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Damages despite acquittal in criminal cases Issue:

Independent Civil actions Whether or not the marriage of respondent to Ma.


Luisa is void ab initio.
Prejudicial questions
Held:
Case digest
To this date, the records fail to disclose the outcome of
this case.

Eduardo M. Cojuangco, Jr., complainant Respondent admits that he married Luisa in Hongkong
versus Atty. Leo J. Palma, respondent. representing himself as a bachelor; however, he
Adm. Case No. 2474 September 15, 2004 claimed that the marriage certificate stated a condition
no different from the term “spinster” with respect to
Luisa. There is no question that respondent as a lawyer
Facts: well versed in the law knew fully well that in marrying
Maria Luisa he was entering into a bigamous
Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr. filed with this Court the marriage defined and penalized under Article 349 of
instant complaint for disbarment against Atty. Leo J. the Revised Penal Code.
Palma, alleging as grounds deceit, malpractice, gross
misconduct in office, violation of his oath as a lawyer The ringing truth in this case is that respondent
and grossly immoral conduct. married Lisa while he has a subsisting marriage with
Elizabeth Hermosisima. The Certification from the
Complainant was a client of Angara Concepcion Regala Local Civil Registrar of Cebu City shows that he
and Cruz Law Offices (ACCRA) and respondent was the married Elizabeth on December 19, 1971 at the
lawyer assigned to handle his cases. He hired Cardial’s Private Chapel, Cebu City. On the other hand,
respondent as his personal counsel. Consequently, the Certificate of Marriage from the Deputy Registrar
respondent’s relationship with complainant became of Marriages in Hongkong proves respondent’s
intimate. On June 22, without the knowledge of subsequent marriage with Lisa on July 9, 1982. That
complainant’s family, respondent married Lisa, the Elizabeth was alive at the time of respondent’s second
complainant’s daughter in Hongkong. Complainant marriage was confirmed. In particular, he made a
came to know that, a) on the date of the supposed mockery of marriage which is a sacred institution
marriage, respondent requested from his demanding respect and dignity. His act of contracting
(complainant’s) office and airplane ticket to and from a second marriage is contrary to honesty, justice,
Australia, with stop-over in Hongkong; b) respondent decency and morality.
misrepresented himself as bachelor in the Hongkong Respondent justified his conduct by professing he
authorities to facilitate his marriage with Lisa; and c) really loved Lisa and since he married her, he cannot
respondent was married to Elizabeth Hermosisima and be charged with immorality. His reasoning shows a
has three children. Complainant filed for the distorted mind and a brazen regard on the sanctity of
declaration of nullity of the marriage between marriage. In such relationship, the man and woman
respondent and Lisa. The complainant contented that are obliged to live together, observe mutual respect and
with the moral ascendancy of the respondent over fidelity. How could respondent perform these
Maria Luisa and his misrepresentation that there was obligations to Lisa when he was previously married to
no legal impediment or prohibition to his contracting a Elizabeth? If he really loved her, then the noblest thing
second marriage, respondent succeeded in inducing he could have done was to walk away.
and beguiling her into marrying him. Without
complying with the requirements of the Philippine law Furthermore, (not stated in the case) under Article 35
that he should first obtain a judicial declaration of paragraph 3 of the Family Code, “a marriage
nullity of his marriage to Elizabeth H. Palma and that solemnized without a marriage license is void ab initio
the “advice” of Maria Luisa’s parents should first be except those covered by the preceding chapter”.
obtained she being only twenty-two (22) years of age, Though the marriage was solemnized in Hongkong, the
respondent succeeded in contracting marriage with her intrinsic validity of the marriage is governed by the
in Hongkong in June 22, 1992 by falsely representing national law of the contracting parties. In the case
himself before the Hongkong authorities that he is a at bar, since both of the parties are Filipino citizens, the
“bachelor.” validity of their marriage shall be governed by the
Philippine law. Under the Philippine law, absence of
The respondent contented that “….. and that it is the essential and formal requisites of marriage shall
contrary to the natural course of things for an immoral make the marriage void ab initio. Their marriage was
man to marry the woman he sincerely loves.” contracted without the valid marriage license, thus, the
marriage of respondent and Ma. Luisa is void ab initio.
growing business concerns, complainant decided to hire
Fulltext
respondent as his personal counsel.

