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CANONS 17-19 CASES

G.R. No. 91298 June 22, 1990

CORAZON PERIQUET, petitioner,


vs.
NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION and THE PHIL. NATIONAL CONSTRUCTION CORPORATION
(Formerly Construction Development Corp. of the Phils.), respondents

RUZ, J.:

It is said that a woman has the privilege of changing her mind but this is usually allowed only in affairs of the heart where the rules are
permissibly inconstant. In the case before us, Corazon Periquet, the herein petitioner, exercised this privilege in connection with her
work, where the rules are not as fickle.

The petitioner was dismissed as toll collector by the Construction Development Corporation of the Philippines, private respondent
herein, for willful breach of trust and unauthorized possession of accountable toll tickets allegedly found in her purse during a surprise
inspection. Claiming she had been "framed," she filed a complaint for illegal dismissal and was sustained by the labor arbiter, who
ordered her reinstatement within ten days "without loss of seniority rights and other privileges and with fun back wages to be
computed from the date of her actual dismissal up to date of her actual reinstatement." 1 On appeal, this order was affirmed in toto by
public respondent NLRC on August 29, 1980. 2

On March 11, 1989, almost nine years later, the petitioner filed a motion for the issuance of a writ of execution of the decision. The
motion was granted by the executive labor arbiter in an order dated June 26, 1989, which required payment to the petitioner of the sum
of P205,207.42 "by way of implementing the balance of the judgment amount" due from the private respondent. 3 Pursuant thereto, the
said amount was garnished by the NLRC sheriff on July 12, 1989. 4 On September 11, 1989, however, the NLRC sustained the appeal
of the CDCP and set aside the order dated June 20, 1989, the corresponding writ of execution of June 26, 1989, and the notice of
garnishment. 5

In its decision, the public respondent held that the motion for execution was time-barred, having been filed beyond the five-year
period prescribed by both the Rules of Court and the Labor Code. It also rejected the petitioner's claim that she had not been reinstated
on time and ruled as valid the two quitclaims she had signed waiving her right to reinstatement and acknowledging settlement in full
of her back wages and other benefits. The petitioner contends that this decision is tainted with grave abuse of discretion and asks for
its reversal. We shall affirm instead.

Sec. 6, Rule 39 of the Revised Rules of Court, provides:

SEC. 6. Execution by motion or by independent action. — A judgment may be executed on motion within five (5)
years from the date of its entry or from the date it becomes final and executory. After the lapse of such time, and
before it is barred by the statute of limitations, a judgment may be enforced by action.

A similar provision is found in Art. 224 of the Labor Code, as amended by RA 6715, viz.

ART. 224. Execution of decision, orders, awards. — (a) The Secretary of Labor and Employment or any Regional
Director, the Commission or any Labor Arbiter or Med-Arbiter, or the Voluntary Arbitrator may, motu propio, or on
motion of any interested party, issue a writ of execution on a judgment within five (5) years from the date it
becomes final and executory, requiring a sheriff or a duly deputized officer to execute or enforce a final decision,
order or award. ...

The petitioner argues that the above rules are not absolute and cites the exception snowed in Lancita v. Magbanua, 6 where the Court
held:

Where judgments are for money only and wholly unpaid, and execution has been previously withheld in the interest
of the judgment debtor, which is in financial difficulties, the court has no discretion to deny motions for leave to
issue execution more than five years after the judgments are entered. (Application of Molnar, Belinsky, et al. v.
Long Is. Amusement Corp., I N.Y.S, 2d 866)

In computing the time limited for suing out of an execution, although there is authority to the contrary, the general
rule is that there should not be included the time when execution is stayed, either by agreement of the parties for a
definite time, by injunction, by the taking of an appeal or writ of error so as to operate as a supersedeas, by the death
of a party, or otherwise. Any interruption or delay occasioned by the debtor will extend the time within which the
writ may be issued without scire facias.

xxx xxx xxx

There has been no indication that respondents herein had ever slept on their rights to have the judgment executed by
mere motions, within the reglementary period. The statute of limitation has not been devised against those who wish
to act but cannot do so, for causes beyond their central.

Periquet insists it was the private respondent that delayed and prevented the execution of the judgment in her favor, but that is not the
way we see it. The record shows it was she who dilly-dallied.
The original decision called for her reinstatement within ten days from receipt thereof following its affirmance by the NLRC on
August 29, 1980, but there is no evidence that she demanded her reinstatement or that she complained when her demand was rejected.
What appears is that she entered into a compromise agreement with CDCP where she waived her right to reinstatement and received
from the CDCP the sum of P14,000.00 representing her back wages from the date of her dismissal to the date of the agreement. 7

Dismissing the compromise agreement, the petitioner now claims she was actually reinstated only on March 16, 1987, and so should
be granted back pay for the period beginning November 28, 1978, date of her dismissal, until the date of her reinstatement. She
conveniently omits to mention several significant developments that transpired during and after this period that seriously cast doubt on
her candor and bona fides.

After accepting the sum of P14,000.00 from the private respondent and waiving her right to reinstatement in the compromise
agreement, the petitioner secured employment as kitchen dispatcher at the Tito Rey Restaurant, where she worked from October 1982
to March 1987. According to the certification issued by that business, 8 she received a monthly compensation of P1,904.00, which was
higher than her salary in the CDCP.

For reasons not disclosed by the record, she applied for re-employment with the CDCP and was on March 16,1987, given the position
of xerox machine operator with a basic salary of P1,030.00 plus P461.33 in allowances, for a total of P1,491.33 monthly. 9

On June 27, 1988; she wrote the new management of the CDCP and asked that the rights granted her by the decision dated August 29,
1980, be recognized because the waiver she had signed was invalid. 10

On September 19, 1988, the Corporate Legal Counsel of the private respondent (now Philippine National Construction Corporation)
recommended the payment to the petitioner of the sum of P9,544.00, representing the balance of her back pay for three years at P654.
00 per month (minus the P14,000.00 earlier paid). 11

On November 10, 1988, the petitioner accepted this additional amount and signed another Quitclaim and Release reading as follows:

KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS:

THAT, I CORAZON PERIQUET, of legal age, married and resident of No. 87 Annapolis St., Quezon City, hereby acknowledged
receipt of the sum of PESOS: NINE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED FORTY FOUR PESOS ONLY (P9,544.00) Philippine currency,
representing the unpaid balance of the back wages due me under the judgment award in NLRC Case No. AB-2-864-79 entitled
"Corazon Periquet vs. PNCC- TOLLWAYS" and I further manifest that this payment is in full satisfaction of all my claims/demands
in the aforesaid case. Likewise, I hereby manifest that I had voluntarily waived reinstatement to my former position as TOLL
TELLER and in lieu thereof, I sought and am satisfied with my present position as XEROX MACHINE OPERATOR in the Central
Office.

Finally, I hereby certify that delay in my reinstatement, after finality of the Decision dated 10 May 1979 was due to my own fault and
that PNCC is not liable thereto.

I hereby RELEASE AND DISCHARGE the said corporation and its officers from money and all claims by way of unpaid wages,
separation pay, differential pay, company, statutory and other benefits or otherwise as may be due me in connection with the above-
entitled case. I hereby state further that I have no more claims or right of action of whatever nature, whether past, present, future or
contingent against said corporation and its officers, relative to NLRC Case No. AB-2-864-79.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this 10th day of November 1988 at Mandaluyong, Metro Manila. (Emphasis
supplied.) 12

The petitioner was apparently satisfied with the settlement, for in the memorandum she sent the PNCC Corporate Legal Counsel on
November 24, 1988, 13 she said in part:

Sir, this is indeed my chance to express my gratitude to you and all others who have helped me and my family enjoy
the fruits of my years of stay with PNCC by way of granting an additional amount of P9,544.00 among others ...

As per your recommendation contained therein in said memo, I am now occupying the position of xerox machine
operator and is (sic) presently receiving a monthly salary of P2,014.00.

Reacting to her inquiry about her entitlement to longevity pay, yearly company increases and other statutory benefits, the private
respondent adjusted her monthly salary from P2,014.00 to P3,588.00 monthly.

Then the lull. Then the bombshell.

On March 11, 1989, she filed the motion for execution that is now the subject of this petition.

It is difficult to understand the attitude of the petitioner, who has blown hot and cold, as if she does not know her own mind. First she
signed a waiver and then she rejected it; then she signed another waiver which she also rejected, again on the ground that she had been
deceived. In her first waiver, she acknowledged full settlement of the judgment in her favor, and then in the second waiver, after
accepting additional payment, she again acknowledged fun settlement of the same judgment. But now she is singing a different tune.

In her petition she is now disowning both acknowledgments and claiming that the earlier payments both of which she had accepted as
sufficient, are insufficient. They were valid before but they are not valid now. She also claimed she was harassed and cheated by the
past management of the CDCP and sought the help of the new management of the PNCC under its "dynamic leadership." But now she
is denouncing the new management-for also tricking her into signing the second quitclaim.

Not all waivers and quitclaims are invalid as against public policy. If the agreement was voluntarily entered into and represents a
reasonable settlement, it is binding on the parties and may not later be disowned simply because of a change of mind. It is only where
there is clear proof that the waiver was wangled from an unsuspecting or gullible person, or the terms of settlement are unconscionable
on its face, that the law will step in to annul the questionable transaction. But where it is shown that the person making the waiver did
so voluntarily, with full understanding of what he was doing, and the consideration for the quitclaim is credible and reasonable, the
transaction must be recognized as a valid and binding undertaking. As in this case.

The question may be asked: Why did the petitioner sign the compromise agreement of September 16, 1980, and waive all her rights
under the judgment in consideration of the cash settlement she received? It must be remembered that on that date the decision could
still have been elevated on certiorari before this Court and there was still the possibility of its reversal. The petitioner obviously
decided that a bird in hand was worth two on the wing and so opted for the compromise agreement. The amount she was then waiving,
it is worth noting, had not yet come up to the exorbitant sum of P205,207.42 that she was later to demand after the lapse of eight years.

The back pay due the petitioner need not detain us. We have held in countless cases that this should be limited to three years from the
date of the illegal dismissal, during which period (but not beyond) the dismissed employee is deemed unemployed without the
necessity of proof. 14 Hence, the petitioner's contention that she should be paid from 1978 to 1987 must be rejected, and even without
regard to the fact (that would otherwise have been counted against her) that she was actually employed during most of that period.

