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A.C. No.

7353, November 16, 2015 or drink causing her to feel drowsy and weak and, thereafter,
brought her to Victoria Court Motel where he sexually
NELSON P. VALDEZ, Petitioner, v. ATTY. ANTOLIN ALLYSON molested her while she was asleep; that she opted to keep
DABON, JR., Respondent. silent about the incident for fear of its adverse repercussions
of shame and embarrassment to her and her family; that she
DECISION 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
PER CURIAM:
in having repeated carnal knowledge of her once or twice a
week through intimidation and threats; that Atty. Dabon
This is an administrative complaint for disbarment filed by
threatened her that he would tell everyone that she had been
Nelson P. Valdez (Nelson) against Atty. Antolin Allyson M.
playing around with him, if she would not yield to his
Dabon, Jr. (Atty. Dabon) anchored on the ground of grossly
lascivious cravings; and that she suffered in silence for years
immoral and indecent conduct which transgressed the high
and submitted herself to the bestial desires of Atty. Dabon,
moral standards required for membership in the Bar.
until she even thought that she was in love with him.
The Position of the Complainant
Sonia further claimed that after years of living in deception
Complainant Nelson charged respondent Atty. Dabon, a
and infidelity, she decided to call it quits with Atty. Dabon
Division Clerk of Court of the Court of Appeals (CA), with gross
sometime in March 2006 but he could not let go of their
immorality for allegedly carrying on an adulterous relationship
relationship; that Atty. Dabon started pestering and
with his wife, Sonia Romero Valdez (Sonia), which was made
threatening her through phone calls and handwritten
possible by sexual assaults and maintained through threat and
messages in vile attempts to persuade her to continue their
intimidation.
illicit affair; that despite their break-up, Atty. Dabon still
pursued his lustful quest by bringing her to Anito Motel, along
In his Affidavit-Complaint,1 dated September 13, 2006, Nelson
Quirino Avenue on March 10, 2006, but she foiled his plan
averred, among others, that he married Sonia on January 28,
when she went ballistic prompting the respondent to drive her
1998 in Paniqui, Tarlac; that Sonia was employed as Court
back to the CA; that on March 13, 2006, Atty. Dabon forcibly
Stenographer of the CA from 1992 until her resignation on
boarded her car and pleaded for forgiveness and
May 15, 2006;2 that Sonia admitted to have had an adulterous
reconciliation but she remained firm in her resolve to end the
and immoral relationship with Atty. Dabon, from 2000 to
affair; that she had to seek the assistance of her officemates,
2006, a span of more than five years; that he came to know of Atty. Heiddi Venecia Barrozo (Atty. Barrozo) and Atty. Aileen T.
the relationship only on April 18, 2006 after receiving an
Ligot (Atty. Ligot), just to convince Atty. Dabon to alight from
anonymous text message hinting/stating about the existence
her car as the said incident had already drawn the attention of
of an illicit affair between the two; and that initially, Sonia
several employees within the vicinity of the CA parking lot;
denied the affair but eventually broke down and admitted her
that Atty. Dabon used the members of his staff to relay his
sexual liaison with Atty. Dabon when confronted with a text
messages and deliver his handwritten letters to her; that Atty.
message he received from Atty. Jocelyn Dabon (Atty. Joy), the
Dabon, angered by her repeated rejection, went berserk and
wife of the respondent, on May 4, 2006 at about 9:47 o'clock
sent her a letter which stated, among others, that he could no
in the morning, which stated:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
longer stand her constant avoidance of him and that he would
divulge their illicit relationship to her husband; that it numbed
Nelson, Jun and I were separating I will file an annulment
her with fright, so she called Atty. Joy, without disclosing her
anytime soon, although I'm in great pain, I ask for your
identity, and told her that Atty. Dabon was harassing an
apology and forgiveness for everything he is leaving for US and
employee at the CA; that Atty. Dabon sent a text message to
I hope he evolves into a strong and mature person there. D
Nelson telling him of the extramarital affair; that Atty. Joy
cya masamang tao, just emotional and easily manipulated.
called up Nelson and informed him that her husband, Atty.
Sana don't blame him entirely bee. he is d type that never
Dabon, had confessed to her the illicit relationship; and that
initiate things. He is passive and tame. He was honest with me
when she was asked by Nelson, she initially denied the affair
and I hope Sonia would find d courage to tell d truth to you. I
for fear of reprisal but, afterwards, admitted the truth and
just pray for peace and fresh start for all of us. I just want to go
explained to him that she was merely a victim of Atty. Dabon's
on with my life and use above all these for my son's sake. I
threat and intimidation which led to their illicit relationship.
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 further stated that Atty. Dabon's willful, flagrant and
shameless conduct was in gross defiance of the customs,
Nelson also asserted that Sonia confessed her infidelity and values and sense of morality of the community. He prayed for
described her extramarital affair with Atty. Dabon to have the disbarment of Atty. Dabon whose immoral acts showed his
been attended by sexual assaults and maintained through lack of moral character, honesty, probity, and good demeanor
intimidation and threats of exposure, humiliation and and, hence, unworthy to continue as an officer of the court.
embarrassment. Nelson alleged that he had previously filed an administrative
complaint for "Gross Immorality" against Atty. Dabon before
In her own Affidavit,4 dated September 13, 2006 and attached the CA.
to the complaint, Sonia narrated that her illicit relationship
with Atty. Dabon started sometime in November 2000 and Together with Sonia's Affidavit, Nelson also attached to his
ended in March 2006 when she, bothered by her conscience, Affidavit-Complaint for disbarment, the Joint
decided to break it off; that Atty. Dabon relentlessly pursued Affidavit5 executed by Atty. Barrozo and Atty. Ligot on May 19,
her for years and even admitted that he fell in love with her 2006; the Affidavit6 of Virginia D. Ramos (Ramos), dated May
the first time he laid eyes on her; that on November 13, 2000, 19, 2006; and the Affidavit7 of Marie Iris Magdalene Minerva
Atty. Dabon lured her to what appeared to be a mere friendly (Minerva), dated May 22, 2006, wherein the said affiants
lunch date, managed to put sleep-inducing drug into her food corroborated the declaration of Sonia in her affidavit.
injustice and abuses that she allegedly suffered in his hands or
The Position of Atty. Dabon report the matter to the police considering her length of
service in the Judiciary and her familiarity on how the criminal
Respondent Atty. Dabon strongly refuted the accusation justice system worked.
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. Sixth, he denied Nelson's allegation that he confessed to his
wife, Atty. Joy, his illicit relationship with Sonia. He also denied
In his Comment,8 Atty. Dabon denied the charges of grossly that the alleged text messages, quoted by Nelson and Sonia in
immoral and unlawful acts through sexual assaults, abuses, their respective affidavits, were sent by him or his wife. All
threats and intimidation. He posited that the allegations of were part of an elaborate scheme to force him to immediately
spouses Nelson and Sonia in their respective affidavits were resign as Division Clerk of Court from the CA.
nothing but pure fabrication solely intended to malign his
name and honor. In support of his prayer for the dismissal of Lastly, it was not true that he harassed Sonia through text
the present disbarment case, Atty. Dabon proffered the messages and phone calls. It was he who was the victim of
following arguments:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary 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
First, complainant Nelson had no personal knowledge of the him.
alleged illicit relationship between him and Sonia. He relied
heavily on the sworn statement of Sonia which was replete On August 15, 2007, the Court referred the case to the
with inconsistencies and incredible and preposterous claims Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report
which defied logic and common sense, thus, revealing the and recommendation.11
fallacy of the subject complaint. He contended that it was
highly improbable for him, a married lawyer at that, to After the parties had submitted their respective verified
suddenly turn crazy and abandon all cares just to satisfy his position papers, Investigating Commissioner Manuel T. Chan
purported lustful hungerness by sexually assaulting Sonia, "an (Investigating Commissioner Chan) of the IBP Commission on
ordinary plain-looking 43-year old woman with two (2) teen Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) rendered his Report and
aged children."9 Recommendation,12 dated October 2, 2008, finding that the
charge against respondent Atty. Dabon had been sufficiently
Second, nowhere in the administrative complaint of Nelson proven. The recommendatory portion of the report
previously filed before the CA was there any mention of any reads:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
sexual assault he allegedly committed against Sonia or of an
adulterous relationship that was maintained through threats WHEREFORE, this Commissioner, after a thorough and
and intimidation. Surprisingly, such allegations were included exhaustive review of the facts and applicable legal provisions,
in the present complaint for disbarment. He also pointed out recommends that respondent be found guilty of gross
that Nelson did not attach to his administrative complaint immoral conduct and, accordingly, be disbarred and dropped
before the CA the September 13, 2006 Affidavit of Sonia from the Roll of Attorneys.13cralawlawlibrary
containing grave imputations against him. Such omissions
were indicative that the serious charges against him were On December 11, 2008, the Board of Governors of the IBP
mere concoctions and afterthoughts designed to attain adopted and approved the recommendation and issued
Nelson's desire to come up with a graver accusation against Resolution No. XVIII-2008-653, the pertinent portion of which
him. The filing of the complaint for disbarment was motivated reads:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
by vengeance against him as Nelson was consummed by his
suspicion that he had seduced Sonia which led to the RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby
deterioration of their marriage. He was a victim caught in the unanimously ADOPTED and APPROVED the Report and
crossfire between the troubled couple, Nelson and Sonia. 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
Third, there was no truth to Sonia's allegation that he was by the evidence on record and the applicable laws and rules,
attracted to her from the first time he saw her much less and finding Respondent guilty of gross immoral conduct, Atty.
pursued her relentlessly. He and Sonia were just close friends. Antolin Allyson M. Dabon, Jr. is hereby DISBARRED and his
He was Sonia's confidante. She would usually confide in him name be stricken off from the Roll of
her personal woes and problems especially those concerning Attorneys.14ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
her husband, Nelson. It was Sonia who aggressively sought his cralawlawlibrary
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 Atty. Dabon filed a motion for reconsideration of Resolution
affidavits,10 both dated April 30, 2008. His friendship with No. XVIII-2008-653, but it was denied by the IBP Board of
Sonia turned sour when she learned of his plan to settle for Governors in its Resolution No. XX-2012-550,15 dated
good in the Unites States with his family. Sonia began to avoid December 14, 2012.
him. He exerted efforts to make her understand his decision,
but to no avail. After due consideration, the Court resolves to adopt the
findings and recommendation of the IBP-CBD.
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 Lawyers have been repeatedly reminded by the Court that
sexual advances. possession of good moral character is both a condition
precedent and a continuing requirement to warrant admission
Fifth, it was unlikely that Sonia would not tell anyone the grave 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 It has not escaped the Court's attention either that Atty.
the Bar's integrity,16 and the legal profession exacts from its Dabon really tried hard to win back Sonia because he could
members nothing less. Lawyers are called upon to safeguard not let go of their relationship, even to the point of pestering
the integrity of the Bar, free from misdeeds and acts her with his persistent pleas for reconciliation. In one instance,
constitutive of malpractice. Their exalted positions as officers Atty. Dabon boarded Sonia's car and refused to alight unless
of the court demand no less than the highest degree of she would talk to him. Sonia had to seek the assistance of her
morality.17 officemates, Atty. Barrazo and Atty. Ligot, who pleaded with
him to alight from the vehicle. Moreover, Atty. Dabon made
The Court explained in Arnobit v. Atty. Arnobit18 that "as several attempts to communicate with Sonia in the hope of
officers of the court, lawyers must not only in fact be of good rekindling their relationship through letters and phone calls
moral character but must also be seen to be of good moral but she remained firm in her stand to avoid him. Such incident
character and leading lives in accordance with the highest was recounted by Ramos and Minerva in their respective
moral standards of the community. A member of the bar and affidavits.
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 Incidentally, vis-a-vis Nelson's overwhelming evidence of said
creating the impression that he is flouting those moral harassments, he offered only denials which was self-serving
standards." Consequently, any errant behavior of the lawyer, and weak under the law on evidence. Other than his general
be it in his public or private activities, which tends to show claim that Atty. Barrazo, Atty. Ligot, Ramos, and Minerva were
deficiency in moral character, honesty, probity or good biased witnessess because they were former officemates of
demeanor, is sufficient to warrant suspension or disbarment.19 Sonia, the respondent did not even bother to proffer his own
version of the supposed harassment incidents.
In the case at bench, the Court subscribes to the IBP's opinion
that there was substantial evidence showing that Atty. Dabon In light of the above disquisition, the Court finds Sonia's
did have an illicit relationship with Nelson's legal wife. allegation that the illicit relationship was made possible by
sexual assaults and maintained through threat and
To begin with, the Court notes from the respondent's intimidations, to be untrue. Certainly, a sexually abused
Comment that he appeared to be perplexed as to whether or woman could not be expected to lavish her oppressor with
not he would admit his extramarital liaisons with Sonia. As expensive gifts or pay him affectionate compliments or words
Investigating Commissioner Chan stated in his report, Atty. of endearment. The natural reaction of a victim of a sexual
Dabon interposed a blanket denial of the romantic molestation would be to avoid her ravisher. In this case,
involvement but at the same time, he seemed to have tacitly however, it appeared that Sonia continually remained in the
admitted the illicit affair only that it was not attended by company of Atty. Dabon for more than five years, even inviting
sexual assaults, threats and intimidations. The Court also him for lunch-outs and frequenting his office to bring food
observed that he devoted considerable effort to demonstrate whenever the latter was preoccupied with his workload and
that the affair did not amount to gross immoral conduct and could not go out with her to eat. Verily, Sonia's actuations
that no sexual abuse, threat or intimidation was exerted upon towards Atty. Dabon are in stark contrast to the expected
the person of Sonia, but not once did he squarely deny the demeanor of one who had been repeatedly sexually abused.
affair itself.
Further, the Court cannot fathom why Sonia never reported
the alleged sexual abuse to the police, if such was the truth.
In other words, the respondent's denial is a negative pregnant, She could have placed the respondent behind bars and put an
a denial coupled with the admission of substantial facts in the end to her claimed misery. Also, the Court cannot lend
pleading responded to which are not squarely denied. Stated credence to Sonia's claim that she merely succumbed to the
otherwise, a negative pregnant is a form of negative respondent's sexual advances because of his continuous
expression which carries with it an affirmation or at least an threats of public exposure and humiliation. It must be stressed
implication of some kind favorable to the adverse party. that Atty. Dabon would be in a much more precarious
Where a fact is alleged with qualifying or modifying language situation if he would carry out such threats, as this would
and the words of the allegation as so qualified or modified are exposed himself to countless criminal and administrative
literally denied, it has been held that the qualifying charges. The Court believes that Nelson's allegation of sexual
circumstance alone is denied while the fact itself is assaults and continuing threat and intimidation was not
admitted.20 It is clear from Atty. Dabon's Comment that his established by clear preponderant evidence. The Court is left
denial only pertained as to the existence of a forced illicit with the most logical conclusion that Sonia freely and wittingly
relationship. Without a categorical denial thereof, he is entered into an illicit and immoral relationship with Atty.
deemed to have admitted his consensual affair with Sonia. Dabon sans any threat and intimidation.

