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JUNIELITO R. ESPANTO, Complainant, v. ATTY. ERWIN V. BELLEZA, Respondent.

DECISION

PERALTA, J.:

Before us is the verified Complaint1 of Junielito R. Espanto (Junielito) against Atty. Erwin V. Belleza (Atty. Belleza) for grave misconduct,
malpractice, deliberate falsehood, violation of oath of office and violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility in connection with the
demolition of complainant's 2-storey residential house situated at Barangay Maya, MacArthur, Leyte, without his knowledge and against his
will.

Complainant alleged that he is the owner of a 2-storey concrete residential house situated on a lot covered by Original Certificate of Title No.
P-43641,2 which was sold by his father to him on January 12, 2001.3 Junielito alleged that sometime in 2006 while working abroad, he was
informed that Nelia Alibangbang-Miller (Nelia), their neighbor, was claiming that his house was encroaching on a portion of the adjoining lot
she bought. Thereafter, Nelia filed a case for Recovery of Possession with Damages before the Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of
MacArthur-Mayorga, MacArthur, Leyte, docketed as Civil Case No. 75 against the Espantos. 4 However, Junielito asserted that he was not
included as party to said complaint despite Nelia's allegation that his house was encroaching on the latter's lot.

In January 2009, after Junielito went back to the Philippines, he averred that Nelia would always harass him to pay the portion of the land
allegedly being encroached upon by his house. He complained that Nelia threatened him and his family that she would demolish their houses
as she already won in the case she filed against his brother, sister and mother.

On November 22, 2010, through a letter,5 Atty. Belleza notified Junielito that he is given seven (7) days to vacate the subject property of his
client, Nelia. After seven days, Nelia posted a notice on the door of his house stating "To: Lito, your 7 days is up! Nelia Miller" and padlocked
the gate of Junielito's house.6

On December 1, 2010, Junielito alleged that Atty. Belleza went to his house and threatened him that they will file a writ of execution to
demolish his house if he will not agree to sell and vacate his house. Junielito lamented that while he initially refused, he eventually gave in as
he was already tired of his situation.

On the same day, because Junielito was initially reluctant, Nelia and Atty. Belleza assured him that he will be informed of the final details of
the sale should there be a buyer of the property. Junielito alleged that Atty. Belleza drafted an acknowledgment receipt7 where it was
indicated therein that he received the amount of P50,000.00 as a partial payment, and that he will receive the final percentage of the sale
price when the property of Nelia is sold. Thereafter, Atty. Belleza and the Spouses Miller told him to vacate the house to facilitate its sale and
to be able to make the necessary repairs to which he complied as he believed their sincerity and honesty.

Thus, in the morning of February 14, 2011, Junielito was surprised to receive a text message from his niece, Elenita Pille, informing him that
his house was being demolished with the participation of Nelia and a certain Irene Tano (Irene), allegedly the buyer of the property.

Junielito lamented that when he got hold of the Deed of Absolute Sale8 executed by Nelia and Irene, which was prepared and notarized by
Atty. Belleza, he then realized that the latter defrauded him as shown by the fact that he facilitated the sale without his knowledge. Junielito
felt aggrieved as they agreed that Atty. Belleza and Nelia will inform him should there be a buyer of the property so he can participate in the
sale transaction, considering that his house sits on a portion of Nelia's property. However, not only did Atty. Belleza fail to inform him of the
sale of the property, but they also had his house demolished without his knowledge and consent, and without permit from the municipal
government.

Likewise, Junielito pointed out that in his Counter-Affidavit9 dated April 30, 2011 Atty. Belleza lied when he stated therein that Civil Case No.
75 has been decided with finality, when in truth and in fact, said case has yet to be decided with finality as shown by the Certification10 dated
May 19, 2011 issued by Melba Lagunzad, Clerk of Court II, 13th MCTC, MacArthur-Mayorga, MacArthur, Leyte.

Junielito also alleged that in the Counter-Affidavit11 dated April 30, 2011 of the Spouses Miller, they lied when they made it appear that the
P50,000.00 was given to him out of pity when in fact it was a partial payment and guarantee that he will be informed of the sale should there
be anyone interested to buy his property.

Junielito expressed his frustration as he believed that Atty. Belleza, a lawyer, was supposed to be an instrument in the administration of
justice. However, given his above-mentioned actuations and behavior, Atty. Belleza not only failed to observe his duty and obligations as a
lawyer but he likewise showed his unfitness to be retained as member of the bar. He, thus, pray that Atty. Belleza be suspended or disbarred
from the practice of law.

On October 7, 2011, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD), ordered Atty. Belleza to submit his
Answer on the complaint against him.12

In his Answer13 dated November 10, 2011, Atty. Belleza countered that there was already a Compromise Agreement between the parties in
Civil Case No. 75, which was approved by the court on December 27, 2006. 14 He, likewise, claimed that he merely typed and printed the
acknowledgment receipt and served as witness to the issuance of the same. He further denied that he had any participation in the demolition
of complainant's house.

In its Report and Recommendation15 dated July 19, 2012, the IBP-CBD recommended that Atty. Belleza be suspended from the practice of law
for six (6) months for his deliberate disregard of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
However, the IBP-Board of Governors, in Notice of Resolution No. XX-2013-761,16 dated June 21, 2013, resolved to adopt and approve with
modification the Report and Recommendation of the IBP-CBD, and instead suspended Atty. Belleza from the practice of law for three (3)
months.

We concur with the findings and recommendation of the IBP-CBD.

Well established is the rule that administrative cases against lawyers belong to a class of their own. These cases are distinct from and proceed
independently of civil and criminal cases.17 Public interest is its primary objective, and the real question for determination is whether or not
the attorney is still a fit person to be allowed the privileges as such. Hence, in the exercise of its disciplinary powers, the Court merely calls
upon a member of the Bar to account for his actuations as an officer of the Court with the end in view of preserving the purity of the legal
profession and the proper and honest administration of justice by purging the profession of members who by their misconduct have proven
themselves no longer worthy to be entrusted with the duties and responsibilities pertaining to the office of an attorney.18Corollarily, We will
limit the issue on whether Atty. Belleza committed transgressions that would question his fitness to practice law, and thus, refrain from
discussing issues that are judicial in nature.

Canon 1 clearly mandates the obedience of every lawyer to laws and legal processes. To the best of his ability, a lawyer is expected to
respect and abide by the law and, thus, avoid any act or omission that is contrary thereto. A lawyer's personal deference to the law not only
speaks of his character but it also inspires respect and obedience to the law, on the part of the public. 19

Given the facts of the case, we find that Atty. Belleza failed to exercise the good faith required of a lawyer in handling the legal affairs of his
client. Even without touching the issue of the subject properties' ownership, Atty. Belleza cannot deny that the subject property sold by Nelia
to Irene was still pending litigation due to the alleged encroachment of Junielito's house on the property of Nelia. It was precisely the reason
why they filed a complaint for recovery of possession against Junielito's relatives. Moreover, when Atty. Belleza sent a notice to vacate Nelia's
property to Junielito on November 22, 2010, the civil case was still pending litigation.

As noted by the IBP-CBD, the acknowledgment receipt of P50,000.00 issued by Nelia as witnessed and signed by Atty. Belleza is an evidence
by itself that he had knowledge of Junielito's interest on the property even if he disputes the latter's ownership of the subject property. We
quote the acknowledgment receipt for clarification, to wit:

I, LITO ESPANTO acknowledge receipt of the sum of Fifty Thousand (50,000.00) pesos, Philippine Currency from Nelia Miller as partial
payment towards sale of "house". I acknowledged I will receive a final percentage of sale price when house and lot by Nelia Miller
is ultimately sold. Final sales details will be disclosed immediately to me when all property is sold and final payment will be
made at that time. I acknowledge sale price cannot be "predetermined" due to economic conditions.

x x x20

Upon review of the foregoing acknowledgment receipt, it can be inferred that Junielito acknowledged that he received P50,000.00 as partial
payment and that he will receive the final percentage of sale price when house and lot by Nelia is sold. It likewise stated therein that Junielito
has the right to be informed of the final sale price and other details related to the sale. Considering that Junielito was in fact paid albeit partial
and was given the right to be informed of the final sale details, it clearly shows that Nelia and Atty. Belleza recognized Junielito's interest as
an owner although it pertains only to a portion of Nelia's property where his house sits. Why else would they agree on informing Junielito of
such material information if they knew that he has no right whatsoever with the property being sold.

It should also be pointed out that Atty. Belleza neither denied the existence of the acknowledgment receipt nor the fact that he signed the
same.21 Thus, given the foregoing circumstances, it can be presumed that Atty. Belleza knew that the sale of the property will necessarily
affect Junielito. Consequently, when they sold the property of Nelia without informing Junielito despite their agreement to such effect, Atty.
Belleza not only breached their agreement and betrayed Junielito's trust; he also instigated a malicious and unlawful transaction to the
prejudice of Junielito.

Furthermore, even assuming there was already a compromise agreement, it was malicious to sell Nelia's property without complying with the
conditions and agreements set forth therein. Atty. Belleza knew that one of the issues sought to be resolved in said case was the issue on
whether Junielito's house was encroaching on Nelia's property. However, said issue could not be resolved without settling the boundaries of
the lots, which explains why the compromise agreement contained provisions for a relocation survey. For clarification, We quote the pertinent
portion of the compromise agreement as thus:

1. Parties agreed to relocate the subject properties designated as Cadastral Lot Nos. 127, and 159;

2. Parties agreed that a commissioner be appointed by the Court to conduct the relocation survey which be (sic) composed of a
qualified and licensed geodetic engineer from the office of the Land and Surveys Division of the Department Environment and
Natural Resources, Sto. Niño, Extension, Tacloban City;

xxxx

4. Parties likewise agreed that if ever it will be found out by the result of the survey that indeed defendants encroached a portion of the land
of the plaintiff designated as Cadastral Lot No. 159, parties have the following options:

a. Defendants will buy from the plaintiff the whole area encroached at a reasonable price; or
b. If defendants cannot afford, defendants shall buy only the area encroached which the house of the defendant is located with reasonable
yard at reasonable price and defendant shall vacate the remaining area and transfer to the unoccupied portion of lot 127 vacated by the heirs
of Onofre Lagarto provided further that plaintiff will be responsible to the heirs of Onofre Lagarto for them to remove their house; or
c. Plaintiff shall buy the value of the house at a reasonable price;

5. That if ever if (sic) it's found out by the relocation survey that the defendants have not encroached the land of the plaintiff designated as
Cadastral Lot No. 159, then, plaintiff will not disturb the peaceful possession of the defendants and would voluntarily dismiss the above-
entitled complaint;22

However, when Junielito's house was demolished on February 14, 2011, it appears that no relocation survey was conducted on the subject
properties. In fact, in Order23 dated April 4, 2011, the court ordered the appearance of the parties in Civil Case No. 75 since while there was
already a compromise agreement entered into by them, the court wanted to verify if a relocation survey has been conducted on the lots
subject of the case as the records were bereft of any showing that a commissioner's report has been submitted to the court.

Atty. Belleza should know that a compromise agreement once approved by final order of the court has the force of res judicata between the
parties and should not be disturbed except for vices of consent or forgery. 24 Hence, when a decision on a compromise agreement is final and
executory; it has the force of law and is conclusive between the parties. Compromise agreements are contracts, 25 and contractual obligations
between parties have the force of law between them and absent any allegation that the same are contrary to law, morals, good customs,
public order or public policy, they must be complied with in good faith. 26 Thus, when Atty. Belleza ignored the provisions of the compromise
agreement and proceeded with the sale of the property even without the relocation survey, there is no question that he wantonly violated
Canon 1 of the CPR.

Moreover, as found during the mandatory conference before the IBP, Atty. Belleza knew that complainant was not a party in Civil Case No.
75, albeit, his 2-storey concrete residential house appeared to be encroaching on Nelia's property. Thus, even assuming that there was a valid
compromise agreement in Civil Case No. 75, said judgment based on compromise agreement will not bind complainant. Consequently, even if
there was already a writ of execution, the same will not likewise bind complainant. Moreso, while Atty. Belleza claims that there was a valid
compromise agreement, he, however, failed to show that there was a demolition order issued by the court. There was likewise no demolition
permit issued by the local government.27

It is basic that there could be no demolition of building or structures without a writ of execution and demolition issued by the court. This Court
in a number of decisions held that even if there is already a writ of execution, there must still be a need for a special order for the purpose of
demolition issued by the court before the officer in charge can destroy, demolish or remove improvements over the contested property. 28 The
pertinent provisions are the following:

Before the removal of an improvement must take place, there must be a special order, hearing and reasonable notice to remove. Section
10(d), Rule 39 of the Rules of Court provides:

(d) Removal of improvements on property subject of execution. When the property subject of execution contains improvements constructed
or planted by the judgment obligor or his agent, the officer shall not destroy, demolish or remove said improvements except upon special
order of the court, issued upon motion of the judgment obligee after due hearing and after the former has failed to remove the same within a
reasonable time fixed by the court.

The above-stated rule is clear and needs no interpretation. If demolition is necessary, there must be a hearing on the motion filed and with
due notices to the parties for the issuance of a special order of demolition.29

The requirement of a special order of demolition is based on the rudiments of justice and fair play. It frowns upon arbitrariness and
oppressive conduct in the execution of an otherwise legitimate act. It is an amplification of the provision of the Civil Code that every person
must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good
faith.30 Furthermore, it appeared that when the demolition was made on February 14, 2011, the case has not yet attained finality as
evidenced by a certification issued by Clerk of Court Melba E. Lagunzad of the 13th MCTC of MacArthur-Mayorga, MacArthur, Leyte on May 19,
2011.31

In his last ditch effort to exonerate himself, Atty. Belleza denied that he or his client consented or had knowledge or participated on the
demolition and pointed instead on the buyer, Irene, as the sole perpetrator of the illegal demolition. We are, however, unconvinced since the
demolition would not have happened if Atty. Belleza and his client did not sell the subject property to Irene in violation of the compromise
agreement and while Civil Case No. 75 is still pending litigation. Thus, Atty. Belleza cannot wash his hands from liability as to the illegal
demolition of complainant's house since in the first place, he facilitated the sale of the subject property.

Clearly, Atty. Belleza's actuations which resulted in the demolition of Junielito's house violates Canon 1 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility which mandates that a lawyer must uphold the Constitution and promote respect for the legal processes. Infact, contrary to
this edict, Atty. Belleza's acts of demanding Junielito to vacate his house, and the selling of the property while Civil Case no. 75 was still
pending, he violated the basic constitutional right of Junielito not to be deprived of a right or property without due process of law.

Despite his assertions of good faith, the Court cannot turn a blind eye on Atty. Belleza's acts of: (1) issuing the notice to vacate to Junielito
while the case was still pending litigation; (2) failing to inform Junielito of the sale of Nelia's property in contravention to the stipulation in the
acknowledgment receipt; and (3) facilitating, drafting and notarizing of the deed of sale between Nelia and Irene in violation of the
compromise agreement due to the absence of relocation survey. If the Court allows these irregular practice for the reason that lawyers are
constrained to suit their client's interests, the Court would, in effect, sanction impropriety and wrongdoing.

We note that while lawyers owe entire devotion to the interest of their clients and zeal in the defense of their client's right, they should not
forget that they are officers of the court, bound to exert every effort to assist in the speedy and efficient administration of justice. Canon 19
of the Code of Professional Responsibility mandates lawyers to represent their clients with zeal but within the bounds of the law. They should
not, therefore, misuse the rules of procedure to defeat the ends of justice or unduly delay a case, impede the execution of a judgment or
misuse court processes.32

Time and again, the Court has reminded lawyers that their support for the cause of their clients should never be attained at the expense of
truth and justice. While a lawyer owes absolute fidelity to the cause of his client, full devotion to his genuine interest, and warm zeal in the
maintenance and defense of his rights, as well as the exertion of his utmost learning and ability, he must do so only within the bounds of the
law. It needs to be emphasized that the lawyer's fidelity to his client must not be pursued at the expense of truth and justice, and must be
held within the bounds of reason and common sense. His responsibility to protect and advance the interests of his client does not warrant a
course of action propelled by ill motives and malicious intentions. 33

PENALTY

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

Here, the acts of Atty. Belleza in: (1) issuing the notice to vacate to Junielito while the case was still pending litigation; (2) failing to inform
Junielito of the sale of Nelia's property in contravention to the stipulation in the acknowledgment receipt; and (3) facilitating, drafting and
notarizing the deed of sale between Nelia and Irene in violation of the compromise agreement due to the absence of relocation survey, clearly
constitute malpractice and gross misconduct in his office as attorney, for which a suspension from the practice of law for six (6) months is
warranted.

WHEREFORE, the Court finds Atty. Erwin V. Belleza GUILTY of violations of Canons 1 and 19 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for
which he is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of six (6) months, effective immediately upon receipt of this Decision, with
a STERN WARNING that a commission of the same or similar offense in the future will result in the imposition of a more severe penalty.

Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant to be appended to Atty. Erwin V. Belleza's personal record as a
member of the Bar. Likewise, let copies of the same be served on the IBP, and the OCA, which is directed to circulate them to all courts in the
country for their information and guidance.

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

SO ORDERED.

J.K. MERCADO AND SONS AGRICULTURAL ENTERPRISES, INC., and SPOUSES JESUS and ROSARIO K.
MERCADO, complainants,
vs.
EDUARDO DE VERA and JOSE RONGKALES BANDALAN, respondents.