Consequently, respondents relationship with


EN BANC
complainants family became intimate. He traveled and

dined with them abroad.[2] He frequented their house and

The practice of law is a privilege accorded only even tutored complainants 22-year old daughter Maria

to those who measure up to certain rigid standards of Luisa Cojuangco (Lisa), then a student of Assumption

mental and moral fitness. For the admission of a

candidate to the bar, the Rules of Court not only prescribe Convent.

a test of academic preparation but require satisfactory


On June 22, 1982, without the knowledge of
testimonials of good moral character. These standards are
complainants family, respondent married Lisa in
neither dispensed with nor lowered after admission: the
Hongkong. It was only the next
lawyer must continue to adhere to them or else incur the
day that respondent informed complainant and assured
risk of suspension or removal.[1]
him that everything is legal. Complainant was shocked,

Eduardo M. Cojuangco, Jr. filed with this Court knowing fully well that respondent is a married man and

the instant complaint for disbarment against Atty. Leo J. has three children. Upon investigation, complainant

Palma, alleging as grounds deceit, malpractice, gross found that respondent courted Lisa during their tutoring

misconduct in office, violation of his oath as a lawyer and sessions. Immediately, complainant sent his two sons to

grossly immoral conduct. Hongkong to convince Lisa to go home to Manila and

discuss the matter with the family. Lisa was persuaded.


The facts are undisputed:

Complainant also came to know that: (a) on the date of


Complainant and respondent met sometime in
the supposed marriage, respondent requested from his
the 70s. Complainant was a client of Angara Concepcion
(complainants) office an airplane ticket to and from
Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRA) and respondent
Australia, with stop-over in Hong Kong; (b) respondent
was the lawyer assigned to handle his cases. Owing to his
misrepresented himself as bachelor before the Hong Kong
pretenses that he was traveling on
authorities to facilitate his marriage with Lisa; official business for complainant. To
break down the final resistance of
Maria Luisa and assuage her pangs
and (c) respondent was married to Elizabeth of guilt, he made representations
that there was no legal impediment
Hermosisima and has three children, namely: Eugene whatsoever to his marrying;

Philippe, Elias Anton and Eduardo Lorenzo.


c. With his moral
ascendancy over Maria Luisa and
On August 24, 1982, complainant filed with the his misrepresentation that there was
no legal impediment or prohibition to
Court of First his contracting a second marriage,
respondent succeeded in inducing
Instance, Branch XXVII, Pasay City a petition[3] for decl and beguiling her into marrying him.
Without complying with the
requirements of Philippine law that
aration of
he should first obtain a judicial
declaration of nullity of his marriage
to Elizabeth H. Palma and that the
advice of Maria Luisas parents
nullity of the marriage between respondent and Lisa, should first be obtained she being
only twenty-two (22) years of age,
respondent succeeded in
docketed as Civil Case No. Pq-0401-P. In the
contracting marriage with her in
Hongkong on June 22, 1982 by
Decision[4] dated November 2, 1982, the CFI declared the falsely representing himself before
the Hongkong authorities that he is a
marriage null and void ab initio. bachelor. x x x.

Thereafter, complainant filed with this Court

the instant complaint[5] for disbarment, imputing to


Respondent filed a motion to dismiss[6] on the
respondent the following acts:
ground of lack of cause of action. He contended that the
a. In grave abuse and
betrayal of the trust and confidence
reposed in him by complainant and complaint fails to allege acts constituting deceit,
his family and taking undue
advantage of his tutoring sessions malpractice, gross misconduct or violation of his lawyers
with Maria Luisa, respondent
secretly courted her. The great
oath. There is no allegation that he acted with wanton
disparity in intelligence, education,
age, experience and
maturity between Maria Luisa and recklessness, lack of skill or ignorance of the law in
respondent gave the latter an
overwhelming moral ascendancy serving complainants interest. Anent the charge of grossly
over Maria Luisa as to overcome her
scruples and apprehensions about
immoral conduct, he stressed that he married
respondents courtship and
advances, considering that he is a
married man with three (3) children; complainants daughter with utmost sincerity and good

faith and that it is contrary to the natural course of things


b. Respondent courted
Maria Luisa with persistence and
determination and even pursued her
in her travels abroad under false
for an immoral man to marry the woman he sincerely enjoined the OSG from continuing the investigation of

loves. the disbarment proceedings.[12]