More telling of the existence of a romantic relationship are the Consequently, the Court quotes with approval the following
notes and cards21 that Sonia sent to Atty. Dabon containing observations of Investigating Commissioner Chan on this
personal and intimate messages in her own handwriting. The score, thus:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
messages conveyed Sonia's affection towards him as she even
referred to him as "hon" or "honey." There were also gifts she Sorting out the maze of technicalities, denials and evasions of
gave him on special occasions such as signature shoes, watch the respondent as well as the oftentimes exaggerated
and shirts. It also appeared that Sonia frequently visited him in language of complainant or his wife, Sonia, and the self-
his office either to bring him food, fruits and other goodies or exculpatory declarations of Sonia, this Commissioner
to invite him to lunch which apparently displayed her considers the following facts as established:
emotional attachment to him. Curiously, the foregoing was
never refuted by Sonia. Such "ego-boosting admissions"22 of 1. Respondent and Sonia are both married, not
Atty. Dabon indeed proved that a consensual relationship to each other, but to other persons, and
between him and Sonia existed. each is aware of this fact, or should have
known such fact at the start of their illicit
relationship because they were officemates In the case at bench, Atty. Dabon's intimate relationship with a
at that time; woman other than his wife showed his moral indifference to
the opinion of the good and respectable members of the
2. Respondent and Sonia engaged in an community. It manifested his disrespect for the laws on the
intimate and sexual relationship, sanctity of marriage and for his own marital vow of fidelity. It
intermittent perhaps, for a period of about showed his utmost moral depravity and low regard for the
six years starting 2000 up to 2006; fundamental ethics of his profession. Indeed, he has fallen
below the moral bar. Such detestable behavior warrants a
3. Respondent and Sonia, despite protestations disciplinary sanction. Even if not all forms of extramarital
of Sonia that respondent assaulted her using relations are punishable under penal law, sexual relations
drugs and employing threats and blackmail outside of marriage are considered disgraceful and immoral as
to maintain the relationship, appeared to they manifest deliberate disregard of the sanctity of marriage
have entered into such illicit relationship and the marital vows protected by the Constitution and
voluntarily and also appeared to have been affirmed by our laws.27
fueled by their deep emotional needs, if not
mutual lust, as shown by the fact that the In Advincula v. Macabata,28 the Court elucidated as to what
illicit relationship lasted for six long years; disciplinary sanction should be imposed against a lawyer
found guilty of misconduct. Thus:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
4. Respondent and Sonia, despite the
protestation of Sonia to the contrary, were Xxx. "When deciding upon the appropriate sanction, the Court
not really ready to give up the illicit must consider that the primary purposes of disciplinary
relationship even if they were fully aware of proceedings are to protect the public; to foster public
its immorality or its devastating effect on confidence in the Bar; to preserve the integrity of the
their respective marriages and careers as profession; and to deter other lawyers from similar
shown by the fact that both respondent and misconduct. Disciplinary proceedings are means of protecting
Sonia did not voluntarily confess to their the administration of justice by requiring those who carry out
respective spouses their dark secret, but this important function to be competent, honorable and
were only discovered by complainant reliable men in whom courts and clients may repose
through other channels.23 confidence. While it is discretionary upon the Court to impose
a particular sanction that it may deem proper against an erring
cralawlawlibrary 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
For what ethical breaches then may Atty. Dabon be held
the purity and independence of the bar and to exact from the
liable?
lawyer strict compliance with his duties to the court, to his
client, to his brethren in the profession and to the public.
The Code of Professional Responsibility
provides:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
The power to disbar or suspend ought always to be exercised
on the preservative and not on the vindictive principle, with
Rule 1.01- A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest,
great caution and only for the most weighty reasons and only
immoral or deceitful conduct.
on clear cases of misconduct which seriously affect the
standing and character of the lawyer as an officer of the court
Canon 7- A lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and
and member of the Bar. Only those acts which cause loss of
dignity of the legal profession, and support the activities of the
moral character should merit disbarment or suspension, while
Integrated Bar.
those acts which neither affect nor erode the moral character
of the lawyer should only justify a lesser sanction unless they
Rule 7.03- A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely
are of such nature and to such extent as to clearly show the
reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor should he, whether
lawyer's unfitness to continue in the practice of law. The
in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the
dubious character of the act charged as well as the motivation
discredit of the legal profession.cralawlawlibrary
which induced the lawyer to commit it must be clearly
demonstrated before suspension or disbarment is meted out.
Morality in our liberal society today is probably a far cry from The mitigating or aggravating circumstances that attended the
what it used to be. Notwithstanding this permissiveness, commission of the offense should also be
lawyers, as keepers of public faith, are burdened with a high considered.cralawlawlibrary
degree of social responsibility and, hence, must handle their
personal affairs with greater caution.24 Indeed, those who
The penalty for maintaining an illicit relationship may either be
have taken the oath to assist in the dispensation of justice
suspension or disbarment, depending on the circumstances of
should be more possessed of the consciousness and the will to
the case.29 In case of suspension, the period would range from
overcome the weakness of the flesh.
one year30 to indefinite suspension, as in the case of Cordova
v. Cordova,31 where the lawyer was found to have maintained
It has been repeatedly held that to justify suspension or
an adulterous relationship for two years and refused to
disbarment, the act complained of must not only be immoral,
support his family. On the other hand, there is a string of cases
but grossly immoral.25 A grossly immoral act is one that is so
where the Court meted out the extreme penalty of
corrupt as to constitute a criminal act, or so unprincipled as to
disbarment, to wit:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
be reprehensible to a high degree or committed under such
scandalous or revolting circumstances as to shock the
In Toledo v. Toledo,32 a lawyer was disbarred from the practice
common sense of decency. It is willful, flagrant, or shameless
of law, when he abandoned his lawful wife and cohabited with
as to show indifference to the opinion of good and
another woman who had borne him a child.
respectable members of the community.26
In Obusan v. Obusan, Jr.,33 a lawyer was disbarred after the
complainant proved that he had abandoned her and complainant, saying: "Wa ka makaila sa ako?" ("Do you not
maintained an adulterous relationship with a married woman. know me?") Respondent proceeded to slap complainant, and
The Court declared that the respondent failed to maintain the then left.4chanrobleslaw
highest degree of morality expected and required of a
member of the Bar. Later, Manuel Cuizon, a traffic aide, informed complainant of
the plate number of respondent's car.5 Complainant later
In Cojuangco, Jr. v. Palma,34 the respondent lawyer was learned that the driver of the car was Atty. Rene O. Medina, a
disbarred when he abandoned his lawful wife and three provincial board member of Surigao del Norte.6chanrobleslaw
children, lured an innocent woman into marrying him and
misrepresented himself as a "bachelor" so he could contract According to complainant, he felt "hurt, embarrassed[,] and
marriage in a foreign land. humiliated."7 Respondent's act showed arrogance and
disrespect for his oath of office as a lawyer. Complainant
In Dantes v. Dantes,35 disbarment was imposed as a penalty on alleged that this act constituted gross
the respondent lawyer who maintained illicit relationships misconduct.8chanrobleslaw
with two different women during the subsistence of his
marriage to the complainant. The Complainant's testimony, Attached to complainant's letter were his Affidavit,9 Manuel
taken in conjunction with the documentary evidence, Cuizon's Affidavit,10 and a letter11 dated October 27, 1999
sufficiently established that the respondent breached the high signed by Mayor Arlencita E. Navarro (Mayor Navarro), League
and exacting moral standards set for members of the law of Mayors President of Surigao del Norte Chapter. In her
profession. letter, Mayor Navarro stated that respondent slapped
complainant and caused him great humiliation.12 Thus,
In Villatuya v. Tabalingcos,36 the respondent lawyer was respondent should be administratively penalized for his gross
disbarred because he was found to have entered into misconduct and abuse of
marriage twice while his first marriage was still subsisting. The authority:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Court declared that he exhibited a deplorable lack of that
degree of morality required of him as a member of the Bar. He Dear Mr. Chief Justice:
made a mockery of marriage, a sacred institution demanding
respect and dignity. This is to bring to your attention an incident that occurred last
October 4, 1999 in Surigao City, committed by Provincial
In the case at bench, Atty. Dabon's misconduct and Board Member Rene O. Medina.
unrepentant demeanor clearly showed a serious flaw in his
character, his moral indifference to the sanctity of marriage The said public official slapped in full public view a
and marital vows, and his outright defiance of established certain Donnie Ricafort, a tricycle driver, causing great
norms. All these could not but put the legal profession in humiliation on the person. We believe that such conduct is
disrepute and place the integrity of the administration of very unbecoming of an elected official. Considering the nature
justice in peril. Accordingly, the Court finds the need for the and purpose of your Office, it is respectfully submitted that
imposition of the extreme administrative penalty of appropriate action be taken on the matter as such uncalled for
disbarment. abuse consists of gross misconduct and abuse of authority.

WHEREFORE, finding the respondent Atty. Antolin Allyson M. Attached herewith is a copy of the affidavit of the victim and
Dabon, Jr. GUILTY of Gross Immorality, the Court the petition of the Municipal Mayors League of Surigao del
hereby DISBARS him from the practice of law. Norte.

Let respondent's name be stricken from the Roll of Attorneys Thank you very much for your attention and more power.
immediately. Furnish the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines and all court throughout the country with Very truly yours,
copies of this Decision.
(Sgd.)
SO ORDERED.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary Mayor ARLENCITA E. NAVARRO
Mayor's League President
EN BANC Surigao del Norte Chapter13
(Emphasis in the original)
A.C. No. 5179, May 31, 2016 Attached to Mayor Navarro's letter were two (2) pages
containing the signatures of 19 Mayors of different
DIONNIE RICAFORT, Complainant, v. ATTY. RENE O. municipalities in Surigao Del Norte.14chanrobleslaw
MEDINA, Respondent.
In his Comment,15 respondent denied slapping complainant.
RESOLUTION He alleged that the incident happened while he was bringing
his 10-year-old son to school.16 He further alleged that
LEONEN, J.: complainant's reckless driving caused complainant's tricycle to
bump the fender of respondent's car.17 When respondent
Complainant Dionnie Ricafort filed a complaint for alighted from his car to check the damage, complainant
disbarment1 against respondent Atty. Rene O. Medina on approached him in an unfriendly manner.18 Respondent
December 10, 1999.2chanrobleslaw pushed complainant on the chest to defend himself.19 Sensing,
however, that complainant was not making a move against his
Complainant alleged that at about 7:30 a.m. on October 4, son and himself, respondent asked complainant if his tricycle
1999, his tricycle sideswiped respondent's car along Sarvida suffered any damage and if they should wait for a traffic
Street in Surigao City.3 Respondent alighted from his car and officer.20 Both parties agreed that they were both too busy to
confronted complainant. Respondent allegedly snapped at wait for a traffic officer who would prepare a sketch.21 No
traffic officer was present during the incident.22chanrobleslaw
1999 of the Surigao Mayors who believed that respondent was
guilty of gross misconduct and abuse of authority and should
Four or five days after the traffic incident, respondent became be held administratively liable.43chanrobleslaw
the subject of attacks on radio programs by the Provincial
Governor's allies, accusing him of slapping the tricycle On August 14, 2008, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
driver.23 He alleged that complainant's Affidavit was caused to Board of Governors issued the Resolution44 adopting and
be prepared by the Provincial Governor as it was prepared in approving with modification Commissioner De La Rama's
the English language, which was unknown to recommendation, thus:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
complainant.24chanrobleslaw RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby
unanimously ADOPTED and APPROVED, with modification, the
Respondent was identified with those who politically opposed Report and Recommendation of the Investigating
the Provincial Governor.25cralawredchanrobleslaw Commissioner of the above-entitled case, herein made part of
this Resolution as Annex "A "; and, finding the
According to respondent, the parties already settled whatever recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record
issue that might have arisen out of the incident during the and the applicable laws and rules, and considering
conciliation proceedings before the Office of the Punong Respondent's misconduct and violation of Canon 7.03 of the
Barangay of Barangay Washington, Surigao City.26 During the Code of Professional Responsibility, for behaving in a
proceedings, respondent explained that he pushed scandalous manner, Atty. Rene O, Medina is
complainant because of fear that complainant was carrying a hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for thirty (30)
weapon, as he assumed tricycle drivers did.27 On the other days.45 (Emphasis in the original)
hand, complainant explained that he went near respondent to Respondent moved for reconsideration46 of the Board of
check if there was damage to respondent's car.28 As part of
Governors' August 14, 2008 Resolution. The Motion for
the settlement, respondent agreed to no longer demand any
Reconsideration was denied by the Board of Governors in the
indemnity for the damage caused by the tricycle to his Resolution47 dated March 22, 2014.
car.29chanrobleslaw
We resolve whether respondent Atty. Rene O. Medina should
Attached to respondent's Comment was the
be held administratively liable.
Certification30 dated October 27, 2006 of the Officer-in-Charge
Punong Barangay stating that the case had already been
There is sufficient proof to establish that respondent slapped
mediated by Punong Barangay Adriano F. Laxa and was
complainant.
amicably settled by the parties.31chanrobleslaw
Respondent's defense consists of his denial that the slapping
On December 5, 2006, this Court referred the case to the
incident happened.48 He stresses complainant's seeming
Integrated Bar of the Philippines for investigation, report, and
disinterest in and lack of participation throughout the case
recommendation.32chanrobleslaw and hints that this administrative case is politically
motivated.49chanrobleslaw
Only respondent appeared in the Mandatory Conference set
by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines on July 20,
It is true that this Court does not tolerate the unceremonious
2007.33 Integrated Bar of the Philippines Commissioner Jose I. use of disciplinary proceedings to harass its officers with
De La Rama, Jr. (Commissioner De La Rama) noted the
baseless allegations. This Court will exercise its disciplinary
Certification from Barangay Washington, Surigao City attesting
power against its officers only if allegations of misconduct are
that the case between the parties had already been established.50 A lawyer is presumed to be innocent of the
settled.34 Commissioner De La Rama supposed that this
charges against him or her. He or she enjoys the presumption
settlement "could be the reason why the complainant has not
that his or her acts are consistent with his or her
been appearing in this case[.]"35 The Mandatory Conference
oath.51chanrobleslaw
was reset to September 21, 2007.36chanrobleslaw
Thus, the burden of proof still rests upon complainant to
prove his or her claim.52chanrobleslaw
In the subsequent Mandatory Conference on September 21,
2007, only respondent appeared.37 Hence, the Commission In administrative cases against lawyers, the required burden of
proceeded with the case ex-parte.38chanrobleslaw
proof is preponderance of evidence,53 or evidence that is
superior, more convincing, or of "greater weight than the
In his Report39 dated July 4, 2008, Commissioner De La Rama other."54chanrobleslaw
recommended the penalty of suspension from the practice of
law for 60 days from notice for misconduct and violation of
In this case, complainant discharged this burden.
Canon 7, Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility,
thus:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary During the fact-finding investigation, Commissioner De La
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, it is with deep regret to
Rama—as the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board of
recommend for the suspension of Atty. Rene O. Medina from
Governors also adopted—found that the slapping incident
the practice of law for a period of sixty (60) days from notice actually occurred.55chanrobleslaw
hereof due to misconduct and violation of Canon 7.03 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility, for behaving in an
The slapping incident was not only alleged by complainant in
scandalous manner that tends to discredit the legal
detail in his signed and notarized Affidavit;56 complainant's
profession.40 (Emphasis in the original) Affidavit was also supported by the signed and notarized
Commissioner De La Rama found that contrary to Affidavit57 of a traffic aide present during the incident. It was
respondent's claim, there was indeed a slapping even the traffic aide who informed complainant of
incident.41 The slapping incident was witnessed by one Manuel respondent's plate number.58chanrobleslaw
Cuizon, based on: (1) the photocopy of Manuel Cuizon's
Affidavit attached to complainant's complaint;42 and (2) the In finding that complainant was slapped by
signatures on the League of Mayors' letter dated October 29, respondent,59 Commissioner De La Rama gave weight to the
letter sent by the League of Mayors and ruled that "the important in disciplinary proceedings.67chanrobleslaw
people's faith in the legal profession eroded"60 because of
respondent's act of slapping complainant.61 The Integrated Bar Hence, complainant's absence during the hearings before the
of the Philippines Board of Governors correctly affirmed and Integrated Bar of the Philippines is not a bar against a finding
adopted this finding. of administrative liability.

The League of Mayors' letter, signed by no less than 19 WHEREFORE, the findings of fact of the Integrated Bar of the
Mayors, strengthened complainant's allegations. Contrary to Philippines are ADOPTED and APPROVED. Respondent Atty.
respondent's claim that it shows the political motive behind Rene O. Medina is found to have violated Canon 7, Rule 7.03
this case, the letter reinforced complainant's credibility and of the Code of Professional Responsibility, and
motive. The presence of 19 Mayors' signatures only reinforced is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for three (3) months.
the appalling nature of respondent's act. It reflects the public's
reaction to respondent's display of arrogance. Let copies of this Resolution be attached to the personal
records of respondent as attorney, and be furnished to the
The purpose of administrative proceedings is to ensure that Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the
the public is protected from lawyers who are no longer fit for Philippines, and the Office of the Court Administrator for
the profession. In this instance, this Court will not tolerate the proper dissemination to all courts throughout the country.
arrogance of and harassment committed by its officers.
SO ORDERED.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Canon 7, Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility
provides:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary A.C. No. 9492, July 11, 2016
Rule 7.03 - A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely
reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor shall he whether in PLUTARCO E. VAZQUEZ, Complainants, v. ATTY. DAVID LIM
public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the QUECO KHO, Respondent.
discredit of the legal profession.
By itself, the act of humiliating another in public by slapping DECISION
him or her on the face hints of a character that disregards the
human dignity of another. Respondent's question to SERENO, C.J.:
complainant, "Wa ka makaila sa ako?" ("Do you not know
me?") confirms such character and his potential to abuse the This case for disbarment was filed by complainant Plutarco E.
profession as a tool for bullying, harassment, and Vazquez (Vazquez) against respondent Atty. David Lim Queco
discrimination. Kho (Atty. Kho). In his verified Complaint1 filed with this Court
on 11 July 2012, Vazquez alleges that Atty. Kho violated the
This arrogance is intolerable. It discredits the legal profession lawyer's oath that he "will do no falsehood.2" He further
by perpetuating a stereotype that is unreflective of the claims that respondent transgressed Rule 1.01 of the Code of
nobility of the profession. As officers of the court and of the Professional Responsibility.3chanrobleslaw
law, lawyers are granted the privilege to serve the public, not
to bully them to submission. FACTS

Good character is a continuing qualification for lawyers.62 This Vazquez and Atty. Kho were both members of the Coalition of
Court has the power to impose disciplinary sanctions to Associations of Senior Citizens in the Philippines (Coalition), an
lawyers who commit acts of misconduct in either a public or accredited party-list group that participated in the national
private capacity if the acts show them unworthy to remain elections of 10 May 2010. The Complaint arose from an
officers of the court.63chanrobleslaw allegedly false statement made in respondent's Certificate of
Acceptance of Nomination for the Coalition. Complainant
This Court has previously established that disciplinary contested the truth of the statement made under oath that
proceedings against lawyers are sui generis.64 They are neither Atty. Kho was a natural-born Filipino citizen.4chanrobleslaw
civil nor criminal in nature. They are not a determination of
the parties' rights. Rather, they are pursued as a matter of In his Complaint, Vazquez asserted that respondent was a
public interest and as a means to determine a lawyer's fitness Chinese national. He reasoned that when Atty. Kho was born
to continue holding the privileges of being a court officer. on 29 April 1947 to a Chinese father (William Kho) and a
In Ylaya v. Gacott:65 Filipina mother (Juana Lim Queco), respondent's citizenship
Public interest is its primary objective, and the real question followed that of his Chinese father pursuant to the 1935
for determination is whether or not the attorney is still a fit Constitution. Moreover, Vazquez argued that since
person to be allowed the privileges as such. Hence, in the respondent has elected Filipino citizenship, the act
exercise of its disciplinary powers, the Court merely calls upon presupposed that the person electing was either an alien, of
a member of the Bar to account for his actuations as an officer doubtful status, or a national of two countries.5chanrobleslaw
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 Upon receipt of the Complaint, the Court through its First
misconduct have proved themselves no longer worthy to be Division issued a Resolution6 dated 26 November 2012
entrusted with the duties and responsibilities pertaining to the requiring Atty. Kho to file his comment on the Complaint
office of an attorney. In such posture, there can thus be no within 10 days from receipt of the Notice. Alleging he received
occasion to speak of a complainant or a the Court's Resolution on 18 February 2013, he filed his
prosecutor.66chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary Comment7 on 27 February 2013. As to the alleged falsity of his
As in criminal cases, complainants in administrative actions statement, Atty. Kho countered that when he was born on 29
against lawyers are mere witnesses. They are not April 1947, his Filipina mother was not yet married to his
indispensable to the proceedings. It is the investigative Chinese father, and that his parents only got married on 8
process and the finding of administrative liability that are 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 IBP'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
was a natural-born Filipino citizen.8chanrobleslaw
On 3 November 2013, Commissioner Trinidad promulgated his
On the matter of his electing Filipino citizenship, respondent Report and Recommendation (Report)23 finding Atty. Kho
explained that since he was already a natural-born Filipino, his "innocent of the charges" and recommended that the case be
subsequent election of Philippine citizenship on 25 February dismissed for utter lack of merit. Upon weighing the evidence
1970 was superfluous and had no effect on his citizenship. presented by both parties, Commissioner Trinidad found no
Having established his natural-born status, he concluded that merit to the allegation that respondent had committed
he had not committed any falsehood in his Certificate of dishonesty and deceitfulness when he indicated in his verified
Acceptance of Nomination, and that complainant had no Certificate of Acceptance of Nomination that he was a natural-
cause of action to have him disbarred.9chanrobleslaw born citizen.24chanrobleslaw