Finally, the petitioner's invocation of Article 223 of the Labor Code to question the failure of the private respondent to file a
supersedeas bond is not well-taken. As the Solicitor General correctly points out, the bond is required only when there is an appeal
from the decision with a monetary award, not an order enforcing the decision, as in the case at bar.

As officers of the court, counsel are under obligation to advise their clients against making untenable and inconsistent claims like the
ones raised in this petition that have only needlessly taken up the valuable time of this Court, the Solicitor General, the Government
Corporate Counsel, and the respondents. Lawyers are not merely hired employees who must unquestioningly do the bidding of the
client, however unreasonable this may be when tested by their own expert appreciation of the pertinent facts and the applicable law
and jurisprudence. Counsel must counsel.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED, with costs against the petitioner. It is so ordered.

A.C. No. 10537, February 03, 2015

REYNALDO G. RAMIREZ, Complainant, v. ATTY. MERCEDES BUHAYANG-MARGALLO, Respondent.

RESOLUTION

LEONEN, J.:

When an action or proceeding is initiated in our courts, lawyers become the eyes and ears of their clients. Lawyers are expected to
prosecute or defend the interests of their clients without need for reminders. The privilege of the office of attorney grants them the
ability to warrant to their client that they will manage the case as if it were their own. The relationship between an attorney and client
is a sacred agency. It cannot be disregarded on the flimsy excuse that the lawyer accepted the case only because he or she was asked
by an acquaintance. The professional relationship remains the same regardless of the reasons for the acceptance by counsel and
regardless of whether the case is highly paying or pro bono.

Atty. Mercedes Buhayang-Margallo’s (Atty. Margallo) inaction resulted in a lost appeal, terminating the case of her client not on the
merits but due to her negligence. She made it appear that the case was dismissed on the merits when, in truth, she failed to file the
Appellant’s Brief on time. She did not discharge her duties of candor to her client.

This court resolves the Petition for Review1 filed by Atty. Margallo under Rule 139-B, Section 12 of the Rules of Court, assailing the
Resolution of the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

In the Resolution2 dated March 21, 2014, the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines affirmed with modification
its earlier Resolution3 dated March 20, 2013. In its delegated capacity to conduct fact finding for this court, it found that respondent
Atty. Margallo had violated Canon 17 and Canon 18, Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility.4 Consequently, the Board of Governors recommended that Atty. Margallo be suspended from the practice of law for
two (2) years.5cralawred

In the Complaint6 filed on January 20, 2010 before the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines,
complainant Reynaldo Ramirez (Ramirez) alleged that he engaged Atty. Margallo’s services as legal counsel in a civil case for
Quieting of Title entitled “Spouses Roque v. Ramirez.”7 The case was initiated before the Regional Trial Court of Binangonan, Rizal,
Branch 68.8cralawred

According to Ramirez, Atty. Margallo contacted him on or about March 2004, as per a referral from a friend of Ramirez’s sister.9 He
alleged that Atty. Margallo had offered her legal services on the condition that she be given 30% of the land subject of the controversy
instead of attorney’s fees.10 It was also agreed upon that Ramirez would pay Atty. Margallo P1,000.00 per court
appearance.11cralawred

On October 19, 2006, the Regional Trial Court promulgated a Decision adverse to Ramirez. 12 Atty. Margallo advised him to appeal
the judgment. She committed to file the Appeal before the Court of Appeals. 13cralawred

The Appeal was perfected and the records were sent to the Court of Appeals sometime in 2008.14 On December 5, 2008, the Court of
Appeals directed Ramirez to file his Appellant’s Brief. Ramirez notified Atty. Margallo, who replied that she would have one
prepared.15cralawred

On January 8, 2009, Ramirez contacted Atty. Margallo to follow up on the Appellant’s Brief. Atty. Margallo informed him that he
needed to meet her to sign the documents necessary for the brief. 16cralawred

On several occasions, Ramirez followed up on the status of the brief, but he was told that there was still no word from the Court of
Appeals.17cralawred

On August 26, 2009, Atty. Margallo informed Ramirez that his Appeal had been denied. 18 She told him that the Court of Appeals’
denial was due to Ramirez’s failure to establish his filiation with his alleged father, which was the basis of his claim.19 She also
informed him that they could no longer appeal to this court since the Decision of the Court of Appeals had been promulgated and the
reglementary period for filing an Appeal had already lapsed. 20cralawred

Ramirez went to the Court of Appeals. There, he discovered that the Appellant’s Brief was filed on April 13, 2009 with a Motion for
Reconsideration and Apologies for filing beyond the reglementary period. 21cralawred

Ramirez alleged that Atty. Margallo had violated Canon 17 and Canon 18, Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility.22 By way of defense, Atty. Margallo argued that she had agreed to take on the case for free, save for travel expense of
P1,000.00 per hearing. She also claimed that she had candidly informed Ramirez and his mother that they only had a 50% chance of
winning the case.23 She denied ever having entered into an agreement regarding the contingent fee worth 30% of the value of the land
subject of the controversy.

Atty. Margallo asserted that she would not have taken on the Appeal except that the mother of Ramirez had begged her to do so.24 She
claimed that when she instructed Ramirez to see her for document signing on January 8, 2009, he ignored her. When he finally
showed up on March 2009, he merely told her that he had been busy. 25 Her failure to immediately inform Ramirez of the unfavorable
Decision of the Court of Appeals was due to losing her client’s number because her 8-year-old daughter played with her phone and
accidentally erased all her contacts.26cralawred

Mandatory conference and findings


of the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines

The dispute was set for mandatory conference on June 3, 2010. 27 Only Ramirez appeared despite Atty. Margallo having received
notice.28 The mandatory conference was reset to July 22, 2010. Both parties then appeared and were directed to submit their position
papers.29cralawred

Commissioner Cecilio A.C. Villanueva recommended that Atty. Margallo be reprimanded for her actions and be given a stern warning
that her next infraction of a similar nature shall be dealt with more severely. 30 This was based on his two key findings. First, Atty.
Margallo allowed the reglementary period for filing an Appellant’s Brief to lapse by assuming that Ramirez no longer wanted to
pursue the case instead of exhausting all means possible to protect the interest of her client. 31 Second, Atty. Margallo had been remiss
in her duties as counsel, resulting in the loss of Ramirez’s statutory right to seek recourse with the Court of Appeals. 32cralawred

In the Resolution33 dated March 20, 2013, the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines adopted and approved the
recommendation of the Commission on Bar Discipline. The Board of Governors resolved to recommend a penalty of reprimand to
Atty. Margallo with a stern warning that repetition of the same or similar act shall be dealt with more severely.

Ramirez seasonably filed a Motion for Reconsideration on July 16, 2013.34 In the Resolution dated March 21, 2014, the Board of
Governors granted Ramirez’s Motion for Reconsideration and increased the recommended penalty to suspension from practice of law
for two (2) years.35cralawred

On August 20, 2014, Atty. Margallo filed a Petition for Review under Rule 139-B, Section 12 of the Rules of Court.36 She alleged
that the recommended penalty of suspension was too severe considering that she had been very careful and vigilant in defending the
cause of her client. She also averred that this was the first time a Complaint was filed against her. 37cralawred

Ramirez thereafter filed an undated Motion to adopt his Motion for Reconsideration previously filed with the Commission on Bar
Discipline as a Comment on Atty. Margallo’s Petition for Review.38 In the Resolution39 dated October 14, 2014, this court granted
Ramirez’s Motion. Atty. Margallo filed her Reply40on October 6, 2014.

This court’s ruling

The Petition is denied for lack of merit.

The relationship between a lawyer and a client is “imbued with utmost trust and confidence.”41 Lawyers are expected to exercise the
necessary diligence and competence in managing cases entrusted to them. They commit not only to review cases or give legal advice,
but also to represent their clients to the best of their ability without need to be reminded by either the client or the court. The
expectation to maintain a high degree of legal proficiency and attention remains the same whether the represented party is a high-
paying client or an indigent litigant.42cralawred

Canon 17 and Canon 18, Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility clearly
provide:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
CANON 17 - A LAWYER OWES FIDELITY TO THE CAUSE OF HIS CLIENT AND HE SHALL BE MINDFUL OF THE
TRUST AND CONFIDENCE REPOSED IN HIM.

CANON 18 - A LAWYER SHALL SERVE HIS CLIENT WITH COMPETENCE AND DILIGENCE.

Rule 18.03 - A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection there with shall render him
liable.

Rule 18.04 - A lawyer shall keep the client informed of the status of his case and shall respond within a reasonable time to client’s
request for information.cralawlawlibrary

In Caranza Vda. De Saldivar v. Cabanes, Jr.,43 a lawyer was suspended after failing to justify his absence in a scheduled preliminary
conference, which resulted in the case being submitted for resolution. This was aggravated by the lawyer’s failure to inform his client
about the adverse ruling of the Court of Appeals, thereby precluding the litigant from further pursuing an Appeal. This court found
that these actions amounted to gross negligence tantamount to breaching Canons 17 and 18 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

The relationship between an attorney and his client is one imbued with utmost trust and confidence. In this light, clients are led to
expect that lawyers would be ever-mindful of their cause and accordingly exercise the required degree of diligence in handling their
affairs. Verily, a lawyer is expected to maintain at all times a high standard of legal proficiency, and to devote his full attention, skill,
and competence to the case, regardless of its importance and whether he accepts it for a fee or for free.

....

Case law further illumines that a lawyer’s duty of competence and diligence includes not merely reviewing the cases entrusted to the
counsel’s care or giving sound legal advice, but also consists of properly representing the client before any court or tribunal,
attending scheduled hearings or conferences, preparing and filing the required pleadings, prosecuting the handled cases with
reasonable dispatch, and urging their termination without waiting for the client or the court to prod him or her to do so.

Conversely, a lawyer’s negligence in fulfilling his duties subjects him to disciplinary action. While such negligence or carelessness is
incapable of exact formulation, the Court has consistently held that the lawyer’s mere failure to perform the obligations due his client
is per se a violation.44 (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted)
cralawlawlibrary

Respondent Atty. Margallo was unjustifiably remiss in her duties as legal counsel to Ramirez.