In the Resolution[7] dated March 2, 1983, we Thereafter, the case was referred to the

referred the case to the Office of the Solicitor General Integrated Bar of the

(OSG) for investigation, report and Philippines Commission on Bar Discipline. On October

recommendation. Former Assistant Solicitor General 19, 1998, Commissioner Julio C. Elamparo issued the

Oswaldo D. Agcaoili conducted the investigation. following order:

Considering the length of


Meanwhile, on December 28, 1983, the First time that this case has remained
pending and as a practical
measure to ease the backlog of
Division of this Court issued in G.R. No. 64538[8] a this Commission, the parties shall
within ten (10) days from notice,
Resolution[9] (a) setting aside the manifest whether or not they are
still interested in prosecuting this
CFI Decision dated November 2, 1982 in Civil Case No. case or supervening events have
transpired which render this case
moot and academic or otherwise,
Pq0401-P this case shall be deemed closed
and terminated.[13]
declaring the marriage between respondent and Lisa null
In his Manifestation,[14] complainant
and void ab initio; and (b) remanding the case to the CFI
manifested and confirmed his continuing interest in
for proper proceeding and determination. To this date,
prosecuting his complaint for disbarment against
the records fail to disclose the outcome of this case.
respondent.

On March 19, 1984, respondent filed with the


On the other hand, respondent sought several
OSG an Urgent Motion to Suspend Proceedings[10] on the
postponements of hearing on the ground that he needed
ground that the final outcome of Civil Case No. Pq0401-
more time to locate vital documents in support of his
P poses a prejudicial question to the disbarment
defense. The scheduled hearing of December 4, 2001 was
proceeding. It was denied.
reset for the last time on January 24, 2002, with a warning

Respondent sought refuge in this Court through that should he fail to appear or present deposition, the

an Urgent Motion for Issuance of a Restraining case will be deemed submitted for

Order.[11] In the Resolution dated December 19, 1984, we resolution.[15] Respondent again failed to appear on
condition no different from term
January 24, 2002; hence, the case was considered spinster with respect to Luisa.

There is no question that


submitted for resolution.[16] respondent as a lawyer well versed
in the law knew fully well that in
marrying Maria Luisa he was
On March 20, 2003, Investigating entering into a bigamous marriage
defined and penalized under Article
Commissioner Milagros V. San Juan submitted a Report 349 of the Revised Penal Code. The
respondent betrayed the trust
reposed in him by complainant. He
and Recommendation finding respondent guilty of was treated as part of the family and
was allowed to tutor Maria Luisa.
grossly immoral conduct and violation of his oath as a
For the foregoing reasons,
lawyer. She recommended that respondent be suspended it is submitted that respondent
committed grossly immoral conduct
and violation of his oath as a lawyer,
from the practice of law for a period of three (3)
and it is recommended that
respondent be suspended from the
years. Thus: practice of law for a period of three
(3) years.
The main issue to be
resolved in this case is whether or SO ORDERED.
not respondent committed the
following acts which warrant his
disbarment:

The IBP Board of Governors adopted and


a) Grave abuse
and betrayal of
approved the above Report and Recommendation, but it
the trust and
confidence
reposed in him by reduced respondents penalty to only one (1) year
complainant;
suspension.
b) His
misrepresentation
that there was no Except for the penalty, we affirm the IBPs
legal impediment
or prohibition to
his contracting a Report and Recommendation.
second marriage;

c) The acts of At the outset, it must be stressed that the law


respondent
constitute deceit, profession does not prescribe a dichotomy of standards
malpractice,
gross misconduct
in office, grossly among its members. There is no distinction as to whether
immoral conduct
and violation of the transgression is committed in the lawyers professional
his oath as a
lawyer. capacity or in his private life. This is because a lawyer
Respondent admits that he
married Maria Luisa in Hongkong may not divide his personality so as to be an attorney at
representing himself as a bachelor,
however, he claimed that the one time and a mere citizen at another.[17] Thus, not only
marriage certificate stated a
his professional activities but even his private life, insofar
as the latter may reflect unfavorably upon the good name Undoubtedly, respondents act constitutes

and prestige of the profession and the courts, may at any grossly immoral conduct, a ground for disbarment

time be the subject of inquiry on the part of the proper under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of

authorities.[18] Court. He exhibited a deplorable lack of that degree of

morality required of him as a member of the Bar. In


Respondent claims that he had served
particular, he made a mockery of marriage which is a
complainant to the best of his ability. In fact, the
sacred institution demanding respect and dignity. His act
complaint does not allege that he acted with wanton
of contracting a second marriage is contrary to honesty,
recklessness, lack of skill and ignorance of the law.
justice, decency and morality.[23]
While, complainant himself admitted that

respondent was a good lawyer,[19] however, professional This is not the first occasion that we censure

competency alone does not make a lawyer a worthy immorality. Thus, we have somehow come up with a

member of the Bar. Good moral character is always an common definition of what constitutes immoral conduct,

indispensable requirement. i.e., that conduct which is willful, flagrant, or

shameless, and which shows a moral indifference to the


The ringing truth in this case is that respondent
opinion of the good and respectable members of the
married Lisa while he has a subsisting marriage with
community.[24] Measured against this definition,
Elizabeth Hermosisima. The Certification[20] from the
respondents act is manifestly immoral. First, he
Local Civil Registrar of Cebu City shows that he married
abandoned his lawful wife and three children. Second, he
Elizabeth on December 19, 1971 at Cardials Private
lured an innocent young woman into marrying
Chapel, Cebu City. On the other hand, the Certificate of
him. And third, he misrepresented himself as a bachelor
Marriage[21] from the Deputy Registrar of Marriages,
so he could contract marriage in a foreign land.
Hong Kong, proves respondents subsequent marriage

with Lisa on July 9, 1982. That Elizabeth was alive at the Our rulings in the following cases are relevant:

time of respondents second marriage was confirmed on


1) In Macarrubo vs. Macarrubo,[25] respondent
the witness stand by Atty. Victor P. Lazatin, Elizabeths
entered into multiple marriages and then resorted to legal
classmate and family friend.[22]
remedies to sever them. There, we ruled that [S]uch
pattern of misconduct by respondent undermines the maintain that degree of morality and integrity, which at

institutions of marriage and family, institutions that this all times is expected of members of the bar. He is,

society looks to for the rearing of our children, for the therefore, disbarred from the practice of law.

development of values essential to the survival and well-


(5) In Toledo vs. Toledo,[29] respondent
being of our communities, and for the strengthening of
abandoned his wife, who supported him and spent for his
our nation as a whole. As such, there can be no other fate
law education, and thereafter cohabited with another
that awaits respondent than to be disbarred.
woman. We ruled that he failed to maintain the highest

(2) In Tucay vs. Tucay,[26] respondent contracted degree of morality expected and required of a member of

marriage with another married woman and left the bar. For this, respondent was disbarred.

complainant with whom he has been married for thirty

years. We ruled that such acts constitute a grossly (6) In Obusan vs. Obusan, Jr.,[30] respondent

immoral conduct and only indicative of an extremely low abandoned his lawful wife and child and resumed

regard for the fundamental ethics of his profession, cohabitation with his former paramour. Here, we ruled

warranting respondents disbarment. that abandoning ones wife and resuming carnal relations

with a former paramour, a married woman, constitute


(3) In Villasanta vs. Peralta,[27] respondent
grossly immoral conduct warranting disbarment.
married complainant while his first wife was still alive,

their marriage still valid and subsisting. We held that the The circumstances here speak of a clear case of

act of respondent of contracting the second marriage is betrayal of trust and abuse of confidence. It was

contrary to honesty, justice, decency and morality. Thus, respondents closeness to the complainants family as well

lacking the good moral character required by the Rules of as the latters complete trust in him that made possible his