Apart from defending his natural-born status, Atty. Kho also Commissioner Trinidad said that respondent Atty. Kho, as a
moved to dismiss the Complaint on the ground of forum natural-born Filipino citizen, fell under the category of
shopping. He claimed that Vazquez had filed three (3) cases in someone who was born of a Filipino mother before 17 January
which the latter raised the issue of respondent's citizenship: 1973, and who elected Philippine citizenship upon reaching
(1) the present disbarment case; (2) a quo warranto the age of majority.25cralawred On the matter of jurisdiction,
proceeding with the House of Representatives Electoral the IBP-CBD said that it had jurisdiction to hear the matter,
Tribunal (HRET); and (3) a criminal complaint for perjury since the issue was whether respondent violated his lawyer's
lodged with the City Prosecutor of Quezon City. Atty. Kho oath and the relevant provisions of the Code of Professional
alleged that both the quo warranto and the perjury cases had Responsibility. Although it acknowledged that citizenship
already been dismissed by the HRET10 and the City Prosecutor cannot be attacked collaterally, it ruled that it had to make a
respectively.11 Finally, he raised jurisdictional questions, finding thereon, since the alleged dishonesty hinged on that
arguing that the proper remedy to attack his citizenship was very matter. The IBP-CBD clarified though, that its ruling was
not a disbarment case, but rather quo limited and "cannot strip or sustain the respondent of his
warranto.12chanrobleslaw citizenship."26chanrobleslaw

In answer to respondent's Comment, Vazquez filed with the Lastly, the IBP-CBD found Vazquez guilty of forum shopping
Court a Reply to Comment13 on 11 March 2013. He claimed since in all the three cases he had filed, he was questioning
therein that at the time of election of Philippine citizenship by whether or not respondent was a natural-born citizen. It said
respondent on 25 February 1970, the latter's mother was that the actions filed by complainant involved the same
already a Chinese national by virtue of her marriage to transactions, the same essential facts and circumstances, as
respondent's father who was Chinese. Complainant also well as identical subject matter and issues.27chanrobleslaw
opposed respondent's assertion that the latter's parents were
not yet married when he was born on 29 April On 10 August 2014, the IBP Board of Governors passed
1947.14 Complainant further cited respondent's Certificate of Resolution No. XXI-2014-519, which adopted and approved
Live Birth, which stated that the latter's parents were married the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating
at the time he was born.15chanrobleslaw Commissioner dismissing the case against Atty. Kho.

That being so, complainant averred that at the time Atty. Kho THE RULING OF THE COURT
was born, his mother was already a Chinese national. Thus,
complainant concluded that respondent's election of Filipino We adopt and approve the IBP Report and Recommendation
citizenship was fatally defective, since the latter's parents and dismiss the instant administrative case against respondent
were both Chinese at the time of his election.16 Furthermore, for lack of merit.
complainant alleged that the marriage of respondent's parents
on 8 February 1977 was just a ploy to put a semblance of This disbarment case centers on whether Atty. Kho violated
legitimacy to his prior election of Filipino citizenship. Lastly, his lawyer's oath that he shall do no falsehood and that he
complainant denied the forum shopping charge, saying the shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral, or deceitful
three cases he had filed against respondent had different conduct. According to complainant, a violation occurred when
causes of action and were based on different respondent declared in his verified Certificate of Acceptance
grounds.17chanrobleslaw of Nomination that he was a natural-born Filipino citizen.
Although the question of one's citizenship is not open to
On 8 April 2013, the Court issued a Resolution referring the collateral attack,28 the Court acknowledges the IBP-CBD's
administrative case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines pronouncement that it had to make a limited finding thereon,
(IBP) for investigation, report, and recommendation or since the alleged dishonesty hinged on this issue.
decision.18 At the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD),
the case was docketed as CBD Case No. 13-3885. We have constantly ruled that an attack on a person's
Commissioner Victor Pablo C. Trinidad (Commissioner citizenship may only be done through a direct action for its
Trinidad) was designated as investigating commissioner. In a nullity.29 A disbarment case is definitely not the proper venue
Notice dated 14 August 2013, he set the case for mandatory to attack someone's citizenship. For the lack of any ruling from
conference/hearing on 19 September 2013 and ordered the a competent court on respondent's citizenship, this
parties to submit their mandatory conference disbarment case loses its only leg to stand on and, hence,
briefs.19chanrobleslaw must be dismissed.

With both parties present at the scheduled mandatory WHEREFORE, the instant Administrative Complaint for
conference/hearing, Commissioner Trinidad ordered them to violation of the lawyer's oath and the Code of Professional
submit their respective position papers within ten (10) days, Responsibility filed against Atty. David Lim Queco Kho is
after which the case would be deemed submitted for report hereby DISMISSED.
and recommendation.20 Only the respondent submitted a
conference brief21 and position paper.22chanrobleslaw SO ORDERED.chanRoblesvi
FIRST DIVISION against Atty. Blanco.12 According to respondent, these drafts
were meant to intimidate him and Mr. Chung. True enough,
A.C. No. 8825, August 03, 2016 after Atty. Blanco sent his second letter to complainant, the
latter filed with the Court of Appeals the draft petition, which
BUDENCIO DUMANLAG, Complainant, v. ATTY. JAIME M. was later dismissed. Complainant subsequently filed the
BLANCO, JR., Respondent. Complaint for Disbarment.

Atty. Blanco also moved that the Court direct complainant to


DECISION
show cause why the latter should not be cited for indirect
contempt. Respondent stated that Intestate Estate declared in
SERENO, C.J.:
its fallo that agents of the Heirs of San Pedro were disallowed
from exercising any act of ownership over lands covered by
Before this Court is an administrative Complaint for T.P. 4136.
Disbarment against respondent Atty. Jaime M. Blanco for
rejecting complainant's claim over a parcel of land based on a FINDINGS OF THE INVESTIGATING COMMISSIONER
Spanish Title.
Investigating Commissioner Michael G. Fabunan of the
FACTUAL ANTECEDENTS Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) rendered a Report and
Recommendation13 for the dismissal of the Complaint for lack
Under Transfer Certificate of Title No. (TCT) 79146,1 El Mavic of merit, based on the following grounds: 1) the complaint was
Investment and Development Co., Inc. (EMIDCI) appears to be patently frivolous, and 2) it was intended to harass
the registered owner of the land it occupies at the corner of respondent. He recommended that the Court issue an order
Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard and C. de Dios Street in directing complainant Dumanlag to show cause why he should
Sampaloc, Manila (Sampaloc property). not be cited for indirect contempt.14chanrobleslaw

Complainant Budencio Dumanlag sent a letter dated 9 August The IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution No. XXI-2014-
2010 to EMIDCI's President, Victoriano Chung, claiming to be 418 adopting and approving the Report and Recommendation
an agent of the Heirs of Don Mariano San Pedro (the Heirs of of the investigating commissioner.15chanrobleslaw
San Pedro) based on a Special Power of Attorney dated 14
October 1999.2 Complainant asserted that the Heirs of San No petition for review has been filed with this Court.
Pedro, and not EMIDCI, owned the Sampaloc property,
predicating such claim on a Spanish Title, Titulo de RULING OF THE COURT
Propriedad No. (T.P.) 4136.3 He further stated in the letter that
the Heirs of San Pedro were selling the Sampaloc property, The Complaint must be dismissed for utter lack of merit.
and that he had given EMIDCI the option to buy it.
A lawyer is charged with the duty to defend "the cause of his
client with wholehearted fidelity, care, and
Victoriano Chung referred the matter to EMIDCI's counsel, devotion."16 Nevertheless, the Code of Professional
respondent4 Atty. Jaime M. Blanco, Jr. (Atty. Blanco), who Responsibility circumscribes this duty with the limitation that
rejected the claim. In a letter5 dated 16 August 2010, the lawyers shall perform their duty to the client within the
latter explained that the Supreme Court had declared T.P. bounds of law.17 In this case, Atty. Blanco performed this duty
4136 null and void in Intestate Estate of the Late Don Mariano to his client without exceeding the scope of his authority.
San Pedro y Esteban v. Court of Appeals.6 Demand was made
on Dumanlag and his principals to cease and desist from As early as 1996, this Court declared in Intestate Estate that
further harassing EMIDCI. 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
Complainant sent another letter to Mr. Chung dated 1 173,000 hectares on the basis of a Spanish title, Titulo de
September 2010.7 While acknowledging the Court's decision, Propriedad Numero 4136 dated 25 April 1894. The claim
the former alleged that Intestate Estate excluded the Heirs of covered lands in the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Rizal,
San Pedro from the enumeration of persons prohibited from Laguna and Quezon, and even cities in Metro Manila such as
selling lands covered by T.P. 4136, including the Sampaloc Quezon City, Caloocan City, Pasay City, City of Pasig and City of
property. Manila.

Atty. Blanco rejected complainant's claim once more through This Court dubbed the theory of the petitioners therein as
another letter8 dated 13 September 2010. He reasoned that "the most fantastic land claim in the history of the
the Supreme Court Decision held that the heirs were Philippines."19 In discarding the claim, We relied on
specifically prohibited from exercising any act of ownership Presidential Decree No. 892, which abolished the system of
over the lands covered by T.P. 4136. registration under the Spanish Mortgage Law and directed all
holders of Spanish Titles to cause their lands to be registered
On 22 October 2010, complainant filed this administrative under the Land Registration Act within six months from date
case for disbarment against Atty. Blanco, alleging that Mr. of effectivity of the law or until 16 August 1976. The Heirs of
Chung was a squatter on the Sampaloc Property and Atty. San Pedro failed to adduce a certificate of title under the
Blanco had unjustly prevented the exercise of complainant's Torrens system that would show that T.P. 4136 was brought
rights over the same.9chanrobleslaw 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
In his Verified Comment,10 Atty. Blanco alleged that the therefrom.
Complaint was frivolous, unfounded and retaliatory. He
averred, among others, that complainant, in his second Given the nullity of T.P. 4136, the claim of the Heirs of San
demand letter to Mr. Chung, had attached two draft Pedro against EMIDCI has no legal basis. On the other hand,
pleadings. The first was a draft petition for certiorari against the records reveal that the Sampaloc property is registered in
the latter;11 the second, a draft complaint for disbarment
the name of EMIDCI as TCT 79146 under the Torrens system. before the investigating commissioner that he had attached
As such, the TCT enjoys a conclusive presumption of the draft of the administrative complaint against respondent
validity.20chanrobleslaw to his second letter to Mr. Chung.27 Undoubtedly, the
attachment of the draft complaint to the letter was meant to
Hence, complainant had a baseless claim, which Atty. Blanco intimidate Atty. Blanco. It was a threat should he reject the
correctly resisted. In writing the two letters rejecting demand of Dumanlag.
complainant's claim, he merely acted in defense of the rights
of his client. In doing so, he performed his duty to EMIDCI The penalty for filing a malicious complaint varies from
within the bounds of law. censure to a fine as high as P5,000.

Consequently, there was no misconduct to speak of on the In Lim v. Antonio,28 the Court censured the complainant who
part of Atty. Blanco. In fact, he should even be commended as was motivated by revenge and bad faith when he filed an
he remained steadfast, in maintaining the cause of his client unfounded complaint for disbarment against the respondent
even as he was subjected to harassment. As will be discussed lawyer. In Scares, Jr. v. Gonzales-Alzate, 29 we likewise
below, complainant, in his second demand letter, threatened censured the complainant for filing a disbarment complaint
Atty. Blanco with the filing of a disbarment case. that was similarly motivated.

Complainant maliciously filed the For the filing of an unfounded complaint against a clerk of
complaint. court, the Court issued a stern warning to the complainant
lawyer in Dela Victoria v. Orig-Maloloy-on.30The latter was
As a rule, a complainant should not be penalized for the found to have been in contempt of court and was fined in the
exercise of the right to litigate.21 But the rule applies only if amount of P2,000.
the right is exercised in good faith.22 When a groundless
complaint is filed in bad faith, the Court has ' to step in and The Court imposed a stiffer penalty of P5,000 on the
penalize the erring complainant.23chanrobleslaw complainant attorneys in Prieto v. Corpuz31 and Arnado v.
Suarin. Their complaints against a judge and a court sheriff,
The policy of insulation from intimidation and harassment respectively, were found to be groundless.
encourages lawyers to stay their course and perform their
duties without fear.24 They are better able to function properly Considering the circumstances present in this case,
and ultimately contributes "to the efficient delivery and complainant appears to be devious, persistent and
proper administration of justice."25cralawred On the other incorrigible, such that mere censure as penalty would not
hand, failure to shield lawyers from baseless suits serves "only suffice. He has trifled with the Court, using the judicial process
to disrupt, rather than promote, the orderly administration of as an instrument to willfully pursue a nefarious scheme. The
justice."26chanrobleslaw imposition of a P5,000 fine is appropriate.

In this case, complainant knew fully well that his complaint Complainant Defied the Order in
was totally unfounded. We note that he acknowledged the Intestate Estate.
existence of Our ruling in Intestate Estate, in his second letter
to Chung. Complainant unquestionably knew of the nullity of For making a demand on EMIDCI to recognize the claim of
the Spanish title in favor of his principals; yet, he insisted on ownership of the Heirs of San Pedro, complainant appears to
his unfounded claim by sending a second demand letter to have disobeyed the order of the Court in Intestate
Chung. Complainant even had the audacity to state Estate, insofar as the Court enjoined agents of the estate from
that Intestate Estate excluded the Heirs of San Pedro from the exercising any act of possession or ownership over the lands
enumeration of persons prohibited from selling lands covered covered by the T.P. For this reason, the Court finds it
by T.P. 4136. The dispositive portion of the Decision clearly appropriate to direct the complainant to show cause why he
states that the heirs, as well as the agents of the estate of San should not be cited for indirect contempt for failing to comply
Pedro, were enjoined from exercising any act of dominion with the order given in that Decision. Indirect contempt is
over the lands covered by T.P. 4136. At this juncture, it is committed when there is "[disobedience of or resistance to a
appropriate to quote the pertinent portion of the fallo of the lawful writ, process, order, or judgment of a
Decision, which states:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary court."33chanrobleslaw
In G.R. No. 106496, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:
WHEREFORE, the Court RESOLVES to: (a) DISMISS the
chanRoblesvirtualLawlibraryx x x x administrative complaint for disbarment against Atty. Jaime
M. Blanco for utter lack of merit; (b) IMPOSE a FINE of P5,000
(4) The heirs, agents, privies and/or anyone acting for and in on complainant Budencio Dumanlag for filing a malicious
behalf of the estate of the late Mariano San Pedro y complaint; and (c) DIRECT complainant to SHOW CAUSE why
Esteban are hereby disallowed to exercise any act of he should not be cited for indirect contempt for failing to
possession or ownership or to otherwise, dispose of in any comply with our final and executory Decision dated 18
manner the whole or any portion of the estate covered by December 1996, insofar as it enjoins agents of the Estate of
Titulo de Propriedad No. 4136; and they are hereby ordered to Mariano San Pedro from exercising acts of possession or
immediately vacate the same, if they or any of them are in ownership or to otherwise dispose of any land covered by T. P.
possession thereof. 4136.
Given the above considerations, the Complaint filed against
respondent is nothing but an attempt to intimidate, harass Leonardo-De Castro, Bersamin, Perlas-Bernabe, and Caguioa,
JJ., concur.
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 A.C. No. 9090, August 31, 2016
that complainant was very much aware of.