The lack of communication and coordination between respondent Atty. Margallo and her client was palpable but was not due to the
lack of diligence of her client. This cost complainant Ramirez his entire case and left him with no appellate remedies. His legal cause
was orphaned not because a court of law ruled on the merits of his case, but because a person privileged to act as counsel failed to
discharge her duties with the requisite diligence. Her assumption that complainant Ramirez was no longer interested to pursue the
Appeal is a poor excuse. There was no proof that she exerted efforts to communicate with her client. This is an admission that she
abandoned her obligation as counsel on the basis of an assumption. Respondent Atty. Margallo failed to exhaust all possible means to
protect complainant Ramirez’s interest, which is contrary to what she had sworn to do as a member of the legal profession. For these
reasons, she clearly violated Canon 17 and Canon 18, Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

A problem arises whenever agents, entrusted to manage the interests of another, use their authority or power for their benefit or fail to
discharge their duties. In many agencies, there is information assymetry between the principal and the entrusted agent. That is, there
are facts and events that the agent must attend to that may not be known by the principal.

This information assymetry is even more pronounced in an attorney-client relationship. Lawyers are expected not only to be familiar
with the minute facts of their cases but also to see their relevance in relation to their causes of action or their defenses. The salience of
these facts is not usually patent to the client. It can only be seen through familiarity with the relevant legal provisions that are invoked
with their jurisprudential interpretations. More so with the intricacies of the legal procedure. It is the lawyer that receives the notices
and must decide the mode of appeal to protect the interest of his or her client.

Thus, the relationship between a lawyer and her client is regarded as highly fiduciary. Between the lawyer and the client, it is the
lawyer that has the better knowledge of facts, events, and remedies. While it is true that the client chooses which lawyer to engage, he
or she usually does so on the basis of reputation. It is only upon actual engagement that the client discovers the level of diligence,
competence, and accountability of the counsel that he or she chooses. In some cases, such as this one, the discovery comes too
late. Between the lawyer and the client, therefore, it is the lawyer that should bear the full costs of indifference or negligence.

Respondent Atty. Margallo’s position that a two-year suspension is too severe considering that it is her first infraction cannot be
sustained. In Caranza Vda. De Saldivar, we observed:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

As regards the appropriate penalty, several cases show that lawyers who have been held liable for gross negligence for infractions
similar to those of the respondent were suspended for a period of six (6) months. In Aranda v. Elayda, a lawyer who failed to appear
at the scheduled hearing despite due notice which resulted in the submission of the case for decision was found guilty of gross
negligence and hence, suspended for six (6) months. In Heirs of Tiburcio F. Ballesteros, Sr. v. Apiag, a lawyer who did not file a pre-
trial brief and was absent during the pre-trial conference was likewise suspended for six (6) months. In Abiero v. Juanino, a lawyer
who neglected a legal matter entrusted to him by his client in breach of Canons 17 and 18 of the Code was also suspended for six (6)
months. Thus, consistent with existing jurisprudence, the Court finds it proper to impose the same penalty against respondent and
accordingly suspends him for a period of six (6) months.45 (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted)cralawlawlibrary
Caranza Vda. De Saldivar did not leave the clients without procedural remedies. On the other hand, respondent Atty. Margallo’s
neglect resulted in her client having no further recourse in court to protect his legal interests. This lack of diligence, to the utmost
prejudice of complainant Ramirez who relied on her alleged competence as counsel, must not be tolerated. It is time that we
communicate that lawyers must actively manage cases entrusted to them. There should be no more room for an inertia of mediocrity.

Parenthetically, it is this court that has the constitutionally mandated duty to discipline lawyers. 46 Under the current rules, the duty to
assist fact finding can be delegated to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. The findings of the Integrated Bar, however, can only be
recommendatory, consistent with the constitutional powers of this court. Its recommended penalties are also, by its nature,
recommendatory. Despite the precedents, it is the Integrated Bar of the Philippines that recognizes that the severity of the infraction is
worth a penalty of two-year suspension. We read this as a showing of its desire to increase the level of professionalism of our
lawyers.

This court is not without jurisdiction to increase the penalties imposed in order to address a current need in the legal profession. The
desire of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines to ensure a higher ethical standard for its members’ conduct is laudable. The negligence
of respondent Atty. Margallo coupled with her lack of candor is reprehensible.

WHEREFORE, the Petition for Review is DENIED. The Recommendations and Resolution of the Board of Governors of the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines dated March 21, 2014 is ACCEPTED, ADOPTED AND AFFIRMED. Atty. Mercedes Buhayang-
Margallo is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for two (2) years, with a stern warning that a repetition of the same
or similar act shall be dealt with more severely. This decision is immediately executory.

Adm. Case No. 9612 March 13, 2013

JOHNNY M. PESTO, Complainant,


vs.
MARCELITO M. MILLO, Respondent.

DECISION

BERSAMIN, J.:

An attorney who conceals his inefficiency and lack of diligence by giving wrong information to his client regarding the matter subject
of their professional relationship is guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer of the Court. He thereby violates his Lawyer's Oath to
conduct himself as a lawyer according to the best of his knowledge and discretion with all good fidelity as well to the courts as to his
client. He also thereby violates Rule 18.03, Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, by which he is called upon to serve
his client with competence and diligence.

Antecedents

In this administrative case, Johnny Pesto (Johnny), a Canadian national, charged Atty. Marcelito M. Millo with conduct unbecoming
an officer of the Court, misleading his client, bungling the transfer of title, and incompetence and negligence in the performance of his
duty as a lawyer.

Johnny averred that in May 1990, his wife Abella Pesto (Abella) retained the services of Atty. Millo to handle the transfer of title over
a parcel of land to her name, and the adoption of her niece, Arvi Jane Dizon; 1 that Johnny and Abella gave to Atty. Millo the amounts
of ₱14,000.00 for the transfer of title2 and ₱10,000.00 for the adoption case;3that Atty. Millo thereafter repeatedly gave them false
information and numerous excuses to explain his inability to complete the transfer of title; that Atty. Millo likewise made them believe
that the capital gains tax for the property had been paid way back in 1991, but they found out upon their return to the country in
February 1995 that he had not yet paid the tax; that when they confronted him, Atty. Millo insisted that he had already paid the same,
but he could not produce any receipt for the supposed payment; that Atty. Millo reluctantly returned to Abella the amount of
₱14,000.00 only after he stormed out of Atty. Millo’s office in exasperation over his stalling tactics; and that Atty. Millo then further
promised in writing to assume the liability for the accrued penalties. 4

Likewise, Johnny blamed Atty. Millo for letting the adoption case be considered closed by the Tarlac office of the Department of
Social Welfare and Development (Tarlac DSWD) due to two years of inaction. He stated that Atty. Millo made him and his wife
believe that an interview with the Tarlac DSWD had been scheduled on February 14, 1995, but when they arrived at the Tarlac DSWD
they were dismayed to be told that no such interview had been scheduled; that adding to their dismay, Atty. Millo could not be
reached at all; that it was only upon reaching home in Quezon City when he received word from Atty. Millo that a hearing had again
been scheduled on February 23, 1995 at 10:00 a.m.; that when they went to the hearing, Atty. Millo could not be found; and that they
learned after an hour of waiting in the courthouse in Tarlac that Atty. Millo had requested the hearing to be moved to the afternoon
without their knowledge.5

Exasperated by Atty. Millo’s neglect and ineptitude, Johnny brought this administrative complaint in the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) on March 14, 1995, praying for disciplinary action to be taken against Atty. Millo, and seeking the refund of
₱15,643.75 representing the penalties for the non-payment of the capital gains tax, and of the ₱10,000.00 given for the adoption case.
Being a resident of Canada, he constituted one Tita Lomotan as his attorney-in-fact to represent him during his and his wife’s absence
from the country.

On July 10, 1995, the IBP ordered Atty. Millo to file his answer. 6 Although an extension of the period to file was granted at his
instance,7 he filed no answer in the end.8 He did not also appear at the hearings despite due notice. 9
In the meantime, the IBP required Johnny through Lomotan to engage a counsel. The proceedings were held in abeyance to await the
appropriate motion from Johnny’s counsel. 10

The administrative matter did not move for several years. The long delay prompted Johnny to write to the President of the IBP on
October 28, 1998.11 It was only on April 2, 2001, however, that the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) scheduled another
hearing on June 29, 2001.12 At that hearing, Atty. Millo appeared through a representative, and presented a
manifestation/motion,13 whereby he claimed that Johnny had meanwhile died, and that Abella would be withdrawing the complaint
against him.

On October 11, 2001, the IBP-CBD, through Commissioner Victoria Gonzalez-De los Reyes, deemed the case submitted for
resolution.14

On October 4, 2010, Investigating Commissioner Victor C. Fernandez, to whom the case had been meanwhile transferred, submitted a
report and recommendation, whereby he found Atty. Millo liable for violating Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility,
and recommended his suspension from the practice of law for six months. 15

In Resolution No. XX-2011-235 adopted on November 19, 2011,16 the IBP Board of Governors affirmed the findings of Investigating
Commissioner Fernandez, but lowered the suspension to two months; and ordered Atty. Millo to return the amount of ₱16,000.00, to
wit:

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and APPROVED, with modification, the Report and
Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the above-entitled case, herein made part of this Resolution as Annex "A" and
finding the recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws and rules, and finding respondent
guilty of the charges level(led) against him, Atty. Marcelito Millo is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of two
(2) months and is ordered to return the amount of ₱16,000.00 to complainant.

On March 27, 2012, Atty. Millo moved for a reconsideration, stating that he had honestly believed that Abella had already caused the
withdrawal of the complaint prior to her own death; that he had already caused the preparation of the documents necessary for the
transfer of the certificate of title, and had also returned the ₱14,000.00 paid by Johnny; that the adoption case had been finally granted
by the trial court; that he had lost contact with Johnny and Abella who resided in Canada; that Juan Daquis, Abella’s brother, could
have confirmed that the charge had arisen from a simple misunderstanding, and that Abella would cause the withdrawal of the
complaint, except that Daquis had meanwhile died in November 2011. 17

On June 9, 2012, the IBP Board of Governors denied Atty. Millo’s motion for reconsideration. 18

Ruling

We affirm Resolution No. XX-2011-235, but modify the penalty.

Every attorney owes fidelity to the causes and concerns of his clients.1âwphi1 He must be ever mindful of the trust and confidence
reposed in him by the clients. His duty to safeguard the clients’ interests commences from his engagement as such, and lasts until his
effective release by the clients. In that time, he is expected to take every reasonable step and exercise ordinary care as his clients’
interests may require.19

Atty. Millo’s acceptance of the sums of money from Johnny and Abella to enable him to attend to the transfer of title and to complete
the adoption case initiated the lawyer-client relationship between them. From that moment on, Atty. Millo assumed the duty to render
competent and efficient professional service to them as his clients. Yet, he failed to discharge his duty. He was inefficient and
negligent in going about what the professional service he had assumed required him to do. He concealed his inefficiency and neglect
by giving false information to his clients about having already paid the capital gains tax. In reality, he did not pay the capital gains tax,
rendering the clients liable for a substantial financial liability in the form of penalties.