Court, respondent was disqualified from being admitted intimate relationship with Lisa. When his concern was

to the bar. supposed to be complainants legal affairs only, he

sneaked at the latters back and courted his daughter. Like


(4) In Cabrera vs. Agustin,[28] respondent lured an
the proverbial thief in the night, he attacked when nobody
innocent woman into a simulated marriage and thereafter
was looking. Moreover, he availed of complainants
satisfied his lust. We held that respondent failed to
resources by securing a plane ticket from complainants
office in order to marry the latters daughter in proceeding. Suffice it to say that a subsequent judgment

Hongkong. He did this without complainants of annulment of marriage has no bearing to the instant

knowledge. Afterwards, he even had the temerity to disbarment proceeding. As we held in In re Almacen,[33] a

assure complainant that everything is legal. Clearly, disbarment case is sui generis for it is neither purely civil

respondent had crossed the limits of propriety and nor purely criminal but is rather an investigation by the

decency. court into the conduct of its officers. Thus, if the acquittal

of a lawyer in a criminal action is not determinative of an


Respondent justified his conduct by professing
administrative case against him,[34] or if an affidavit of
he really loved Lisa and since he married her, he cannot
withdrawal of a disbarment case does not affect its
be charged with immorality. His reasoning shows a
course,[35] then the judgment of annulment of respondents
distorted mind and a brazen regard on the sanctity of
marriage does not also exonerate him from a wrongdoing
marriage. In such relationship, the man and the woman
actually committed. So long as the quantum of proof ---
are obliged to live together, observe mutual
clear preponderance of evidence --- in disciplinary
respect and fidelity.[31] How could respondent perform
proceedings against members of the bar is met, then
these obligations to Lisa when he was previously married
liability attaches.[36]
to Elizabeth? If he really loved her, then the noblest thing

he could have done was to walk away. The interdict upon lawyers, as inscribed in Rule

1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, is that


Respondents culpability is aggravated by the
they shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral
fact that Lisa was just a 22-year old college student of
or deceitful conduct. This is founded on the lawyers
Assumption Convent and was under psychological
primordial duty to society as spelled out in Canon 1
treatment for emotional immaturity.[32]Naturally, she was
which states:
an easy prey.
CANON 1 A lawyer shall
uphold the Constitution, obey
Anent respondents argument that since the the laws of the land and promote
respect for law and legal
processes.
validity of his marriage to Lisa has not yet been

determined by the court with finality, the same poses a


It is not by coincidence that the drafters of our
prejudicial question to the present disbarment
Code of Professional Responsibility ranked the above
responsibility first in the enumeration. They knew then Let respondents name be stricken from the Roll

that more than anybody else, it is the lawyers -- the of Attorneys immediately. Furnish the Bar Confidant, the

disciples of law -- who are most obliged to venerate the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and all courts

law. As stated in Ex Parte Wall:[37] throughout the country with copies of this Decision.

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 bonds of society,
argues recreancy to his
position and office and sets a
pernicious example to the
insubordinate and dangerous
elements of the body politic.

Corollarily, the above responsibility is

enshrined in the Attorneys Oath which every lawyer in

the country has to take before he is allowed to practice.

In sum, respondent committed grossly immoral conduct

and violation of his oath as a lawyer. The penalty of one

(1) year suspension recommended by the IBP is not

commensurate to the gravity of his offense. The bulk of

jurisprudence supports the imposition of the extreme

penalty of disbarment.

WHEREFORE, respondent Leo J. Palma is

found GUILTY of grossly immoral conduct and

violation of his oath as a lawyer, and is

hereby DISBARRED from the practice of law.