Adm. Case No. 4438 October 26, 1999

ATTY. EDUARDO C. DE VERA, petitioner-complainant,


vs.
ATTY. MERVYN G. ENCANTO, ATTY. NUMERIANO G. TANOPO, JR., ATTY. JOSE AGUILA GRAPILON, ATTY. BEDA
G. FAJARDO, ATTY. RENE C. VILLA, THE INTEGRATED BAR OF THE PHILIPPINES, thru its COMMISSION ON BAR
DISCIPLINE, as represented by ATTY. MERVYN G. ENCANTO, incumbent National President; ATTY. CARMEN
LEONOR P. MERCADO-ALCANTARA; SPOUSES JESUS K. MERCADO and ROSARIO P. MERCADO; and J.K.
MERCADO AND SONS AGRICULTURAL ENTERPRISES, INC., respondents.

RESOLUTION

VITUG, J.:

The petition for disbarment filed by J.K. Mercado and Sons Agricultural Enterprises, Inc. ("Mercado and Sons"), and the
spouses Jesus K. Mercado and Rosario P. Mercado against Atty. Eduardo C. De Vera and Atty. Jose Rongkales Bandalan,
the former Regional Trial Court Judge of Davao City, Branch 14, is an offshoot of Civil Case No. 17215, an action for
"dissolution/liquidation of conjugal partnership, accounting, support with support pendente lite, annulment of contract,
reconveyance or recovery of possession of conjugal share, partition, damages, and attorneys fees" filed by Rosario P.
Mercado ("R. Mercado") against Jesus K. Mercado ("J. Mercado"), Mercado and Sons, and Standard Fruits Corporation
("Stanfilco"). The case was assigned to the sala of then Judge Bandalan. Representing R. Mercado was Atty. De Vera.

On 15 December 1986, Judge Bandalan decided the case in favor of R. Mercado. She was awarded the sum of a little over
P9 million. On 19 December 1986, J. Mercado and Mercado and Sons filed a timely notice of appeal. Stanfilco, for its part,
filed a motion for reconsideration. On 05 January 1987, Judge Bandalan granted the motion for execution pending appeal
filed by Atty. De Vera. On even date, the judge likewise granted Atty. De Vera's "motion to note plaintiffs counsel's statement
of claim of Attorney's lien (charging and retaining) and motion to direct Provincial Registry of Deeds of Davao to annotate
such liens on the certificates of titles of (the) Mercado spouses." On 12 January 1998, a writ of execution was issued. Two
days later or on 14 January 1987, notices of garnishment under execution pending appeal were served by Sheriff Aquillo
Angon on the respective managers of RCBC, Claveria, Davao City; RCBC, Tagum, Davao Del Norte, Traders Royal Bank,
City Hall Drive, Davao City; and Traders Royal Bank, R. Magsaysay Ave., Davao City. It would appear that a total amount of
P1,270,734.56 was garnished. 1âw phi1.nêt

On 26 February 1987, R. Mercado terminated the services of Atty. De Vera, offering the amount of P350,000.00 by way of
attorney's fees. She, at the same time, demanded an accounting and the turn-over of the money still in the possession of
Atty. De Vera. The latter refused to heed the demand, claiming that pursuant to the decision, he should, in fact, be entitled to
P2,254,217.00 by way of attorney's fees. Failing to recover what she had felt was lawfully due to her, R. Mercado filed
disbarment proceedings against Atty. de Vera. The matter was initially referred to the Office of the Solicitor General for
investigation, report and recommendation; however, upon the approval and implementation of Rule 139-B of the Rules of
Court, the case was transferred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines ("IBP") and assigned to Commissioner Ernesto L.
Pineda.

Assailing the conduct of the proceedings, Atty. De Vera filed with this Court a petition for certiorari, prohibition and injunction,
docketed G.R. No. 96333, to enjoin Commissioner Pineda from continuing with the investigation. The petition was dismissed
by the Court, in its resolution 1 of 02 September 1992, and Commissioner Pineda was directed to proceed and to submit his
report to the Court within ten (10) days from notice. Prior to his receipt of the resolution, however, Commissioner Pineda had
ceased to be the IBP hearing officer; consequently, the case was re-assigned to Commissioner Plaridel C. Jose.

Noting that the proper forum of complaints against Justices and judges of lower courts is the Supreme Court, Commissioner
Jose dismissed the case against Judge Bandalan for lack of jurisdiction. In his report, dated 04 November 1992,
Commissioner Jose recommended the dismissal of the disbarment case "without prejudice to the rights of the parties to
ventilate the question of attorney's fees that should be due to Atty. Eduardo C. de Vera before the proper forum." It would
appear that a clarificatory addendum report, dated 06 December 1993, was later submitted by Commissioner Jose.

Meanwhile, on 23 March 1993, the IBP Board of Governors adopted Resolution No. X-93-41 recommending to the Supreme
Court the suspension of Atty. De Vera from the practice of law for one (1) year and dismissing the case against Judge
Bandalan for lack of jurisdiction. This action of the IBP Board of Governors prompted Atty. De Vera to file Administrative
Case No. 4438 seeking the disbarment of Attorneys Mervyn G. Encanto, Numeriano G. Tanopo., Jr., Jose Aguila Grapilon,
Beda G. Fajardo, Rene C. Villa, and Carmen Leonor P. Mercado-Alcantara for grave misconduct, violation of the lawyer's
oath, and malpractice. Atty. De Vera averred that the resolution of 23 March 1993 was not formally discussed, deliberated
upon, actually adopted nor passed upon during, and before the expiration of, the term of office of the members of the IBP
Board of Governors. He also accused Atty. Alcantara of conspiring with the IBP officers in the preparation, rendition and
release of the resolution, citing the latter's motions for early resolutions filed on 12 October 1993 and 26 July 1994. He,
finally, alleged that a copy of the resolution was sent to him only on 09 June 1995.

Atty. Numeriano G. Tanopo, Jr., explained that Resolution No. X-93-41 was adopted at a special meeting convened on 23
March 1993 by Executive Vice President Mervyn Encanto during which Governors Jose Aguila Grapilon, Ma. Zita C. Valera,
Beda G. Fajardo, Rene C. Villa and Teodoro D. Nano, Jr., were in attendance. The resolution was placed in the charge of
the Directorate for Bar Discipline for the procurement of the signatures of the members of the IBP Board of Governors. Since
the members from the nine different IBP regions would normally visit the National Office only once a month, it was not
unusual for the signing of resolutions to take place a month or so following board meetings. The adoption of the assailed
resolution, according to Atty. Tanopo, had no taint of irregularity at all, asserting that the term of office of the aforenamed
members of the Board of Governors expired only on 30 June 1993. Atty. Tanopo himself expressed surprise why the
"Addendum Report," dated 06 December 1993, had surfaced nine months after the adoption of the resolution of the Board of
Governors in A.C. No. 3066. He explained that the newly-elected members of the IBP Board of Governors, in a special
meeting held on 18 December 1993, noted that "the previous Board under President Tanopo already rendered a decision in
the above-entitled case as embodied under Resolution No. X-93-41 dated March 23, 1993, except that the same has not
been forwarded to the Supreme Court inasmuch as some members of the previous Board had not affixed their signatures on
the copy of the decision." Hence, he said, Resolution No. XI-93-170 was passed directing Governor Agustinus Gonzaga,
Chairman of the Committee on Bar Discipline, "to require the members of the immediately preceding Board of Governors to
affix their signatures on their decision in the above-entitled case," and that, therefore, it was not possible for Atty. De Vera to
be informed sooner of the resolution of his case.
Attorneys Mervyn G. Encanto, Jose Aguila Grapilon, Beda G. Fajardo, Rene C. Villa and Ma. Zita C. Valera added that the
adoption of Resolution No. X-93-41 was duly taken up and considered in the Special Meeting held on 23 March 1993.
Attorneys Grapilon, Tanopo, Encanto and Fajardo were able to sign the resolution before the expiration of their term on 30
June 1993. Atty. Valera affixed his signature in the early part of 1994 while Atty. Villa also did so sometime in October 1994
or thereabouts. Attorneys Estenzo and Nano were unable to sign the resolution at all. Atty. Encanto said that he could not
have given a copy of the resolution to Atty. De Vera when the latter went to his office in May 1994 since the resolution was
not yet ready for release at the time nor could he then discuss the matter with Atty. De Vera because of the rule on
confidentiality of pending proceedings.

Atty. Alcantara, in her case, denied the charge that she had conspired with the IBP officers in the issuance of the IBP Board
resolution and pointed out that the motions for early resolution she filed would show nothing more than an adherence to the
regular procedure adopted in resolving A.C. No. 3066.

Atty. De Vera, in his reply, contended that the Minutes could not be taken to be a true and faithful recording of the
proceedings. He cited, for instance, the absurdity that while on page four thereof, the minutes indicated that Commissioner
Plaridel Jose was asking for thirty days from 21 October 1992 within which to submit his report in A.C. No. 3066, Resolution
No. X-93-37 approved the request granting Commissioner Jose a period of thirty days from 21 October 1993 within which to
submit the report. For another, the request for extension of time to submit the report was granted on the same day the report
was taken up. He likewise questioned why the IBP Board of Governors evidently failed to consider that Commissioner Jose
had actually submitted two reports.

In A.C. No. 3066 —

While, indeed, the practice of law is not a business venture, a lawyer, nevertheless, is entitled to be duly compensated for
professional services rendered. So, also, he must be protected against clients who wrongly refuse to give him his just due.
In Albano vs. Coloma, 2 this Court has said:

Counsel, any counsel, who is worthy of his hire, is entitled to be fully recompensed for his services. With
his capital consisting solely of his brains and with his skill, acquired at tremendous cost not only in money
but in the expenditure of time and energy, he is entitled to the protection of any judicial tribunal against
any attempt on the part of a client to escape payment of his fees. It is indeed ironic if after putting forth
the best that is in him to secure justice for the party he represents, he himself would not get his due.
Such an eventuality this Court is determined to avoid. It views with disapproval any and every effort of
those benefited by counsel's services to deprive him of his hard-earned honorarium. Such an attitude
deserves condemnation. 3

Correlatively, a lawyer is entitled to a "lien over funds, documents and papers of his client which have lawfully
come into his possession. 4 Under Canon 16, Rule 16.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility 5 he may
"apply so much thereof as may be necessary to satisfy his lawful fees and disbursements, giving notice promptly
thereafter to his client." 6 In both cases, however, it is to be assumed that the client agrees with the lawyer in the
amount of attorney's fees. In case of a disagreement, or when the client disputes the amount claimed by the
lawyer for being unconscionable, the lawyer should not arbitrarily apply the funds in his possession to the payment
of his fees; instead, it should behoove the lawyer to file, if he still deems it desirable, the necessary action or the
proper motion with the proper court to fix the amount of his attorney's fees. 7 If a lawyer were allowed to unilaterally
apply the funds in his hands in payment of his claimed compensation even when there is a disagreement between
him and his client would not only be violative of the trust relationship between them but can also open the door to
possible abuse by those who are less than mindful of their fiduciary duty.

The Court cannot ignore the findings made by the IBP Board of Governors, in its resolution of 23 March 1993, hereunder
reproduced; viz:

The records show that complainant Mrs. Mercado, assisted by her erstwhile counsel, respondent de Vera
was able to withdraw garnished funds from the banks in the total amount of P1,270,734.56 on January
14, 1987 and January 16, 1987 (Exhs. "CC" and "DD", "30" and "31"). Said withdrawals were in
consequence of an Order dated January 12, 1987 issued by Judge Bandalan (Exh. "K" or "15"). As
prayed for by complainant Mrs. Mercado per motion for execution pending appeal (Exh. "G" or "14") filed
in her behalf by respondent de Vera, she was almost 73 years old, in poor health and needed the amount
for her daily subsistence and medical needs.

There was an open admission by respondent de Vera as borne by his entire testimony, that he was with
Mrs. Mercado in the banks to assist her to withdraw the garnished funds.
Complainant Mrs. Mercado's testimony on June 13, 1989 that she was staying in a boarding house (TSN,
June 13, 1989, page 14) and that the money, then about P911,374.95 out of the garnished amount of
P1,223,874.95 after depositing P300,000.00 with Metro Bank and TRB (TSN, September 5, 1989, pages
31 to 36, Exhs. "MM" & "NN") are more than enough reasons not to withdraw or encash the garnished
amounts in the form of Manager Checks. If not only for respondent de Vera's prodding and insistence,
complainant Mrs. Mercado would not have withdrawn and encashed such a huge amount of money, only
to bring it to an unsafe boarding house which understandably could not provide a guarded and safer
depository of such huge amount of money, as in banks. Why would complainant Mrs. Mercado withdraw
from the banks the whole amount of P1,223,873.95, and on the same day, deposit P300,000.00 in other
banks and carry with her P911,374.95?

The scheming plot of respondent de Vera is too obvious to escape notice.

With so much money contained in six bags, respondent de Vera invited the aging complainant Mrs.
Mercado to his house, convinced the old lady to leave the money with him as accordingly, she did not
have a room in her boarding house and that it would be safe if she left the money with him.

xxx xxx xxx

That respondent de Vera was, upon his unilateral estimation, entitled to about P2.250 Million in attorney's
fees, would not exculpate him from the condemnable act of infidelity in the custody of his client's funds.
He was duty bound to turn over and render a full accounting of what he received in satisfaction of the
judgment rendered in favor of complainant Mrs. Mercado in Civil Case No. 17215. The relation between
client and attorney is one of trust and confidence.

Regrettably, Atty. De Vera would appear to have indeed gone over the bounds of propriety when he refused to turn-over to
his client the amount in excess of the P350,000.00 he was, in effect, allowed to retain. His disagreement with the client, of
course, entitled him to take proper legal steps in order to recover what he might feel to be his just due but, certainly, it was
not a matter that he could take into his own hands.

The Court is not prepared to conclude, however, that the circumstances detailed by the IBP would create an impression, as
so suggested in the resolution of 23 March 1993, that respondent lawyer somehow had much to be responsible for in the
turn of events that led to his possession of the funds of his client. In any event, the proven actuations of Atty. De Vera, in the
view of the Court, would sufficiently warrant a commensurate disciplinary action.

In A.C. No. 4438 —

A close review of the IBP proceedings, substantially reflected in the Minutes of Meeting of the Board of Governors, would
indicate to the Court that no serious irregularity attended the adoption of Resolution No. X-93-41 insofar, particularly, as it
recommended the suspension of Atty. De Vera from the practice of law. Respondents were able to adequately show why the
assailed resolution of the Board of Governors' recommendation could not have been accomplished on the same day of the
meeting. Evidently; it was not an uncommon practice for board resolutions to be signed on different dates by the members of
the Board of Governors. While Resolution No. X-93-41 had been signed by some of the previous members of the Board of
Governors after the expiration of their term of office, the action attested to by the resolution, nevertheless, would
unquestionably disclose that it was adopted during their tenure. In fact, the succeeding members of the Board of Governors
affirmed, in their meeting of 18 December 1993, that the "previous Board . . . already rendered a decision . . . as embodied
under Resolution No. X-93-41 dated March 23, 1993 . . . " but that only some members of the previous Board had yet to affix
their signatures thereat. There might have been some inconsistencies in the assailed minutes of the meeting of the Board of
Governors, but these incongruences hardly would establish convincingly, a concerted effort on the part of respondents to
manipulate the outcome of the case against Atty. De Vera.

The charge against Atty. Alcantara likewise has nothing much to stand on. The allegation that she has been bragging about
the fact that she could have Atty. De Vera disbarred because of her influence in the IBP is not substantiated. Her motions for
the early resolution of the case, after the IBP Board of Governors adopted Resolution No. X-93-41, only confirm the long
delay in the release of the resolution and, indeed, her apparent lack of knowledge of the final resolution theretofore reached
by the Board of Governors.

WHEREFORE, in Administrative Case No. 3066, Resolution No.


X-93-41, dated 23 March 1993, of the IBP Board of Governors, is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Atty. Eduardo C. De
Vera is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for six (6) months and he is further DIRECTED to return to Rosario K.
Mercado the amount in his possession in excess of P350,000.00, without prejudice to whatever judicial action he may take
to recover his unsatisfied attorney's fees, if any. His suspension stands until he has satisfactorily shown to the Court his
compliance therewith. Copies of this resolution shall be circulated to all Courts of the country and spread on the personal
record of Atty. De Vera.1âwphi1.nêt

Administrative Case No. 4438 is DISMISSED for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

MANIAGO VS DE DIOS

The instant case arose from an Affidavit-Complaint dated April 2, 2007 filed
by Ligaya Maniago, seeking the disbarment of Atty. Lourdes I. de Dios for
engaging in the practice of law despite having been suspended by the Court.
Complainant alleged that she filed a criminal case against Hiroshi Miyata, a
Japanese national, before the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Olongapo City, Branch
73, for violation of Presidential Decree No. 603, docketed as Criminal Case No.
699-2002. The accused was represented by Atty. De Dios, with office address at 22
Magsaysay Drive, Olongapo City. Complainant then learned from the RTC staff
that Atty. De Dios had an outstanding suspension order from the Supreme Court
since 2001, and was, therefore, prohibited from appearing in court. Complainant
further alleges that there is a civil case (Civil Case No. 355-0-2005) and another
case (Special Proceeding No. M-6153) filed against Miyata before the
RTC, Makati City, Branch 134, where Atty. De Dios appeared as his counsel.
Complainant averred that Atty. De Dios ought to be disbarred from the practice of
law for her flagrant violation and deliberate disobedience of a lawful order of the
Supreme Court.