Without doubt, Atty. Millo had the obligation to serve his clients with competence and diligence. Rule 18.03, Canon 18 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, expressly so demanded of him, to wit:

CANON 18 – A LAWYER SHALL SERVE HIS CLIENT WITH COMPETENCE AND DILIGENCE.

xxxx

Rule 18.03 – A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him
liable.

A serious administrative complaint like this one should not be taken for granted or lightly by any respondent attorney. Yet, Atty. Millo
did not take the complaint of Johnny seriously enough, and even ignored it for a long period of time. Despite being given several
opportunities to do so, Atty. Millo did not file any written answer. He thereby forfeited his right and chance to reasonably explain the
circumstances behind the charges against him. Had the complaint been untrue and unfair, it would have been quite easy for him to
refute it quickly and seasonably. Indeed, a refutation was the requisite response from any worthy and blameless respondent lawyer.
His belated and terse characterization of the charge by claiming that the charge had emanated from a mere "misunderstanding" was
not sufficient. He did not thereby refute the charge against him, which omission indicated that the complaint had substance. It
mattered little now that he had in the meantime returned the amount of ₱14,000.00 to the clients, and that the application for adoption
had been eventually granted by the trial court. Such events, being not only post facto, but also inevitable from sheer passage of time,
did not obliterate his liability based on the neglect and ineptitude he had inflicted on his clients. The severe lesson that he must now
learn is that he could not ignore without consequences the liberal opportunity the Court and the IBP allowed him to justify his neglect
and ineptitude in serving his clients’ concerns. Towards him the Court now stays its hand of leniency, lest the Court be unfairly seen
as too willing to forego the exaction of responsibility upon a lawyer as neglectful and inept as he had been towards his clients.

It even seems very likely that Atty. Millo purposely disregarded the opportunity to answer the charges granted to him out of a desire to
delay the investigation of the complaint until both Johnny and Abella, being residents in Canada, would have already lost interest in
prosecuting it, or, as happened here, would have already departed this world and be no longer able to rebut whatever refutations he
would ultimately make, whether true or not. But the Court is not about to condone such selfish disregard. Let it be emphasized to him
and to others similarly disposed that an attorney who is made a respondent in a disbarment proceeding should submit an explanation,
and should meet the issue and overcome the evidence against him. 20 The obvious reason for the requirement is that an attorney thus
charged must thereby prove that he still maintained that degree of morality and integrity expected of him at all times.

Atty. Millo made his situation even worse by consistently absenting himself from the scheduled hearings the IBP had set for his
benefit. His disregard of the IBP’s orders requiring his attendance in the hearings was not only irresponsible, but also constituted utter
disrespect for the Judiciary and his fellow lawyers. Such conduct was absolutely unbecoming of a lawyer, because lawyers are
particularly called upon to obey Court orders and processes and are expected to stand foremost in complying with orders from the duly
constituted authorities.21Moreover, in Espiritu v. Ulep,22 the Court saw the respondent attorney’s odious practice of repeatedly and
apparently deliberately not appearing in the scheduled hearings as his means of wiggling out from the duty to explain his side. A
similar treatment of Atty. Millo’s disregard is justified. Indeed, he thereby manifested evasion, a bad trait that no worthy member of
the Legal profession should nurture in himself.

Surprisingly, Atty. Millo claimed that his belated response to the charge was due to the assurances of Abella that she would be
withdrawing the complaint. The Court disbelieves him, however, and treats his claim as nothing but a belated attempt to save the day
for himself. He ought to remember that the withdrawal of an administrative charge for suspension or disbarment based on an
attorney’s professional misconduct or negligence will not furnish a ground to dismiss the charge. Suspension or disbarment
proceedings that are warranted will still proceed regardless of the lack or loss of interest on the part of the complainant. The Court
may even entirely ignore the withdrawal of the complaint, and continue to investigate in order to finally determine whether the charge
of professional negligence or misconduct was borne out by the record. 23 This approach bespeaks the Court’s consistent view that the
Legal Profession is not only a lofty and noble calling, but also a rare privilege reserved only for the deserving.

Verily, disciplinary proceedings against attorneys are unlike civil suits where the complainants are the plaintiffs and the respondent
attorneys are the defendants. They neither involve private interests nor afford redress for private grievances. They are undertaken and
prosecuted solely for the public welfare, for the purpose of preserving the courts of justice from the official ministration of persons
unfit to practice law before them. Every attorney is called to answer for every misconduct he commits as an officer of the Court. The
complainant or any other person who has brought the attorney’s misconduct to the attention of the Court is in no sense a party, and has
generally no interest in the outcome except as all good citizens may have in the proper administration of justice. 24

The IBP Board of Governors recommended suspension from the practice of law for two months as the penalty to be imposed. The
recommended penalty is not well taken. We modify the penalty, because Atty. Millo displayed no remorse as to his misconduct, and
could not be given a soft treatment. His professional misconduct warranted a longer suspension from the practice of law because he
had caused material prejudice to the clients’ interest.25 He should somehow be taught to be more ethical and professional in dealing
with trusting clients like Johnny and Abella, who were innocently too willing to repose their utmost trust in his abilities as a lawyer
and in his trustworthiness as a legal professional. He should remember that misconduct has no place in the heart and mind of a lawyer
who has taken the solemn oath to delay no man for money or malice, and to conduct himself as a lawyer according to the best of his
knowledge and discretion. Under the circumstances, suspension from the practice of law for six months is the condign and
commensurate penalty for him.

The Court notes that Atty. Millo already returned the ₱14,000.00 received for the transfer of title. Although he ought also to refund the
amount of ₱15,643.75 representing the penalty for the late payment of the capital gains tax, the Court cannot order him to refund that
amount because it is not a collection agency.26 The Court may only direct the repayment of attorneys fees received on the basis that a
respondent attorney did not render efficient service to the client. Consequently, Atty. Millo should refund the ₱10,000.00 given in
connection with the adoption case, plus interest of 6% per annum, reckoned from the finality of this decision.

WHEREFORE, the Court FINDS and HOLDS Atty. MARCELITO M. MILLO guilty of violating Canon 18, Rule 18.03 of the Code
of Professional Responsibility and the Lawyer’s Oath; SUSPENDS him from the practice of law for a period of six months effective
from notice, with the STERN WARNING that any similar infraction in the future will be dealt with more severely; ORDERS him to
return to the heirs of Johnny and Abella Pesto within ten days from notice the sum of ₱10,000.00, plus legal interest of 6% per annum
reckoned from the finality of this decision until full payment; and DIRECTS him to promptly submit to this Court written proof of his
compliance within thirty days from notice of this decision.

Let copies of this decision be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be appended to Atty. Marcelito M. Millo's personal
record as an attorney; to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; and to the Office of the Court Administrator for dissemination to all
courts throughout the country for their information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.

A.C. No. 4945 October 8, 2013

MA. JENNIFER TRIA-SAMONTE, Complainant,


vs.
EPIFANIA "FANNY" OBIAS, Respondent.
RESOLUTION

PER CURIAM:

For the Court's resolution is an administrative Complaint-affidavit1 filed by Ma. Jennifer Tria-Samonte (complainant) against Epifania
"Fanny"Obias (respondent) charging her for grave misconduct and/or gross malpractice.

The facts

In 1997, spouses Prudencio and Loreta Jeremias (Sps. Jeremias),through respondent, offered for sale a parcel of agricultural land
covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 597 (subject property) to the late Nestor Tria (Nestor) and Pura S. Tria (Sps. Tria), for a
consideration of ₱2,800,000.00 and payable in installments. 2 Respondent, who was to receive the payment from Sps. Tria and transmit
the same to Sps. Jeremias, undertook to deliver the deed of sale and owner’s copy of the title to her clients (Sps. Tria) upon full
payment of the purchase price.3 She further undertook to cause the conversion of the subject property from agricultural to residential,
and the transfer of the title to the names of Sps. Tria as part of the package agreement.4 Respondent received all the installment
payments made by Sps. Tria and issued receipts therefor. 5 After full payment of the purchase price on July 11, 1997, 6 and after giving
an additional ₱115,000.00for capital gains tax and other expenses,7 Sps. Tria requested from respondent the delivery of the deed of
sale and the owner’s copy of the title to them but respondent failed to comply explaining that the Department of Agrarian Reform
clearance for conversion of the subject property from agricultural to residential was taking time. 8 Despite several subsequent demands,
respondent still failed to fulfill her undertakings under the package agreement. 9

On May 22, 1998, Nestor was fatally shot and died.10 Thereafter, complainant, daughter of Sps. Tria, again demanded from respondent
and Sps. Jeremias the delivery of the deed of sale and the certificate of title of the subject property to them, but to no avail. For their
part, Sps. Jeremias informed complainant that they had received the consideration of ₱2,200,000.00 and they had executed and turned-
over the sale documents to respondent.11

Complainant later discovered that a deed of sale over the subject property was executed by Sps. Jeremias and notarized by respondent
favor of someone else, a certain Dennis Tan, on May 26, 1998 for a consideration of ₱200,000.00. 12

In defense, respondent, in her Comment,13 claimed that Nestor instructed her in November 1997 not to proceed with the processing of
the deed of sale and, instead, to just look for another buyer. 14 She further averred that Nestor also demanded from her the return of the
purchase price, and that she complied with the said demand and returned the ₱2,800,000.00 in cash to Nestor sometime during the
latter part of January 1998.15 However, she did not ask for a written receipt therefor. In fact, Nestor told her not to return the
₱115,000.00 intended for capital gains taxes and other expenses, and to just apply the said sum as attorney’s fees for the other legal
services that she rendered for him. 16

In the Court’s Resolution17 dated August 30, 1999, the case was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for
investigation, report, and recommendation. After numerous postponements, mostly at the instance of respondent,18 only the
complainant and her witnesses testified before the IBP. Eventually, respondent’s right to present evidence was considered waived.19

The IBP’s Report and Recommendation

On September 25, 2007, the IBP Investigating Commissioner, Wilfredo E.J.E. Reyes (Investigating Commissioner), issued his Report
and Recommendation,20 finding respondent to have violated her oath as a lawyer due to her participation in the second sale of the
subject property despite the lack of any lawful termination of the prior sale of the same property to Sps.Tria. The Investigating
Commissioner observed that respondent received, and admitted to have received, from Sps. Tria the ₱2,800,000.00 purchase price and
the amount of ₱115,000.00 for expenses. He further found the second sale of the same property to Dennis Tan as a clear indication
that respondent: (a) employed serious deceit or fraud against Sps. Tria and their family; (b) violated their proprietary rights; and (c)
violated the trust and confidence reposed in her.21 On the other hand, the Investigating Commissioner did not give credence to
respondent’s defense that she returned the ₱2,800,000.00 purchase price given by Sps. Tria and that the latter caused the cancellation
of the sale of the subject property in their favor, absent any receipt or documentation to prove the same. 22 As counsel for Sps. Tria,
respondent failed in her obligation to observe honesty and diligence in their transaction and, as such, she was found guilty of grave
misconduct and gross malpractice in violation of Canons 17 and 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (Code). 23 Accordingly,
the Investigating Commissioner recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for a period of five years. 24

Finding the recommendation to be fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws and rules, and considering
respondent’s violation of Canons 17 and 18 of the Code, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the Investigating
Commissioner’s Report and Recommendation in Resolution No. XVIII-2007-18525 dated October 19,2007 but reduced the suspension
of respondent from the practice of law from five years to one year.