Complainant even admitted during the mandatory conference


TEODORO B. CRUZ, JR., Complainant, v. ATTYS. JOHN G. REYES, Guzman in the election protest case because she was a
ROQUE BELLO AND CARMENCITA A. ROUS- political ally of Speaker Fuentebella. Complainant emphasized
GONZAGA, Respondents. that Atty. Bello has always represented the political interests
of the Fuentebellas. There is, therefore, no doubt that Atty.
RESOLUTION Bello is the lawyer of the Fuentebellas.6 As a result, with the
sudden shifting of the political loyalty of De Guzman and
PEREZ, J.: 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.
This is a Motion for Reconsideration1 of the Resolution2 of the
Bello because he is already an ally of the Fuentebellas.
Court dated 22 August 2012 finding respondent Atty. John G.
However, Atty. Bello cannot actively defend Mayor Velarde
Reyes guilty of "negligence of contumacious proportions" and
because he appeared for De Guzman before the RTC.8 Thus,
suspending him from the practice of law for a period of one
complainant concluded, Atty. Bello found the expedient of
(1) year.
passing the case to his clandestine partner, respondent Atty.
Reyes, making the latter guilty of representing conflicting
The Facts
interests,9 in violation of Rule 15.03 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility.
The present case arose out of a petition for disbarment filed
by Atty. Teodoro B. Cruz, Jr. (complainant) charging
The Second Incident
respondent Atty. John G. Reyes (respondent) with intentional
misrepresentation, knowingly handling a case involving
(Falsification, Knowingly Alleging Untruths in Pleadings and
conflict of interest, falsification, knowingly alleging untruths in
Unethical Conduct)
pleadings and unethical conduct, based on the following
incidents:
On or before 15 December 2003, former Speaker Fuentebella
filed his Certificate of Candidacy (COC) for Congressman of the
chanRoblesvirtualLawlibraryThe First Incident
3rd District of Camarines Sur. Complainant also filed a COC for
the same position. Subsequently, a certain Ebeta P. Cruz
(Intentional Misrepresentation and Knowingly Handling a Case
(Ebeta) and a certain Marita Montefalcon Cruz-Gulles (Marita)
Involving Conflict of Interest)
likewise filed their respective COCs for the aforementioned
position. The former is an indigent laundry woman from San
Complainant alleged that respondent entered his appearance
Jose, Camarines Sur, while the latter was a former casual
as counsel for Mayor Rosito Velarde (Mayor Velarde) of
laborer of the municipal government of Tigaon, Camarines
Tinambac, Camarines Sur, in an election protest case that was
Sur.10 Clearly, both Ebeta Marita had no real intention of
on appeal before the Commission on Elections (COMELEC).
running for the position for which they filed their COC, but
The case, entitled "Racquel 'BIBI' Reyes de Guzman,
were merely instigated to do so in order to confuse the
Protestant, versus Mayor Rosito Velarde, Protestee,"
electorate of the district, to the disadvantage of complainant.
originated from the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Calabanga,
Consequently, complainant filed a petition to declare Ebeta
Branch 63, Camarines Sur. According to the petition for
and Marita as nuisance candidates.11chanrobleslaw
disbarment, "an incident occurred" in the course of the trial
which forced Mayor Velarde to bring an incident up to the
In connection with the petition to declare Ebeta and Marita as
COMELEC on certiorari.3chanrobleslaw
nuisance candidates, complainant filed a Memorandum with
the COMELEC through the Office of the Camarines Sur
Provincial Election Supervisor (PES). Pertinent portions of the
While the case was being tried at the RTC level, protestant
Memorandum were quoted by the complainant in his petition
Raquel Reyes De Guzman (De Guzman) was represented by
for disbarment,12 to wit:
the Sales Law Office of Naga City, although Atty. Roque Bello
(Atty. Bello), who indicated in the pleadings that his address is
chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary1. Complainant received a copy of
in Cainta, Rizal, was the chief counsel. Mayor Velarde, on the
the Verified Answer of Marita signed by respondent as
other hand, was represented by Atty. Gualberto Manlagnit
counsel, whose given address is in Quezon City;
(Atty. Manlagnit) from Naga City. Atty. Manlagnit prepared the
pleadings in connection with the appeal to the COMELEC but,
2. From the Answer, it was made to appear that Marita caused
according to complainant, unknown to Atty. Manlagnit,
the preparation thereof, read the allegations therein
another pleading was filed before the COMELEC, which
contained, and understood them. It was also made to appear
pleading was apparently prepared in Cainta, Rizal but was
that Marita signed the verification;
signed by respondent whose given address is in Quezon
City.4chanrobleslaw
3. During the hearing at the PES in San Jose, Pili, Camarines
Sur, on 23 January 2004, respondent appeared
Complainant explained that De Guzman used to be allied with
and:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
former Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella (Speaker Fuentebella)
a.) on record, admitted that the signature appearing on the
under the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) party, whereas
Verified Answer is his;
Mayor Velarde was a member of the Laban ng Demokratikong
Pilipino (LDP) party, led by Camarines Sur Governor Luis R.
b.) officially manifested that he was hired by Marita as her
Villafuerte (Gov. Villafuerte). The Fuentebellas and the
counsel to prepare the Verified Answer;
Villafuertes are known to be politically at odds with each
other. However, De Guzman subsequently changed her
c.) officially confirmed that the allegations in the Verified
political allegiance and became affiliated with the Villafuertes
Answer were supplied by Marita; and cralawlawlibrary
by transferring to the LDP party. Mayor Velarde, on the other
hand, became an ally of the Fuentebellas under the
d.) said that Marita was in his office in Quezon City when she
NPC.5chanrobleslaw
"signed" the Verified Answer.
According to complainant, Atty. Bello agreed to represent De
4. Marita arrived at the hearing to file a formal withdrawal of the case. He agreed to handle the same simply to
her COC. She was immediately put on the witness stand accommodate Atty. Bello and to improve his skills as a lawyer
wherein she testified that:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary and never for monetary considerations.17chanrobleslaw
a.) she did not know respondent;
With respect to the second incident, respondent related that
b.) she never solicited his legal services, particularly, to file the he was at home in Pangasinan on 17 January 2004 when he
Verified Answer; received a call from Atty. Bello asking him to attend a hearing
in Camarines Sur. He declined the request three times due to
c.) she never supplied the allegations contained in the Answer; his tight schedule. Atty. Bello pleaded, saying that even on
Saturdays, hearings could be scheduled. Thus, even if he did
d.) the signature appearing in the Answer is not her signature; not want to attend the hearing due to its distance and
and cralawlawlibrary because of his full calendar, he could not refuse because he
really did not schedule appointments and/or hearings on
e.) she could not have signed the verification in the Answer in Saturdays. All that was told him regarding the case was that a
Quezon City on 15 January 2004 because she was in Bicol on congressional candidate was being disqualified and a lawyer is
that date.13chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary needed to defend him and his candidacy. Respondent alleged
The petition for disbarment also alleged that respondent that according to Atty. Bello, the candidate was qualified and
financially capable of funding his campaign. Nevertheless, he
admitted to Attys. Adan Marcelo Botor and Atty. Manlagnit -
clarified from Atty. Bello if the candidate is not a nuisance
complainant's counsels in the petition for disqualification
before the PES-COMELEC — that Atty. Bello merely gave the candidate and Atty. Bello allegedly replied: "Qualified na
Verified Answer to him already signed and qualified naman talaga eh." Respondent added that it was not
disclosed to him that the disqualification case involved a
notarized.14chanrobleslaw
candidate for the third congressional district of Camarines Sur.
For his part, respondent narrated the following version of the He was simply informed that the scheduled hearing of the
disqualification case would be on 23 January 2004 in Naga
events:
City.18chanrobleslaw
chanRoblesvirtualLawlibraryAnent the first incident,
respondent alleged that he first met Atty. Bello sometime in Since respondent was in Pangasinan and due to the fact that
the deadline for the filing of the necessary pleading was
May, 2003 when the latter was introduced to him by a friend.
nearing, Atty. Bello advised respondent that he would just
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 prepare the Answer and sign for respondent's name in the
pleading. Respondent maintained that he would not have
since Atty. Bello had so many cases to handle. The case would
agreed to Atty. Bello's proposal, had it not been for the
be to secure a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) with
pressed urgency, trusting that he would not get into any
application for a Writ of Preliminary Injunction from the
COMELEC.15chanrobleslaw trouble.19chanrobleslaw

While waiting for the scheduled date of the hearing to arrive,


According to respondent, he informed Atty. Bello that he has
he wondered why he has not been furnished a copy of the
never before handled an election case, much less one with an
application for a TRO with Preliminary Injunction. Atty. Bello pleading or given additional instructions relative to the case.
Atty. Bello, in the meantime;, has ceased to communicate with
assured him that things would be difficult at first, but he
him and suddenly became inaccessible. He thus toyed with the
would assist respondent and things will tuna out easier. Due to
the assurance given and his desire for a more comprehensive impression that he was being left out of the case for reasons
he could not then understand.20chanrobleslaw
experience in law practice, respondent agreed to accept the
case. Since he made it clear from the start that he has no
According to respondent, he was able to get a copy of the
knowledge or experience in election cases, he was never part
of the preparations in connection with the case. Atty. Bello 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
simply called him up for a meeting when the pleading was
was, in reality, about a nuisance candidate and that the client
ready so that he could sign the same. They agreed to meet
somewhere in Timog, Quezon City and after he read the he was to appear for was, indeed, a nuisance candidate. What
pleading and sensing that there was no problem, he signed was even more surprising to him was that the copy of the
Answer that was given to him was unsigned: neither by him
the same inside Atty. Bello's car. Thereafter, he attended the
nor by his supposed client. It was likewise not notarized.
initial hearing of the case, during which, the parties were
required to submit their respective Finding the indefensibility of his client and in order not to
make matters worse, he opted to appear and just submit the
Memoranda.16chanrobleslaw
case for resolution. To prove this point, respondent alleged
that all he had with him for the hearing were only the
Respondent claimed that up to that point, there were no
indications about the true nature of the case. However, when unsigned and unnotarized Answer, the petition to declare
Ebeta and Marita as nuisance candidates, his case calendar
he was preparing the required Memorandum, he found
and nothing else. Fie had not in his person any evidence
telltale signs. After his two appearances before the COMELEC
and the submission of the Memorandum, respondent whatsoever in support of the defense of his client. Respondent
declared that he never knew what happened to the case as he added that even at this point, he had no knowledge that his
supposed client "had already jumped ship." More importantly,
formally withdrew therefrom immediately upon knowing the
he did not know that her signature on the Answer was forged,
circumstances of the case. He maintained that he cannot be
held guilty of representing conflicting interests because he precisely because the copy of the Answer that1 was given to
him was unsigned.21chanrobleslaw
never handled any previous case involving either of the parties
in the COMELEC case. Moreover, he was not properly apprised
Before the start of the hearing, respondent started looking for
of the facts and circumstances relative to the case that would
render him capable of intelligently deciding whether or not to his client but she could not be found. He, nevertheless,
proceeded to the hearing for it was immaterial to him whether
accept the case. He likewise did not receive a single centavo as
she was present or not as ho had already planned to simply
attorney's, acceptance or appearance fees in connection with
submit the case for resolution. Unfortunately, respondent misrepresentation.
claimed, the proceedings before the PES started as a casual
conversation with the lawyers for herein complainant and As regards the second incident, respondent argues that he
went on to a full trial, "wittingly or could not be held guilty of forgery, misrepresentation, and
unwittingly."22chanrobleslaw other related offenses. x x x If at all, respondent was forced to
unwittingly represent an 'unwilling' client, all in the name of
Respondent admitted that, during the hearing, he accommodation. Undersigned Commissioner disagrees.
acknowledged; that the signature appearing on the Answer
was his. He alleged that despite his personal aversion and Respondent violated Rule 15.03 of Canon 15 of the Code of
objection to certain allegations in the Answer, he could not Professional Responsibility. Respondent should have evaluated
anymore deny the signature above his printed name, even if it the situation first before agreeing to be counsel for an
was only signed for and in his behalf, because he had unknown client. x x x
previously agreed, although unwillingly, that his name be
signed in the pleading. It, therefore, came as a surprise to him Undersigned Commissioner finds sufficient legal basis for
that of all the questions that can be asked of him during the disciplinary action against respondent for the various
trial, he was questioned about his signature. Belatedly he misrepresentations and later, admissions before the COMELEC
realized that he should have objected to the line of when confronted with his "supposed client", claiming that it
questioning as he was being presented as an unwilling witness was Arty. Roque [sic] who merely gave him instructions and
for therein petitioner. However, without sufficient exposure in whose requests he merely accommodated. x x x
the legal practice and wanting of the traits of a scheming
lawyer, he failed to seasonably object to the line of His shortcomings when he accepted to be a counsel for an
questioning.23chanrobleslaw unknown client in the COMELEC protest (first incident) is in
itself, already deplorable but to repeat the same infraction in
Nevertheless, respondent vehemently denied complainant's the petition for disqualification (in the second incident)
allegation that he admitted having seen Marita sign the constitutes negligence of contumacious proportions. It is even
document in his presence. According to him, he vividly recalls worse that respondent has attempted to mitigate his liability
his response to the then query whether or not Marita signed by professing ignorance or innocence of the whole thing, a
the document in his presence as: "I suppose that is her matter that, too, is inexcusable. Clearly, it is a lame excuse
signature." Likewise, when queried further on the ideal that that respondent did offer. By his own confession, he was
the pleading should be signed by Marita in his presence as her woefully negligent.26chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
counsel, he allegedly responded: "While it is the ideal, On 19 September 2007, Resolution No. XVIII-2007-99 was
sometimes we lawyers, like you and I, sign documents even if
passed by the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the
the client is not around due to our busy schedules." He
Philippines (IBP) resolving to adopt and approve the above
pointed out to the two lawyers of herein complainant that
report and recommendation of the Investigating
whether Marita signed the Answer in his presence or not is Commissioner. It thereafter forwarded the report to: the
inconsequential since he was not the notary public who
Supreme Court as required under Section 12(b), Rule 139-B of
notarized the Answer. He argued that his signature pertains to
the Rules of Court.27chanrobleslaw
the allegations in the Answer, while the signature of his client
forms part of the verification and certification and that it is the On 22 August 2012, the Court issued the questioned
duty of the notary public to see to it that the person signing
Resolution adopting the above-quoted findings of the IBP
the pleading as a party is really the person referred to in the
Investigating Commissioner. The Court, however, increased
verification/certification.24chanrobleslaw the period of suspension from the recommended one (1)
month to one (1) year. The same Resolution also resolved
Finally, respondent declared that except for the modest
to:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
appearance, cum transportation fees that he received, there
xxxx
was no monetary consideration for handling the petition to
declare Ebeta and Marita as nuisance candidates. He
2. IMPLEAD Attys. Roque Bello and Carmencita A. Rous-
explained that when the case was offered to him, it was in
Gonzaga in this administrative proceedings;
haste and under a tenor of urgency that the only impression and cralawlawlibrary
he got was that the client was well-to-do and could wage a
decent campaign and was really a qualified candidate. He
3. REMAND the whole records of this case to the Integrated
repeated the words of Atty. Bello: "qualified na qualifed sya."
Bar of the Philippines for further Investigation, report and
He emphasized that all he wanted was to expand his recommendation with respect to the charges against ATTY.
experience and practice as a lawyer.25cralawredchanrobleslaw
ROQUE BELLO and ATTY. CARMENCITA A. ROUS-GONZAGA.
In his report and recommendation dated 17 April 2007, Respondent is now before us seeking a reconsideration of the
Investigating Commissioner Edmund T. Espina found aforementioned Resolution insofar as the penalty imposed
respondent guilty of the charges against him and against him is concerned.
recommended that he be meted the penalty of suspension for
one (1) month. The report, in part, Respondent points out that from the very start, he had been
reads:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary very candid as to the factual backdrop of the present case. He
It taxes the undersigned Commissioner's imagination, never denied that he should have evaluated the situation first
however, that respondent disclaims any knowledge in the before agreeing to be a counsel for an unknown client. He
above incidents and that he was just a "willing victim" of the does not refute, nor does he argue against, the finding of the
rather scheming tactics of a fellow lawyer, who, surprisingly he Commission on Bar Discipline that he was remiss in his duties
did not even thought (sic) of running after and holding liable, as a lawyer when he accommodated the requests of a fellow
even after all these charges filed against him. Be that as it lawyer to represent an unknown client. However, respondent
may, it cannot be denied that respondent himself had argues, such negligence is not the negligence "of
knowledge of and allowed himself to be used by whoever contumacious proportions" warranting the imposition of the
should be properly held liable for these fraud and penalty of suspension. Likewise, such negligence is not
tantamount to having knowledge of the alleged fraud and facts and circumstances surrounding it. His narration is
misrepresentation, for the simple reason that he did not know straightforward enough to be worthy of belief, especially
the details of the election case until its hearing on 23 January considering that he withdrew from the case after he realized
2004 in Naga City. He maintains that if such fraud and its true nature, as evidenced by the "Withdrawal as
misrepresentation really exists, his "only fault was that he Counsel"32 he filed before the COMELEC.
allowed himself to be duped to unwittingly represent an
'unwilling' client, all in the name of accommodation." With respect to the charge of intentional misrepresentation,
complainant failed to specify which act of respondent
Our Ruling constituted the alleged offense. If the alleged
misrepresentation pertains to the act of respondent of signing
We find respondent's motion for reconsideration partially the pleading prepared by Atty. Bello, we do not agree with
meritorious. complainant and the same cannot be considered as
misrepresentation since respondent specified in his Comment
Considering the serious consequences of the disbarment or that he read the pleading before he affixed his signature
the suspension of a member of the Bar, clear preponderant thereto. He was, therefore, aware of the statements
evidence is necessary to justify the imposition of the said contained in the pleading and his act of signing the same
administrative penalties28 and the burden of proof rests upon signifies that he agreed to the allegations therein contained.
the complaint.29 "Preponderance of the evidence means that On the other hand, if the misrepresentation alleged by
the evidence adduced by one side is, as a whole, superior to or complainant refers to the allegations in the pleading filed by
has a greater weight than that of the other. It means evidence respondent before the COMELEC, again, it cannot be said that
which is more convincing to the court as worthy of belief there was "intentional" misrepresentation on the part of
compared to the presented contrary evidence."30 In the case respondent since, as admitted by respondent and as
at bar, complainant failed to present clear and preponderant complainant himself asserted, the allegations therein
evidence in support of his claim that respondent "knowingly" contained were supplied by Atty. Bello, which allegations, at
handled a case involving conflict of interest, "knowingly" that time the pleading was signed, respondent did not know
alleged untruths in pleadings, and that he "intentionally" were inaccurate. As pointed out above, as soon as the true
committed misrepresentation and falsification. nature of the situation revealed itself, respondent withdrew
from the case.
In connection with the first incident, complainant alleged that
respondent perpetrated acts constituting intentional Regarding the second incident, complainant claimed that, in
misrepresentation and knowingly handling a case involving connection with the petition to declare Marita as a nuisance
conflict of interest when he appeared as counsel for Mayor candidate, respondent committed falsification and knowingly
Velarde in the COMELEC case. Rule 15.03 of Canon 15 of the alleged untruths, not only in Marita's Verified Answer to the
Code of Professional Responsibility provides that "[a] lawyer disqualification case against her, but during the hearing of the
shall not represent conflicting interests except by written case, as well. As with the first incident, respondent maintained
consent of all concerned given after a full disclosure of the that he accepted the case without being fully aware of the
facts." Jurisprudence has provided three tests in determining circumstances relative thereto, this time because of the
whether a violation of this rule is present in a given case, to insistence and urgency with which Atty. Bello made the
wit:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary request.
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 We earlier noted respondent's candor in explaining his cause.
oppose that claim for the other client. Thus, if a lawyer's His candidness about the events leading to this administrative
argument for one client has to be opposed by that same complaint against him is demonstrated by the following
lawyer in arguing for the other client, there is a violation of the declarations he made: (1) having agreed to have his name
rule. signed in the pleading on his behalf, he cannot now deny the
signature above his printed name;33 (2) he believed the
Another test of inconsistency of interest is whether the assurances of his fellow lawyers (counsels for herein
acceptance of a new relation would prevent the full discharge complainant) that whatever may have been said in confidence
of the lawyer's duty of undivided fidelity and loyalty to the between them will not be revealed to anybody for whatever
client or invite suspicion of unfaithfulness or double-dealing in reason;34 and (3) he failed to seasonably object to the line of
the performance of that duty. Still another test is whether the questioning relative to his signature on Marita's Answer,
lawyer would be called upon in the new relation to use against thereby incriminating himself and making him an unwilling
a former client any confidential information acquired through witness for the opposing party, because of his insufficient
their connection or previous employment.31 (Emphasis experience in the legal practice and as a result of his lack of
omitted) the traits of a scheming lawyer.35 These straightforward
Based on the foregoing criteria, there must be a previous statements, coupled with the legal presumption that he is
lawyer-client relationship in order for the liability to attach. innocent of the charges against him until the contrary is
Clearly, respondent cannot be held liable under any of the proven,36 keep us from treating respondent's proffered
three aforementioned tests because he was never a counsel explanation as an indication of mendacity.37 This Court is,
for either party in the COMELEC case prior to the filing of the therefore, compelled to give him the benefit of the doubt and
said action. Complainant, however, would have us believe that apply in his favor the presumption that he acted in good faith,
respondent is the "furtive" or "clandestine" partner of Atty. especially considering the failure of complainant to present
Bello so as to justify his accusation that respondent is guilty of clear and convincing evidence in support of his allegations.
representing conflicting interests. Complainant, however,
failed to present sufficient evidence in support of his Thus, with respect to the charge that respondent "knowingly"
allegation. The mere fact that respondent agreed to handle a alleged untruths in the supposed Verified Answer of Marita,
case for Atty. Bello does not - alone - prove that they are he admitted that
indeed partners. This Court is inclined to give more weight and
credence to the explanation proffered by respondent: that is, Marita's Answer was prepared by Atty. Bello, whom
he accepted the case without being fully aware of the real respondent likewise authorized to sign his name on the
pleading on his behalf. This statement was corroborated by nevertheless, agree with respondent that such negligence is
complainant himself when he alleged in his petition for not of contumacious proportions as to warrant the imposition
disbarment that "Atty. John Reyes admitted to the two of the penalty of suspension. This Court find the penalty of
counsels of then candidate Teodoro Cruz, Jr. x x x that the suspension for one (1) year earlier imposed on respondent too
Answer was merely passed to him by Atty. Bello already signed harsh and not proportionate to the offense committed. "The
and notarized." Consequently, respondent cannot be held power to disbar or suspend must be exercised with great
liable for "knowingly" alleging untruths for the simple reason caution. Only in a clear case of misconduct that seriously
that the allegations in the Answer were not supplied by him. affects the standing and character of the lawyer as an officer
of the Court and member of the bar will disbarment or
Neither can respondent be held guilty of falsification in suspension be imposed as a penalty."42 The penalty to be
connection with the forged signature of Marita. "The basic meted out on an errant lawyer depends on the exercise of
rule is that mere allegation is not evidence and is not sound judicial discretion taking into consideration the facts
equivalent to proof. Charges based on mere suspicion and surrounding each case.43chanrobleslaw
speculation likewise cannot be given credence." 38 Complainant
merely alleged that Marita's signature in the Answer "was In this connection, the following circumstances should be
forged either by Attorney Roque Bello or respondent x x taken into consideration in order to mitigate respondent's
x"39 and that respondent falsified or caused the falsification of responsibility: first respondent exhibited enough candor to
the signature because "he is the one who presented the same admit that he was negligent and remiss in his duties as a
to the COMELEC, hence, presumed to be the one who falsified lawyer when he accommodated the request of another lawyer
the same."40 Other than this presumption and bare allegation, to handle a case without being first apprised of the details and
complainant has not adduced any proof in support thereof. As acquainted with the circumstances relative thereto; and
a result, this Court cannot give any merit to his accusation. second, since this is his first offense, respondent "is entitled to
some measure of forbearance."44chanrobleslaw
The same is true in connection with complainant's allegation
that respondent falsely testified and made misrepresentations IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, respondent's Motion for
during the nuisance candidate case hearing before the PES by Reconsideration is PARTIALLY GRANTED. The Resolution of the
manifesting that he is the lawyer of Marita, that the Court dated 22 August 2012 is hereby modified in that
allegations in the Answer were supplied by Marita and that respondent Atty, John G. Reyes is REPRIMANDED for his failure
Marita was in his office when she signed the Answer's to exercise the necessary prudence required in the practice of
verification. Apart from his allegations, complainant has not the legal profession. He is further WARNED that a repetition of
presented any evidence, as for instance, the Transcript of the same or similar acts shall be dealt with more severely.
Stenographic Notes (TSN) of the proceedings, to prove that
respondent indeed made the statements attributed to him SO ORDERED.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
and to enable this Court to properly evaluate the
transgressions ascribed to respondent. A.C. No. 8560, September 06, 2016