In her Comment, Atty. De Dios admitted that there were cases filed against her
client, Miyata. She, however, denied that she was under suspension when she
appeared as his counsel in the cases.

Respondent explained that an administrative case was indeed filed against


her by Diana de Guzman, docketed as A.C. No. 4943, where she was meted the
penalty of 6-month suspension. She served the suspension immediately upon
receipt of the Courts Resolution on May 16, 2001 up to November 16, 2001. In a
Manifestation filed on October 19, 2001, respondent formally informed the Court
that she was resuming her practice of law on November 17, 2001, which she
actually did.

A problem arose when Judge Josefina Farrales, in her capacity as Acting Executive
Judge of the RTC, Olongapo City, erroneously issued a directive on March 15,
2007, ordering respondent to desist from practicing law and revoking her notarial
commission for the years 2007 and 2008. Knowing that the directive was rather
questionable, respondent, nonetheless, desisted from law practice in due deference
to the court order. Thereafter, respondent filed a Motion for Clarification with the
Supreme Court on account of Judge Farrales letters to all courts in Olongapo City
and to some municipalities in Zambales, which gave the impression that Atty.
De Dios is not yet allowed to resume her practice of law and that her notarial
commission for the years 2007 and 2008 is revoked. Acting on the said motion, the
Court issued a resolution on April 23, 2007 in this wise:

A.C. No. 4943 (Diana de Guzman v. Atty. Lourdes I. De Dios) Respondents


Urgent Motion for Clarification dated 14 March 2007 praying that the Court
declare her to have served her six (6) months (sic) suspension and her resumption
of law practice on 17 November 2001 onwards as proper is NOTED.

Considering the motion for clarification, the Court resolves to DEEM Atty.
Lourdes I. De Dios to have SERVED her six (6) month suspension and her
recommencement of law practice on 17 November 2001 as PROPER pursuant to
the Resolution dated 30 January 2002.

Respondent averred that for the period stated in the affidavit of complainant
Maniago, during which she allegedly practiced law, she was neither suspended nor
in any way prohibited from practice. The complaint, she added, was baseless and
malicious, and should be dismissed outright.
In the Resolution dated September 12, 2007, the Court referred the matter to
the Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC) for evaluation, report and
recommendation. Initially, the OBC directed the complainant to file a
supplemental affidavit, stating therein the exact period of appearances of Atty. De
Dios and the particular courts where respondent appeared as counsel in the
following cases: (1) Criminal Case No. 699-2002; (2) Civil Case No. 355-0-2005;
and (3) Sp. Proc. No. M-6153.

In compliance therewith, complainant submitted a Supplemental Affidavit in


the vernacular, which reads:

2. Sa Criminal Case No. 699-2002 entitled People of the Philippines vs.


Hiroshi Miyata ay [nagsimulang] mag[-]appear si Atty. Lourdes de Dios mula
April 9, 2003, na [naka-]attach ang Certification mula sa Branch 73[,] Regional
Trial Court[,] Olongapo City.
3. Sa Civil Case No. 355-0-2006 ay [nagsimulang] mag[-]appear si Atty.
de Dios noong October 10, 2005, nakasaad din ito sa Certification mula sa Branch
73, Regional Trial Court of Olongapo City. At sa Sp. Proc. No. M-6153 ay ito ay
na[-]ifile ni Atty. de Dios noong September 26, 2005 at hanggang ngayon ay
pending pa sa Court of Appeals.

4. Bilang karagdagan po ay naka[-]attach ang Certified Xerox Copy ng


Minutes of the Session ng Subic Municipal Trial Court na kung saan ay nag[-
]appear si Atty. de Dios sa Civil Case No. 042-01 entitled Andrea Lorenzo,
plaintiff, -versus- Simeon Pullido noong December 14, 2001.

5. At makikita rin po sa Annex A-5 ng Comment ni Atty. de Dios, x x x -

5.[a.] Nag file ng kaso si Atty. Lourdes de Dios noong May 17,
2001 entitled Shirley Pagaduan vs. Danilo Pagaduan[,] Civil Case
No. 234-0-2001. Ito ay ginawa ni Atty. de Dios isang (1) araw pa
lamang mula magsimula ang kanyang suspension noon[g] May 16,
2001.

5.b. Nag file din ng kaso si Atty. de Dios noong May 18, 2001
entitled Filmixco versus Dr. Ma. Perla Tabasondra-Ramos and Dr.
Ricardo Ramos Civil Case No. 236-0-2001. Ito ay dalawang (2)
araw mula magsimula ang suspension ni Atty. de Dios noong May
16, 2001.

5.c. At nag notaryo si Atty. de Dios ng isang (a) affidavit executed


by Carolina C. Bautista noong May 16, 2001, (b) Affidavit
executed by Jessica Morales-Mesa on May 17, 2001 at (c) isang
Statement of non-liability of Alfredo C. Diaz on May 16,
2001. Ang mga pag notaryo na ito ay ginawa noong nagsimula na
ang suspension ni Atty. de Dios noong May 16, 2001.

6. Ginawa ko ang Supplemental Affidavit na ito bilang patunay sa mga


nakasaad base sa aking personal na kaalamanan at mga dokumentong hawak ko
upang ipakita na nilabag ni Atty. de Dios ang kanyang suspension base sa sulat ni
Deputy Clerk of Court and Bar Confidant Ma. Cristina B. Layusa na may petsang
12 February 2007 at sa admission ni Atty. de Dios na nagsimula ang kanyang
suspension noong May 16, 2001.

A Supplemental Comment was thereafter filed by respondent, stating that there


were no new matters raised in the Supplemental Affidavit, and asserting that the
opinion of Bar Confidant, Atty. Ma. Cristina B. Layusa, as contained in her letter
dated 12 February 2007, cannot supersede the Resolution dated April 23, 2007 of
this Honorable Court.According to her, the resolution should be the final nail to the
coffin of this case.
On November 18, 2008, the OBC submitted its Memorandum for the Courts
consideration.

The OBC explained that the letter adverted to by complainant in her


affidavit was the OBCs reply to an inquiry made by the Office of the Court
Administrator regarding the status of Atty. De Dios.[1] Therein, the OBC made it
clear that the lifting of the suspension order was not automatic, following the
pronouncement of the Court in J.K. Mercado and Sons Agricultural Enterprises,
Inc. and Spouses Jesus and Rosario K. Mercado, complainants v. Atty. Eduardo de
Vera and Jose Rongkales Bandalan, et al. and Atty. Eduardo C. de Vera v. Atty.
Mervyn G. Encanto, et al., which states:

The Statement of the Court that his suspension stands until he would have
satisfactorily shown his compliance with the Courts resolution is a caveat that his
suspension could thereby extend for more than six months. The lifting of a lawyers
suspension is not automatic upon the end of the period stated in the Courts
decision, and an order from the Court lifting the suspension at the end of the
period is necessary in order to enable [him] to resume the practice of his
profession.[2]

Thus, according to the OBC, a suspended lawyer must first present proof(s)
of his compliance by submitting certifications from the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines and from the Executive Judge that he has indeed desisted from the
practice of law during the period of suspension. Thereafter, the Court, after
evaluation, and upon a favorable recommendation from the OBC, will issue a
resolution lifting the order of suspension and thus allow him to resume the practice
of law. The OBC alleged that it was unfortunate that this procedure was
overlooked in A.C. No. 4943, where Atty. De Dios was able to resume her practice
of law without submitting the required certifications and passing through the OBC
for evaluation. In order to avoid confusion and conflicting directives from the
Court, the OBC recommended that the Court adopt a uniform policy on the matter
of the lifting of the order of suspension of a lawyer from the practice of law.

The Court notes the Report and Recommendation of the OBC.

It must be remembered that the practice of law is not a right but a mere
privilege and, as such, must bow to the inherent regulatory power of the Supreme
Court to exact compliance with the lawyers public responsibilities. [3]Whenever it is
made to appear that an attorney is no longer worthy of the trust and confidence of
his clients and of the public, it becomes not only the right but also the duty of the
Supreme Court, which made him one of its officers and gave him the privilege of
ministering within its Bar, to withdraw that privilege.[4] However, as much as the
Court will not hesitate to discipline an erring lawyer, it should, at the same time,
also ensure that a lawyer may not be deprived of the freedom and right to exercise
his profession unreasonably.

IN LIGHT OF THE FOREGOING, it is hereby RESOLVED that the


following guidelines be observed in the matter of the lifting of an order suspending
a lawyer from the practice of law:
1) After a finding that respondent lawyer must be suspended from
the practice of law, the Court shall render a decision imposing the
penalty;

2) Unless the Court explicitly states that the decision is immediately


executory upon receipt thereof, respondent has 15 days within
which to file a motion for reconsideration thereof. The denial of
said motion shall render the decision final and executory;
3) Upon the expiration of the period of suspension, respondent shall
file a Sworn Statement with the Court, through the Office of the
Bar Confidant, stating therein that he or she has desisted from the
practice of law and has not appeared in any court during the period
of his or her suspension;

4) Copies of the Sworn Statement shall be furnished to the Local


Chapter of the IBP and to the Executive Judge of the courts where
respondent has pending cases handled by him or her, and/or where
he or she has appeared as counsel;

5) The Sworn Statement shall be considered as proof of


respondents compliance with the order of suspension;

6) Any finding or report contrary to the statements made by the


lawyer under oath shall be a ground for the imposition of a more
severe punishment, or disbarment, as may be warranted.
SO ORDERED.

RE: IN THE MATTER OF THE PETITION FOR REINSTATEMENT OF ROLANDO S. TORRES AS A


MEMBER OF THE PHILIPPINE BAR. ROLANDO S. TORRES … Petitioner

PRESENT: SERENO, CJ; CARPIO; VELASCO, JR; LEONARDO-DE CASTRO; PERALTA; BERSAMIN; DEL
CASTILLO*; MENDOZA**; PERLAS-BERNABE; LEONEN; JARDELEZA***; CAGUIOA; MARTIRES AND
TIJAM, JJ

Promulgated: July 11, 2017

RESOLUTION

PER CURIAM:

For resolution is the Petition1 dated March 10, 2017 filed by Rolando S. Torres (Torres) who seeks judicial
clemency in order to be reinstated in the Roll of Attorneys.

Records show that in a Resolution2 dated April 14, 2004 in Ting-Dumali v. Torres,3 the Court meted the
supreme penalty of disbarment on Torres for “presentation of false testimony; participation in, consent to, and
failure to advise against, the forgery of complainant’s signature in a purported Deed of Extrajudicial Settlement;
and gross misrepresentation in court for the purpose of profiting from such forgery,”4 thereby committing gross
misconduct and violating Canons 1 and 10 the Code of Professional Responsibility. The dispositive portion of
the said Resolution reads:

IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, we find respondent Atty. Rolando S. Torres guilty of gross misconduct
and violation of the lawyer’s oath, as well as Canons 1 and 10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility,
thereby rendering him unworthy of continuing membership in the legal profession. He is thus
ordered DISBARRED from the practice of law, and his name is ordered stricken off the Roll of Attorneys,
effective immediately.

x x x5

Aggrieved, Torres twice moved for reconsideration,6 both of which were denied with finality by the Court,7 which
then stated that “[n]o further pleadings will be entertained.”8 This notwithstanding, Torres: (a) filed an Ex-
Parte Motion to Lift Disbarment9 dated January 26, 2006 begging for compassion, mercy, and
understanding;10 and (b) wrote letters to former Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban11 and former Associate
Justice Dante O. Tinga12 reiterating his pleas for compassion and mercy. However, these were ordered
expunged through the Court’s Resolutions dated June 13, 200613 and September 5, 2006,14 considering the
previous directive that no further pleadings will be further entertained in this case. Still undaunted, Torres
continued to file numerous submissions either seeking his reinstatement to the bar15 or the reduction of his
penalty of disbarment to suspension,16 all of which were either expunged from the records17 or denied18 by the
Court.

More than ten (10) years from his disbarment, Torres filed a Petition19 dated June 11, 2015 seeking judicial
clemency from the Court to reinstate him in the Roll of Attorneys.20 In a Resolution21 dated August 25, 2015
(August 25, 2015 Resolution), the Court denied the petition, holding that Torres had failed to provide
substantial proof that he had reformed himself, especially considering the absence of showing that he had
reconciled or attempted to reconcile with his sister-in-law, the original complainant in the disbarment case
against him; nor was it demonstrated that he was remorseful over the fraudulent acts he had committed against
her.22

Despite the foregoing, Torres filed the instant petition, again seeking judicial clemency from the Court to
reinstate him in the Roll of Attorneys.

The Court’s Ruling

The petition is not meritorious.

The principle which should hold true for lawyers, being officers of the court, is that judicial clemency, as an act
of mercy removing any disqualification, should be balanced with the preservation of public confidence in the
courts. Thus, the Court will grant it only if there is a showing that it is merited. Proof of reformation and a
showing of potential and promise are indispensable.23 In Re: The Matter of the Petition for Reinstatement of
Rolando S. Torres as a member of the Philippine Bar,24 the Court laid down the following guidelines in resolving
requests for judicial clemency, to wit:

1. There must be proof of remorse and reformation. These shall include but should not be limited to
certifications or testimonials of the officer(s) or chapter(s) of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, judges or
judges associations and prominent members of the community with proven integrity and probity. A subsequent
finding of guilt in an administrative case for the same or similar misconduct will give rise to a strong
presumption of non-reformation.

2. Sufficient time must have lapsed from the imposition of the penalty to ensure a period of reform.

3. The age of the person asking for clemency must show that he still has productive years ahead of him that
can be put to good use by giving him a chance to redeem himself.

4. There must be a showing of promise (such as intellectual aptitude, learning or legal acumen or contribution
to legal scholarship and the development of the legal system or administrative and other relevant skills), as well
as potential for public service.

5. There must be other relevant factors and circumstances that may justify clemency. 25

In support of the instant petition for reinstatement, Torres merely rehashed all the several testimonials and
endorsements which he had already attached to his previous petitions, in addition to another endorsement, this
time coming from the incumbent Secretary of Justice, stating that Torres “is a person of good moral character
and a law abiding citizen.”26 However, these testimonials and endorsements do not prove whatsoever that
Torres had already successfully reformed himself subsequent to his disbarment. Neither do they exhibit
remorse towards the actions which caused his delisting from the Roll of Attorneys, i.e., the fraudulent acts he
committed against his sister-in-law. In this regard, it is noteworthy to point out that since the promulgation of the
Court’s August 25, 2015 Resolution, there was still no showing that Torres had reconciled or even attempted to
reconcile with his sister-in-law so as to show remorse for his previous faults.

Moreover, Torres also failed to present any evidence to demonstrate his potential for public service or that he -
now being 70 years of age27- still has productive years ahead of him that can be put to good use by giving him a
chance to redeem himself.
In sum, Torres failed to comply with the guidelines for the grant of judicial clemency; hence, the instant petition
must necessarily be denied.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED

IN THE MATTER OF THE ADMISSION TO THE BAR AND OATH-TAKING OF SUCCESSFUL BAR APPLICANT AL C.
ARGOSINO, petitioner.

RESOLUTION

FELICIANO, J.:

A criminal information was filed on 4 February 1992 with the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 101, charging Mr.
A.C. Argosino along with thirteen (13) other individuals, with the crime of homicide in connection with the death of one Raul
Camaligan on 8 September 1991. The death of Raul Camaligan stemmed from the infliction of severe physical injuries upon
him in the course of "hazing" conducted as part of university fraternity initiation rites. Mr. Argosino and his co-accused then
entered into plea bargaining with the prosecution and as a result of such bargaining, pleaded guilty to the lesser offense of
homicide through reckless imprudence. This plea was accepted by the trial court. In a judgment dated 11 February 1993,
each of the fourteen (14) accused individuals was sentenced to suffer imprisonment for a period ranging from two (2) years,
four (4) months and one (1) day to four (4) years.

Eleven (11) days later, Mr. Argosino and his colleagues filed an application for probation with the lower court. The
application for probation was granted in an Order dated 18 June 1993 issued by Regional Trial Court Judge Pedro T.
Santiago. The period of probation was set at two (2) years, counted from the probationer's initial report to the probation
officer assigned to supervise him.

Less than a month later, on 13 July 1993, Mr. Argosino filed a Petition for Admission to Take the 1993 Bar Examinations. In
this Petition, he disclosed the fact of his criminal conviction and his then probation status. He was allowed to take the 1993
Bar Examinations in this Court's En Banc Resolution dated 14 August 1993.1 He passed the Bar Examination. He was not,
however, allowed to take the lawyer's oath of office.

On 15 April 1994, Mr. Argosino filed a Petition with this Court to allow him to take the attorney's oath of office and to admit
him to the practice of law, averring that Judge Pedro T. Santiago had terminated his probation period by virtue of an Order
dated 11 April 1994. We note that his probation period did not last for more than ten (10) months from the time of the Order
of Judge Santiago granting him probation dated 18 June 1993. Since then, Mr. Argosino has filed three (3) Motions for Early
Resolution of his Petition for Admission to the Bar.