Both complainant and respondent filed their respective motions for reconsideration26 which were, however, denied in the IBP Board of
Governors’ Resolution No. XX-2012-109 dated March 10, 2012.27

The Issue Before the Court

The essential issue in this case is whether or not respondent should beheld administratively liable for violating Canons 17 and 18 of
the Code.

The Court’s Ruling


The Court finds no cogent reason to disturb the findings of the IBP. Indeed, respondent, in her Comment, already admitted that she
rendered legal services to Sps. Tria,28 which necessarily gave rise to a lawyer-client relationship between them. The complete
turnaround made by respondent in her motion for reconsideration from the IBP Board of Governors’ Resolution No. XX-2012-109,
where she contended that there was no lawyer-client relationship between her and Sps. Tria,29 cannot thus be given any credence.

Since respondent publicly held herself out as lawyer, the mere fact that she also donned the hat of a real estate broker did not divest
her of the responsibilities attendant to the legal profession. In this regard, the legal advice and/or legal documentation that she offered
and/or rendered regarding the real estate transaction subject of this case should not be deemed removed from the category of legal
services.30 Case law instructs that if a person, in respect to business affairs or troubles of any kind, consults a lawyer with a view to
obtaining professional advice or assistance, and the attorney voluntarily permits or acquiesces with the consultation, then the
professional employment is established.31 Thus, in view of the fact that Sps. Tria knew respondent to be, and transacted with her as, a
lawyer, her belated and unilateral classification of her own acts as being limited to those of a real estate broker cannot be upheld. In
any case, the lawyer-client relationship between Sps. Tria and respondent was confirmed by the latter’s admission that she rendered
legal services to the former. With this relationship having been established, the Court proceeds to apply the ethical principles pertinent
to this case.

It is a core ethical principle that lawyers owe fidelity to their clients’ cause and must always be mindful of the trust and confidence
reposed in them.32 They are duty-bound to observe candor, fairness, and loyalty in all their dealings and transactions with their
clients.33 Irrefragably, the legal profession demands of attorneys an absolute abdication of every personal advantage conflicting in any
way, directly or indirectly, with the interests of their clients. 34 As enshrined in Canons 17 and 18 of the Code:

Canon 17 - A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he shall be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him.

Canon 18 - A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence.1âwphi1

In the present case, respondent clearly transgressed the above-mentioned rules as her actions were evidently prejudicial to her clients’
interests. Records disclose that instead of delivering the deed of sale covering the subject property to her clients, she willfully
notarized a deed of sale over the same property in favor of another person. Accordingly, far removed from protecting the interest of
her clients, Sps. Tria, who had, in fact, already fully paid the purchase price of the subject property, respondent participated and was
even instrumental in bringing about the defeat of their rights over the said property. Hence, respondent grossly violated the trust and
confidence reposed in her by her clients, in contravention of Canons 17and 18 of the Code. To add, by turning against her own clients,
respondent also violated Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code which provides that a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest and
immoral or deceitful conduct. Lest it be forgotten, lawyers are bound to maintain not only a high standard of legal proficiency, but
also of morality, honesty, integrity, and fair dealing. 35 These unyielding standards respondent evidently failed to adhere to.

Anent the proper penalty to be imposed, records bear out that the penalty of suspension from the practice of law recommended by the
Investigating Commissioner was decreased from a period of five years to just one year by the IBP Board of Governors in Resolution
No. XVIII-2007-185. However, the Court observes that the said resolution is bereft of any explanation showing the bases for such
modification in contravention of Section 12(a), Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court which mandates that "the decision of the Board upon
such review shall be in writing and shall clearly and distinctly state the facts and the reasons on which it is based." Verily, the Court
frowns on the unexplained change made by the IBP Board of Governors in the recommended penalty. Be that as it may, the Court
proceeds to correct the same.

Jurisprudence reveals that in similar cases where lawyers abused the trust and confidence reposed in them by their clients as well as
committed unlawful, dishonest, and immoral or deceitful conduct, as in this case, the Court found them guilty of gross misconduct and
disbarred them. In Chuav. Mesina, Jr.,36 the Court disbarred the lawyer who, upon his misrepresentations, breached his promise to his
clients to transfer to them the property subject of that case, but instead, offered the same for sale to the public. Also, in Tabang v.
Gacott,37 the penalty of disbarment was meted out against the lawyer who, among others, actively sought to sell the properties subject
of that case contrary to the interests of his own clients. As the infractions in the foregoing cases are akin to those committed by
respondent in the case at bar, the Court deems that the same penalty of disbarment be imposed against her. Clearly, as herein
discussed, respondent committed deliberate violations of the Code as she dishonestly dealt with her own clients and advanced the
interests of another against them resulting to their loss. For such violations, respondent deserves the ultimate punishment of
disbarment consistent with existing jurisprudence.

As a final point, it bears to note that the foregoing resolution does not-as it should not -include an order for the return of the
₱2,800,000.00 purchase price and the amount of ₱115,000.00 for expenses allegedly received by respondent, albeit the Investigating
Commissioner's findings on the same. In Roa v. Moreno,38 it has been held that disciplinary proceedings against lawyers are only
confined to the issue of whether or not the respondent-lawyer is still fit to be allowed to continue as a member of the Bar and that the
only concern is his administrative liability.39Thus, the Court's findings during administrative-disciplinary proceedings have no bearing
on the liabilities of the parties involved which are purely civil in nature -meaning, those liabilities which have no intrinsic link to the
lawyer's professional engagement40 – as the same should be threshed out in a proper proceeding of such nature.

WHEREFORE, respondent Epifania "Fanny" Obias is found guilty of gross misconduct and is accordingly DISBARRED.

Let a copy of this Resolution be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the Office of the
Court Administrator for circulation to all the courts.

A.C. No. 5239 November 18, 2013

SPOUSES GEORGE A. WARRINER and AURORA R. WARRINER, Complainants,


vs.
ATTY. RENI M. DUBLIN, Respondent.
RESOLUTION

DEL CASTILLO, J.:

This resolves the administrative Complaint1 filed on March 14, 2000 by complainant-spouses George Arthur Warriner (Warriner) and
Aurora R. Warriner against respondent Atty. Reni M. Dublin for gross negligence and dereliction of duty.

In their Complaint filed directly before the Office of the Bar Confidant of this Court, complainants alleged that they secured the
services of respondent in the filing of a Complaint for damages captioned as Aurora M Del Rio-Warriner and her spouse-husband
George Arthur Warriner, plaintiffs, versus E.B. Villarosa & Partner Co. Ltd. and docketed as Civil Case No. 23,396-95 before the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Davao City, Branch 16; that during the proceedings in Civil Case No. 23,396-95, respondent requested
the RTC for a period of 10 days within which to submit his Formal Offer of Documentary Evidence; that despite the lapse of the
requested period, respondent did not submit his Formal Offer of Documentary Evidence; that respondent did not file any comment to
E.B. Villarosa & Partner Co., Ltd. s motion to declare complainants to have waived their right to file Formal Offer of Documentary
Evidence; that respondent belatedly filed a Formal Offer of Documentary Evidence which the RTC denied; that respondent did not
oppose or file any comment to E.B. Villarosa & Partner Co., Ltd.’s move to dismiss the Complaint; and that the RTC eventually
dismissed Civil Case No. 23,396-95 to the prejudice of herein complainants. In a Resolution2 dated June 26, 2000, we directed
respondent to file his Comment to this administrative Complaint. Upon receipt of the Resolution on August 24, 2000, 3 respondent
requested for an extension of 30 days which was granted.4

However, as of August 5, 2002, or after a lapse of almost two years, respondent had not yet filed his Comment. Thus, we resolved to
require respondent to "show cause why he should not be disciplinarily dealt with or held in contempt for such failure and to comply
with the resolution requiring said comment, both within ten (10) days from notice." 5 Respondent received our directive but chose to
ignore the same.6 In another Resolution7 dated August 4, 2003, we imposed a fine of ₱1,000.00 on respondent and reiterated our
directives requiring him to file his Comment and to submit an explanation on his failure to file the same. However, respondent again
ignored this Court’s directive. Thus, on February 15, 2006, we increased the fine to ₱2,000.00 but respondent continued to ignore our
Resolutions.8 Consequently, on March 10, 2008, we resolved to order respondent’s arrest and detention until he complies with our
Resolutions.9

This time, respondent heeded our directives by submitting his Compliance 10 and Comment.11 Respondent claimed that he failed to file
his Comment to the instant administrative case because he lost the records of Civil Case No. 23,396-95 and that he tried to get a copy
from the RTC to no avail.

In his Comment belatedly filed eight years after the prescribed period, respondent averred that complainant Warriner is an Australian
national who married his Filipino spouse as a convenient scheme to stay in the country; that he rendered his services in Civil Case No.
23,396-95 free of charge; that he accepted the case because he was challenged by Warriner’s criticism of the Philippine judicial
system; that he doubted the veracity of Warriner’s claim that the construction being undertaken by E.B. Villarosa & Partner Co., Ltd.
indeed caused the erosion of the soil towards his property; that Warriner was his only witness during the trial; that the reluctance of
other witnesses to testify for Warriner strengthened his suspicion of the veracity of Warriner’s claim; that upon inquiries, he
discovered that the bits of evidence presented by Warriner were fabricated; that the barangay officials do not wish to participate in the
fraudulent scheme of Warriner; that he visited Warriner’s property and saw that Warriner authored the damage to his property by
draining the soil erosion prevention ditches provided by E.B. Villarosa & Partner Co., Ltd.; that he had a heated argument with
Warriner during which the latter threatened him with a disbarment suit; that based on his discovery, respondent did not wish to submit
his Formal Offer of Documentary Evidence; that complainants no longer saw him or inquired about the status of the case; that he did
not withdraw from the case because complainants no longer visited him at his law office; that if he withdraws, Warriner would only
hire another lawyer to perpetrate his fraudulent scheme; and that he could not be held administratively liable for filing a belated
Formal Offer of Documentary Evidence as he only did the same to protect the legal profession and in accordance with his oath not to
do any falsehood or promote unlawful causes.