It is well to note that respondent vehemently denied having CARRIE-ANNE SHALEEN CARLYLE S.
admitted seeing Marita sign the Verification before his REYES, Complainant, v. ATTY. RAMON F. NIEVA, Respondent.
presence in his office in Quezon City. He insisted that his
response, when queried about Marita's signature, was that: "I
DECISION
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 PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:
circumstance, unless he was in fact telling the truth. In any
case, as explained by respondent, it is of no moment whether For the Court's resolution is the Complaint1 dated March 3,
or not he saw Marita sign the Verification since he was not the 2010 filed by complainant Carrie-Anne Shaleen Carlyle S.
notary public who notarized the Answer. Respondent's Reyes (complainant) against respondent Atty. Ramon F. Nieva
signature in the Answer refers to the allegations therein, (respondent), praying that the latter be disbarred for sexually
whereas the signature of Marita forms part of the Verification harassing her.
which states that "she has caused the preparation of the
foregoing Answer and has read the contents thereof which are The Facts
true and correct of her own personal knowledge." Respondent
is, therefore, correct when he pointed out that it is the Complainant alleged that she has been working at the Civil
responsibility of the notary public administering the oath to Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) as an
make sure that the signature in the Verification really belongs Administrative Aide on a Job Order basis since October 2004.
to the person who executed the same. Sometime in January 2009, she was reassigned at the CAAP
Office of the Board Secretary under the supervision of
It must be emphasized that "the Court exercises its disciplinary respondent, who was then acting as CAAP Acting Board
power only if the complainant establishes [his] case by clear, Secretary. During complainant's stint under respondent, she
convincing, and satisfactory evidence. x x x When the pieces of would notice that during office hours, respondent would often
evidence of the parties are evenly balanced or when doubt watch "pampagana" videos saved in his office laptop, all of
exists on the preponderance of evidence, the equipoise rule which turned out to be pornographic films. Complainant also
dictates that the decision be against the party carrying the averred that whenever respondent got close to her, he would
burden of proof."41chanrobleslaw hold her hand and would sometimes give it a kiss. During
these instances, complainant would remove her hands and tell
The foregoing notwithstanding, it cannot be said that him to desist. According to complainant, respondent even
respondent has no liability at all under the circumstances. His offered her a cellular phone together with the necessary load
folly, though, consists in his negligence in accepting the to serve as means for their private communication, but she
subject cases without first being fully apprised of and refused the said offer, insisting that she already has her own
evaluating the circumstances surrounding them. We, cellular phone and does not need another one.2
Complainant also narrated that at about 5 o'clock in the only being used by other CAAP employees who were agitated
afternoon of April 1, 2009, respondent texted her to wait for by the reforms he helped implement upon his assumption as
him at the office. Fearing that respondent might take CAAP consultant and eventually as Acting Corporate Board
advantage of her, complainant convinced two (2) of her Secretary.14
officemates to accompany her until respondent arrived. Upon
respondent's arrival and seeing that complainant had The IBP's Report and Recommendation
companions, he just told complainant and the other two (2)
office staff to lock the door when In a Report and Recommendation15 dated August 14, 2012,
they leave.3 the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Investigating
Commissioner recommended the dismissal of the instant
Complainant further recounted that on the following day, April administrative complaint against respondent.16 He found that
2, 2009, respondent called her on her cellular phone, asked if complainant failed to substantiate her allegations against
she received his text message, and told her he would tell her respondent, as opposed to respondent's defenses which are
something upon his arrival at the office. At about 9:30 in the ably supported by evidence. Citing respondent's evidence, the
morning of even date, respondent asked complainant to Investigating Commissioner opined that since the CAAP Office
encode a memorandum he was about to dictate. Suddenly, of the Board Secretary was very small, it is implausible that a
respondent placed his hand on complainant's waist area near startling occurrence such as an attempted sexual molestation
her breast and started caressing the latter's torso. would not be noticed by not only the other occupants of said
Complainant immediately moved away from respondent and office area, but also by those occupying the office adjacent to
told him "sumosobra na ho kayo sir." Instead of asking for an it, i.e., the CAAP Operations Center, which is separated only by
apology, respondent told complainant he was willing to give glass panels. Further, the Investigating Commissioner drew
her P2,000.00 a month from his own pocket and even gave attention to the investigation conducted by the CODI showing
her a note stating "just bet (between) you and me, x x x kahit that the collective sworn statements of the witnesses point to
na si mommy," referring to complainant's mother who was the eventual conclusion that none of the alleged acts of
also working at CAAP. At around past 11 o'clock in the misconduct attributed to respondent really occurred.17
morning of the same day, while complainant and respondent
were left alone in the office, respondent suddenly closed the In a Resolution18 dated May 10, 2013, the IBP Board of
door, grabbed complainant's arm, and uttered "let's seal it Governors (IBP Board) unanimously reversed the aforesaid
with a kiss," then attempted to kiss complainant. This Report and Recommendation. As such, respondent was found
prompted complainant to thwart respondent's advances with guilty of committing sexual advances, and accordingly,
her left arm, raised her voice in order to invite help, and recommended that he be suspended from the practice of law
exclaimed "wag naman kayo ganyan sir, yung asawa nyo for three (3) months.
magagalit, sir may asawa ako." After respondent let her go,
complainant immediately left the office to ask assistance from In view of respondent's Motion for Reconsideration,19 the IBP
her former supervisor who advised her to file an Board referred the case to the IBP Commission on Bar
administrative case4 against respondent before the CAAP Discipline (IBP-CBD) for study, evaluation, and submission of
Committee on Decorum and Investigation (CODI).5 an Executive Summary to the IBP Board.20

Finally, complainant alleged that after her ordeal with In the Director's Report21 dated July 8, 2014, the IBP-CBD
respondent, she was traumatized and was even diagnosed by National Director recommended that the current IBP Board
a psychiatrist to be suffering from post-traumatic stress adhere to the report and recommendation of the Investigating
disorder with recurrent major depression.6 Eventually, Commissioner as it is supported by the evidence on record; on
complainant filed the instant complaint. 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
In his defense,7 respondent denied all of complainant's Resolution22 dated August 10, 2014 setting aside the previous
allegations. He maintained that as a 79-year old retiree who IBP Board's Resolution, and accordingly, dismissed the
only took a position at the CAAP on a consultancy basis, it was administrative complaint against respondent.
very unlikely for him to do the acts imputed against him,
especially in a very small office space allotted for him and his The Issue Before the Court
staff. In this regard, he referred to his Counter-
Affidavit8 submitted before the CODI, wherein he The essential issue in this case is whether or not respondent
explained, inter alia, that: (a) while he indeed watches should be held administratively liable for violating the Code of
"interesting shows" in his office laptop, he never invited Professional Responsibility (CPR).
anyone, including complainant, to watch with him and that he
would even close his laptop whenever someone comes near The Court's Ruling
him;9 (b) he never held and kissed complainant's hand because
if he had done so, he would have been easily noticed by Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the CPR provides:
complainant's co-staffers;10 (c) he did offer her a cellular CANON 1 - A lawyer shall uphold the constitution, obey the
phone, but this was supposed to be an office phone which laws of the land and promote respect for law and legal
should not be used for personal purposes, and thus, could not processes.
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 Rule 1.01 - A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest,
purpose of having an available encoder should he need one immoral or deceitful conduct.
for any urgent matter that would arise;12 and (e) he would not The provision instructs that "[a]s officers of the court, lawyers
do the acts he allegedly committed on April 2, 2009 as there are bound to maintain not only a high standard of legal
were other people in the office and that those people can proficiency, but also of morality, honesty, integrity, and fair
attest in his favor.13 Respondent then pointed out that the dealing."23
administrative case filed against him before the CODI was
already dismissed for lack of basis and that complainant was In similar light, Rule 7.03, Canon 7 of the CPR states:
CANON 7 - A lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and respondent from any administrative liability. In support of
dignity of the legal profession and support the activities of the such finding, the IBP largely relied on the following: (a) the five
Integrated Bar. (5) photographs29 respondent submitted to the CODI to show
that respondent's office space was so small that any
xxxx commotion caused by a sexual harassment attempt would
have been easily noticed by the other occupants
Rule 7.03 - A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely thereof;30 and (b) the investigation conducted by the CODI per
reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor shall he, whether in the Transcript31 submitted by respondent where the witnesses
public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the said that they did not notice anything out of the ordinary on
discredit of the legal profession. April 2, 2009, the date when respondent's alleged sexual
advances against complainant were committed.32 However,
Good moral character is a trait that every practicing lawyer is
the foregoing evidence, taken as a whole, did not actually
required to possess. It may be defined as "what a person really
is, as distinguished from good reputation, or from the opinion refute complainant's allegation that at around past 11 o'clock
in the morning of April 2, 2009, respondent closed the door,
generally entertained of him, or the estimate in which he is
grabbed complainant's right arm, uttered the words "let's seal
held by the public in the place where he is known. Moral
it with a kiss" and attempted to kiss complainant despite the
character is not a subjective term but one which corresponds
to objective reality."24 Such requirement has four (4) latter's resistance.
ostensible purposes, namely: (a) to protect the public; (b) to
A careful perusal of the aforesaid Transcript shows that at
protect the public image of lawyers; (c) to protect prospective
clients; and (d) to protect errant lawyers from themselves.25 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:
In Valdez v. Dabon,26 the Court emphasized that a lawyer's
Mr. Mendoza: Ngayon, puwede mo bang idescribe sa amin
continued possession of good moral character is a requisite
condition to remain a member of the Bar, viz.: nung 9:30 to 11:00 sinu-sino kayo doon?
Lawyers have been repeatedly reminded by the Court that
Witness 1: Tatlo (3) lang kami sir po dun. Si Ma'am Carrie Anne
possession of good moral character is both a condition
[complainant], si sir Nieva [respondent] tsaka aka po.
precedent and a continuing requirement to warrant admission
to the Bar and to retain membership in the legal profession.
Mr. Mendoza: So ikaw lang ang witness, ang taong
This proceeds from the lawyer's bounden duty to observe the
naroon 9:30 to 11?
highest degree of morality in order to safeguard the Bar's
integrity, and the legal profession exacts from its members
Witness 1: Yes sir.
nothing less. Lawyers are called upon to safeguard the
integrity of the Bar, free from misdeeds and acts constitutive
xxxx
of malpractice. Their exalted positions as officers of the court
demand no less than the highest degree of morality.
Mr. Mendoza: Saan kayo kumakain ng lunch?
The Court explained in Arnobit v. Atty. Arnobit that "as officers
Witness 1: Sa loob po kami naglulunch.
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
Mr. Mendoza: Pag nag-order ng pagkain minsan may natitira
and leading lives in accordance with the highest moral
pa bang iba?
standards of the community. A member of the bar and an
officer of the court is not only required to refrain from
Witness 1: Itong po yung dalawa yung natira nung umalis po
adulterous relationships or keeping a mistress but must also
aka. Um... pagbalik ko po wala na po si Ma'am Caan
behave himself so as to avoid scandalizing the public by
[complainant] si Ma'am Amy nalang po ang nandoon.
creating the impression that he is flouting those moral
standards." Consequently, any errant behavior of the lawyer,
Mr. Mendoza: So siya [complainant] nalang at tsaka si Atty.
be it in his public or private activities, which tends to show
Nieva [respondent] ang naiwan doon sa room? Eh nasaan na
deficiency in moral character, honesty, probity or good
demeanor, is sufficient to warrant suspension or yung ibang OJT pa?
disbarment.27 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
Witness 1: Tatlo lang po kasi kami nun sir, nasa Land Bank po
Verily, lawyers are expected to abide by the tenets of morality, yung dalawa.
not only upon admission to the Bar but also throughout their
legal career, in order to maintain their good standing in this Mr. Mendoza: So nasa Land Bank sila. So totoong may
exclusive and honored fraternity. They may be suspended nangyari na naiwan silang dalawa [complainant and
from the practice of law or disbarred for any misconduct, even respondent] na time na silang dalawa lang ang naiwan sa
if it pertains to his private activities, as long as it shows him to kuwarto?
be wanting in moral character, honesty, probity or good
demeanor.28 Witness 1: Opo nung mga quarter to 12 siguro po nun.