The practice of law is not a natural, absolute or constitutional right to be granted to everyone who demands it. Rather, it is a
high personal privilege limited to citizens of good moral character, with special educational qualifications, duly ascertained
and certified.2 The essentiality of good moral character in those who would be lawyers is stressed in the following excerpts
which we quote with approval and which we regard as having persuasive effect:

In Re Farmer: 3

xxx xxx xxx

This "upright character" prescribed by the statute, as a condition precedent to the applicant's right to
receive a license to practice law in North Carolina, and of which he must, in addition to other requisites,
satisfy the court, includes all the elements necessary to make up such a character. It is something more
than an absence of bad character. It is the good name which the applicant has acquired, or should have
acquired, through association with his fellows. It means that he must have conducted himself as a man of
upright character ordinarily would, or should, or does. Such character expresses itself, not in negatives
nor in following the line of least resistance, but quite often, in the will to do the unpleasant thing if it is
right, and the resolve not to do the pleasant thing if it is wrong. . . .
xxx xxx xxx

And we may pause to say that this requirement of the statute is eminently proper. Consider for a moment
the duties of a lawyer. He is sought as counsellor, and his advice comes home, in its ultimate effect, to
every man's fireside. Vast interests are committed to his care; he is the recipient of unbounded trust and
confidence; he deals with is client's property, reputation, his life, his all. An attorney at law is a sworn
officer of the Court, whose chief concern, as such, is to aid the administration of justice. . . .

xxx xxx xxx4

In Re Application of Kaufman,5 citing Re Law Examination of 1926 (1926) 191 Wis 359, 210 NW 710:

It can also be truthfully said that there exists nowhere greater temptations to deviate from the straight and
narrow path than in the multiplicity of circumstances that arise in the practice of profession. For these
reasons the wisdom of requiring an applicant for admission to the bar to possess a high moral standard
therefore becomes clearly apparent, and the board of bar examiners as an arm of the court, is required to
cause a minute examination to be made of the moral standard of each candidate for admission to
practice. . . . It needs no further argument, therefore, to arrive at the conclusion that the highest degree of
scrutiny must be exercised as to the moral character of a candidate who presents himself for admission
to the bar. The evil must, if possible, be successfully met at its very source, and prevented, for, after a
lawyer has once been admitted, and has pursued his profession, and has established himself therein, a
far more difficult situation is presented to the court when proceedings are instituted for disbarment and for
the recalling and annulment of his license.

In Re Keenan:6

The right to practice law is not one of the inherent rights of every citizen, as in the right to carry on an
ordinary trade or business. It is a peculiar privilege granted and continued only to those who demonstrate
special fitness in intellectual attainment and in moral character. All may aspire to it on an absolutely equal
basis, but not all will attain it. Elaborate machinery has been set up to test applicants by standards fair to
all and to separate the fit from the unfit. Only those who pass the test are allowed to enter the profession,
and only those who maintain the standards are allowed to remain in it.

Re Rouss:7

Membership in the bar is a privilege burdened with conditions, and a fair private and professional
character is one of them; to refuse admission to an unworthy applicant is not to punish him for past
offense: an examination into character, like the examination into learning, is merely a test of fitness.

Cobb vs. Judge of Superior Court:8

Attorney's are licensed because of their learning and ability, so that they may not only protect the rights
and interests of their clients, but be able to assist court in the trial of the cause. Yet what protection to
clients or assistance to courts could such agents give? They are required to be of good moral
character, so that the agents and officers of the court, which they are, may not bring discredit upon the
due administration of the law, and it is of the highest possible consequence that both those who have not
such qualifications in the first instance, or who, having had them, have fallen therefrom, shall not be
permitted to appear in courts to aid in the administration of justice.

It has also been stressed that the requirement of good moral character is, in fact, of greater importance so far as the general
public and the proper administration of justice are concerned, than the possession of legal learning:

. . . (In re Applicants for License, 55 S.E. 635, 143 N.C. 1, 10 L.R.A. [N.S.] 288, 10 Ann./Cas. 187):

The public policy of our state has always been to admit no person to the practice of
the law unless he covered an upright moral character. The possession of this by the
attorney is more important, if anything, to the public and to the proper administration
of justice than legal learning. Legal learning may be acquired in after years, but if the
applicant passes the threshold of the bar with a bad moral character the chances are
that his character will remain bad, and that he will become a disgrace instead of an
ornament to his great calling — a curse instead of a benefit to his community — a
Quirk, a Gammon or a Snap, instead of a Davis, a Smith or a Ruffin. 9

All aspects of moral character and behavior may be inquired into in respect of those seeking admission to the Bar. The
scope of such inquiry is, indeed, said to be properly broader than inquiry into the moral proceedings for disbarment:

Re Stepsay: 10

The inquiry as to the moral character of an attorney in a proceeding for his admission to practice
is broader in scope than in a disbarment proceeding.

Re Wells: 11

. . . that an applicant's contention that upon application for admission to the California Bar the court
cannot reject him for want of good moral character unless it appears that he has been guilty of acts which
would be cause for his disbarment or suspension, could not be sustained; that the inquiry is broader in its
scope than that in a disbarment proceeding, and the court may receive any evidence which tends to
show the applicant's character as respects honesty, integrity, and general morality, and may no doubt
refuse admission upon proofs that might not establish his guilt of any of the acts declared to be causes
for disbarment.

The requirement of good moral character to be satisfied by those who would seek admission to the bar must of necessity be
more stringent than the norm of conduct expected from members of the general public. There is a very real need to prevent
a general perception that entry into the legal profession is open to individuals with inadequate moral qualifications. The
growth of such a perception would signal the progressive destruction of our people's confidence in their courts of law and in
our legal system as we know it.12

Mr. Argosino's participation in the deplorable "hazing" activities certainly fell far short of the required standard of good moral
character. The deliberate (rather than merely accidental or inadvertent) infliction of severe physical injuries which
proximately led to the death of the unfortunate Raul Camaligan, certainly indicated serious character flaws on the part of
those who inflicted such injuries. Mr. Argosino and his co-accused had failed to discharge their moral duty to protect the life
and well-being of a "neophyte" who had, by seeking admission to the fraternity involved, reposed trust and confidence in all
of them that, at the very least, he would not be beaten and kicked to death like a useless stray dog. Thus, participation in the
prolonged and mindless physical beatings inflicted upon Raul Camaligan constituted evident rejection of that moral duty and
was totally irresponsible behavior, which makes impossible a finding that the participant was then possessed of good moral
character.

Now that the original period of probation granted by the trial court has expired, the Court is prepared to consider de novo the
question of whether applicant A.C. Argosino has purged himself of the obvious deficiency in moral character referred to
above. We stress that good moral character is a requirement possession of which must be demonstrated not only at the time
of application for permission to take the bar examinations but also, and more importantly, at the time of application for
admission to the bar and to take the attorney's oath of office.

Mr. Argosino must, therefore, submit to this Court, for its examination and consideration, evidence that he may be now
regarded as complying with the requirement of good moral character imposed upon those seeking admission to the bar. His
evidence may consist, inter alia, of sworn certifications from responsible members of the community who have a good
reputation for truth and who have actually known Mr. Argosino for a significant period of time, particularly since the judgment
of conviction was rendered by Judge Santiago. He should show to the Court how he has tried to make up for the senseless
killing of a helpless student to the family of the deceased student and to the community at large. Mr. Argosino must, in other
words, submit relevant evidence to show that he is a different person now, that he has become morally fit for admission to
the ancient and learned profession of the law.

Finally, Mr. Argosino is hereby DIRECTED to inform this Court, by appropriate written manifestation, of the names and
addresses of the father and mother (in default thereof, brothers and sisters, if any, of Raul Camaligan), within ten (10) day
from notice hereof. Let a copy of this Resolution be furnished to the parents or brothers and sisters, if any, of Raul
Camaligan.

RE: 2003 BAR EXAMINATION


This treats the Petition for Judicial Clemency and Compassion dated November 10,
2008 filed by petitioner Danilo de Guzman. He prays that this Honorable Court in
the exercise of equity and compassion, grant petitioners plea for judicial clemency,
and thereupon, order his reinstatement as a member in good standing of the
Philippine Bar.[1]

To recall, on February 4, 2004, the Court promulgated a Resolution, in B.M. No.


1222, the dispositive portion of which reads in part:

WHEREFORE, the Court, acting on the recommendations of the


Investigating Committee, hereby resolves to

(1) DISBAR Atty. DANILO DE GUZMAN from the practice of law


effective upon his receipt of this RESOLUTION;

xxxx

The subject of the Resolution is the leakage of questions in Mercantile Law


during the 2003 Bar Examinations. Petitioner at that time was employed as an
assistant lawyer in the law firm of Balgos & Perez, one of whose partners, Marcial
Balgos, was the examiner for Mercantile Law during the said bar
examinations. The Court had adopted the findings of the Investigating Committee,
which identified petitioner as the person who had downloaded the test questions
from the computer of Balgos and faxed them to other persons.

The Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC) has favorably recommended the
reinstatement of petitioner in the Philippine Bar. In a Report dated January 6, 2009,
the OBC rendered its assessment of the petition, the relevant portions of which we
quote hereunder:

Petitioner narrated that he had labored to become a lawyer to fulfill his


fathers childhood dream to become one. This task was not particularly easy for
him and his family but he willed to endure the same in order to pay tribute to his
parents.

Petitioner added that even at a very young age, he already imposed upon
himself the duty of rendering service to his fellowmen. At 19 years, he started his
exposure to public service when he was elected Chairman of the Sangguniang
Kabataan (SK) of Barangay Tuktukan, Taguig City. During this time, he initiated
several projects benefiting the youth in their barangay.
Thereafter, petitioner focused on his studies, taking up Bachelor of Arts in
Political Science and eventually pursuing Bachelor of Laws. In his second year in
law school, he was elected as the President of the Student Council of
the Institute of Law of the Far Eastern University (FEU). Here, he spearheaded
various activities including the conduct of seminars for law students as well as the
holding of bar operations for bar examinees.

Despite his many extra-curricular activities as a youth and student leader,


petitioner still managed to excel in his studies. Thus, he was conferred an
Academic Excellence Award upon his graduation in Bachelor of Laws.

Upon admission to the bar in April 1999, petitioner immediately entered


government service as a Legal Officer assigned at the Sangguniang Bayan of
Taguig. Simultaneously, he also rendered free legal services to less fortunate
residents of Taguig City who were then in need of legal assistance.

In March 2000, petitioner was hired as one of the Associate Lawyers at the
Balgos and Perez Law Offices. It was during his stay with this firm when his craft
as a lawyer was polished and developed. Despite having entered private practice,
he continued to render free legal services to his fellow Taguigeos.

Then in February 2004, by a sudden twist of fate, petitioners flourishing


career was cut short as he was stripped of his license to practice law for his
alleged involvement in the leakage in the 2003 Bar Examinations.

Devastated, petitioner then practically locked himself inside his house to


avoid the rather unavoidable consequences of his disbarment.

On March 2004, however, petitioner was given a new lease in life when he
was taken as a consultant by the City Government of Taguig. Later, he was
designated as a member of the Secretariat of the Peoples Law Enforcement Board
(PLEB). For the next five (5) years, petitioner concentrated mainly on rendering
public service.

Petitioner humbly acknowledged the damaging impact of his act which


unfortunately, compromised the integrity of the bar examinations. As could be
borne from the records of the investigation, he cooperated fully in the
investigation conducted and took personal responsibility for his actions. Also, he
has offered his sincerest apologies to Atty. Balgos, to the Court as well as to all
the 2003 bar examinees for the unforeseen and unintended effects of his actions.

Petitioner averred that he has since learned from his mistakes and has
taken the said humbling experience to make him a better person.
Meanwhile, as part of his Petition, petitioner submitted the following
testimonials and endorsements of various individuals and entities all attesting to
his good moral character:

1) Resolution No. 101, Series of 2007, Resolution Expressing Full


Support to Danilo G. De Guzman in his Application for Judicial
Clemency, Endorsing his Competence and Fitness to be Reinstated
as a Member of the Philippine Bar and for Other Purposes dated 4
June 2007 of the Sangguniang Panlungsod, City of Taguig;

2) Isang Bukas na Liham na Naglalayong Iparating sa Kataas-


Taasang Hukuman ang Buong Suporta ng Pamunuan at mga
Kasapi ng Southeast Peoples Village Homeowners Association,
Inc. (SEPHVOA) kay Danilo G. De Guzman sa Kanyang
Petisyong Magawaran ng Kapatawaran at ang Boluntaryong Pag-
susulong sa Kanyang Kakayahan Upang Maibalik sa Kanya ang
mga Pribilehiyo ng Isang Abogado dated 1 June 2007 of the
Southeast Peoples Village Homeowners Association, Inc.
(SEPHVOA), Ibayo-Tipas, City of Taguig;

3) Isang Bukas na Liham na Naglalayong Iparating sa Kataas-


Taasang Hukuman ang Buong Suporta ng Pamunuan at mga
Kasapi ng Samahang Residente ng Mauling Creek, Inc.
(SAREMAC) kay G. Danilo G. De Guzman sa Kanyang Petisyong
Magawaran ng Kapatawaran at ang Boluntaryong Pag-susulong sa
Kanyang Kakayahan Upang Maibalik sa Kanya ang mga
Pribilehiyo ng Isang Abogado dated 1 June 2007 of the Samahang
Residente ng Mauling Creek, Inc. (SAREMAC), Lower Bicutan,
City of Taguig;

4) Isang Bukas na Liham na Naglalayong Iparating sa Kataas-


Taasang Hukuman ang Buong Suporta ng Pamunuan at mga
Kasapi ng Samahan ng mga Maralita (PULONG KENDI)
Neighborhood Association, Inc. (SAMANA) kay G. Danilo G. De
Guzman sa Kanyang Petisyong Magawaran ng Kapatawaran at ang
Boluntaryong Pag-susulong sa Kanyang Kakayahan Upang
Maibalik sa Kanya ang mga Pribilehiyo ng Isang Abogado dated 1
June 2007 of the Samahan ng mga Maralita (PULONG KENDI)
Neighborhood Association, Inc. (SAMANA), Sta. Ana, City of
Taguig;

5) An Open Letter Attesting Personally to the Competence and


Fitness of Danilo G. De Guzman as to Warrant the Grant of
Judicial Clemency and his Reinstatement as Member of the
Philippine Bar dated 8 June 2007 of Miguelito Nazareno V.
Llantino, Laogan, Trespeses and Llantino Law Offices;
6) Testimonial to the Moral and Spiritual Competence of Danilo G.
De Guzman to be Truly Deserving of Judicial Clemency and
Compassion dated 5 July 2007 of Rev. Fr. Paul G. Balagtas, Parish
Priest, Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Anne;

7) Testimonial Letter dated 18 February 2008 of Atty. Loreto C.


Ata, President, Far Eastern University Law Alumni Association
(FEULAA), Far Eastern University (FEU);

8) Isang Bukas na Liham na Naglalayong Iparating sa Kataas-


Taasang Hukuman ang Buong Suporta ng Pamunuan at mga
Kasapi ng Samahang Bisig Kamay sa Kaunlaran, Inc. (SABISKA)
kay G. Danilo G. De Guzman sa Kanyang Petisyong Magawaran
ng Kapatawaran at ang Boluntaryong Pag-susulong sa Kanyang
Kakayahan Upang Maibalik sa Kanya ang mga Pribilehiyo ng
Isang Abogado dated 8 July 2008 of the Samahang Bisig Kamay sa
Kaunlaran, Inc. (SABISKA);

9) Board Resolution No. 02, Series of 2008, A Resolution


Recognizing the Contributions of Danilo G. De Guzman to the
Peoples Law Enforcement Board (PLEB) Taguig City, Attesting to
his Utmost Dedication and Commitment to the Call of Civic and
Social Duty and for Other Purposes dated 11 July 2008 of the
Peoples Law Enforcement Board (PLEB);

10) A Personal Appeal for the Grant of Judicial Forgiveness and


Compassion in Favor of Danilo G. De Guzman dated 14 July
2008 of Atty. Edwin R. Sandoval, Professor, College of Law, San
SebastianCollege Recoletos;

11) An Open Letter Personally Attesting to the Moral competence and


Fitness of Danilo G. De Guzman dated 5 September 2008 of Mr.
Nixon F. Faderog, Deputy Grand [Kn]ight, Knights of Columbus
and President, General Parent-Teacher
Association, Taguig National High School, Lower
Bicutan, Taguig City;

12) Testimonial Letter dated 5 September 2008 of Atty. Primitivo C.


Cruz, President, Taguig Lawyers League, Inc.,
Tuktukan, Taguig City;

13) Testimonial Letter dated 21 October 2008 of Judge Hilario L.


Laqui, Presiding Judge, Regional Trail Court (RTC), Branch 218,
Quezon City; and
14) Testimonial Letter dated 28 October 2008 of Justice Oscar M.
Herrera, former Justice, Court of Appeals and former
Dean, Institute of Law, Far Eastern University (FEU).

