her paraphernal property.

It appears, however, that in February 2010, an amended complaint[4] for reconveyance, annulment of deeds and
quieting of title was filed by Lamorena, et. al. against herein complainant and Urvillo Paa before the Municipal Trial
Court in Cities (MTCC) in Vigan City. However, it was not Atty. Baclig who acted as counsel in this case.

On May 14, 2013, the complainant filed an administrative case for disbarment against Atty. Baclig before Us.

In said administrative complaint, the complainant averred that Atty. Baclig consented to false assertions when his
clients allegedly made false statements in their amended complaint. Complainant also stated that Atty. Baclig
knowingly filed an action which was: (1) already barred by res judicata and laches; and (2) without the jurisdiction of
the RTC where such complaint was filed. Lastly, complainant claimed that Atty. Baclig consented to the filing of a
complaint, which asserted similar relief, when a similar case was filed before the MTCC.

In his Comment,[5] Atty. Baclig contended that the allegations in the subject complaint contained absolutely privileged
communication, which insulates him from liability. Also, the issues as to whether or not the assertions in the subject
complaint are false statements and whether or not the RTC has jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action are
yet to be decided; hence, the complaint against him holds no water.

Issue

Is Atty. Baclig administratively liable?

Our Ruling

A case of suspension or disbarment is sui generis and not meant to grant relief to a complainant as in a civil case, but
is intended to cleanse the ranks of the legal profession of its undesirable members in order to protect the public and
the courts.[6]

Jurisprudence is replete with cases reiterating that in disbarment proceedings, the burden of proof rests upon the
complainant.[7] In the recent case of Carrie-Anne Shaleen Carlyle S. Reyes v. Atty. Ramon F. Nieva,[8] this Court had
the occasion to clarify that the proper evidentiary threshold in disbarment cases is substantial evidence.

The gist of the complaint before Us is the alleged false assertions in the amended complaint, to which Atty. Baclig has
consented to. Complainant alleged that Atty. Baclig consented to falsehood when the allegations in the amended
complaint specified, among others, that the subject property is a hereditary property when in fact it is a paraphernal
property; that the property is unregistered property; and that it was inherited in 1952 when it was not.

However, noteworthy is the fact that such assertions are the matters in dispute in the case before the RTC. In other
words, the assertions as to the nature of the property and the time when it was inherited also deal with the main issue
of the case. To recall, Lamorena, et. al.'s main contention is that the subject property is a hereditary property, being the
property of their parents. On the other hand, complainant alleged that they brought the property from Catalina and the
latter had every right to sell it even without the consent of her spouse because it is her paraphernal property. In other
words, the issue in the amended complaint is who between Lamorena, et. al. and complainant herein has the right of
possession over the subject property. Hence, Atty. Baclig cannot be faulted for consenting to his clients' act of
asserting such statements.

At any rate, it must be considered that Atty. Baclig's pleadings were privileged and would not occasion any action
against him as an attorney.[9]

84
As regards res judicata, laches, and jurisdiction, We note that the same are not founded on substantial evidence.

However, as to the matter of forum shopping, We find that Atty. Baclig resorted to the same.

In forum shopping, the following requisites should concur: (a) identity of parties, or at 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.[10]

In this case, it must be noted that an amended complaint was filed by Lamorena, et. al. against herein complainant and
Paa before the MTCC in February 2010. In sum, such amended complaint sought for the nullification of the mortgage
contract and deed of sale which transferred the property to herein complainant and his co-defendants and the
declaration of Lamorena, et. al. as the absolute owners of the subject property. Eventually, the case before the MTCC
was dismissed with prejudice in an Order[11] dated November 9, 2012.

However, on September 19, 2012, another amended complaint was filed by Lamorena, et. al. against complainants,
Robert and Paa, but this time, before the RTC. A cursory reading of the complaint reveals that the reliefs sought
pertain to the nullification of any and all the documents in the form of a written agreement which may be executed
without the consent of Lamorena, et. al. In esse, such complaint before the RTC prayed for similar reliefs as those
which were sought for in the complaint before the MTCC.

On this note, We rule that there was forum shopping in this case, for while the case before the MTCC was pending,
Atty. Baclig consented to the filing of another complaint before another forum, i.e., RTC. Such cases deal with the
same parties and same reliefs. Thus, a ruling in one case would resolve the other, and vice versa.

Moreover, regardless of the fact that Atty. Baclig did not act as counsel in the case before the MTC, it would not
exempt him from culpability. Atty. Baclig did not categorically deny the allegations of complainant regarding the
commission of forum shopping. Moreover, it is surprising that he was able to answer the 10 causes of action raised by
complainant, except the issue on forum shopping. Hence, he is deemed to have admitted that he has knowledge of the
pendency of a similar complaint before the MTC when a complaint before the RTC was filed. [12]

In this regard, We emphasize that the filing of another action concerning the same subject matter runs contrary to
Canon 1 and Rule 12.04 of Canon 12 of the CPR. Canon 1 of the CPR requires a lawyer to exert every effort and
consider it his duty to assist in the speedy and efficient administration of justice and Rule 12.04 of Canon 12 prohibits
the undue delay of a case by misusing court processes.[13]

We reiterate that a lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client, but not at the expense of truth and the administration
of justice. The filing of multiple petitions constitutes abuse of the court's processes and improper conduct that tends to
impede, obstruct and degrade the administration of justice and will be punished as contempt of court.

A former member of the judiciary need not be reminded of the fact that forum shopping wreaks havoc upon orderly
judicial process and clogs the courts' dockets.[14] As a former judge, Atty. Baclig must be mindful not only of the tenets
of the legal profession but also of the proper observance of the same.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, We find the complaint meritorious and accordingly CENSURE Atty. Vivencio S.
Baclig for violating Canon 1 and Rule 12.04 of Canon 12 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. He is STERNLY
WARNED that any future violation of his duties as a lawyer will be dealt with more severely.

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

SO ORDERED.

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

85