After due consideration, the Court reverses the findings and Mr. Mendoza: Ilang beses na may nangyayaring ganun na
recommendations of the IBP, and finds respondent silang naiiwan doon sa kuwarto?
administratively liable for violations of the CPR, as will be
explained hereunder. Witness 1: Yun lang po kasi yung natatandaan ko po sir
na time na naiwan sila eh.
To recapitulate, the IBP found that as compared to
complainant's purposedly bare and uncorroborated xxxx
allegations, respondent's evidence point to the conclusion
that none of the alleged sexual advances made by respondent Mr. Abesamis: Umalis ka sa room para bumili ng pagkain
against complainant actually occurred. As such, it absolved nandoon si Atty. Nieva [respondent]?
Mr. Borja: Pag malakas pero therein normal voice lang level.
Witness 1: Andoon pa po silang dalawa [complainant and
respondent]. Pero tapos na po silang magtype nun tas Witness 4: Kasi minsan malakas din yung radio nila eh. Kung
nag decide na maglunch na eh. minsan kasi sir may mga music sila. Eto sir yung time na
kinuha... Dami nila eh... Lumabas nakita naming mga ano
Mr. Abesamis: Saan? Sino ang naiwan? mga 10:45 na yan nabasa sir.

Witness 1: Dalawa pa lang sila sir pagbalik ko tatlo na sila pero Mr. Borja: Pero ang pinag-uusapan natin lagpas ng alas
wala naman po si Ma'am Caan [complainant]. Nung umalis po onse (11) ha bago mag-alas dose (12) ang pinaka latest
ako si sir Nieva [respondent] tsaka si Ma'am Caan yung message mo dito 02/03/06 11:06. So between 11:06 to
nandoon then pagbalik ko po wala na si Ma'am Caan, si 12 wala kayong...
sir Nieva tsaka silang dalawa na po yung nandoon.
Witness 4: Kasi nakikipag-coordination talaga kami kahit...
Mr. Abesamis: Ok. So wala na silang kasamang iba? kami lang nandoon sa telepono.

Witness 1: Opo.33 Mr. Borja: Written pero voice coordination niyo sa telepono
The same Transcript also reveals that the CODI interviewed kayo?
the occupants of the adjacent office, i.e., the CAAP Operations
Witness 4: Tsaka naka log-in sa log book.
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 xxxx
Secretary, by glass panels. Pertinent parts of the interview
Mr. Abesamis: Ma'am Joy [Witness 4] sabi niyo kanina
read:
Mr. Borja: Nung oras ng mga alas onse (11) pagitan ng alas naririnig niyo si sir [respondent] sa kabila kung wala kayong
kausap lalong-lalo na kapag malakas yung salita?
onse (11) hanggang alas dose (12), nasaan ka joy [Witness 4]?
Witness 4: Opo.
Witness 4: Andun po sa ORCC [CAAP Operations Center].
Mr. Abesamis: So ibig sabihin kahit hindi malakas
Mr. Borja: Si ano naman Donna [Witness 5] ganun din? Kasi
may possibility na maririnig niyo yung usapan kung
sinasabi dito noong bandang ganung oras past eleven
(11) parang nag-advance yata si Atty. Nieva walang radio? Siguro if intelligible or knowledgeable pero
maririnig mo sa kabila?
[respondent] kay Ms. Reyes (Caan) [complainant] ngayon nung
chinachansingan siya parang ganun ang dating eh "Iraised up
Witness 4: Kung mahina o normal yung usapan?
my voice also, so that the OPCEN personnel will hear of the
alarm" may narinig ba kayo na sumigaw siya?
Mr. Abesarnis: Normal na usapan, conversation.
Witness 4: Eh kasi sir wala pong braket yun yung time na ano
Witness 4: Hindi siguro pag sarado sila.
yung RPCC 764 so nag-cocoordinate kami...
Mr. Abesamis: Pero kung halimbawa sisigaw?
Mr. Borja: Ano yung 764?

Witness 4: Yung sa Tuguegarao yung nawawala siya so may Witness 4: Maririnig siguro kasi kapag nagdidictate si Attorney
[respondent] minsan naririnig namin.
alerfa tapos ditressfa so intransi po kami... opo...
Mr. Mendoza: Maski sarado yung pinto?
Mr. Borja: So busing-busy ka sa telepono?
Witness 4: Ah opo.
Witness 4: Opo lahat kami.

Mr. Borja: Pati ikaw? Mr. Mendoza: Naririnig?

Witness 4: Kung malakas.


Witness 5: Opo.

Mr. Borja: Sinong walang ginagawa nun? Mr. Mendoza: Ah kung malakas?

Witness 4: Opo.
Witness 4: Wala kasi kanya-kanya kami ng coordination lahat
kami nasa telepono.
Mr. Abesamis: So wala kayong naririnig man lang kahit
isang word na malakas doon sa kanila during the time na
Mr. Borja: Kaya kapag kumakalampag yung pader [sa] kabila
nangyari ito?
hindi niyo maririnig?

Witness 4: Hindi siguro sir kasi kung nakasara din sila ng pinto Witness 4: Nung time na iyan wala kasi kaming maalala...
tapos kanya-kanya kaming may kausap sa telepono eh.
Mr. Abesamis: Walang possibility na narinig niyo pero mas
Mr. Borja: Kung hindi kayo nakikipag-usap ngayon wala busy kayo sa telephone operation.
kayong ginagawa, narinig niyo ang usapan doon sa kabila.
Witness 4: Busy kami.
Witness 5: Yes sir.
Mr. Abesamis: Hindi makikilatis yung ano...
Atty. Gloria: Lalo na pag malakas.
Witness 4: Kasi may time na sumigaw na babae nga pero kala
lang namin ah... respondent a window of opportunity to carry out his acts
constituting sexual harassment against complainant.
Mr. Abesamis: Nung date na iyon o hindi?
More importantly, records reveal that complainant's
Witness 4: Hindi, hindi pa sigurado eh kasi... allegations are adequately supported by a Certificate of
Psychiatric Evaluation35 dated April 13, 2009 stating that the
Mr. Abesarnis: Hindi yung date bang iyon ang sinasabi mo? onset of her psychiatric problems - diagnosed as post-
traumatic stress disorder with recurrent major depression
Witness 4: Hindi kasi busy talaga kami sa coordination nung started after suffering the alleged sexual molestation at the
ano eh nung time na iyon. Nasabay kasi eh nung time na iyon hands of respondent. Moreover, complainant's plight was ably
hinahanap pa namin yung requirement. supported by other CAAP employees36 as well as a retired
Brigadier General of the Armed Forces of the
Mr. Mendoza: Pero bago yung bago mag April 2, meron ba Philippines37 through various letters to authorities seeking
kayo na tuligan na nag-aanuhan ng ganun, nagrereklamo justice for complainant. Perceptibly, complainant would not
tungkol kay Atty. Nieva [respondent], wala? May narinig seek help from such supporters, and risk their integrity in the
kayong movie na parang sounding na porno ganun? process, if none of her allegations were true. Besides, there is
no evidence to establish that complainant was impelled by any
Witness 4: Wala music lang talaga sir. improper motive against respondent or that she had reasons
to fabricate her allegations against him. Therefore, absent any
Mr. Mendoza: So music. competent proof to the contrary, the Court finds that
complainant's story of the April 2, 2009 incident was not
Witness 4: Kung minsan kasi binubuksan nila yung door pag moved by any ill-will and was untainted by bias; and hence,
mainit yung kuwarto nila. worthy of belief and credence.38 In this regard, it should be
mentioned that respondent's averment that complainant was
Mr. Borja: At that time hindi bukas iyon? only being used by other CAAP employees to get back at him
for implementing reforms within the CAAP was plainly
Witness 4: Kami ano eh may cover ng ano cartolina na white. unsubstantiated, and thus, a mere self-serving assertion that
deserves no weight in law.39
Mr. Borja: Makakatestify lang kayo sa audio eh, kasi wala
kayong nakikita.34 In addition, the Court notes that respondent never refuted
The above-cited excerpts of the Transcript show that at complainant's allegation that he would regularly watch
"pampagana" movies in his office-issued laptop. In fact,
around past 11 o'clock in the morning of April 2, 2009,
respondent readily admitted that he indeed watches
complainant and respondent were left alone in the CAAP
"interesting shows" while in the office, albeit insisting that he
Office of the Board Secretary as complainant's officemates
were all out on errands. In this regard, it was error on the part only does so by himself, and that he would immediately dose
his laptop whenever anyone would pass by or go near his
of the IBP to hastily conclude from the testimonies of
table. As confirmed in the Transcript40 of the investigation
complainant's officemates who were interviewed by the CODI
conducted by the CODI, these "pampagana" movies and
that nothing out of the ordinary happened. Surely, they were
not in a position to confirm or refute complainant's allegations "interesting shows" turned out to be pornographic materials,
which respondent even asks his male staff to regularly play for
as they were not physically in the office so as to make a
him as he is not well-versed in using computers.41
credible testimony as to the events that transpired therein
during that time.
Without a doubt, it has been established that respondent
habitually watches pornographic materials in his office-issued
Neither can the testimonies of those in the CAAP Operations
laptop while inside the office premises, during office hours,
Center be used to conclude that respondent did not do
anything to complainant, considering that they themselves and with the knowledge and full view of his staff. Obviously,
the Court cannot countenance such audacious display of
admitted that they were all on the telephone, busy with their
depravity on respondent's part not only because his obscene
coordinating duties. They likewise clarified that while their
office is indeed separated from the CAAP Office of the Board habit tarnishes the reputation of the government agency he
Secretary only by glass panels, they could not see what was works for - the CAAP where he was engaged at that time as
Acting Corporate Secretary - but also because it shrouds the
happening there as they covered the glass panels with white
legal profession in a negative light. As a lawyer in the
cartolina. In light of their preoccupation from their official
duties as well as the fact that the glass panels were covered, it government service, respondent is expected to perform and
discharge his duties with the highest degree of excellence,
is very unlikely for them to have noticed any commotion
professionalism, intelligence, and skill, and with utmost
happening in the adjacent CAAP Office of the Board Secretary.
devotion and dedication to duty.42 However, his aforesaid
Furthermore, the IBP should have taken the testimonies of the habit miserably fails to showcase these standards, and instead,
displays sheer unprofessionalism and utter lack of respect to
witnesses in the CODI proceedings with a grain of salt. It bears
the government position he was entrusted to hold. His flimsy
noting that all those interviewed in the CODI proceedings
were job order and regular employees of the CAAP. Naturally, excuse that he only does so by himself and that he would
they would be cautious in giving any unfavorable statements immediately close his laptop whenever anyone would pass by
or come near his table is of no moment, because the lewdness
against a high-ranking official of the CAAP such as respondent
of his actions, within the setting of this case, remains. The
who was the Acting Board Secretary at that time - lest they
earn the ire of such official and put their career in jeopardy. 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
Thus, the IBP erred in concluding that such Transcript shows
integrity and professionalism. As keepers of the public faith,
that respondent did not perform the acts complained of. On
the contrary, said Transcript proves that there was indeed a lawyers, such as respondent, are burdened with a high degree
of social responsibility and, hence, must handle their personal
period of time where complainant and respondent were left
affairs with greater caution. Indeed, those who have taken the
alone in the CAAP Office of the Board Secretary which gave
oath to assist in the dispensation of justice should be more allegation is not evidence and is not equivalent to proof.
possessed of the consciousness and the will to overcome the Charges based on mere suspicion and speculation likewise
weakness of the flesh, as respondent in this case.43 cannot be given credence.53 (Emphasis supplied)
Accordingly, this more recent pronouncement ought to
In the Investigating Commissioner's Report and
control and therefore, quell any further confusion on the
Recommendation adopted by the IBP Board of Governors, the proper evidentiary threshold to be applied in administrative
quantum of proof by which the charges against respondent
cases against lawyers.
were assessed was preponderance of evidence.
Preponderance of evidence "means evidence which is of Besides, the evidentiary threshold of substantial evidence - as
greater weight, or more convincing than that which is offered opposed to preponderance of evidence - is more in keeping
in opposition to it."44 Generally, under Rule 133 of the Revised
with the primordial purpose of and essential considerations
Rules on Evidence, this evidentiary threshold applies to civil
attending this type of cases. As case law elucidates,
cases: "[d]isciplinary proceedings against lawyers are sui generis.
SECTION 1. Preponderance of evidence, how determined. - In
Neither purely civil nor purely criminal, they do not involve a
civil cases, the party having the burden of proof must establish
trial of an action or a suit, but is rather an investigation by the
his case by a preponderance of evidence. In determining where
Court into the conduct of one of its officers. Not being
the preponderance or superior weight of evidence on the intended to inflict punishment, it is in no sense a criminal
issues involved lies, the court may consider all the facts and
prosecution. Accordingly, there is neither a plaintiff nor a
circumstances of the case, the witnesses' manner of testifying,
prosecutor therein. It may be initiated by the Court motu
their intelligence, their means and opportunity of knowing the proprio. Public interest is its primary objective, and the real
facts to which they are testifying, the nature of the facts to question for determination is whether or not the attorney is
which they testify, the probability or improbability of their
still a fit person to be allowed the privileges as such. Hence, in
testimony, their interest or want of interest, and also their
the exercise of its disciplinary powers, the Court merely calls
personal credibility so far as the same may legitimately appear upon a member of the Bar to account for his actuations as an
upon the trial. The court may also consider the number of
officer of the Court with the end in view of preserving the
witnesses, though the preponderance is not necessarily with
purity of the legal profession and the proper and honest
the greater number. (Emphasis supplied)
administration of justice by purging the profession of
Nonetheless, in non-civil cases such as De Zuzuarregui, Jr. v. members who by their misconduct have proved themselves
Soguilon45 cited by the IBP Investigating Commissioner, the no longer worthy to be entrusted with the duties and
Court had pronounced that the burden of proof by responsibilities pertaining to the office of an attorney. In such
preponderance of evidence in disbarment proceedings is upon posture, there can thus be no occasion to speak of a
the complainant.46 These rulings appear to conflict with other complainant or a prosecutor."54
jurisprudence on the matter which contrarily hold that
substantial evidence is the quantum of proof to be applied in With the proper application of the substantial evidence
administrative cases against lawyers.47 The latter standard was threshold having been clarified, the Court finds that the
applied in administrative cases such as Foster v. present charges against respondent have been adequately
Agtang,48 wherein the Court had, in fact, illumined that: proven by this standard. Complainant has established her
[T]he quantum of evidence required in civil cases is different claims through relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
from the quantum of evidence required in administrative accept as adequate to support a conclusion - that is, that
cases. In civil cases, preponderance of evidence is required. respondent had harassed her and committed despicable acts
Preponderance of evidence is "a phrase which, in the last which are clear ethical violations of the CPR. In fine,
analysis, means probability of the truth. It is evidence which is respondent should be held administratively liable and
more convincing to the court as worthier of belief than that therefore, penalized.
which is offered in opposition thereto." In administrative cases,
only substantial evidence is needed. Substantial evidence, Jurisprudence provides that in similar administrative cases
which is more than a mere scintilla but is such relevant where the lawyer exhibited immoral conduct, the Court meted
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to penalties ranging from reprimand to disbarment. In Advincula
support a conclusion, would suffice to hold one v. Macabata,55 the lawyer was reprimanded for his distasteful
administratively liable.49 (Emphasis supplied; citations act of suddenly turning the head of his female client towards
omitted) him and kissing her on the lips. In De Leon v. Pedreña,56 the
lawyer was suspended from the practice of law for a period of
Similarly, in Peña v. Paterno,50 it was held:
Section 5, in [comparison with] Sections 1 [(Preponderance of two (2) years for rubbing the female complainant's right leg
with his hand, trying to insert his finger into her firmly closed
evidence, how proved)] and 2 [(Proofbeyond reasonable
hand, grabbing her hand and forcibly placed it on his crotch
doubt)], Rule 133, Rules of Court states that in administrative
cases, only substantial evidence is required, not proof beyond area, and pressing his finger against her private part. While
reasonable doubt as in criminal cases, or preponderance of in Guevarra v. Eala57 and Valdez v. Dabon,58 the Court meted
the extreme penalty of disbarment on the erring lawyers who
evidence as in civil cases. Substantial evidence is that amount
engaged in extramarital affairs. Here, respondent exhibited his
of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to justify a conclusion.51 (Emphasis supplied; immoral behavior through his habitual watching of
pornographic materials while in the office and his acts of
citations omitted)
sexual harassment against complainant. Considering the
Based on a survey of cases, the recent ruling on the matter circumstances of this case, the Court deems it proper to
is Cabas v. Sususco,52 which was promulgated just this June 15, impose upon respondent the penalty of suspension from the
2016. In the said case, it was pronounced that: practice of law for a period of two (2) years.
In administrative proceedings, the quantum of proof necessary
for a finding of guilt is substantial evidence, i.e., that amount of WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Ramon F. Nieva is
relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as found GUILTY of violating Rule 1.01, Canon 1, and Rule 7.03,
adequate to support a conclusion. Further, the complainant Canon 7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
has the burden of proving by substantial evidence the Accordingly, he is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law
allegations in his complaint. The basic rule is that mere for a period of two (2) years, effective upon the finality of this
Decision, with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same respectively executed by his siblings, Francisca V. Flores13 and
or similar acts will be dealt with more severely. Tarcela V. Sajulan.14chanrobleslaw