Citing the case of In Re: Carlos S. Basa, petitioner pleaded that he be


afforded the same kindness and compassion in order that, like Atty. Basa, his
promising future may not be perpetually foreclosed. In the said case, the Court
had the occasion to say:

Carlos S. Basa is a young man about 29 years of age, admitted to the bars
of California and the Philippine Islands. Recently, he was charged in the
Court of First Instance of the City of Manila with the crime of abduction
with consent, was found guilty in a decision rendered by the Honorable
M.V. De Rosario, Judge of First Instance, and was sentenced to be
imprisoned for a period of two years, eleven months and eleven days
of prision correccional. On appeal, this decision was affirmed in a
judgment handed down by the second division of the Supreme Court.

xxxx

When come next, as we must, to determine the exact action which should
be taken by the court, we do so regretfully and reluctantly. On the one
hand, the violation of the criminal law by the respondent attorney cannot
be lightly passed over. On the other hand, we are willing to strain the
limits of our compassion to the uttermost in order that so promising a
career may not be utterly ruined.

Petitioner promised to commit himself to be more circumspect in his


actions and solemnly pledged to exert all efforts to atone for his misdeeds.

There may be a reasonable ground to consider the herein Petition.

In the case of Re: Petition of Al Argosino to Take the Lawyers Oath


(Bar Matter 712), which may be applied in the instant case, the Court said:

After a very careful evaluation of this case, we resolve to allow


petitioner Al Caparros Argosino to take the lawyer's oath, sign the Roll of
Attorneys and practice the legal profession with the following admonition:

In allowing Mr. Argosino to take the lawyers oath, the Court


recognizes that Mr. Argosino is not inherently of bad moral fiber. On the
contrary, the various certifications show that he is a devout Catholic with a
genuine concern for civic duties and public service.

The Court is persuaded that Mr. Argosino has exerted all efforts, to
atone for the death of Raul Camaligan. We are prepared to give him the
benefit of the doubt, taking judicial notice of the general tendency of
youth to be rash, temerarious and uncalculating.

xxxx

Meanwhile, in the case of Rodolfo M. Bernardo vs. Atty. Ismael F. Mejia


(Administrative Case No. 2984), the Court [in] deciding whether or not to
reinstate Atty. Mejia to the practice of law stated:

The Court will take into consideration the applicants character and
standing prior to the disbarment, the nature and character of the charge/s
for which he was disbarred, his conduct subsequent to the disbarment and
the time that has elapsed in between the disbarment and the application for
reinstatement.

Petitioner was barely thirty (30) years old and had only been in the practice of law
for five (5) years when he was disbarred from the practice of law. It is of no doubt
that petitioner had a promising future ahead of him where it not for the decision of
the Court stripping off his license.

Petitioner is also of good moral repute, not only before but likewise, after his
disbarment, as attested to overwhelmingly by his constituents, colleagues as well
as people of known probity in the community and society.

Way before the petitioner was even admitted to the bar, he had already manifested
his intense desire to render public service as evidenced by his active involvement
and participation in several social and civic projects and activities. Likewise, even
during and after his disbarment, which could be perceived by some as a
debilitating circumstance, petitioner still managed to continue extending his
assistance to others in whatever means possible. This only proves petitioners
strength of character and positive moral fiber.

However, still, it is of no question that petitioners act in copying the examination


questions from Atty. Balgos computer without the latters knowledge and consent,
and which questions later turned out to be the bar examinations questions in
Mercantile Law in the 2003 Bar Examinations, is not at all commendable. While
we do believe that petitioner sincerely did not intend to cause the damage that his
action ensued, still, he must be sanctioned for unduly compromising the integrity
of the bar examinations as well as of this Court.

We are convinced, however, that petitioner has since reformed and has sincerely
reflected on his transgressions. Thus, in view of the circumstances and likewise
for humanitarian considerations, the penalty of disbarment may now be
commuted to suspension. Considering the fact, however, that petitioner had
already been disbarred for more than five (5) years, the same may be considered
as proper service of said commuted penalty and thus, may now be allowed to
resume practice of law.

WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, it is respectfully recommended that


the instant Petition for Judicial Clemency and Compassion dated 10 November
2008 of petitioner DANILO G. DE GUZMAN be GRANTED. Petitioners
disbarment is now commuted to suspension, which suspension is considered as
served in view of the petitioners five (5) year disbarment. Hence, petitioner may
now be allowed to resume practice of law.

The recommendation of the Office of the Bar Confidant is well-taken in


part. We deem petitioner worthy of clemency to the extent of commuting his
penalty to seven (7) years suspension from the practice of law, inclusive of the five
(5) years he has already served his disbarment.

Penalties, such as disbarment, are imposed not to punish but to correct


offenders.[2] While the Court is ever mindful of its duty to discipline its erring
officers, it also knows how to show compassion when the penalty imposed has
already served its purpose.[3]

In cases where we have deigned to lift or commute the supreme penalty of


disbarment imposed on the lawyer, we have taken into account the remorse of
the disbarred lawyer[4] and the conduct of his public life during his years outside
of the bar.[5] For example, in Valencia v. Antiniw, we held:

However, the record shows that the long period of respondent's disbarment
gave him the chance to purge himself of his misconduct, to show his remorse and
repentance, and to demonstrate his willingness and capacity to live up once again
to the exacting standards of conduct demanded of every member of the bar and
officer of the court. During respondent's disbarment for more than fifteen (15)
years to date for his professional infraction, he has been persistent in reiterating
his apologies and pleas for reinstatement to the practice of law and unrelenting in
his efforts to show that he has regained his worthiness to practice law, by his civic
and humanitarian activities and unblemished record as an elected public servant,
as attested to by numerous civic and professional organizations, government
institutions, public officials and members of the judiciary.[6]

And in Bernardo v. Atty. Mejia,[7] we noted:


Although the Court does not lightly take the bases for Mejias disbarment, it also
cannot close its eyes to the fact that Mejia is already of advanced years. While the
age of the petitioner and the length of time during which he has endured the
ignominy of disbarment are not the sole measure in allowing a petition for
reinstatement, the Court takes cognizance of the rehabilitation of Mejia. Since his
disbarment in 1992, no other transgression has been attributed to him, and he has
shown remorse. Obviously, he has learned his lesson from this experience, and
his punishment has lasted long enough. x x x

Petitioner has sufficiently demonstrated the remorse expected of him considering


the gravity of his transgressions. Even more to his favor, petitioner has redirected
focus since his disbarment towards public service, particularly with the Peoples
Law Enforcement Board. The attestations submitted by his peers in the community
and other esteemed members of the legal profession, such as retired Court of
Appeals Associate Justice Oscar Herrera, Judge Hilario Laqui, Professor Edwin
Sandoval and Atty. Lorenzo Ata, and the ecclesiastical community such as Rev. Fr.
Paul Balagtas testify to his positive impact on society at large since the unfortunate
events of 2003.

Petitioners subsequent track record in public service affords the Court some hope
that if he were to reacquire membership in the Philippine bar, his achievements as
a lawyer would redound to the general good and more than mitigate the stain on his
record. Compassion to the petitioner is warranted. Nonetheless, we wish to impart
to him the following stern warning:

Of all classes and professions, the lawyer is most sacredly bound to uphold the
laws. He is their sworn servant; and for him, of all men in the world, to repudiate
and override the laws, to trample them underfoot and to ignore the very bands of
society, argues recreancy to his position and office and sets a pernicious example
to the insubordinate and dangerous elements of the body politic.[8]

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Petition for Judicial Clemency


and Compassion is hereby GRANTED IN PART. The disbarment of DANILO
G. DE GUZMAN from the practice of law is hereby COMMUTED to SEVEN (7)
YEARS SUSPENSION FROM THE PRACTICE OF LAW, reckoned from
February 4, 2004.

SO ORDERED.
vs.
ATTY. EDMUNDO L. MACARUBBO, Respondent.

RE: PETITION (FOR EXTRAORDINARY MERCY) OF EDMUNDO L. MACARUBBO.

RESOLUTION

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

For resolution is the Petition (For Extraordinary Mercy) filed by respondent Edmundo L. Macarubbo (respondent) who seeks
to be reinstated in the Roll of Attorneys.

Records show that in the Decision1 dated February 27, 2004, the Court disbarred respondent from the practice of law for
having contracted a bigamous marriage with complainant Florence Teves and a third marriage with one Josephine
Constantino while his first marriage to Helen Esparza was still subsisting, which acts constituted gross immoral conduct in
violation of Canon 1, Rule 1.01 and Canon 7, Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The dispositive portion of
the subject Decision reads:

WHEREFORE, respondent Edmundo L. Macarubbo is found guilty of gross immorality and is hereby DISBARRED from the
practice of law. He is likewise ORDERED to show satisfactory evidence to the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline and to this
Court that he is supporting or has made provisions for the regular support of his two children by complainant.

Let respondent’s name be stricken off the Roll of Attorneys.

SO ORDERED.2

Aggrieved, respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration/Appeal for Compassion and Mercy3 which the Court denied with
finality in the Resolution4 dated June 1, 2004. Eight years after or on June 4, 2012, respondent filed the instant Petition (For
Extraordinary Mercy)5 seeking

judicial clemency and reinstatement in the Roll of Attorneys. The Court initially treated the present suit as a second motion
for reconsideration and accordingly, denied it for lack of merit in the Resolution dated September 4, 2012. 6On December 18,
2012, the same petition was endorsed to this Court by the Office of the Vice President 7 for re-evaluation, prompting the
Court to look into the substantive merits of the case.

In Re: Letter of Judge Augustus C. Diaz, Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 37, Appealing for Clemency, 8 the
Court laid down the following guidelines in resolving requests for judicial clemency, to wit:

1. There must be proof of remorse and reformation. These shall include but should not be limited to certifications or
testimonials of the officer(s) or chapter(s) of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, judges or judges associations
and prominent members of the community with proven integrity and probity. A subsequent finding of guilt in an
administrative case for the same or similar misconduct will give rise to a strong presumption of non-reformation.

2. Sufficient time must have lapsed from the imposition of the penalty to ensure a period of reform.

3. The age of the person asking for clemency must show that he still has productive years ahead of him that can
be put to good use by giving him a chance to redeem himself.

4. There must be a showing of promise (such as intellectual aptitude, learning or legal acumen or contribution to
legal scholarship and the development of the legal system or administrative and other relevant skills), as well as
potential for public service.

5. There must be other relevant factors and circumstances that may justify clemency. 9 (Citations omitted)

Moreover, to be reinstated to the practice of law, the applicant must, like any other candidate for admission to the bar, satisfy
the Court that he is a person of good moral character. 10

Applying the foregoing standards to this case, the Court finds the instant petition meritorious.
Respondent has sufficiently shown his remorse and acknowledged his indiscretion in the legal profession and in his
personal life. He has asked forgiveness from his children by complainant Teves and maintained a cordial relationship with
them as shown by the herein attached pictures. 11 Records also show that after his disbarment, respondent returned to his
hometown in Enrile, Cagayan and devoted his time tending an orchard and taking care of his ailing mother until her death in
2008.12 In 2009, he was appointed as Private Secretary to the Mayor of Enrile, Cagayan and thereafter, assumed the
position of Local Assessment Operations Officer II/ Office-In-Charge in the Assessor’s Office, which office he continues to
serve to date.13 Moreover, he is a part-time instructor at the University of Cagayan Valley and F.L. Vargas College during the
School Year 2011-2012.14 Respondent likewise took an active part in socio-civic activities by helping his neighbors and
friends who are in dire need.

The following documents attest to respondent’s reformed ways: (1) Affidavit of Candida P. Mabborang; 15 (2) Affidavit of
Reymar P. Ramirez;16 (3) Affidavit of Roberto D. Tallud;17 (4) Certification from the Municipal Local Government Office;18 (5)
Certification by the Office of the Municipal Agriculturist/Health Officer, Social Welfare Development Officer; 19 (6) Certification
from the Election Officer of Enrile, Cagayan;20 (7) Affidavit of Police Senior Inspector Jacinto T. Tuddao; 21 (8) Certifications
from nine (9) Barangay Chairpersons;22 (9) Certification from the Office of the Provincial Assessor; 23 (10) Certification from
the Office of the Manager, Magsaka ca Multi-Purpose Cooperative;24and (11) Certification of the Office of the Federation of
Senior Citizens, Enrile Chapter.25 The Office of the Municipal Treasurer also certified that respondent has no monetary
accountabilities in relation to his office26 while the Office of the Human Resource Management Officer attested that he has
no pending administrative case.27 He is not known to be involved in any irregularity and/or accused of a crime. Even the
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) attested that he has no record on file as of May 31, 2011. 28

Furthermore, respondent’s plea for reinstatement is duly supported by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Cagayan
Chapter29 and by his former and present colleagues.30 His parish priest, Rev. Fr. Camilo Castillejos, Jr., certified that he is
faithful to and puts to actual practice the doctrines of the Catholic Church.31 He is also observed to be a regular
churchgoer.32 Records further reveal that respondent has already settled his previous marital squabbles, 33 as in fact, no
opposition to the instant suit was tendered by complainant Teves. He sends regular support 34 to his children in compliance
with the Court’s directive in the Decision dated February 27, 2004.

The Court notes the eight (8) long years that had elapsed from the time respondent was disbarred and recognizes his
achievement as the first lawyer product of Lemu National High School, 35 and his fourteen (14) years of dedicated
government service from 1986 to July 2000 as Legal Officer of the Department of Education, Culture and Sports;
Supervising Civil Service Attorney of the Civil Service Commission; Ombudsman Graft Investigation Officer; and State
Prosecutor of the Department of Justice.36 From the attestations and certifications presented, the Court finds that respondent
has sufficiently atoned for his transgressions. At 5837 years of age, he still has productive years ahead of him that could
significantly contribute to the upliftment of the law profession and the betterment of society. While the Court is ever mindful
of its duty to discipline and even remove its errant officers, concomitant to it is its duty to show compassion to those who
have reformed their ways,38 as in this case.

Accordingly, respondent is hereby ordered .reinstated to the practice of law. He is, however, reminded that such privilege is
1âwphi1

burdened with conditions whereby adherence. to the rigid standards of intellect, moral uprightness, and strict compliance
with the rules and the law are continuing requirements. 39

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition is GRANTED. Respondent Edmundo L. Macarubbo is hereby
ordered REINSTATED in the Roll of Attorneys.

SO ORDERED.

1) Letter of Augustus C. Diaz, MTC Branch 37, Appealing for Clemency [533 SCRA 534 (2010]

In a letter dated July 18, 2007, Judge Augustus C. Diaz, presiding judge of
Branch 37 of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City, informed the Court that
he is an applicant for judgeship in one of the vacant Regional Trial Court branches
in Metro Manila. In connection therewith, he was interviewed by the Judicial and
Bar Council on July 10, 2007. He was told to seek judicial clemency due to the fact
that he was once fined P20,000 for not hearing a motion for demolition. He claims
that this lapse happened only once as a result of oversight. He requests judicial
clemency and, in particular, that he be allowed to again be nominated to one of the
vacant branches of the Regional Trial Court of Manila or in any of the cities where
[his] application [is being] considered.

In a subsequent letter,[1] Judge Diaz stated that he has been the presiding
judge of Branch 37 of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City since March 1,
1995. He expressed deep remorse for the lapse for which he was held
administratively liable in Alvarez v. Diaz.[2] He confessed that [t]he stain of the
penalty has taught [him] a bitter lesson and promised to avoid the commission of
the same or similar acts. He submitted himself to the judicious discretion of this
Court for whatever action the Court may take on his plea for judicial clemency.

In Alvarez, Judge Diaz was found guilty of gross ignorance of the law when
he granted the following motions: (1) a motion for execution which was fatally
defective for lack of notice to the defendant and (2) a motion for demolition
without notice and hearing. His action on the motion for demolition also made him
liable for grave abuse of authority.[3] He was fined P20,000.[4]

Section 5, Rule 4 of the Rules of the Judicial and Bar Council provides:

SEC. 5. Disqualification. The following are disqualified from


being nominated for appointment to any judicial post or as Ombudsman
or Deputy Ombudsman:

1. Those with pending criminal or regular administrative


cases;
2. Those with pending criminal cases in foreign courts or
tribunals; and
3. Those who have been convicted in any criminal case;
or in an administrative case, where the penalty imposed
is at least a fine of more than P10,000, unless he has
been granted judicial clemency. [5](emphasis supplied)
Under the said provision, Judge Diaz is disqualified from being nominated
for appointment to any judicial post, until and unless his request for judicial
clemency is granted.

Concerned with safeguarding the integrity of the judiciary, this Court has
come down hard[6] and wielded the rod of discipline against members of the
judiciary who have fallen short of the exacting standards of judicial conduct.[7]This
is because a judge is the visible representation of the law and of justice.[8] He must
comport himself in a manner that his conduct must be free of a whiff of
impropriety, not only with respect to the performance of his official duties but also
as to his behavior outside his sala and as a private individual.[9] His character must
be able to withstand the most searching public scrutiny because the ethical
principles and sense of propriety of a judge are essential to the preservation of the
peoples faith in the judicial system.[10]

Clemency, as an act of mercy removing any disqualification, should be


balanced with the preservation of public confidence in the courts. The Court will
grant it only if there is a showing that it is merited. Proof of reformation and a
showing of potential and promise are indispensable.[11]

In the exercise of its constitutional power of administrative supervision over


all courts and all personnel thereof,[12] the Court lays down the following
guidelines in resolving requests for judicial clemency:

1. There must be proof of remorse and reformation.[13] These shall include


but should not be limited to certifications or testimonials of the
officer(s) or chapter(s) of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, judges
or judges associations and prominent members of the community
with proven integrity and probity. A subsequent finding of guilt in an
administrative case for the same or similar misconduct will give rise
to a strong presumption of non-reformation.
2. Sufficient time must have lapsed from the imposition of the penalty[14] to
ensure a period of reformation.
3. The age of the person asking for clemency must show that he still has
productive years ahead of him that can be put to good use by giving
him a chance to redeem himself.[15]
4. There must be a showing of promise[16] (such as intellectual aptitude,
learning or legal acumen or contribution to legal scholarship and the
development of the legal system or administrative and other relevant
skills), as well as potential for public service.[17]
5. There must be other relevant factors and circumstances that may justify
clemency.

