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Renato Cayetano vs Christian Monsod

Legal Ethics – Practice of Law

In 1991, Christian Monsod was appointed as the Chairman of the Commission on Elections. His
appointment was affirmed by the Commission on Appointments. Monsod’s appointment was opposed by
Renato Cayetano on the ground that he does not qualify for he failed to meet the Constitutional
requirement which provides that the chairman of the COMELEC should have been engaged in the
practice law for at least ten years.

Monsod’s track record as a lawyer:

1. Passed the bar in 1960 with a rating of 86.55%.

2. Immediately after passing, worked in his father’s law firm for one year.
3. Thereafter, until 1970, he went abroad where he had a degree in economics and held various
positions in various foreign corporations.
4. In 1970, he returned to the Philippines and held executive jobs for various local corporations until
5. In 1986, he became a member of the Constitutional Commission.

ISSUE: Whether or not Monsod qualifies as chairman of the COMELEC. What constitutes practice of

HELD: Yes. Atty. Monsod’s past work experiences as a lawyer-economist, a lawyer-manager, a lawyer-
entrepreneur of industry, a lawyer-negotiator of contracts, and a lawyer-legislator of both the rich and the
poor — verily more than satisfy the constitutional requirement — that he has been engaged in the practice
of law for at least ten years.

As noted by various authorities, the practice of law is not limited to court appearances. The members of
the bench and bar and the informed laymen such as businessmen, know that in most developed societies
today, substantially more legal work is transacted in law offices than in the courtrooms. General
practitioners of law who do both litigation and non-litigation work also know that in most cases they find
themselves spending more time doing what is loosely described as business counseling than in trying
cases. In the course of a working day the average general practitioner wig engage in a number of legal
tasks, each involving different legal doctrines, legal skills, legal processes, legal institutions, clients, and
other interested parties. Even the increasing numbers of lawyers in specialized practice wig usually
perform at least some legal services outside their specialty. By no means will most of this work involve
litigation, unless the lawyer is one of the relatively rare types — a litigator who specializes in this work to
the exclusion of much else. Instead, the work will require the lawyer to have mastered the full range of
traditional lawyer skills of client counseling, advice-giving, document drafting, and negotiation.

In Cayetano v. Monsod,[2] the Court held that practice of law means any activity, in or out of court,
which requires the application of law, legal procedure, knowledge, training and experience. To engage in
the practice of law is to perform acts which are usually performed by members of the legal profession.
[ G.R. No. 154207, April 27, 2007 ]


Ferdinand A. Cruz filed before the MeTC a formal Entry of Appearance, as private prosecutor, where his
father, Mariano Cruz, is the complaining witness.

The petitioner, describing himself as a third year law student, justifies his appearance as private
prosecutor on the bases of Section 34 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court and the ruling of the Court En
Banc in Cantimbuhan v. Judge Cruz, Jr. that a non-lawyer may appear before the inferior courts as an
agent or friend of a party litigant. The petitioner furthermore avers that his appearance was with the prior
conformity of the public prosecutor and a written authority of Mariano Cruz appointing him to be his
agent in the prosecution of the said criminal case.

However, in an Order dated February 1, 2002, the MeTC denied permission for petitioner to appear as
private prosecutor on the ground that Circular No. 19 governing limited law student practice in
conjunction with Rule 138-A of the Rules of Court (Law Student Practice Rule) should take precedence
over the ruling of the Court laid down in Cantimbuhan; and set the case for continuation of trial.


whether the petitioner, a law student, may appear before an inferior court as an agent or friend of a party


The rule, however, is different if the law student appears before an inferior court, where the issues and
procedure are relatively simple. In inferior courts, a law student may appear in his personal capacity
without the supervision of a lawyer. Section 34, Rule 138 provides:

Sec. 34. By whom litigation is conducted. — In the court of a justice of the peace, a party may conduct
his litigation in person, with the aid of an agent or friend appointed by him for that purpose, or with the
aid of an attorney. In any other court, a party may conduct his litigation personally or by aid of an
attorney, and his appearance must be either personal or by a duly authorized member of the bar.

Thus, a law student may appear before an inferior court as an agent or friend of a party without the
supervision of a member of the bar. (Emphasis supplied)
Reddi vs. Sebrio Jr.; Dishonesty
A.C. No. 7027 January 30, 2009


Complainant Tanu Reddi, an American citizen of Indian descent and a practicing endodontist [dentist] in
New York, seeks the disbarment of respondent Atty. Diosdado C. Sebrio, Jr. for allegedly deceiving her
into giving him a total of US $ 3,000,000 for the purpose of, among other things, purchasing several real
estate properties for resale.