Let copies of this Decision be served on the Office of the Bar


Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and all courts The respondent denied the charges, and imputed ill-motives
in the country for their information and guidance and be to the complainants in filing the disbarment complaint against
attached to respondent's personal record as attorney. him.15 He contended that the complainants did not present
sufficient proof showing that he had falsified the affidavit of
SO ORDERED. waiver/withdrawal; and asserted that the basis for the
partition of the contested property had been the compromise
A.C. No. 11099, September 27, 2016 agreement entered into by him and his siblings, including
Francisca, the complainants' mother;16 and that he had been
LILY FLORES-SALADO, MINDA FLORES LURA, AND FE V. born on November 29, 1943, as indicated in his birth
FLORES, Complainants, v. ATTY. ROMAN A. VILLANUEVA, certificate.17chanrobleslaw
JR. Respondent.
IBP Report and Recommendation
DECISION
After due hearing, Commissioner Victor C. Fernandez of the
IBP Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) submitted his
BERSAMIN, J.: report and recommendation18 finding the respondent liable
for gross misconduct in relation to the forged the affidavit of
Disbarment proceedings based on falsification or forgery of waiver/withdrawal, and recommended his two-year
public documents should not be the occasion to establish the suspension from the practice of law. Commissioner Fernandez
falsification or forgery. Such bases should first be duly and dismissed the charge of dishonesty in relation to the
competently established either in criminal or civil proceedings respondent's age because his birth certificate prevailed over
appropriate for that purpose. the documents submitted by the
complainants.19chanrobleslaw
The Case
On March 20, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors issued
We hereby consider and resolve the disbarment complaint Resolution No. XX-2013-27820 adopting the report and
lodged against Atty. Roman A. Villanueva, Jr. for allegedly recommendation of Commissioner Fernandez, viz.:
falsifying a public document concerning realty, and for
allegedly concealing his true age m order to secure his chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
appointment as state prosecutor. RESOLUTION NO. XX-2013-278
CBD Case No. 10-2684
Antecedents Lily Salado, et al. vs.
Atty. Roman A. Villanueva, Jr.
Lily Flores-Salado, Minda Flores-Lura, Anacorito Flores, Angel
Flores, Jr., and Fe Flores presented their adverse claim1 on the RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it 1s hereby
parcel of land situated in Nasipit, Agusan del Norte and unanimously ADOPTED and APPROVED the Report and
registered under Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 7919 of Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the
the Registry of Deeds of Agusan del Norte under the names of above-entitled case, herein made part of this Resolution as
Spouses Roman Villanueva, Jr. and Rosario L. Alipao.2 The Annex "A," and finding the recommendation fully supported
Register of Deeds annotated the adverse claim on January 23, by the evidence on record and the applicable laws and rules
2007 as Entry No. 67251.3 On December 27, 2007, an affidavit and considering that Respondent was guilty of gross
of waiver/withdrawal, which appeared to have been signed by misconduct when he falsified an Affidavit of
them,4 was also annotated on TCT No. 7919 as Entry No. Waiver/Withdrawal by reason of which TCT Nos. RT-8320 and
72573.5 On March 26, 2008, the Register of Deeds canceled 8381 in his name were issued, Atty. Roman A. Villanueva, Jr. is
TCT No. 7919,6 and issued two new TCTs in the name of the hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for two (2)
respondent.7chanrobleslaw years. However, the charge of falsifying his age to qualify as
DOJ Prosecutor is hereby Dismissed for lack of merit.21 (Bold
On October 29, 2009, complainants Lily Flores-Salado, Minda emphasis in the original)
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 The pat1ies respectively sought reconsideration.22 On June 6,
that they had not signed the affidavit of 2015, the IBP Board of Governors denied the respondent's
waiver/withdrawal.8 They thereby further charged him with motion for reconsideration but granted that of the
dishonesty for concealing his true age in order to secure his complainants, to wit:
appointment in 2006 as a state prosecutor. They avered that
he was disqualified for the position because he had already chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
been 70 years old at the time of his appointment,9 having RESOLUTION NO. XXI-2015-417
been born on June 26, 1936; that they submitted as proof: (1) CBD Case No. 10-2684
the residence certificate issued in the name of "Isabelo Lily Salado, et al.
Villanueva, Jr.," whom they claimed was the respondent Atty. Roman A. Villanueva, Jr.
himself, stating June 26, 1936 as his birthdate;10 (2) the deed
of extrajudicial partition of the estate of Roman Villanueva, Sr. RESOLVED to DENY Respondent's Motion for Reconsideration,
showing that the respondent was 14 years old when he signed there being no cogent reason to reverse the findings and
the document as "Isabelo Villanueva";11 (3) the certification resolution subject of the motion, it being a mere reiteration of
issued by the Municipal Civil Registrar of Tupi, South the matters which had already been threshed out and taken
Cotabato12 showing that he was 26 years old when he got into consideration.
married on December 24, 1961; and (4) the affidavits
RESOLVED FUTHER, to GRANT the Complainants' Motion for support of the charge the residence certificate issued in the
Reconsideration, considering Respondent's gross dishonesty name of one "Isabelo Villanueva, Jr."; an extrajudicial
by making himself younger when he applied as Public settlement signed by one "Isabelo Villanueva"; the certificate
Prosecutor in the Department of Justice. Thus, Resolution No. issued by the Local Civil Registrar of Tupi, South Cotabato
XX-2013-278, dated March 20, 2013, is hereby AFFIRMED with showing that the respondent was 26 years old when he got
modification, increasing the penalty imposed on Atty. Roman married in 1 961; and the affidavits of the respondent's two
A. Villanueva, Jr. to Suspension from the practice of law for siblings.
three (3) years.23 (Bold emphasis in the original)
In contrast, the respondent submitted his certificate of birth
Issue that indicated his birthdate as "November 29, 1943."

Still, the complainants doubted the veracity of the


Should the respondent be suspended from the practice of law
for gross misconduct and gross dishonesty? respondent's bit1h certificate on the ground of its having been
belatedly registered at his own instance.
Ruling of the Court
The Court nonetheless finds for the respondent.
We reverse the findings and recommendation of the IBP Board
of Governors considering that the charges were not Firstly, as previously emphasized, the allegation of the falsity
competently substantiated. of the affidavit of waiver/withdrawal should first be
determined in the appropriate criminal or civil proceeding, not
I in this proceeding for disbarment. Consequently, we desist
Falsification must be proved in the from definitively ruling on the weight of the evidence
appropriate criminal or civil proceeding, presented by the complainants.
not in the disbarment proceeding
Secondly, a birth certificate consists of entries related to the
The complainants support their allegations of falsification by fact of birth in public records, and is made in the performance
presenting the affidavit of waiver/withdrawal itself and its of duty by the local civil registrar as a public officer.31 It is thus
annotation on TCT No. 7919; and by denying their having treated as the prima facie evidence of the fact of one's birth,
signed the same. However, such proof was inadequate to and can be rebutted only by clear and convincing evidence to
establish that the respondent had been the author of the the contrary.32 As such, the birth certificate submitted by the
alleged falsification of the affidavit of waiver/withdrawal. respondent was decisive on the date of his birth in the
absence of clearer and more convincing contrary evidence.
We emphasize that allegations of falsification or forgery must
be competently proved because falsification or forgery cannot Thirdly, the veracity of the respondent's birth certificate
be presumed.24 As such, the allegations should first be cannot be successfully assailed on the basis alone of its being
established and determined in appropriate belatedly entered in the local civil registry. This is because the
proceedings,25cralawred like in criminal or civil cases, for it is State expressly allows the late registration of births not only at
only by such proceedings that the last word on the falsity or the instance of the father, mother, or guardian in case the
forgery can be uttered by a court of law with the legal person whose birth is to be registered is under 18 years of
competence to do so. A disbarment proceeding is not the age, but also at the instance of the person himself when
occasion to determine the issue of falsification or forgery already of age.33chanrobleslaw
simply because the sole issue to be addressed and determined
therein is whether or not the respondent attorney is still fit to To accord with such policy of the State, the fact of late
continue to be an officer of the court in the dispensation of registration of the respondent's birth should not adversely
justice.26 Accordingly, we decline to rule herein whether or not affect the validity of the entries made in his birth certificate.
the respondent had committed the supposed falsification of
the affidavit of waiver/withdrawal in the absence of the prior And, finally, it is fitting to state that the complainants bore the
determination thereof in the appropriate proceeding. burden of proof in this disbarment proceeding against the
respondent. They must establish their charges of falsification
Moreover, the complainants have hereby challenged the due and dishonesty by convincing and satisfactory
execution and authenticity of the affidavit of proof.34 Surmises, suspicion and conjectures are not bases of
waiver/withdrawal, a notarized document.27 In view of this, finding his culpability.35 The foregoing disquisitions on the
the complainants' mere denial of having signed the affidavit of falsification show that the complainants did not discharge
waiver/withdrawal did not suffice to overcome the positive their burden of proof thereon. They also did not convincingly
value of it as a notarized document.28 It is settled that establish that the respondent had willfully adjusted his true
notarization converts a private document into a public age to secure his appointment as a state prosecutor. Indeed,
document, whereby the document becomes entitled to full the appointment happened on February 22, 200636 but his
faith and credit upon its face.29 The notarized document then late registration of his birth occurred on July 3, 2006.37 If the
has in its favor the presumption of regularity, and to overcome intention for the late registration was to make it appear that
the presumed regularity of its execution, whoever alleges the he st ill met the age requirement for public prosecutors, he
contrary should present evidence that is clear, convincing and should have effected the late registration prior to the
more than merely preponderant.30chanrobleslaw appointment, not several months subsequently. In addition,
he submitted a "Voter Certification" showing him to be a
II registered voter of Balagtas (Bigaa), Bulacan on September 20,
The birth certificate is the best evidence 2003, and to have been born on November 29, 1943.38 Under
of the respondent's date of birth the circumstances, that he had intentionally adjusted his
birthdate to enable himself to meet the age requirement for
The complainants have also charged the respondent with the position of state prosecutor three years later became
dishonesty for having concealed his true age in order to secure plainly improbable.
his appointment as a state prosecutor. They have presented in
III Tabuzo at kung hindi ka bumalik bukas ay mawawala ang kaso
mo!''3
Disbarment or suspension complaints against lawyers
in the public service involving their qualifications Arsenio later on discovered that his case against JS Contractor
should be initially investigated by the agencies or offices was dismissed. Hence, he filed a complaint against Atty.
having administrative supervision over them Romeo Tabuzo before the Office of the Ombudsman for
violation of Republic Act (RA) No. 3019 or the "Anti-Graft and
The Court finds the need to clarify that although it may Corrupt Practices Act. "
entertain a disbarment or suspension complaint brought
against a lawyer employed in the government service whether In a Resolution4 dated February 1, 2002, Graft Investigation
or not the complaint pertained to an act or conduct unrelated Officer II Wilfred Pascasio ordered that an Information be filed
to the discharge of his official functions,39 the investigation against Atty. Romeo Tabuzo upon finding of probable cause
should be carried out by the agency or office having against him.
administrative supervision over him or her when the
allegations of the complaint relate to the qualifications of the
Atty. Tabuzo filed a Motion for Reconsideration alleging,
respondent to be appointed to the public office.
among others, that there is no Atty. Romeo Tabuso in the
POEA and that he was never handed any copy of summons. He
Accordingly, any questions pertaining to the qualifications of
claimed that he was merely taking the initiative in filing the
the respondent to be appointed as a state prosecutor should
said motion to clear his name as he believed he was the
be directed to the Secretary of Justice who had administrative
person referred to in the earlier Order of the Office of the
supervision over him under the law,40 and not to this Court in
Ombudsman. Nonetheless, such motion was subsequently
the guise of the disbarment complaint. The complaint for
denied in an Order dated July 16, 2002.
disbarment is sui generis, and the proceeding thereon should
focus only on the qualification and fitness of the respondent
Meanwhile, in a Decision dated December 6, 2011, the
lawyer to continue membership in the Bar.41chanrobleslaw
Regional Trial Court, Branch 213 of Mandaluyong City
acquitted Atty. Tabuzo for violation of RA No. 3019.
WHEREFORE, the Court DISMISSES the disbarment complaint
against Atty. Roman A. Villanueva, Jr. for lack of factual and
legal merit. Subsequently, Arsenio filed the present Complaint-Affidavit
before this Court. In a Resolution5 dated November 24, 2010,
SO ORDERED.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary this Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and
recommendation. The IBP Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-
A.C. No. 8658, April 24, 2017
CBD) docketed the case as CBD Case No. 11-2912, entitled
"Francis C. Arsenio v. Atty. Johan Tabuzo".
FRANCIS C. ARSENIO, Complainant, v. ATTY. JOHAN A.
TABUZO, Respondents.
In his Omnibus Comment with Motion to Dismiss,6 Atty.
Tabuzo denied the accusations against him, claiming that the
DECISION
alleged unethical acts are baseless. He averred that he had
never acted in any conduct unbecoming of a public officer or
TIJAM, J.: uttered invectives and other alleged acts. To support his claim,
he attached the Affidavits7 of two (2) Overseas Employment
Before this Court is a Complaint-Affidavit1 dated June 18, 2010 Adjudicators (OEA) who occupied the tables immediately
filed by Francis C. Arsenio (Arsenio), seeking the disbarment of adjacent to him in the Recruitment Regulations Branch. In said
Atty. Johan A. Tabuzo (Atty. Tabuzo) for conduct unbecoming Affidavits, the OEAs attested to the effect that no such
of a member of the Bar. incident or any untoward event that called for attention
transpired. Atty. Tabuzo also said that his constitutional right
The Facts to due process was violated since he was not notified of the
case against him before the Office of the Ombudsman as he
This case stemmed from an administrative complaint filed by was never served nor had personally received Orders from
Arsenio before the Philippine Overseas Employment such Office.
Administration (POEA) against JS Contractor, a recruitment
agency.2 During a scheduled hearing on May 10, 2000, Atty. The Resolutions of the IBP Commissioner and Board of
Tabuzo, the Overseas Employment Adjudicator who was Governors
assigned to hear the case, asked him to sign three blank
sheets of paper to which Arsenio complied. In his Report and Recommendation,8 Investigating
Commissioner Atty. Eldrid Antiquierra recommended that
A week after the scheduled hearing, Arsenio asked Atty. reprimand be imposed upon Atty. Tabuzo. The Investigating
Tabuzo the reason why he was made to sign blank sheets of Commissioner ruled in such wise on the basis of the sworn
paper. Atty. Tabuzo angrily said, "Bwiset! Napakakulit mo, affidavit of Arsenio and the Resolution of the Office of the
doon mo malaman mamaya pagdating ng kalaban mo!" Ombudsman.
Thereafter, Arsenio called up the office of Senator Rene
Cayetano who advised him to make a clarification regarding In a Resolution dated March 20, 2013, the IBP Board of
the signed sheets of blank paper. Arsenio then approached Governors resolved to adopt and approve with modification
Atty. Tabuzo but the latter again shouted at him saying, the said Report and Recommendation of the Investigating
"Bwiset! Goddamit! Alam mo ba na maraming abogado dito Commissioner upon finding that Atty. Tabuzo violated the
sa POEA na nagbebenta ng kaso?" Atty. Tabuzo further said, Lawyer's Oath and Rule 8.019 of the Code of Professional
"Sabihin mo sa Cayetano mo at abogado mo na baka Responsibility. Hence, the IBP Board of Governors suspended
masampal ko sa mga mukha nila ang pinirmahan mong Atty. Tabuzo from the practice of law for three months.
blanko! Sabihin mo na ang pangalan ko ay Atty. Romeo
Atty. Tabuzo filed a Motion for Reconsideration but it was Affidavit, Arsenio merely narrated that Atty. Tabuzo uttered
denied.10 offensive statements and no other evidence was presented to
substantiate his claim. Emphatically, such Complaint-Affidavit
The Issue is self-serving.

Whether or not the instant disbarment complaint constitutes Summarily, the Resolution issued by the Office of the
a sufficient basis to disbar Atty. Tabuzo. Ombudsman together with the Affidavit of Arsenio cannot be
considered as substantial evidence. For one, the Resolution of
The Court's Ruling 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
After examining the records of this case, the Court resolves to
was further offered to prove the allegations contained therein.
dismiss the instant disbarment complaint.

While the quantum of evidence required in disbarment cases


A case of suspension or disbarment is sui generis and not
is substantial evidence, this Court is not persuaded to exercise
meant to grant relief to a complainant as in a civil case, but is
its disciplinary authority over Atty. Tabuzo.
intended to cleanse the ranks of the legal profession of its
undesirable members in order to protect the public and the
courts.11 WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court resolved
to DISMISS the disbarment complaint against Atty. Johan A.
Tabuzo.
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 SO ORDERED.
Court had the occasion to clarify that the proper evidentiary
threshold in disbarment cases is substantial evidence. A.C. No. 11043, March 08, 2017

In this case, noteworthy is the fact that the reason advanced LIANG FUJI, Complainant, v. ATTY. GEMMA ARMI M. DELA
by the IBP-CBD in recommending reprimand against Atty. CRUZ, Respondent.
Tabuzo is its consideration of the: (1) Resolution issued by the
Office of the Ombudsman, which states that there was RESOLUTION
probable cause against Atty. Tabuzo for violating RA 3019; and
(2) Complaint-Affidavit of Arsenio, which alleges that Atty. LEONEN, J.:
Tabuzo made offensive statements.
Failure to exercise utmost prudence in reviewing the
However, a careful scrutiny of the evidence presented reveals immigration records of an alien, which resulted in the alien's
that the degree of proof indispensable in a disbarment case wrongful detention, opens the special prosecutor in the
was not met. Bureau of Immigration to administrative liability.