In this case, Judge Diaz expressed sincere repentance for his past
malfeasance. He humbly accepted the verdict of this Court in Alvarez. Three years
have elapsed since the promulgation of Alvarez. It is sufficient to ensure that he has
learned his lesson and that he has reformed. His 12 years of service in the judiciary
may be taken as proof of his dedication to the institution. Thus, the Court may now
open the door of further opportunities in the judiciary for him.

Accordingly, the letter dated July 18, 2007 of Judge Augustus C. Diaz is
hereby NOTED. His request for judicial clemency is GRANTED.

SO ORDERED.

1) Barias vs. Judge Marino E. Rubia (A.M. No. RTJ-14,2388, 10 June 2014)

r members of the judiciary and those within its employ to exhibit the impartiality, prudence, and propriety that the New Code
of Judicial Conduct and the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel require when dealing with parties in pending cases.

Complainant Emilie Sison-Barias is involved in three cases pending before the sala of respondent Judge Marino Rubia.

The first case is an intestate proceeding.1 Complainant filed a petition for letters of administration over the intestate estate of
her late husband, Ramon A. Barias. This was opposed by her mother-in-law, Romelias Almeda-Barias.2

The second case is a guardianship proceeding over Romelias Almeda-Barias.3 Evelyn Tanael, the guardian appointed by
the court, submitted a property inventory report that included not only the properties of Romelias Almeda-Barias but also
properties forming part of the estate of complainant’s late husband. 4

The third case is a civil action5 for annulment of contracts and reconveyance of real properties filed by Romelias Almeda-
Barias, represented by Evelyn Tanael, against complainant, among others. 6
In all these cases, a parcel of land covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-510712 and part of the estate of
complainant’s husband was involved.7

Complainant alleged that there was delay in the publication of the notice in the petition for issuance of letters of
administration filed. She was then informed by her brother, Enrique "Ike" Sison, that respondent Eileen Pecaña, the
daughter of his good friend, was a data encoder in the Office of the Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court of Biñan,
Laguna.8

Complainant, together with her two brothers, Enrique and Perlito "Jun" Sison, Jr., 9 met with respondent Pecaña on February
20, 2010.10 During this meeting, complainant informed respondent Pecaña of the delay in the publication of the notice in the
petition for issuance of letters of administration. She then asked respondent Pecaña to check the status of the publication of
the notice.11 Respondent Pecaña asked for complainant’s number so that she could inform her as soon as any development
takes place in the case.12 Enrique13 and Perlito14 executed affidavits to corroborate these allegations.

Respondent Pecaña asked complainant to meet her again at her house in Biñan, Laguna. 15 Complainant went there with
Enrique.16 Respondent Pecaña then informed complainant that she could no longer assist her since respondent Judge Rubia
had already given administration of the properties to Evelyn Tanael. 17

Complainant stated that she was not interested in the grant of administration to Tanael because these concerned the
properties of her mother-in-law, Romelias Almeda-Barias.18 She was only concerned with the administration of the properties
of her late husband, to which respondent Pecaña replied, "Ah ganun ba? Iba pala ung kaso mo." 19

Complainant alleged that respondent Pecaña sent her a text message on March 2, 2010 20 asking complainant to call her.
Complainant called respondent Pecaña who informed her that respondent Judge Rubia wanted to talk to her. 21 Complainant
agreed to meet with respondent Judge Rubia over dinner, on the condition that respondent Pecaña would be present as
well.22

On March 3, 201023 at around 7:00 p.m, complainant picked up respondent Pecaña at 6750 Ayala Avenuein Makati City.
They proceeded to Café Juanita in The Fort, Bonifacio Global City. Respondent Pecaña said that respondent Judge Rubia
would arrive late as he would be coming from a Rotary Club meeting held at the Mandarin Hotel. 24

Respondent Judge Rubia arrived at Café Juanita around 8:30 p.m. During the dinner meeting, respondents allegedly asked
complainant inappropriate questions. Respondent Judge Rubia allegedly asked whether she was still connected with
Philippine Airlines, which she still was at that time.25 Complainant was then informed that respondent Judge Rubia knew of
this fact through Atty. Noe Zarate, counsel of Romelias Almeda-Barias.26 This disclosure surprised complainant,as she was
under the impression that opposing counsel and respondent JudgeRubia had no business discussing matters that were not
relevant to their pending cases.27

Respondent Judge Rubia also allegedly asked her questions about her supposed involvement with another man and other
accusations made by Romelias Almeda-Barias.28 She was asked about the hospital where she brought her husband at the
time of his cardiac arrest.29

These details, according to complainant, were never discussed in the pleadings or in the course of the trial. 30 Thus, she
inferred that respondent Judge Rubia had been talking to the opposing counsel regarding these matters outside of the court
proceedings.31 The impression of complainant was that respondent Judge Rubia was actively taking a position in favor of
Atty. Zarate.32

To confirm her suspicion, respondents then allegedly "told complainant to just talk to Atty. Zarate, counsel for the oppositor,
claiming that he is a nice person. Complainant was appalled by such suggestion and replied[,] ‘Why will I talk to him? Judge
di ko yata kaya gawin un.’"33

After dinner, complainant stayed behind to settle the bill. Even before he left, she alleged that respondent Judge Rubia had
made insinuations that she was awaiting the company of another man. 34

From then on, complainant and respondents did not communicate and/or meet outside the courtroom until August 8, 2010.

In the meantime, complainant alleged that respondent Judge Rubia acted in a manner that showed manifest partiality in
favor of the opposing parties, namely, Romelias Almeda-Barias and Evelyn Tanael, as represented by their counsel, Atty.
Noe Zarate.35
On June 15, 2010, counsel for complainant was personally handed a copy of a motion for consolidation filed by the
oppositor, Romelias Almeda-Barias, despite the date of the hearing on such motion being set on June 18,
2010.36Complainant alleged that respondent Judge Rubia did not even consider the comment/opposition to the motion for
consolidation filed by her counsel, which stated that since two of these cases were special proceedings, they could not be
consolidated with an ordinary civil action. Respondent Judge Rubia insisted on discussing the totality of the different issues
involved in the three distinct cases under one court proceeding. 37 As such, complainant alleged that the main issues of the
special proceedings were consolidated with matters that were properly the subject of a separate civil action. 38 Complainant
alleged that respondent Judge Rubia refused to issue Orders39 that would have allowed her to comply with her duties as the
special administrator of her late husband’s estate. 40 This included the order to conduct an inventory of the properties, rights,
and credits of the deceased, subject to the authority of the administrator.

In addition, complainant alleged that respondent Judge Rubia refused to grant her request for subpoena duces tecum and
ad testificandum that she had prayed for to compel Evelyn Tanael to produce the documents showing the accrued rentals of
the parcel of land belonging toher late husband.41 As such, complainant raised that respondent Judge Rubia’s refusal
emboldened Evelyn Tanael and oppositor Romelias Almeda-Barias to interfere in the management of the estate of
complainant’s late husband.42 Because of this refusal, she asserted that respondent Judge Rubia failed to adhere to the duty
of the court to ensure a proper inventory of the estate. 43

Complainant enumerated occasions that alleged manifest partiality on the part of respondent Judge Rubia. She alleged that
respondent Judge Rubia failed to require a timely filing of the pre-trial brief on the part of Evelyn Tanael and Romelias
Almeda-Barias, and despite their noncompliance on four (4) separate pre-trials that were postponed, Tanael and Almeda-
Barias were not declared in default.44 She also alleged that respondent Judge Rubia stated that the burden to prove
ownership of the property was on complainant, when in fact it was the oppositor, or Tanael and Almeda-Barias, who had the
burden of proof to show that the land was fraudulently transferred to her late husband. 45

Complainant admitted that she did not inform her counsel of the dinner meeting she had with respondents. 46 It was Enrique
who allegedly told complainant’s lawyers about it when he went to the lawyer’s office to pay some bills. 47Complainant said
that her lawyer immediately admonished her for agreeing to meet with respondent Judge Rubia. Complainant then texted
respondent Pecaña on August 8, 2010 on her lawyer’s reaction concerning the March 3, 2010 meeting. The following
exchanges took place via text message:

COMPLAINANT:

Hi Aileen! Sorry jz feeling bad. . my lawyer jz called me at galit n galit. My brother went to hm today to pay som bills. Sa
kakadaldal na mention s lawyr my meeting wid u n judge rubia. My lawyr ws mad dat m nt suppose to do dat w/out hs
knowledge. I cnt understand anymore wat he ws sayng kanina kse nga galit. He wil file yata somtng abt dat n I dnt knwwat?
Pls. Help me. (August 8, 2010, 2:31 p.m.)

AILEEN PECAÑA [sic]:

Ha? Anong ififile? Bkt xa galit? Bka lalo tayo mapahamak? (August 8, 2010, 3:48 p.m.)

COMPLAINANT

M nt very sure bt he mentioned abt administrative or administratn something. I hav to talk to hm n person para mas claro.
Hirap kse by fon tlaga. He ws mad bcoz f our meetng nga, dats wat struck hm. Sorry, daldal kse ni kuya. M going to col kuya
tomorrow na. Its 1am na hr, I have to buy foncard pa. (August 8, 2010, 4:18 p.m.)

AILEEN PECAÑA [sic]

Admin? Nku d mapapahamak nga kaming 2 ni juj. Pati ikaw mapapahamak pa dn. (August 8, 2010, 4:28 p.m.)

AILEEN PECAÑA [sic]

Bkt xa galit kng mkpg kta ka sminwidout his knowledge. I cnt fathom y wil it end up filing an admin case. (August 8, 2010,
4:29 p.m.)

AILEEN PECAÑA [sic]


Pls Emily do something 2 pacify ur lawyer, juj rubia will definitely get mad wid us. (August 8, 2010, 4:30 p.m.) 48(Emphasis
supplied)

On September 15, 2010, complainant moved for respondent Judge Rubia’s inhibition. This was denied on October 6, 2010.
Complainant then filed a motion for reconsideration denied in an order49 dated November 15, 2010.50

On November 11, 2010, complainant filed a complaint affidavit 51 before the Office of the Court Administrator charging
respondent Pecaña for gross misconduct and respondent Judge Rubia for conduct unbecoming of a judge, partiality, gross
ignorance of the law or procedure, incompetence, and gross misconduct. 52

The Office of the Court Administrator referred the complaint to respondents for comment. 53

In her comment,54 respondent Pecaña did not deny meeting complainant on February 20, 2010 through the introduction of
Enrique Sison.55 However, she claimed that the alleged meeting between complainant and respondent Judge Rubia was
merely a chance encounter.

Respondent Pecaña alleged that "sometime [in the] second week of March 2010," 56 when she was on her way to Makati City
to meet her sisters for coffee, complainant invited her for dinner. Respondent Pecaña hesitantly agreed after complainant
had insisted.57 Complainant picked her up at Starbucks 6750 in Makati City, and they proceeded to Café Juanita in Burgos
Circle for dinner. Upon passing by Burgos Circle, respondent Pecaña saw respondent Judge Rubia’s car parked near Café
Juanita.58

At about past 10:00 p.m., respondent Pecaña said that she saw respondent Judge Rubia together with some companions
walking toward his car.59 She stepped out of the restaurant and greeted him. Complainant allegedly followed respondent
Pecaña and so the latter was constrained to introduce complainant as an employee of Philippine Airlines to respondent
Judge Rubia.60 After the introduction, respondent Judge Rubia went to his car and left. Complainant and respondent Pecaña
returned to the restaurant to finish their food and pay the bill. 61

Complainant drove respondent Pecaña back to Makati City. During the drive, complainant allegedly asked her help
regarding the cases filed in court and inquired as to what she could give to respondent Judge Rubia because her lawyers
instructed her to bribe him. Respondent Pecaña only said that respondent Judge Rubia does not accept money and that he
is financially stable.62

After the dinner, complainant allegedly kept on sending text messages to respondent Pecaña concerning her case filed in
court.63 Respondent Pecaña admitted to the exchanges through text messages she had with complainant on August 8, 2010
regarding the filing of administrative case against her and respondent Judge Rubia. 64

Respondent Pecaña denied being an advocate of Atty. Zarate. 65 She maintained the position that she should not be held
administratively liable for what she construed to be primarily judicial matters, such as the bases for respondent Judge
Rubia’s decisions and orders in court.66

Respondent Judge Rubia filed his comment67 on January 17, 2011.

Respondent Judge Rubia claimed that the alleged meeting between him and his co-respondent Pecaña together with
complainant was a mere chance encounter.68 He denied any pre-arranged dinner meeting, stating that after the brief
encounter with complainant, he had to rush home to attend to his ailing wife. 69 He stated that he was only introduced to
complainant because she was an employee of Philippine Airlines where he was a former executive. 70Respondent Judge
Rubia argued that if the alleged meeting with complainant did take place, it should have been mentioned in the first motion
for inhibition.71 Further, he emphasized that it took complainant eight (8) months since the alleged dinner meeting to file a
motion for inhibition and an administrative case. 72

Respondent Judge Rubia surmised that complainant and her counsel, hoping for a favorable outcome of the cases filed,
initiated contact with respondent Pecaña. The filing of the administrative case against him was only to compel him to inhibit
from the cases to seek a friendlier forum.73

Moreover, respondent Judge Rubia denied knowledge of any text messages exchanged between complainant and
respondent Pecaña as well as any active advocacy in favor of opposing counsel, Atty. Zarate. 74
As to the allegations of partiality concerning the orders he issued for the cases filed, respondent Judge Rubia argued that
the best forum to ventilate complainant’s allegations was not through an administrative proceeding but through judicial
recourse.75

Due to the gravity of the charges and the conflicting facts presented by the parties, the Office of the Court Administrator
recommended the referral of the administrative complaint to a Court of Appeals Justice for investigation, report, and
recommendation.76

On September 12, 2011, this court issued a resolution referring the administrative complaint to a Justice of the Court of
Appeals for investigation, report, and recommendation.77 The complaint was assigned to Court of Appeals Associate Justice
Samuel H. Gaerlan.

On December 5, 2011, Atty. Noe Zarate filed a motion for Intervention78 allegedly due to the implication of his name in the
administrative complaint.79

Atty. Zarate argued that the complaint should be dismissed on the ground of forum shopping because the orders issued by
respondent Judge Rubia and mentioned in the complaint were assailed in a petition for certiorari.80

Further, Atty. Zarate alleged that he did not know respondents personally, and he was not closely associated with them. 81 He
asserted that the records were replete with incidents where he and respondent Judge Rubia engaged in heated discussions
on legal matters.82 He maintained that he did not foster any closeness or personal affinity with respondent Judge Rubia that
would substantiate complainant’s allegations. 83

In addition, Atty. Zarate expressed his agreement with respondents’ narration of the events on the alleged dinner
meeting.84 He argued that if the dinner meeting did take place, this incident should have been the ground for the motion for
inhibition filed.85

Atty. Zarate stated that, granting arguendo that the dinner meeting happened, there was nothing "wrong, improper or
illegal"86 about it. It could have been reasonably interpreted as an extrajudicial means initiated by respondent Judge Rubia to
assuage the parties in the contentious litigation. 87

The motion for intervention was noted without action by Justice Gaerlan. 88

On December 15, 2011, the parties, together with their counsels, appeared before Justice Gaerlan. It was agreed that
respondents would file their respective supplemental comments and complainant her reply to the comment. Complainant
manifested that she would present three (3) witnesses: herself and her two brothers. Respondent Pecaña would testify for
herself and present Semenidad Pecaña, her aunt, as witness. Respondent Judge Rubia manifested that he would testify on
his behalf and present respondent Pecaña as witness.89

Respondents Judge Rubia and Pecaña filed their respective supplemental comments dated December 15, 2011 90and
December 16, 2011,91 respectively. Complainant filed her consolidated reply on January 17, 2012.92

A second hearing on the administrative complaint ensued on January 10, 2012 where complainant testified on the dinner
meeting on March 3, 2010.

During the hearing, complainant identified a document containing a list of phone calls showing that she called respondent
Pecaña on March 2 and 3, 2010.93 Counsel for respondent Pecaña stipulated that these calls were made to her. 94

The hearing of the administrative complaint continued on January 12, 17, and 24, 2012.

In the January 17, 2012 hearing, respondent Pecaña testified to the allegations in her comment and judicial affidavit. She
alleged for the first time that the dinner meeting with complainant happened on March 10, not March 3, 2010.