Inspired by the charitable works of her parents, complainant decided to build a hospital in the
Philippines. However she needed more revenue to finance the said undertaking. Through the advice of
her assistant Immaculada Luistro, complainant ventured into the real estate in the Philippines. It through
this business hat he came to know and ask for legal advice from respondent.

Respondent advised that complainant cannot own real estate in the Philippines since she is an alien, thus
the remedy is to put up a corporation, and this corporation will be the one who will acquire the land.
Three corporations then were created. Through the instance of respondent and financed by complainants,
several lots were purchased. However, complainant was unaware that the transactions [sale of several
lands] she had entered into were all bogus, since the sellers were not the real owners of the land. This fact
was known to the respondent since he is the one who arranged the transactions.


Whether or not respondent is guilty of dishonesty, hence violating the Lawyer's Oath and Code of
Professional Responsibility.


Yes, the commissioner who investigated the case of respondent [result of the investigation was adopted
by the Supreme Court] found respondent to have committed fraudulent acts which constitute violations of
the lawyer’s oath and numerous provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR). He engaged
in unlawful, dishonest and deceitful conduct when he offered properties for sale to complainant on the
misrepresentation that complainant was dealing with the true owners thereof.

The court found that respondent’s dishonest and deceitful conduct with respect to the intended
transactions, real property acquisitions which turned out to be bogus, is sufficiently established.

Explained the court, "to reiterate, by his own admission, respondent received a total of US$544,828 from
complainant, which he could not properly account for. The orchestrated manner in which he carried out
his fraudulent scheme, in connivance with other persons, and by taking advantage of complainant’s
naivete in the workings of the real estate business in the Philippines, depict a man whose character falls
way, way short of the exacting standards required of him as a member of the bar and an officer of the
court. Thus, respondent is no longer fit to remain as such.

The court in admonition reiterates that if the practice of law, however, is to remain an honorable
profession and attain its basic ideals, those enrolled in its ranks should not only master its tenets and
principles but should also, in their lives, accord continuing fidelity to them. The requirement of good
moral character is, in fact, of much greater import, as far as the general public is concerned, than the
possession of legal learning."

WHEREFORE, respondent Diosdado C. Sebrio, Jr. is DISBARRED, and his name is ORDERED
STRICKEN from the Roll of Attorneys. He is ORDERED TO RETURN to complainant the amount of
Foodsphere, Inc. vs. Atty. Mauricio, Jr. [AC No. 7199. July 22, 2009]


[A] certain Alberto Cordero purportedly bought from a grocery in Valenzuela City canned goods
including a can of CDO Liver spread. As Cordero and his relatives were eating bread with the CDO Liver
spread, they found the spread to be sour and soon discovered a colony of worms inside the can. This was
complained before the BFAD. After conciliation meetings between Cordero and the petitioner, the
Corderos eventually forged a KASUNDUAN seeking the withdrawal of their complaint before the
BFAD. The BFAD thus dismissed the complaint. Respondent, Atty. Mauricio, Jr., who affixed his
signature to the KASUNDUAN as a witness, later wrote in one of his articles/columns in a tabloid that he
prepared the document.

Complainant filed criminal complaints against respondent and several others for Libel and Threatening to
Publish Libel under Articles 353 and 356 of the Revised Penal Code before the Office of the City
Prosecutor of Quezon City and Valenzuela City. The complaints were pending at the time of the filing of
the present administrative complaint. Despite the pendency of the civil case against him and the issuance
of a status quo order restraining/enjoining further publishing, televising and broadcasting of any matter
relative to the complaint of CDO, respondent continued with his attacks against complainant and its

ISSUE: Whether or not the respondent violated the Code of Professional Responsibility.


YES. Respondent suspended for three (3) years from the practice of law.


The above actuations of respondent are also in violation of Rule 13.03 of the Canon of Professional
Responsibility which reads: “A lawyer shall not make public statements in the media regarding a pending
case tending to arouse public opinion for or against a party.”

The language employed by respondent undoubtedly casts aspersions on the integrity of the Office of the
City Prosecutor and all the Prosecutors connected with said Office. Respondent clearly assailed the
impartiality and fairness of the said Office in handling cases filed before it and did not even design to
submit any evidence to substantiate said wild allegations. The use by respondent of the above-quoted
language in his pleadings is manifestly violative of Canon 11 and the fundamental Canon 1 also of the
Code of Professional Responsibility, which mandates lawyers to “uphold the Constitution, obey the laws
of the land and promote respect for law and legal processes.” Respondent defied said status quo order,
despite his (respondent’s) oath as a member of the legal profession to “obey the laws as well as the legal
orders of the duly constituted authorities.”

Further, respondent violated Canon 8 and Rule 8.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which
mandate, and by failing to live up to his oath and to comply with the exacting standards of the legal
profession, respondent also violated Canon 7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which directs a
lawyer to “at all times uphold the integrity and the dignity of the legal profession.”