In a Resolution12 dated July 16, 2008, we found respondent’s explanation for failing to comply with our directives not fully
satisfactory hence, we admonished him to be more circumspect in his dealings with the Court. At the same time, we referred the
Complaint to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation.

The parties submitted their respective Position Papers before the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline.

In their Position Paper,13 complainants insisted that respondent mishandled their case before the RTC by filing a motion to admit the
formal exhibits almost three months after the prescribed period; that respondent did not present complainants’ Marriage Contract and
General Power of Attorney that would have allowed Warriner to represent his wife while the latter is out of the country; that
complainants’ marriage is not for convenience; that complainants have a son out of said marriage; that respondent was paid for his
services; that E.B. Villarosa & Partner Co., Ltd. did not secure an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) before undertaking
the construction; that Warriner was not the sole witness for the prosecution; that the records of Civil Case No. 23,396-95 would show
that a representative from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Barangay Captain were likewise
presented; and that these witnesses proved that Warriner’s claim was not a fabrication.

In his Position Paper,14 respondent contradicted his earlier assertion in his Comment filed before the Court that Warriner was his only
witness in Civil Case No. 23,396-95 by claiming this time that aside from Warriner, he also presented as witnesses a former barangay
official and a representative from DENR. He conceded that E.B. Villarosa & Partner Co., Ltd. indeed failed to secure an ECC but
claimed that this alone would not prove that E.B. Villarosa & Partner Co., Ltd. did not institute corrective measures to prevent soil
erosion and damages to neighboring houses such as Warriner’s. He insisted that it is the natural topography of the place which caused
the soil erosion which again contradicted his earlier allegation in his Comment before this Court that it was Warriner who caused the
soil erosion by destroying the ditches constructed by the developer. Moreover, he alleged that the estimate of damages provided by
Bening’s Garden which he offered as an exhibit in Civil Case No. 23,396-95 was a fabrication as there is no such entity in Laurel St.,
Davao City.

In their Supplemental Position Paper,15 complainants argued, among others, that since more than eight years have lapsed, it is possible
that Bening’s Garden relocated to another address but it does not mean that it never existed.

In his Report and Recommendation,16 the Investigating Commissioner17 found respondent guilty of mishandling Civil Case No.
23,396-95 in violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility and thus recommended respondent’s suspension from the practice of
law for a period of six months.

The IBP Board of Governors, in Resolution No. XIX-2010-44218 dated August 28, 2010, approved with modification the findings and
recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner. The IBP Board of Governors noted that aside from mishandling the case of
complainants, respondent also showed his propensity to defy the orders of the court, thus it recommended respondent's suspension
from the practice of law for one year.

Respondent moved for reconsideration insisting that the IBP’s Resolution is not supported by facts. He maintained that his actuations
did not amount to a violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility; and that the filing of the Formal Offer of Documentary
Evidence, although belated, exculpated him from any liability. He asserted that the exhibits were fabricated thus he deliberately
belatedly filed the Formal Offer of Documentary Evidence in the hope that the same would be refused admission by the RTC. He
denied defying lawful orders of the RTC or this Court. He insisted that defiance of lawful orders connotes total, complete or absolute
refusal and not mere belated filing. He argued that he did not oppose or file comment to the Motion to Dismiss as he deemed the same
proper considering the fabricated allegations of his clients. Respondent argued that the penalty recommended by the IBP is not
commensurate to his infractions. He alleged that the records of this case would show that he did not utterly disregard the orders or
processes of the Court or the IBP. He claimed that this Court should have deemed his failure to timely file a Comment as a waiver on
his part to file the same, and not as defiance of this Court’s orders. Besides, he insisted that the only issue to be resolved by the IBP
was the alleged mishandling of Civil Case No. 23,396-95; the IBP should not have delved on whether he disregarded or was
disrespectful of the Court’s orders because he was not given any opportunity to rebut the same.

Finally, respondent posited that his penalty is oppressive, excessive and disproportionate. He argued that with his suspension, the other
cases he is handling would be affected.

Complainants also filed their Motion for Reconsideration insisting that respondent should be disbarred or suspended for five years
from the practice of law. To this, respondent filed his Comment asserting that the Investigating Commissioner erred and was
inaccurate when he stated in his Report and Recommendation that respondent had a heated argument with the complainants. He
averred that after the filing of the Formal Offer of Documentary Evidence and until the dismissal of Civil Case No. 23,396-95, he had
no occasion to meet the complainants. He maintained that he had nothing to be remorseful about and that there is absolutely no
evidence that would justify his suspension. He maintained that "being basic and elementary in any legal procedure, a failure or refusal
to submit comment is but a waiver to so comment and puts the controversy submitted for resolution based on the evidence available at
hand x x x. It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court did not consider respondent’s failure or omission as having such effects, but such
failure cannot be considered as a contemptuous act x x x."

The IBP Board of Governors, however, was not persuaded hence it denied respondent’s Motion for Reconsideration.

On May 6, 2013, respondent filed before this Court An Ex Parte Manifestation (Not a Motion for Reconsideration) 19insisting that his
failure to timely file comment on the administrative case does not constitute defiance of the Court’s directives but is only "a natural
human expression of frustration, distraught and disappointment" when this Court and the IBP entertained a clearly unmeritorious
Complaint. In any case, he averred that on April 12, 2013, the IBP Davao City Chapter presented him with a Certificate of
Appreciation for his invaluable support to the local chapter. He claims that –

x x x Even a feeble minded average person will find it ridiculously hilarious and comical that the [IBP] National Office condemns
undersigned for his acts allegedly inimical to the profession but will be ‘praised to the heavens’, so to speak, by the local chapter of
the same organization for his invaluable support to that same organization whose object, among others, is to discipline its members to
be respectful and [subservient] to the rule of law by serving justice in an orderly and dignified manner. Weight and credence must be
accorded the recognition and appreciation by this local chapter being logically considered as having the first hand observation and,
thus, the personal knowledge of undersigned’s personal character, integrity, uprightness, reputation and sacrifices in the practice of his
legal profession.

As a gesture of meek obedience, respondent will not pray for the reconsideration and setting aside of that resolution adopted by the
Honorable Board of Governors suspending him from the practice of law for one (1) year, erroneous, disproportionate and harsh as it
may be. Undersigned only prays that, by way of protecting the prestigious image of the [IBP], measures be adopted to prevent it from
becoming a laughing stock of professional organizations in the Philippines worthy for the books of wonders by its inconsistent,
ridiculous and contradictory stance of disciplining its members exemplified by the predicament of respondent in this instant
proceeding on the one hand but on the other hand is extolled by its local chapter to high heavens for his "invaluable support" of the
tenets and foundation of that very same organization that condemns him. THIS IS HILARIOUSLY COMICAL AND ABSURDLY
ODD.

Our Ruling

Respondent is indeed guilty of mishandling Civil Case No. 23,396-95. Records show that the 10-day period given to respondent to
submit his formal offer of documentary evidence pursuant to the RTC Order dated November 11, 1997 lapsed without any compliance
from the respondent.
Consequently, the RTC, in its January 23, 1998 Order deemed respondent to have waived the submission of his formal offer of
exhibits. Instead of asking the RTC to set aside the above Order, respondent filed on February 3, 1998 a Motion to Admit the Belated
Formal Exhibits in Evidence. As to be expected, the RTC denied the motion. At the same time, it directed E.B. Villarosa & Partner
Co., Ltd. to file its Motion to Dismiss by way of Demurrer to Evidence. Again, respondent failed to comment or oppose the Motion to
Dismiss despite the opportunity given by the RTC. As a result, Civil Case No. 23,396-95 was dismissed.

Plainly, respondent violated the Code of Professional Responsibility particularly Canon 18 and Rule 18.03 which provide:

Canon 18 – A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence.

Rule 18.03 – A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him
liable.

Worse, it appears that respondent deliberately mishandled Civil Case No. 23,396-95 to the prejudice of herein complainants. Culled
from the pleadings respondent submitted before this Court and the IBP, respondent admitted that he deliberately failed to timely file a
formal offer of exhibits because he believes that the exhibits were fabricated and was hoping that the same would be refused
admission by the RTC. This is improper. If respondent truly believes that the exhibits to be presented in evidence by his clients were
fabricated, then he has the option to withdraw from the case. Canon 22 allows a lawyer to withdraw his services for good cause such
as "[w]hen the client pursues an illegal or immoral course of conduct with the matter he is handling" 20 or "[w]hen the client insists that
the lawyer pursue conduct violative of these canons and rules." 21 Respondent adverted to the estimate of damages provided by
Bening’s Garden as a fabrication as there is no such entity in Laurel St., Davao City. Unfortunately, respondent anchored his claim
that Bening's Garden does not exist merely on the claim of Rudolph C. Lumibao, a "sympathetic client" and a part-time gardener.
Complainants refuted this allegation by claiming that Bening's Garden must have relocated its business considering that more than
eight years have passed since the estimate was secured. Complainants also pointed out that since the filing of this case, respondent has
thrice relocated his office but this does not mean that his practice has ceased to exist.