Firstly, the Resolution issued by the Office of the Ombudsman Before this Court is an administrative complaint1 dated
is predicated on the fact that the allegations of Arsenio were November 23, 2015 filed by Liang Fuji (Fuji) and his family,
uncontroverted; hence, the Office of the Ombudsman against Bureau of Immigration Special Prosecutor Gemma
concluded that such allegations were true. However, there Armi M. Dela Cruz (Special Prosecutor Dela Cruz) for gross
was a seeming discrepancy as to the name of Atty. Tabuzo misconduct and gross ignorance of the law in relation to her
when a case against him was filed before the Office of the issuance of a Charge Sheet against Fuji for overstaying.
Ombudsman. Undisputedly, the case before said Office was
filed against a certain Atty. Romeo Tabuso, when the name of Through a letter2 dated December 8, 2015, Deputy Clerk of
herein respondent is Atty. Johan Tabuzo. As such, the Court and Bar Confidant Atty. Ma. Cristina B. Layusa directed
respondent claimed that he failed to controvert Arsenio's the complainants to file a verified complaint "with supporting
claims because he never received any notice or order from the documents duly authenticated and/or affidavits of persons
Office of the Ombudsman. In fact, the said Resolution of the having personal knowledge of the facts alleged"3 in the
Office of the Ombudsman was made on the basis of the complaint.
complaint of Arsenio alone since Atty. Tabuzo failed to file his
answer.14 However, a reading of the RTC Decision reveals that Complainants replied4 by furnishing this Court with copies of
Arsenio was able to verify the identity of Atty. Johan Tabuzo, the Verified Petition to Reopen S.D. O. No. BOC-2015-357
not as Atty. Romeo Tabuso, even before he filed his complaint (B.L.O. No. SBM-15-420) and for Relief of Judgment with
before the Office of the Ombudsman. It is confusing, Urgent Prayer for Immediate Consideration, and
therefore, why there was discrepancy as to the name of Administrative Complaint (Verified Petition and Administrative
herein respondent when a clarification was already made. Complaint),5 which Fuji filed with the Board of Commissioners
Nevertheless, Atty. Tabuzo was acquitted15 in a criminal case of the Bureau of Immigration, and prayed that the same be
filed against him on the basis of the Resolution of the Office of treated as their verified complaint. Complainants further
the Ombudsman. informed this Court that they had difficulty obtaining certified
true copies of the November 21, 2013 Order of the Board of
Despite such acquittal, a well-settled finding of guilt in a Commissioners, which granted Fuji's Section 9(g) visa,
criminal case will not necessarily result in a finding of liability Summary Deportation Order dated June 17, 2015, and
in the administrative case. Conversely, the acquittal does not Warrant of Deportation from the Bureau of Immigration
necessarily exculpate one administratively.16 Thus, it is proper personnel who just gave them the "run[-]around."6 They
to deal with the other evidence presented by Arsenio. alleged that the Bureau of Immigration personnel were not
particularly helpful, and did not treat Fuji's case with urgency.7
The Court, thus, finds that the Complaint-Affidavit of Arsenio
failed to discharge the necessary burden of proof. In his Sworn The facts of this case show that in a Summary Deportation
Order8 dated June 17, 2015, Fuji, a Chinese national, was added that Fuji stated in his March 29, 2016 Affidavit of
ordered deported for overstaying. From the Order, it appears Desistance that he had mistakenly signed some documents
that Special Prosecutor Dela Cruz was the special prosecutor including the administrative complaint.31
who brought the formal charge against Fuji and another
person upon her finding that Fuji's work visa had expired on We find respondent administratively liable for her negligence in
May 8, 2013, with extension expired on December 6, her failure to ascertain the facts before levying the formal
2013.9 Special Prosecutor Dela Cruz found that Fuji had charge against Fuji for overstaying.
overstayed for one (1) year and six (6) months in violation of
Commonwealth Act No. 613, Section 37(a)(7).10 Her I
investigation was triggered by a complaint-affidavit dated April
30, 2015 of a certain Virgilio Manalo alleging that Fuji and Generally, this Court defers from taking cognizance of
another person had defrauded him.11 disbarment complaints against lawyers in government service
arising from their administrative duties, and refers the
On June 29, 2015, Fuji filed his Motion for Reconsideration.12 complaint first either to the proper administrative body that
has disciplinary authority over the erring public official or
On July 28, 2015, the Bureau of Immigration Intelligence employee or the Ombudsman.32
Division served Fuji's Warrant of Deportation, and thereafter
arrested him at Brgy. Maloma, San Felipe, Zambales with the For instance, in Spouses Buffe v. Gonzales,33 this Court
assistance from local police.13 Fuji was brought to and dismissed the disbarment complaint against former Secretary
detained at the Bureau of Immigration Detention Facility, of Justice Raul M. Gonzalez, former Undersecretary of Justice
National Capital Region Police Office, Taguig City.14 Fidel J. Exconde, Jr., and former Congressman Eleandro Jesus
F. Madrona, holding that the respondents were public officials
On October 9, 2015, the Board of Commissioners denied Fuji's being charged for actions involving their official functions
Motion for Reconsideration.15 during their tenure, which should be resolved by the Office of
the Ombudsman.34 In that case, one (1) of the respondents
On November 23, 2015, Fuji filed his Verified Petition and sought to dismiss the complaint on the ground of forum-
Administrative Complaint.16 Subsequently, on March 10, 2016, shopping because he allegedly received an order from the
Fuji filed an Omnibus Motion to Reopen and Lift S.D.O. BOC- Office of the Ombudsman directing him to file a counter-
2015-357, and Release on Bail through counsel.17 affidavit based on the same administrative complaint filed
before the Office of the Bar Confidant.35
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 Again, in the fairly recent case of Alicias, Jr. v.
visa valid until 30 April 2016 under Jiang Tuo Mining Macatangay,36 the Court dismissed the complaint against
Philippines, Inc. as Marketing Liason."18 Fuji was directed to be respondents - government lawyers in the Civil Service
released from Bureau of Immigration-Warden's Facility on Commission. The Court held that the acts or omissions alleged
March 23, 2016.19 in the complaint were "connected with their . . . official
functions in the [Civil Service Commission] and within the
In his administrative complaint, Fuji alleged that his rights to administrative disciplinary jurisdiction of their superior or the
due process were violated since he was not afforded any Office of the Ombudsman."37 It would seem that the
hearing or summary deportation proceedings before the complainant directly instituted a disbarment complaint with
deportation order was issued against him.20 Fuji further this Court instead of filing an administrative complaint before
alleged that Special Prosecutor Dela Cruz failed miserably in the proper administrative body.
discharging her duties because a simple initial review of the
Bureau of Immigration records would have revealed that he This case is an exception. Unlike the circumstances in Spouses
was not overstaying because his Section 9(g) work visa was Buffe and Alicias, Jr., the records here show that the Office of
valid until April 30, 2016.21 the Ombudsman had previously dismissed Fuji's administrative
complaint due to the pendency of his Verified Petition and
In her August 25, 2016 Comment,22 respondent Special Administrative Complaint before the Bureau of Immigration,
Prosecutor Dela Cruz denied that she committed any grave and considered the case closed.38
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 The Bureau of Immigration subsequently granted Fuji's
Division, to submit his Counter-Affidavit/Memorandum, which petition to reopen his case and ordered his release. However,
he failed to do.25 Fuji was also able to file his motion for it was silent as to the culpability of respondent on the charges
reconsideration and verified petition to reopen the case.26 levelled by Fuji.

Respondent further claimed that the Memorandum dated Thus, with the termination of the administrative proceedings
June 4, 2015 of the Bureau of Immigration - Management before the Office of the Ombudsman and the apparent
Information System (BI-MIS) constituted a substantial inaction of the Bureau of Immigration on complainant's
evidence of Fuji's overstay in the country, hence, her formal administrative complaint, this Court considers it proper to take
charge had legal basis.27 cognizance of this case, and to determine whether there is
sufficient ground to discipline respondent under its "plenary
Respondent added that as a civil servant, she enjoyed the disciplinary authority"39 over members of the legal
presumption of regularity in the performance of her profession.40
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 Contrary to respondent's stance, Fuji's purported Affidavit of
persons.29 Respondent pointed out that the Ombudsman had Desistance is not sufficient cause to dismiss this administrative
in fact dismissed the complainant's charges against her.30 She complaint. This Court has previously held that proceedings of
this nature cannot be "interrupted or terminated by reason of - Latest Travel Record Found (Please see the
desistance, settlement, compromise, restitution, withdrawal attached files for your ready reference. NOTE:
of the charges or failure of the complainant to prosecute the DOB: 18 October 1991)
same."41 The primary object of disciplinary proceedings is to
determine the fitness of a member to remain in the Bar. It is - Immigration Status Found
conducted solely for the public welfare,42 and the desistance
of the complainant is irrelevant. What will be decisive are the - Latest Payment Record Found in BI-Main
facts borne out by the evidence presented by the parties. (Please see the attached files for your ready
In Rayos-Ombac v. Rayos:43 reference. NOTE: DOB: 18 October 1991)48
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 The Memorandum merely transmitted copies of immigration
proven. This rule is premised on the nature of disciplinary records showing details of filing of applications, such as official
proceedings. A proceeding for suspension or disbarment is not receipts, - and travel record of Fuji. It was respondent Dela
in any sense a civil action where the complainant is a plaintiff Cruz who made the determination that Fuji overstayed on the
and the respondent lawyer is a defendant. Disciplinary basis of the'documents transmitted to her by the BI-MIS.
proceedings involve no private interest and afford no redress
for private grievance. They are undertaken and prosecuted Among the documents transmitted by the BI-MIS were
solely for the public welfare. They are undertaken for the computer print-outs showing details of official receipts dated
purpose of preserving courts of justice from the official June 14, 2013, August 7, 2013, and November 19, 2013 for
ministration of persons unfit to practice in them. The attorney temporary visitor visa extension and official receipt dated July
is called to answer to the court for his conduct as an officer of 15, 2013 for an application for change of immigration status.
the court. The complainant or the person who called the Also, the travel records of Fuji show the following
attention of the court to the attorney's alleged misconduct is details:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
in no sense a party, and has generally no interest in the Date &
outcome except as all good citizens may have in the proper : 4 June 2015 3:05 PM
Time
administration of justice.44
Verifier : DIMARUCOT J
II
Database : TRAVEL - ARRIVAL
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 FLI IM
TRAV
respondent's Comment.46 TRAVE GH MIG PO OFFIC ACTIO REM
EL
L DATE T STA RT 3ER N ARKS
TIME
However, nowhere in the Memorandum was it stated that Fuji NO TUS
"overstayed" or that "Liang's working visa expired on 8 May
10-
2013 and his TVV expired on 6 December 2013"47 as NA
FEBRU 11:3 CZ3 MIJAR ALLO
respondent claims. Relevant portions of the Memorandum 9G IA
ARY- 4PM 77 ES WED
read:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary 1
2014
For : ATTY. GEMMA ARMI M. DELA CRUZ
06-
NA
From : ACTING CHIEF, MIS DIVISION JANUA 11:5 CZ3 PARA ALLO
9A IA
RY- 1PM 77 NGUE WED
REQUEST FOR IMMIGRATION STATUS; VISA 1
2012
Re : EXTENSION PAYMENT, LATEST TRAVEL AND
DEROGATORY OF THE FOLLOWING: 22-
NA
SEPTE 11:2 CZ3 NUNE ALLO
1. MR./MS. LIANG FUJI 9A IA
MBER- 5PM 77 Z WED49
1
2011
2. MR./MS. CHEN XIANG HE
Fuji's travel records as of June 4, 2015, show his arrival in the
3. MR./MS. JACKY CHANG HE Philippines on February 10, 2014 under a work visa
immigration status.50 Simple prudence dictates that
Date : 04 June 2015
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.
Further to your request for verification of Immigration Status;
Visa Extension Payment and TRAVEL RECORD/S, please find Respondent failed in the performance of her basic duties.
the result/s as follows: 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
Result/s : 1. LIANG FUJI
criminal action, it is however, a harsh and extraordinary
- Derogatory Record Not Found administrative proceeding affecting the freedom and liberty of
a person.51
of respondent's negligence. This suspension includes her
desistance from performing her functions as a special
Respondent was expected to be reasonably thorough in her prosecutor in the Bureau of Immigration.
review of the documents transmitted to her by the BI-MIS,
especially as it may ultimately result in the deprivation of
liberty of the prospective deportee. She should not have WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Gemma Armi M. Dela Cruz
simply relied on the handwritten note by a personnel from the is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for three (3) months.
BI-MIS at the bottom portion of the receipt dated November
19, 2013 for 9A visa extension stating "Valid until: 06-Dec- The respondent, upon receipt of this Resolution, shall
2013." Had she inquired further, she would have discovered immediately serve her suspension. She shall formally manifest
that Fuji's application dated July 15, 2013 for conversion from to this Court that her suspension has started, and copy furnish
temporary visitor visa (9A) to work visa (9G) was approved by all courts and quasi-judicial bodies where she has entered her
the Board of Commissioners on November 21, 2013 — or one appearance, within five (5) days upon receipt of this
(1) year and seven (7) months earlier - with validity until April Resolution. Respondent shall also serve copies of her
30, 2016. Thus, even if Fuji's temporary visitor (9A) visa had manifestation on all adverse parties in all the cases she
expired on December 6, 2013 his stay in the country was still entered her formal appearance.
valid under the 9G work visa.
Let a copy of this Resolution be furnished the Office of the Bar
Generally, a lawyer who holds a government office may not be Confidant to be attached to Atty. Gemma Armi M. Dela Cruz's
disciplined as a member of the Bar for misconduct in the personal record. Copies of this Resolution should also be
discharge of her duties as a government official.52 However, if served on the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for its proper
said misconduct as a government official also constitutes a disposition, and the Office of the Court Administrator for
violation of her oath as a lawyer and the Code of Professional circulation to all courts in the country.
Responsibility,53 then she may be subject to disciplinary
sanction by this Court. SO ORDERED.

Atty. Dela Cruz failed to observe Rule 18.03 of the Code of the A.C. No. 11533, June 06, 2017
Professional Responsibility, which mandates that "a lawyer
shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his SPOUSES EDWIN AND GRETA CHUA, Complainants, v. SACP
negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable." As TERESA BELINDA G. TAN-SOLLANO, DCP MARIA GENE Z.
a special prosecutor in the Bureau of Immigration, she is the JULIANDA-SARMIENTO, SDCP EUFROSINO A. SULLA, SACP
representative, not of any private party, but of the State. Her SUWERTE L. OFRECIO-GONZALES, AND DCP JOSELITO D.R.
task was to investigate and verify facts to determine whether OBEJAS, ALL OF THE OFFICE OF THE CITY PROSECUTOR OF
a ground for deportation exists, and if further administrative MANILA, RELATIVE TO I.S. NO. XV-07-INV-15J-
action — in the form of a formal charge — should be taken 05513, Respondents.
against an alien.
RESOLUTION
Had respondent carefully reviewed the records of Fuji, she
REYES, J.:
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) For resolution is the administrative complaint1 for disbarment
months, until his release on March 23, 2016. filed by complainants Greta A. Chua (Greta) and Edwin S. Chua
(Spouses Chua) against Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Teresa
Simple neglect of duty is defined as a failure to give attention Belinda G. Tan-Sollano (SACP Tan-Sollano), Deputy City
to a task due to carelessness or indifference.54 In this case, Prosecutor Maria Gene Z. Julianda-Sarmiento (DCP Julianda-
respondent's negligence shows her indifference to the Sarmiento), Senior Deputy City Prosecutor Eufrosino A. Sulla
fundamental right of every person, including aliens, to due (SDCP Sulla), SACP Suwerte L. Ofrecio-Gonzales (SACP Ofrecio-
process and to the consequences of her actions. Gonzales), and DCP Joselito D.R. Obejas (DCP Obejas)
(collectively, the respondents) for grave abuse of discretion,
Lawyers in government service should be more conscientious ignorance of the law, abuse of power or authority, and gross
with their professional obligations consistent with the time- misconduct.
honored principle of public office being a public trust.55 The
ethical standards under the Code of Professional Antecedent Facts
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 On October 12, 2015, Spouses Chua filed a Complaint2 for
ethics, competence, and professionalism in public service.56 In Perjury and False Testimony against Atty. Rudy T. Tasarra
this case, respondent's negligence evinces a failure to cope (Atty. Tasarra), Luz O. Talusan (Talusan), Po Yi Yeung Go,
with the strict demands and high standards of public service Jessica W. Ang, Ricky Ang, Eden C. Uy, and Ana Tiu, before the
and the legal profession. Office of the City Prosecutor (OCP) of Manila docketed as XV-
07-INV-15J-05513.
The appropriate sanction is discretionary upon this
Court.57 Under the Civil Service Rules,58 the penalty for simple Spouses Chua alleged before the OCP of Manila that Talusan
neglect of duty is suspension for one (1) month and one (1) deliberately and wilfully committed perjury when she narrated
day to six (6) months. In previous cases,59 this Court imposed in her Complaint-Affidavits that on July 11, 2009, Spouses
the penalty of suspension of three (3) months to six (6) Chua issued 11 post-dated checks in favor of Chain Glass
months for erring lawyers, who were negligent in handling Enterprises, Inc. (CGEI), with an amount of P112,521.00 each,
cases for their clients. We find appropriate the penalty of as payment for assorted glass and aluminum products.
suspension of three (3) months considering the consequence 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 Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Suwerte L. Ofrecio-Gonzales,
previous bounced checks. Likewise, Atty. Tasarra and the and Deputy City Prosecutor Joselito D.R. Obejas
members of the Board of Directors of CGEI were likewise is DISMISSED and this case is
impleaded therein for offering Talusan's testimony.3 considered CLOSED and TERMINATED.

SO ORDERED.
In a Resolution4 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 Reconsideration5 was filed by Spouses Chua but


the same was denied in a Resolution6 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.

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,