On January 24, 2012, Mr. Rodel Cortez, secretariat of the Rotary Club of Makati Southwest Chapter, was presented as
witness for respondent Judge Rubia. Rodel testified that the Rotary Club of Makati Southwest Chapter had a meeting on
March 10, 2010 at Numa Restaurant in Bonifacio Global City. Respondent Judge Rubia attended the meeting as shown in
the attendance sheet identified by Rodel.
Rodel testified that after the meeting, he, Billy Francisco, and respondent Judge Rubia walked together toward the parking
area. When they were nearing Burgos Circle where their cars were parked, Rodel allegedly saw complainant and
respondent Pecaña approaching them.95 He then saw respondent Pecaña introduce complainant to respondent Judge
Rubia.96 After the introduction, he saw respondent Judge Rubia go to his car and drive away. 97

Respondent Judge Rubia testified for himself. He identified the comment and judicial affidavit filed. 98 He alleged that the
encounter with complainant at Burgos Circle was on March 10, not March 3, 2010. 99

Complying with the order dated January 31, 2012,100 the parties filed their respective memoranda.

Justice Gaerlan submitted his investigation report dated March 13, 2012. 101 In his report, Justice Gaerlan recommended that
no penalty be imposed against respondents. 102 He was "convinced that the meeting at Burgos Circle was just a chance
encounter"103 and found that complainant failed to prove her claim with substantial evidence that would justify the imposition
of a penalty on respondents.104

Justice Gaerlan relied on the testimony of Rodel Cortez as against the uncorroborated testimony of complainant.105

Justice Gaerlan emphasized the fact that it had taken complainant eight (8) months before she filed the administrative
complaint.106 He stated that the deliberate concealment of the meeting was inconsistent with her resolve to prove respondent
Judge Rubia’s alleged partiality toward the counsel of the opposing party. 107

As to the other charges against respondent Judge Rubia, Justice Gaerlan stated that the administrative case was not the
proper recourse for complainant.108 The proper action for her was to pursue remedial action through the courts "to rectify the
purported error"109 in the court proceedings.

The Office of the Court Administrator referred the report to this court.

The issue in this case is whether respondents Judge Rubia and Pecaña should be held administratively liable.

This court must set aside the findings of fact and reject the report of Justice Samuel Gaerlan. Respondents Judge Rubia and
Pecaña should be held administratively liable for their actions. The findings of fact of an investigating justice must be
accorded great weight and finality similar with the weight given to a trial court judge’s since an investigating justice
personally assessed the witnesses’ credibility. 110 However, this rule admits of exceptions.

In J. King & Sons Company, Inc. v. Judge Hontanosas, Jr., 111 this court held:

Such findings may be reviewed if there appears in the record some fact or circumstance of weight which the lower court may
have overlooked, misunderstood or misappreciated, and which, if properly considered, would alter the result of the case.
Among the circumstances which had been held to be justifiable reasons for the Court to re-examine the trial court or
appellate court’s findings of facts are, when the interference made is manifestly mistaken; when the judgment is based on
misapprehension of facts; and when the finding of fact of the trial court or appellate court is premised on the supposed
absence of evidence and is contradicted by evidence on record. 112 (Citations omitted)

These exceptions are applicable in this case. In disregarding the complainant’s testimony and relying on the testimony of
Cortez, respondent Judge Rubia’s witness, Justice Gaerlan said:

While respondents were able to present a witness to corroborate their version of the incident on all material points,
complainant miserably failed on this regard. The Investigating Justice who had the untrammeled opportunity to observe the
deportment and demeanor of the respondent’s witness, Rodel Cortez (Cortez) during the hearing finds his forthright
narration of facts credible and rang with truth. The clear, candid and unmistakable declaration of Cortez that the incident that
transpired along the sidewalk of Burgos Circle was just a chance encounter, absent any ulterior motive for him to perjure,
swayed this Investigating Justice to believe that the dinner meeting between Judge Rubia and Barias did not [take] place. A
testimony is credible if it bears the earmarks of truth and sincerity and has been delivered in a spontaneous, natural, and
straightforward manner.

Not only that. Cortez’[s] testimony was likewise corroborated by other pieces of evidence, such as the Program of Meeting
and the Attendance Sheet of the Rotary Club of Makati Southwest which tend to prove that at that particular date and time
Judge Rubia was in a rotary meeting and was not dining with Rubia and Pecaña. These evidence, when taken together,
debase the uncorroborated version of incident as narrated by Barias. Barias[’] self-serving declarations have no evidentiary
value when ranged against the testimony of a credible witness on affirmative matters. 113 (Emphasis supplied)
We cannot agree with Justice Gaerlan’s assessment of the credibility of the witnesses and the weight given to their
testimonies.

Justice Gaerlan placed too much importance on the testimony of Rodel Cortez, the Secretariat of the Rotary Club of Makati,
Southwest Chapter, and qualified him as a "disinterested" witness.

A disinterested witness’ testimony is afforded evidentiary weight by his or her lack of interest in the outcome of the
case. This lack of stake makes the disinterested witness’ testimony more believable. To actively take part in litigation as a
1âwphi1

party or a witness entails willingness to commit to the arduous and exacting nature of most judicial proceedings. The
disinterested witness’ candor and submission to the proceedings before the court add credibility and believability to the
content of his or her testimony.

To qualify a witness as truly disinterested, courts should analyze the circumstances that surround his or her testimony.

The record shows that the Rotary Club of Makati, Southwest Chapter, employed Rodel in 1989. 114 He was appointed
Secretariat in 1994 where respondent Judge Rubia was a former President and remains an active member.115

The finding that respondent Judge Rubia is administratively liable could taint the reputation of the organization that the
witness has been serving for more than 20 years. It would be a definite blow to the reputation of the Rotary Club of Makati,
Southwest Chapter, if its former President were to be found guilty of the offenses that complainant imputed upon respondent
Judge Rubia. The possibility of Rodel testifying in favor of respondent Judge Rubia as a result of his loyalty to the latter and
the Rotary Club puts into question the characterization that he is disinterested. The substance of Rodel’s narration of events
should also be scrutinized.

Complainant alleged that the dinner meeting set among her, respondent Pecaña, and respondent Judge Rubia took place
on March 3, 2010, as indicated in the investigation report of Justice Gaerlan. The record shows that the Investigating Justice
accepted the formal offer of Exhibit A, which was complainant’s judicial affidavit establishing the date of the dinner as March
3, 2010 in Café Juanita.116 Complainant also alleged in her complaint that respondent Judge Rubia came from Mandarin
Hotel in Makati from the Rotary Club of Makati, Southwest Chapter meeting. 117

The testimony of Rodel and the evidence submitted by respondents alleged that the chance meeting of respondent Judge
Rubia with complainant and respondent Pecaña took place on March 10, 2010 on the side street of Burgos Circle in
Bonifacio Global City, after the Rotary Club of Makati, Southwest Chapter meeting and dinner at Numa Restaurant, on their
way to the parking lot. This means that the testimony of and the evidence presented by Rodel do not disprove the
occurrence of the dinner meeting as alleged by complainant, since the meeting of the Rotary Club and the dinner meeting
alleged by complainant took place on different dates. Assuming that the alleged chance meeting between complainant and
respondent Judge Rubia took place on March 10, 2010 as alleged by respondents, this does not discount the veracity of
complainant’s allegations. Both the Rotary Club of Makati, Southwest Chapter dinner and the dinner meeting alleged by
complainant took place in the vicinity of Bonifacio Global City. This could have allowed respondent Judge Rubia ample time
to travel to the dinner meeting after the meeting of the Rotary Club of Makati.

The investigation report stated that the attendance sheet 118 and the program of meeting that Rodel submitted corroborated
his testimony. The date indicated on the attendance sheet and on the program of meeting was March 10, 2010, not March 3,
2010. However, there was nothing to indicate the time of arrival or departure of the attendees. Neither was there an
indication of the time when the meeting began or ended. The attendance sheet and the program of meeting, by themselves
or taken as corroborative evidence of Rodel’s testimony, do not discount the distinct and tangible possibility that the dinner
meeting as narrated by complainant took place. On the other hand, we find the allegation that the dinner meeting took place
on March 3, 2010 more credible.

Complainant presented a document containing a list of calls she made from January to March 2010. 119 She identified her
cellular phone number120 as well as respondent Pecaña’s.121 Respondent Pecaña admitted that the number identified by
complainant was her number.122 On March 2 and 3, 2010, calls were made to respondent Pecaña’s number. 123 Respondent
Pecaña admitted that she had received a call from complainant before the latter picked her up at 6750 Makati
City.124 However, no calls to respondent Pecaña were recorded on March 10, 2010 in the document presented. 125 On the
other hand, the calls made to respondent Pecaña as shown in the document coincided with complainant’s allegations.

Finally, during the December 15, 2011 hearing, respondent Judge only manifested that he would testify for himself and
present respondent Pecaña as witness.126 He did not manifest that he would be presenting Rodel or any participant in the
Rotary Club meeting as his witness.

The totality of these circumstances places doubt on the alibi of respondent Judge Rubia and Rodel’s narration of events.
The differing accounts on the dates and the venues were not addressed in the investigation report of Justice Gaerlan. The
report failed to mention that complainant alleged that respondent Judge Rubia arrived late precisely because he came from
a meeting of the Rotary Club of Makati. These glaring inconsistencies did not add evidentiary weight to respondents’ claims.
They only put into question the veracity of the exculpatory evidence.

This court has held:

In administrative proceedings, the quantum of proof required to establish a respondent’s malfeasance is not proof beyond
reasonable doubt but substantial evidence, i.e., that amount of relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion, is required. Faced with conflicting versions of complainant and respondent, the Court
gives more weight to the allegations and testimony of the complainant and her witnesses who testified clearly and
consistently before the Investigating Judge.127 (Emphasis supplied; citations omitted)

After scrutinizing the testimony of complainant and the evidence she presented to support her allegations, we find her
account of the event to be genuine and believable.

Complainant’s narration of the dinner meeting held on March 3, 2010 and her account of events leading up to the dinner
meeting were detailed and comprehensive. The conversation alleged by complainant that took place with respondents
during the meeting was replete with details.

The strongest corroborative evidence to support complainant’s allegations was the exchange of text messages between
complainant and respondent Pecaña regarding the dinner meeting. These text messages were admitted by respondent
Pecaña.128 However, Justice Gaerlan failed to give any weight to the exchange of text messages. This fact was not included
in his investigation report.129

The content of the text messages of respondent Pecaña belied respondents’ claim that the alleged dinner meeting in Burgos
Circle was only a chance encounter.

AILEEN PECAÑA [sic]

Bkt xa galit kngmkpg kta ka smin widout his knowledge. I cnt fathom y wil it end up filing an admin case. (August 8, 2010,
4:29 p.m.)

AILEEN PECAÑA [sic]

Pls Emily do something 2 pacify ur lawyer, juj rubia will definitely get mad wid us. (August 8, 2010, 4:30 p.m.) 130(Emphasis
supplied)

Respondent Pecaña used the phrase, "mkpg kta," which may be translated to "have a meeting." "Mkpg kta" can in no way
mean a chance encounter.

Further, respondent Pecaña’s text messages sent to complainant belied her claim of an innocent chance encounter. She
said that respondent Judge Rubia would get angry after complainant had informed her that her lawyer might file an
administrative case against them. Respondent Judge Rubia would not have had a reason to get upset because of the
possibility of administrative liability if an innocent and coincidental encounter happened and not a dinner meeting. However,
if the meeting took place as alleged by complainant, this would have logically led to a hostile reaction from respondents,
particularly respondent Judge Rubia.

In her testimony before Justice Gaerlan, respondent Pecaña gave the following testimony:

ATTY FERNANDEZ:

In August 2010, you admitted in your comment and your supplemental comment that you received a text coming from Emilie
Barias saying her lawyer is mad with her because of that meeting, isn’t it?

EILEEN PECAÑA:

Yes, sir.
ATTY FERNANDEZ:

In fact you admitted that there were text messages coming from you and Judge Rubia in March 2010, isn’t it?

EILEEN PECAÑA:

Yes, sir.

ATTY FERNANDEZ:

And in fact, you admitted that there were [sic] indeed a text message coming from you and this is: ["]ha anong ipafile baka
lalo tayong mapapahamk?["] And another message says "bakit siya...another...did you do something to pacify her
lawyer...so you affirm these message [sic]? EILEEN PECAÑA:

Yes, sir.

ATTY FERNANDEZ:

Based on those messages of yours, is it correct that you fear....?

EILEEN PECAÑA:

I am not afraid in a way na pinalalabas nila.

ATTY. FERNANDEZ:

And in fact in your comment and in your supplemental comment you were explaining the context of these messages?

EILEEN PECAÑA:

Alin po doon?

ATTY. FERNANDEZ

The first one? "bakit sya galit baka lalo tayong mapahamak"

EILEEN PECAÑA:

Ang ipinapaliwanag ko chance meeting outside the street.

ATTY. FERNANDEZ

How about the part where "administrative[. . . .]"

EILEEN PECAÑA:

The reason why I said that is because as employees of the court, whenever an administrative case is filed against us[,] we
will be investigated like this, and our benefits and promotion chances we will be disqualified.

ATTY. FERNANDEZ

In your text messages you never mentioned to Emilie that it would end up in an administrative case because you simply
thought that it was a chance meeting?

EILEEN PECAÑA:
Ano po sir?

ATTY. FERNANDEZ:

You cannot fathom why it will end up as an administrative case because it was only a chance meeting?

EILEEN PECAÑA:

Immediately on the text messages she knows already what happened why should I have to explain?

....

ATTY. FERNANDEZ:

Did you tell her while exchanging text messages that it was just a chance meeting?

EILEEN PECAÑA:

No more, sir.

ATTY. FERNANDEZ:

So you no longer took it upon you to tell Emilie to advise her lawyer not to get mad becauseit was only a chance meeting?
(No answer from the witness.)131

Respondents also alleged that the chance encounter happened because respondent Pecaña, while having dinner with
complainant, stepped out of the restaurant to greet respondent Judge Rubia on the side street of Burgos Circle. Since
complainant allegedly followed respondent Pecaña out of the restaurant, the latter introduced complainant to respondent
Judge Rubia.

This allegation is quite implausible after taking into account the following admissions:

1. Respondent Pecaña described her relationship with Judge Rubia as "[w]ala naman po masyado. My dealing
with the Judge is only in relation with my work because during flag ceremonies he always reminds us not to act as
go between or not to be involved in the cases filed in the court." 132

2. Respondent Judge Rubia is not the immediate superior of respondent Pecaña as the latter is in the Office of the
Clerk of Court.

3. Respondent Pecaña was having dinner with complainant whom she knew had a pending case before
respondent Judge Rubia.

4. Respondent Judge Rubia always reminded court employees not to have dealings with litigants.

There was clearly no reason for respondent Pecaña to go out of her way to greet respondent Judge Rubia. In fact, after
allegedly being repeatedly reminded that court employees should not have any dealings with litigants, respondent Pecaña
should not have gone out to greet respondent Judge Rubia since she was dining with a litigant.

The odds that complainant and respondent Pecaña would meet respondent Judge Rubia by pure coincidence are highly
improbable. Granted, chance meetings between persons may take place, but a chance meeting between a litigant in the
company of a court employee who acceded to assisting the litigant in a case and the judge deciding that case is outside the
realm of common experience. The odds of such an occurrence are, indeed, one in a million. The sheer improbability of such
an occurrence already puts into question the truth of respondents’ allegations.

Based on these considerations, the narrative of complainant is more believable and must be afforded greater evidentiary
weight.
Delay in filing of administrative complaint is not a defense

The investigation report placed particular emphasis on the eight-month period between the alleged dinner meeting and the
filing of the administrative complaint. The eight-month delay in the filing of the administrative complaint is of no
consequence.

Delay in filing an administrative complaint should not be construed as basis to question its veracity or credibility. There are
considerations that a litigant must think about before filing an administrative case against judges and court personnel. This is
more so for lawyers where the possibility of appearing before the judge where an administrative complaint has been filed is
high.

Here, respondent Judge Rubia presided over three cases that involved complainant and her late husband’s estate. He
wielded an unmistakable amount of control over the proceedings.

Filing an administrative case against respondents is a time-consuming ordeal, and it would require additional time and
resources that litigants would rather not expend in the interest of preserving their rights in the suit. Complainant might have
decided to tread with caution so as not to incur the ire of respondent Judge Rubia for fear of the reprisal that could take
place after the filing of an administrative complaint.

Judges and court personnel wield extraordinary control over court proceedings of cases filed. Thus, litigants are always
cautious in filing administrative cases against judges and court personnel.

In any case, administrative offenses, including those committed by members of the bench and bar, are not subject to a fixed
period within which they must be reported. In Heck v. Judge Santos, 133 this court held that:

Pursuant to the foregoing, there can be no other conclusion than that an administrative complaint against an erring lawyer
who was thereafter appointed as a judge, albeit filed only after twenty-four years after the offending act was committed, is
not barred by prescription. If the rule were otherwise, members of the bar would be emboldened to disregard the very oath
they took as lawyers, prescinding from the fact that as long as no private complainant would immediately come forward, they
stand a chance of being completely exonerated from whatever administrative liability they ought to answer for. It is the duty
of this Court to protect the integrity of the practice of law as well as the administration of justice. No matter how much time
has elapsed from the time of the commission of the act complained of and the time of the institution of the complaint, erring
members of the bench and bar cannot escape the disciplining arm of the Court. This categorical pronouncement is aimed at
unscrupulous members of the bench and bar, to deter them from committing acts which violate the Code of Professional
Responsibility, the Code of Judicial Conduct, or the Lawyer’s Oath. 134 (Emphasis supplied)

If this court saw fit to penalize a member of the bench for an offense committed more than twenty years prior to the filing of
the complaint, then the eight-month period cannot prejudice the complainant.