We also agree with the IBP that respondent has a propensity to disobey and disrespect court orders and processes.1âwphi1 Note that
we required respondent to submit his Comment to this administrative Complaint as early as year 2000. However, he was only able to
file his Comment eight years later, or in 2008 and only after we ordered his arrest. "As an officer of the court, respondent is expected
to know that a resolution of this Court is not a mere request but an order which should be complied with promptly and completely. 22

Finally, it has not escaped our notice that respondent is also prone to resorting to contradictions in his effort to exculpate himself. In
his Comment filed before this Court, respondent claimed that Warriner was his only witness in Civil Case No. 23,396-95. However, in
his Position Paper filed before the IBP, he admitted that aside from Warriner, he also presented as witnesses a former barangay official
and a representative from DENR. Next, he claimed in his Comment filed before this Court that he had a heated argument with
Warriner during which the latter threatened him with a disbarment suit. The Investigating Commissioner took this into account when
he submitted his Report and Recommendation. Surprisingly, respondent claimed in his Comment to complainant's Motion for
Reconsideration before the IBP that the Investigating Commissioner erred and was inaccurate when he stated in his Report and
Recommendation that respondent had a heated argument with the complainants. Moreover, respondent claimed in his Comment before
this Court that Warriner authored the damage to his property by draining the soil erosion prevention ditches provided by E.B.
Villarosa & Partner Co., Ltd. However, he again contradicted himself when he claimed in his Position Paper that the natural
topography of the place was the cause of the erosion. At this juncture, respondent must be reminded that as a lawyer and an officer of
the Court, he "owes candor, fairness and good faith to the court." 23 He "shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in
court; nor shall he mislead, or allow the Court to be misled by any artifice." 24

Under the circumstances, and considering that we had already admonished respondent and had him arrested for his adamant refusal to
obey our directives, we find the penalty of suspension from the practice of law for six months, as recommended by the Investigating
Commissioner, and as we similarly imposed in Hernandez v. Padilla25 and Pesto v. Millo,26 commensurate to respondent’s infractions.
Besides, we wish to emphasize that "suspension is not primarily intended as a punishment but a means to protect the public and the
legal profession."27

IN VIEW WHEREOF, Atty. Reni M. Dublin is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for six months effective upon receipt of this
Resolution with a WARNING that a similar violation will be dealt with more severely. He is DIRECTED to report to this Court the
date of his receipt of this Resolution to enable this Court to determine when his suspension shall take effect.

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

SO ORDERED.

A.C. No. 7766 August 5, 2014

JOSE ALLAN TAN, Complainant,


vs.
PEDRO S. DIAMANTE, Respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:
For the Court's resolution is an administrative Complaint1 for disbarment dated February 1, 2008 filed by complainant Jose Allan Tan
(complainant) against respondent Pedro S. Diamante (respondent), charging him of violating the Code of Professional Responsibility
(CPR) and the lawyer’s oath for fabricating and using a spurious court order, and for failing to keep his client informed of the status of
the case.

The Facts

On April 2, 2003, complainant, claiming to be a recognized illegitimate son of the late Luis Tan, secured the services of respondent in
order to pursue a case for partition of property against the heirs of the late spouses Luis and Natividad Valencia-Tan.2 After accepting
the engagement, respondent filed the corresponding complaint 3 before the Regional Trial Court of Bacolod City, Branch 46 (RTC),
docketed as Civil Case No. 03-11947. The complaint was eventually dismissed by the RTC in an Order 4 dated July 25, 2007 for lack
of cause of action and insufficiency of evidence.5 While respondent was notified of such dismissal as early as August 14,
2007,6 complainant learned of the same only on August 24, 2007 when he visited the former’s office. 7 On such occasion, respondent
allegedly asked for the amount of ₱10,000.00 for the payment of appeal fees and other costs, but since complainant could not produce
the said amount at that time, respondent, instead, asked and was given the amount of ₱500.00 purportedly as payment of the
reservation fee for the filing of a notice of appeal before the RTC. 8 On September 12, 2007, Tan handed the amount of ₱10,000.00 to
respondent, who on even date, filed a notice of appeal9 before the RTC.10

In an Order11 dated September 18, 2007, the RTC dismissed complainant’s appeal for having been filed beyond the reglementary
period provided for by law. Respondent, however, did not disclose such fact and, instead, showed complainant an Order 12 dated
November 9, 2007 purportedly issued by the RTC (November 9, 2007 Order) directing the submission of the results of a DNA testing
to prove his filiation to the late Luis Tan, within 15 days from receipt of the notice. Considering the technical requirements for such
kind of testing, complainant proceeded to the RTC and requested for an extension of the deadline for its submission. It was then that
he discovered that the November 9, 2007 Order was spurious, as certified by the RTC’s Clerk of Court. 13 Complainant also found out
that, contrary to the representations of respondent, his appeal had long been dismissed.14 Aggrieved, he filed the instant administrative
complaint for disbarment against respondent.

In his Comments/Compliance15 dated September 4, 2009, respondent alleged that it was complainant’s failure to timely produce the
amount of 1,400.00 to pay for the appeal fees that resulted in the late filing of his appeal. According to him, he informed complainant
of the lapse of the reglementary period to appeal, but the latter insisted in pursuing the same. He also claimed to have assisted
complainant "not for money or malice" but being a desperate litigant, he was blamed for the court’s unfavorable decision. 16

The IBP’s Report and Recommendation

In a Report and Recommendation17 dated September 21, 2010, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Investigating Commissioner
found respondent administratively liable, and accordingly recommended that the penalty of suspension for a period of one (1) year be
meted out against him.18

The Investigating Commissioner found complainant’s imputations against respondent to be well-founded, observing that instead of
meeting complainant’s allegations squarely, particularly, the issue of the nondisclosure of the dismissal of the partition case,
respondent sidestepped and delved on arguments that hardly had an effect on the issues at hand. 19

Moreover, the Investigating Commissioner did not find credence in respondent’s accusation that the spurious November 9, 2007 Order
originated from complainant, ratiocinating that it was respondent who was motivated to fabricate the same to cover up his lapses that
brought about the dismissal of complainant’s appeal and make it appear that there is still an available relief left for Tan. 20

In a Resolution dated April 16, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors unanimously adopted and approved the aforesaid report and
recommendation.21

The Issue Before the Court

The essential issue in this case is whether or not respondent should be held administratively liable for violating the CPR.

The Court’s Ruling

After a judicious perusal of the records, the Court concurs with the IBP’s findings, subject to the modification of the recommended
penalty to be imposed upon respondent.

Under Rule 18.04, Canon 18 of the CPR, it is the lawyer’s duty to keep his client constantly updated on the developments of his case
as it is crucial in maintaining the latter’s confidence, to wit:

CANON 18 – A LAWYER SHALL SERVE HIS CLIENT WITH COMPETENCE AND DILIGENCE.

Rule 18.04 – A lawyer shall keep the client informed of the status of his case and shall respond within a reasonable time to client’s
request for information.

As an officer of the court, it is the duty of an attorney to inform his client of whatever important information he may have acquired
affecting his client’s case. He should notify his client of any adverse decision to enable his client to decide whether to seek an
appellate review thereof. Keeping the client informed of the developments of the case will minimize misunderstanding and loss of
trust and confidence in the attorney. The lawyer should not leave the client in the dark on how the lawyer is defending the client’s
interests.22 In this connection, the lawyer must constantly keep in mind that his actions, omissions, or nonfeasance would be binding
upon his client. Concomitantly, the lawyer is expected to be acquainted with the rudiments of law and legal procedure, and a client
who deals with him has the right to expect not just a good amount of professional learning and competence but also a whole-hearted
fealty to the client’s cause.23

In the case at bar, records reveal that as of August 14, 2007, respondent already knew of the dismissal of complainant’s partition case
before the RTC. Despite this fact, he never bothered to inform complainant of such dismissal as the latter only knew of the same on
August 24, 2007 when he visited the former’s office. To add insult to injury, respondent was inexcusably negligent in filing
complainant’s appeal only on September 12, 2007, or way beyond the reglementary period therefor, thus resulting in its outright
dismissal. Clearly, respondent failed to exercise such skill, care, and diligence as men of the legal profession commonly possess and
exercise in such matters of professional employment.24

Worse, respondent attempted to conceal the dismissal of complainant’s appeal by fabricating the November 9, 2007 Order which
purportedly required a DNA testing to make it appear that complainant’s appeal had been given due course, when in truth, the same
had long been denied. In so doing, respondent engaged in an unlawful, dishonest, and deceitful conduct that caused undue prejudice
and unnecessary expenses on the part of complainant. Accordingly, respondent clearly violated Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the CPR, which
provides:

CANON 1 – A lawyer shall uphold the constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect for law and legal processes.

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

As officers of the court, lawyers are bound to maintain not only a high standard of legal proficiency, but also of morality, honesty,
integrity, and fair dealing,25 failing in which whether in his personal or private capacity, he becomes unworthy to continue his practice
of law.26 A lawyer’s inexcusable neglect to serve his client’s interests with utmost diligence and competence as well as his engaging in
unlawful, dishonest, and deceitful conduct in order to conceal such neglect should never be countenanced, and thus, administratively
sanctioned.

In view of the foregoing, respondent’s conduct of employing a crooked and deceitful scheme to keep complainant in the dark and
conceal his case’s true status through the use of a falsified court order evidently constitutes Gross Misconduct. 27 His acts should not
just be deemed as unacceptable practices that are disgraceful and dishonorable; they reveal a basic moral flaw that makes him unfit to
practice law.28 In this regard, the Court’s pronouncement in Sebastian v. Calis29 is instructive, viz.:

Deception and other fraudulent acts by a lawyer are disgraceful and dishonorable. They reveal moral flaws in a lawyer.1âwphi1 They
are unacceptable practices. A lawyer’s relationship with others should be characterized by the highest degree of good faith, fairness
and candor. This is the essence of the lawyer’s oath. The lawyer’s oath is not mere facile words, drift and hollow, but a sacred trust
that must be upheld and keep inviolable. The nature of the office of an attorney requires that he should be a person of good moral
character. This requisite is not only a condition precedent to the admission to the practice of law, its continued possession is also
essential for remaining in the practice of law. We have sternly warned that any gross misconduct of a lawyer, whether in his
professional or private capacity, puts his moral character in serious doubt as a member of the Bar, and renders him unfit to continue in
the practice of law.30 (Emphases and underscoring supplied)

Jurisprudence reveals that in analogous cases where lawyers failed to inform their clients of the status of their respective cases, the
Court suspended them for a period of six (6) months. In Mejares v. Romana, 31 the Court suspended the lawyer for the same period for
his failure to timely and adequately inform his clients of the dismissal of their petition. In the same vein, in Penilla v. Alcid, Jr.,32 the
same penalty was imposed on the lawyer who consistently failed to update his client of the status of his cases, notwithstanding several
follow-ups.

However, in cases where lawyers engaged in unlawful, dishonest, and deceitful conduct by falsifying documents, the Court found
them guilty of Gross Misconduct and disbarred them. In Brennisen v. Contawi, 33 the Court disbarred the lawyer who falsified a special
power of attorney in order to mortgage and sell his client’s property. Also, in Embido v. Pe, 34 the penalty of disbarment was meted out
against the lawyer who falsified an in existent court decision for a fee.