The interval between the time when the offense was committed and the time when the offense was officially reported cannot
serve as a basis to doubt the veracity of complainant’s allegations. This court’s mandate to discipline members of the
judiciary and its personnel is implemented by pertinent rules and statutes. Judges are disciplined based on whether their
actions violated the New Code of Judicial Conduct. 135 Court personnel are also governed by the Code of Conduct for Court
Personnel136 and are appointed in accordance with the Civil Service Law, as provided for in Section 5, Article VIII of the 1987
Constitution. None of these rules for administrative discipline mandates a period within which a complaint must be filed after
the commission or discovery of the offense. This court determines with finality the liability of erring members of the judiciary
and its employees. The gravity of an administrative offense cannot be diminished by a delay in the filing of a complaint.

To dismiss the commission of the offense based on this eight-month period is to ignore the distinct and tangible possibility
that the offense was actually committed. The commission of the offense is not contingent on the period of revelation or
disclosure. To dismiss the complaint on this ground is tantamount to attaching a period of prescription to the offense, which
does not apply in administrative charges.

Respondent Pecaña’s actions amount to violations of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel

"Court personnel, regardless of position or rank, are expected to conduct themselves in accordance with the strict standards
of integrity and morality."137

The complaint states that respondents were allegedly acting in favor of Atty. Noe Zarate, counsel for the opposing parties in
the three cases pending in the sala of respondent Judge Rubia. Because of respondents’ actions, complainant and all who
will be made aware of the events of this case will harbor distrust toward the judiciary and its processes. For this alone,
respondents should be held administratively liable.

For respondent Pecaña, the fact that she allowed herself to be placed in a position that could cause suspicion toward her
work as a court personnel is disconcerting.

As a court employee, respondent Pecaña should have known better than to interact with litigants in a way that could
compromise the confidence that the general public places in the judiciary. Respondent Pecaña should have refused to meet
with complainant in her home. She should have refused any other form of extended communication with complainant, save
for those in her official capacity as a Data Encoder of the court. This continued communication between complainant and
respondent Pecaña makes her culpable for failure to adhere to the strict standard of propriety mandated of court personnel.

Respondent Pecaña admitted to meeting with complainant several times, despite the former’s knowledge of the pendency of
cases in the court where she is employed and in addition to the text messages exchanged between them. She had a duty to
sever all forms of communication with complainant or to inform her superiors or the proper authority of complainant’s
attempts to communicate with her. Respondent Pecaña failed to do so. Instead, she continued to communicate with
complainant, even to the extent of advising complainant against filing an administrative case against her and respondent
Judge Rubia.

Respondent Pecaña violated Canon 1 of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel:

CANON I
FIDELITY TO DUTY

....

SECTION 3. Court personnel shall not discriminate by dispensing special favors to anyone. They shall not allow kinship,
rank, position or favors from any party to influence their official acts or duties.

....

SECTION 5. Court personnel shall use the resources, property and funds under their official custody in a judicious manner
and solely in accordance with the prescribed statutory and regulatory guidelines or procedures.

Respondent Pecaña’s actions constitute a clear violation of the requirement that all court personnel uphold integrity and
prudence in all their actions. As stated in Villaros v. Orpiano:138

Time and time again, we have stressed that the behavior of all employees and officials involved in the administration of
justice, from judges to the most junior clerks, is circumscribed with a heavy responsibility. Their conduct must be guided by
strict propriety and decorum at all times in order to merit and maintain the public’s respect for and trust in the judiciary.
Needless to say, all court personnel must conduct themselves in a manner exemplifying integrity, honesty and uprightness. 139

Respondent Pecaña should, thus, be held administratively liable for her actions.

Respondent Judge Rubia committed gross violations of the New Code of Judicial Conduct

By meeting a litigant and advising her to talk to opposing counsel, respondent Judge Rubia violated several canons of the
New Code of Judicial Conduct.

Respondent Judge Rubia failed to act in a manner that upholds the dignity mandated by his office. He was already made
aware of the impropriety of respondent Pecaña’s actions by virtue of her admissions in her comment. At the time of the
referral of the complaint to the Office of the Court Administrator, respondent Judge Rubia was already the Executive Judge
of Branch 24 of the Regional Trial Court of Biñan, Laguna. 140 As a judge, he had the authority to ensure that all court
employees, whether or not they were under his direct supervision, act in accordance with the esteem of their office.

Respondent Pecaña even alleged that respondent Judge Rubia made several warnings to all court employees not to
intercede in any case pending before any court under his jurisdiction as Executive Judge. 141 However, nothing in the record
shows that respondent Judge Rubia took action after being informed of respondent Pecaña’s interactions with a litigant,
such as ascertaining her actions, conducting an inquiry to admonish or discipline her, or at least reporting her actions to the
Office of the Court Administrator.

For this failure alone, respondent Judge Rubia should be held administratively liable. Furthermore, the evidence on record
supports the allegations that a meeting with complainant, a litigant with several cases pending before his sala, took place.
Respondent Judge Rubia’s mere presence in the dinner meeting provides a ground for administrative liability.

In Gandeza Jr. v. Tabin,142 this court reminded judges:

Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct requires a judge to avoid not only impropriety but also the mere appearance of
impropriety in all activities.

To stress how the law frowns upon even any appearance of impropriety in a magistrate’s activities, it has often been held
that a judge must be like Caesar’s wife - above suspicion and beyond reproach. Respondent’s act discloses a deficiency in
prudence and discretion that a member of the Judiciary must exercise in the performance of his official functions and of his
activities as a private individual. It is never trite to caution respondent to be prudent and circumspect in both speech and
action, keeping in mind that her conduct in and outside the courtroom is always under constant observation. 143 (Emphasis
supplied, citations omitted) Respondent Judge Rubia clearly failed to live up to the standards of his office. By participating in
the dinner meeting and by failing to admonish respondent Pecaña for her admitted impropriety, respondent Judge Rubia
violated Canons 1 and 2 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct.

Canon 1 INDEPENDECE

Judicial Independence is a pre-requisite to the rule of law and a fundamental guarantee of a fair trial. A judge shall therefore
uphold and exemplify judicial independence in both its individual and institutional aspects.

Section 1. Judges shall exercise the judicial function independently on the basis of their assessment of the facts and in
accordance with a conscientious understanding of the law, free of any extraneous influence, inducement, pressure, threat or
interference, direct or indirect, from any quarter or for any reason.

Section 6. Judges shall be independent in relation to society in general and in relation to the particular parties to a dispute
which he or she has to adjudicate.

Section 8. Judges shall exhibit and promote high standards of judicial conduct in order to reinforce public confidence in the
judiciary, which is fundamental to the maintenance of judicial independence.

Canon 2 INTEGRITY

Integrity is essential not only to the proper discharge of the judicial office but also to the personal demeanor of judges.

Section 1. Judges shall ensure that not only is their conduct above reproach, but that it is perceived to be so in view of a
reasonable observer.

Section 2. The behavior and conduct of judges must reaffirm the people’s faith in the integrity of the judiciary. Justice must
not merely be done but must also be seen to be done.

Section 3. Judges should take or initiate appropriate disciplinary measures against lawyers or court personnel for
unprofessional conduct of which the judge may have become aware.

In De la Cruz v. Judge Bersamira,144 this court explained the necessity of a judge’s integrity:

By the very nature of the bench, judges, more than the average man, are required to observe an exacting standard of
morality and decency. The character of a judge is perceived by the people not only through his official acts but also through
his private morals as reflected in his external behavior. It is therefore paramount that a judge’s personal behavior both in the
performance of his duties and his daily life, be free from the appearance of impropriety as to be beyond reproach. Only
recently, in Magarang v. Judge Galdino B. Jardin, Sr., the Court pointedly stated that:
While every public office in the government is a public trust, no position exacts a greater demand on moral righteousness
and uprightness of an individual than a seat in the judiciary. Hence, judges are strictly mandated to abide by the law, the
Code of Judicial Conduct and with existing administrative policies in order to maintain the faith of the people in the
administration of justice.145

In Castillo v. Judge Calanog, Jr.,146 this court held:

The Code of Judicial Ethics mandates that the conduct of a judge must be free of a whiff of impropriety not only with respect
to his performance of his judicial duties, but also to his behavior outside his sala as a private individual. There is no
dichotomy of morality: a public official is also judged by his private morals. The Code dictates that a judge, in order to
promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, must behave with propriety at all times. As we
have recently explained, a judge’s official life can not simply be detached or separated from his personal existence. Thus:

Being the subject of constant public scrutiny, a judge should freely and willingly accept restrictions on conduct that might be
viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen.

A judge should personify judicial integrity and exemplify honest public service. The personal behavior of a judge, both in the
performance of official duties and in private life should be above suspicion. 147 (Citations omitted)

In De la Cruz, this court emphasized the need for impartiality of judges:

. . . [A] judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all his activities. A judge is not only required to
be impartial; he must also appear to be impartial. x x x Public confidence in the judiciary is eroded by irresponsible or
improper conduct of judges.

. . . In this connection, the Court pointed out in Joselito Rallos, et al. v. Judge Ireneo Lee Gako Jr., RTC Branch 5, Cebu
City, that:

Well-known is the judicial norm that "judges should not only be impartial but should also appear impartial." Jurisprudence
repeatedly teaches that litigants are entitled to nothing less than the cold neutrality of an impartial judge. The other elements
of due process, like notice and hearing, would become meaningless if the ultimate decision is rendered by a partial or biased
judge. Judges must not only render just, correct and impartial decisions, but must do so in a manner free of any suspicion as
to their fairness, impartiality and integrity.

This reminder applies all the more sternly to municipal, metropolitan and regional trial court judges like herein respondent,
because they are judicial front-liners who have direct contact with the litigating parties.

They are the intermediaries between conflicting interests and the embodiments of the people’s sense of justice. Thus, their
official conduct should be beyond reproach. 148 (Citations omitted, emphasis supplied)

In the motion for intervention filed by Atty. Zarate before Justice Gaerlan, Atty. Zarate stated that even if respondent Judge
Rubia was present at the dinner meeting, it was merely an attempt to reconcile the parties and reach an extrajudicial
solution.149

This is telling of a culture of tolerance that has led to the decay of the exacting nature of judicial propriety. Instead of being
outraged by respondent Judge Rubia’s meeting an opposing party, Atty. Zarate defended respondent Judge Rubia’s actions.

Had it been true that a settlement was being brokered by respondent Judge Rubia, it should have been done in open court
with the record reflecting such an initiative.

As to complainant’s questioning of respondent Judge Rubia’s actions in the issuance of the orders in her pending cases and
the exercise of his judgment, this court agrees that complainant should resort to the appropriate judicial remedies. This,
however, does not negate the administrative liability of respondent Judge Rubia. His actions failed to assure complainant
and other litigants before his court of the required "cold neutrality of an impartial judge." 150Because of this, respondent Judge
Rubia also violated Canon 3 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct on Impartiality:

CANON 3. IMPARTIALITY
Impartiality is essential to the proper discharge of the judicial office. It applies not only to the decision itself but also to the
process by which the decision is made.

Section 1. Judges shall perform their judicial duties without favor, bias, or prejudice.

Section 2. Judges shall ensure that his or her conduct, both in and out of court, maintains and enhances the confidence of
the public, the legal profession and litigants in the impartiality of the judge and of the judiciary.

Section 3. Judges shall, so far as is reasonable, so conduct themselves as to minimize the occasions on which it will be
necessary for them to be disqualified from hearing or deciding cases.

Section 4. Judges shall not knowingly, while a proceeding is before, or could come before them, make any comment that
might reasonably be expected to affect the outcome of such proceeding or impair the manifest fairness of the process. Nor
shall judges make any comment in public or otherwise that might affect the fair trial of any person or issue.

Complainant correctly cited Pascual v. Judge Bonifacio151 where this court held:

Upon assumption of office, a judge becomes the visible representation of the law and of justice. Membership in the judiciary
circumscribes one's personal conduct and imposes upon him a number of inhibitions, whose faithful observance is the price
one has to pay for holding such an exalted position. Thus, a magistrate of the law must comport himself at all times in such a
manner that his conduct, official or otherwise, can withstand the most searching public scrutiny, for the ethical principles and
sense of propriety of a judge are essential to the preservation of the people's faith in the judicial system. This Court does not
require of judges that they measure up to the standards of conduct of the saints and martyrs, but we do expect them to be
like Caesar's wife in all their activities. Hence, we require them to abide strictly by the Code of Judicial Conduct.

It appears now that respondent has failed to live up to those rigorous standards. Whether or not he purposely went to the
Manila Hotel on November 25, 1998 to meet complainant or only had a chance meeting with him, his act of trying to
convince complainant to agree to his proposal is an act of impropriety. It is improper and highly unethical for a judge to
suggest to a litigant what to do to resolve his case for such would generate the suspicion that the judge is in collusion with
one party. A litigant in a case is entitled to no less than the cold neutrality of an impartial judge. Judges are not only required
to be impartial, but also to appear to be so, for appearance is an essential manifestation of reality. Hence, not only must a
judge render a just decision, he is also duty bound to render it in a manner completely free from suspicion as to its fairness
and its integrity. Respondent's conduct in the instant case inevitably invites doubts about respondent's probity and integrity.
It gives ground for a valid reproach. In the judiciary, moral integrity is more than a cardinal virtue, it is a necessity. Moreover,
a judge's lack of impartiality or the mere appearance of bias would cause resentment if the party who refused the judge's
proposal subsequently lost his case. It would give rise to suspicion that the judgment was "fixed" beforehand. Such
circumstance tarnishes the image of the judiciary and brings to it public contempt, disrepute, and ridicule. Thus, we are
constrained to rule that respondent violated Rule 2.01 of the Code of Judicial Conduct. His misconduct is not excused but
rather made more glaring by the fact that the controversy involving complainant was pending in his own sala. 152 (Citations
omitted)

The totality of the actions of respondent Judge Rubia is a clear manifestation of a lack of integrity and impartiality essential
to a judge.

By meeting with complainant, respondent Judge Rubia also violated Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct:

CANON 4. PROPRIETY

Propriety and the appearance of propriety are essential to the performance of all the activities of a judge.

Section 1. Judges shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of their activities.

Section 2. As a subject of constant public scrutiny, judges must accept personal restrictions that might be viewed as
burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should do so freely and willingly. In particular, judges shall conduct themselves in a
way that is consistent with the dignity of the judicial office.

Section 3. Judges shall, in their personal relations with individual members of the legal profession who practice regularly in
their court, avoid situations which might reasonably give rise to the suspicion or appearance of favoritism or partiality.
On propriety, this court held in Atty. Raul L. Correa v. Judge Medel Arnaldo Belen 153 that: Indeed, the New Code of Judicial
Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary exhorts members of the judiciary, in the discharge of their duties, to be models of
propriety at all times.

....

A judge is the visible representation of the law. Thus, he must behave, at all times, in such a manner that his conduct, official
or otherwise, can withstand the most searching public scrutiny. The ethical principles and sense of propriety of a judge are
essential to the preservation of the people's faith in the judicial system. 154

Because of the meeting, and the subsequent orders issued after the meeting, respondent Judge Rubia violated the notions
of propriety required of his office. Respondents have relentlessly stood by their position that the meeting was a chance
encounter, and, thus, no impropriety could be attributed to the meeting itself.

Respondent Judge Rubia’s actions belittled the integrity required of judges in all their dealings inside and outside the courts.
For these actions, respondent Judge Rubia now lost the requisite integrity, impartiality, and propriety fundamental to his
office. He cannot be allowed to remain a member of the judiciary.

Respondents in this case failed to subscribe to the highest moral fiber mandated of the judiciary and its personnel. Their
actions tainted their office and besmirched its integrity. In effect, both respondents are guilty of gross misconduct. This court
defined misconduct as "a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, more particularly, unlawful behavior
or gross negligence by a public officer."155 In Camus v. The Civil Service Board of Appeals,156 this court held that
"[m]isconduct has been defined as ‘wrong or improper conduct’ and ‘gross’ has been held to mean ‘flagrant; shameful’. . . .
This Court once held that the word misconduct implies a wrongful intention and not a mere error of judgment." 157

Both respondents are indeed guilty of gross misconduct. However, respondent Judge Rubia is also guilty of conduct
unbecoming of a judge for violating Canons 2, 3, and 4 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct.

This is not to say that complainant comes to these proceedings with clean hands either. As a litigant, she is enjoined to act
in such a way that will not place the integrity of the proceedings in jeopardy. Her liability, however, is not the subject of these
proceedings. To ensure that these actions will no longer be committed by any party, respondents must be sanctioned
accordingly, in keeping with the court’s mandate to uphold a character of trust and integrity in society. WHEREFORE, the
court resolved tore docket the case as a regular administrative matter. Respondent Judge Marino Rubia is hereby
DISMISSED from the service, with corresponding forfeiture of all retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and
disqualified from reinstatement or appointment in any public office, including government owned or -controlled corporations.
Respondent Eileen Pecaña is SUSPENDED for one (1) year for gross misconduct. This decision is immediately executory.
Respondent Judge Rubia is further ordered to cease and desist from discharging the functions of his office upon receipt of
this decision. Let a copy hereof be entered in the personal records of respondents.

SO ORDERED.