As already discussed, respondent committed acts of falsification in order to misrepresent to his client, i.e., complainant, that he still
had an available remedy in his case, when in reality, his case had long been dismissed for failure to timely file an appeal, thus, causing
undue prejudice to the latter. To the Court, respondent’s acts are so reprehensible, and his violations of the CPR are so flagrant,
exhibiting his moral unfitness and inability to discharge his duties as a member of the bar. His actions erode rather than enhance the
public perception of the legal profession. Therefore, in view of the totality of his violations, as well as the damage and prejudice
caused to his client, respondent deserves the ultimate punishment of disbarment.

WHEREFORE, respondent Pedro S. Diamante is hereby DISBARRED for Gross Misconduct and violations of Rule 1.01, Canon 1,
and Rule 18.04, Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, and his name is ordered STRICKEN OFF from the roll of
attorneys.

A.C. No. 6484, June 16, 2015

ADELITA B. LLUNAR, Complainant, v. ATTY. ROMULO RICAFORT, Respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:
The present administrative case stemmed from the complaint-affidavit1 that Adelita B. Llunar (complainant) filed against Atty.
Romulo Ricafort (respondent) for gross and inexcusable negligence and serious misconduct.

Antecedents

In September 2000, the complainant, as attorney-in-fact of Severina Bafiez, hired the respondent to file a case against father and son
Ricardo and Ard Cervantes (Ard) for the recovery of a parcel of land allegedly owned by the Banez family but was fraudulently
registered under the name of Ricardo and later was transferred to Ard.

The property, which Ard had mortgaged with the Rural Bank of Malilipot, Albay, was the subject of foreclosure proceedings at the
time the respondent was hired. The respondent received from the complainant the following amounts: (a) P70,000.00 as partial
payment of the redemption price of the property; (b) P19,000.00 to cover the filing fees; and (c) P6,500.00 as attorney's fees.

Three years later, the complainant learned that no case involving the subject property was ever filed by the respondent with the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Legaspi City. Thus, the complainant demanded that the respondent return to her the amount of
P95,000.00.

The respondent refused to return the whole amount of P95,000.00 to the complainant. He argued that a complaint 2 for annulment of
title against Ard Cervantes had actually been filed in court, though not by him, but by another lawyer, Atty. Edgar M. Abitria. Thus,
he was willing to return only what was left of the P95,000.00 after deducting therefrom the P50,000.00 that he paid to Atty. Abitria as
acceptance fee for handling the case.

The complainant refused to recognize the complaint for annulment of title filed by Atty. Abitria and claimed that she had no
knowledge of Atty. Abitria's engagement as counsel. Besides, the complaint was filed three (3) years late and the property could no
longer be redeemed from the bank. Also, the complainant discovered that the respondent had been suspended indefinitely from the
practice of law since May 29, 2002, pursuant to this Court's decision in Administrative Case No. 5054,3 which the complainant
suspected was the reason another lawyer, and not the respondent, filed the complaint for annulment of title in court.

In a resolution4 dated February 2, 2005, the Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation,
report, and recommendation.

In a report5 dated May 22, 2009, IBP Investigating Commissioner Cecilio C. Villanueva found the respondent to have been grossly
negligent in handling the complainant's case and to have gravely abused the trust and confidence reposed in him by the complainant,
thereby, violating Canons 156 and 17,7 and Rules 1.01,8 16.03,9 18.03,10 and 18.0411 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR).

Also, the Investigating Commissioner found the respondent to have erred in not informing his client that he was under indefinite
suspension from the practice of law. Due to these infractions, Commissioner Villanueva recommended that the respondent remain
suspended indefinitely from the practice of law.

In Resolution No. XIX-2011-224 dated May 14, 2011, the IBP Board of Governors agreed with the Investigating Commissioner's
findings on the respondent's liability but modified the recommended penalty from indefinite suspension to disbarment.12 It also
ordered the respondent to return to the complainant the amount of P95,000.00 within thirty (30) days from notice. The respondent
moved for reconsideration.

In his motion for reconsideration,13 the respondent argued that his referral of the complainant's case to Atty. Abitria was actually with
the complainant's knowledge and consent; and that he paid Atty. Abitria P50,000.00 for accepting the case. These facts were
confirmed by Atty. Abitria in an affidavit14 dated November 17, 2004, but were alleged to have been overlooked by Commissioner
Villanueva in his report. The IBP Board of Governors, in Resolution No. XX-2013-710 dated June 21, 2013, denied the respondent's
motion for reconsideration.15chanrobleslaw

Our Ruling

We find the respondent guilty of Grave Misconduct in his dealings with his client and in engaging in the practice of law while
under indefinite suspension, and thus impose upon him the ultimate penalty of DISBARMENT.

The respondent in this case committed several infractions making him liable for grave misconduct. First, the respondent did not exert
due diligence in handling the complainant's case. He failed to act promptly in redeeming the complainant's property within the period
of redemption. What is worse is the delay of three years before a complaint to recover the property was actually filed in court. The
respondent clearly dilly-dallied on the complainant's case and wasted precious time and opportunity that were then readily available to
recover the complainant's property. Under these facts, the respondent violated Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility
(CPR), which states that "a lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall
render him liable."

Second, the respondent failed to return, upon demand, the amounts given to him by the complainant for handling the latter's case. On
three separate occasions, the respondent received from the complainant the amounts of P19,000.00, P70,000.00, and P6,500.00 for
purposes of redeeming the mortgaged property from the bank and filing the necessary civil case/s against Ard Cervantes. The
complainant approached the respondent several times thereafter to follow up on the case/s to be filed supposedly by the respondent
who, in turn, reassured her that actions on her case had been taken.

After the complainant discovered three years later that the respondent had not filed any case in court, she demanded that the
respondent return the amount of P95,000.00, but her demand was left unheeded. The respondent later promised to pay her, but until
now, no payment of any amount has been made. These facts confirm that the respondent violated Canon 16 of the CPR, which
mandates every lawyer to "hold in trust all moneys and properties of his client that may come into his possession" 16 and to "account
for all money or property collected or received for or from the client." 17 In addition, a lawyer's failure to return upon demand the funds
or property he holds for his client gives rise to the presumption that he has appropriated these funds or property for his own use to the
prejudice of, and in violation of the trust reposed in him by his client. 18chanrobleslaw

Third, the respondent committed dishonesty by not being forthright with the complainant that he was under indefinite suspension from
the practice of law. The respondent should have disclosed this fact at the time he was approached by the complainant for his services.
Canon 15 of the CPR states that "a lawyer shall observe candor, fairness and loyalty in all his dealings and transactions with his
clients." The respondent lacked the candor expected of him as a member of the Bar when he accepted the complainant's case despite
knowing that he could not and should not practice law.

Lastly, the respondent was effectively in the practice of law despite the indefinite suspension imposed on him. This infraction
infinitely aggravates the offenses he committed. Based on the above facts alone, the penalty of suspension for five (5) years from the
practice of law would have been justified, but the respondent is not an ordinary violator of the profession's ethical rules; he is a repeat
violator of these rules. In Nuñez v. Atty. Ricafort,19 we had adjudged the respondent liable for grave misconduct in failing to turn over
the proceeds of the sale of a property owned by his client and in issuing bounced checks to satisfy the alias writ of execution issued by
the court in the case for violation of Batas Pambansa Big. 22 filed against him by his client. We then suspended him indefinitely from
the practice of law - a penalty short of disbarment. Under his current liability - which is no different in character from his previous
offense - we have no other way but to proceed to decree his disbarment. He has become completely unworthy of membership in our
honorable profession.

With respect to the amount to be returned to the complainant, we agree with the IBP that the respondent should return the whole
amount of P95,000.00, without deductions, regardless of whether the engagement of Atty. Abitria as counsel was with the
complainant's knowledge and consent.

In the first place, the hiring of Atty. Abitria would not have been necessary had the respondent been honest and diligent in handling
the complainant's case from the start. The complainant should not be burdened with the expense of hiring another lawyer to perform
the services that the respondent was hired to do, especially in this case where there was an inexcusable non-delivery of such services.

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Romulo Ricafort is hereby DISBARRED from the practice of law and his name REMOVED from
the Roll of Attorneys, effective immediately upon his receipt of this Decision. Also, he is ORDERED to RETURN the amount
of P95,000.00 to complainant Adelita B. Llunar, within thirty (30) days from notice of this Decision.

A.C. No. 10138 June 16, 2015


(Formerly CBD Case No. 06-1876)

ROBERTO P. NONATO, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. EUTIQUIO M. FUDOLIN, JR., Respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

We resolve the administrative complaint1 filed by Roberto P. Nonato (complainant) charging Atty. Eutiquio M. Fudolin, Jr.
(respondent) with gross neglect of duty.

Factual Background

In a verified complaint dated October 18, 2006, the complainant alleged that his father, the late Restituto Nonato (Restituto), was the
duly registered owner of a 479-sq.m. Real property ( property) at Hinigaran, Negros Occidental. The property became the subject of
ejectment proceedings filed by Restituto against Anselmo Tubongbanua ( Anselmo), before the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of
Hinigaran, Province of Negros Occidental, docketed as Civil Case No. MTC-282. When the complaint was filed, Restituto was
represen ted by Atty. Felino Garcia (Atty. Garcia). However, at the pre-trial stage, Atty. Garcia was replaced by Atty. Fudolin, the
respondent in the present case.

The complainant alleged that although his father Restituto paid the respondent his acceptance fees, no formal retainer agreement was
executed. The respondent also did not issue any receipts for the acceptance fees paid.

The respondent, on the other hand, averred that Restituto, and not the complainant, engaged his services on Restituto’s representation
that they were relatives. For this reason, he accepted the case on a minimal acceptance fee of ₱20,000.00 and appearance fee of
₱1,000.00, and did not execute any formal retainer agreement.

The complainant asserted that during the pendency of the ejectment proceedings before the MTC, the respondent failed to fully inform
his father Restituto of the status and developments in the case. Restituto could not contact the respondent despite his continued efforts.
The respondent also failed to furnish Restituto copies of the pleadings, motions and other documents filed with the court. Thus,
Restituto and the complainant were completely left in the dark regarding the status of their case.

After an exchange of initial pleadings in the ejectment proceedings, the MTC ordered the parties to submit their respective position
papers. Since neither party complied with the court’s directive, the MTC dismissed the complaint as well as the counterclaim on May
26, 2005.
The respondent filed a motion for reconsideration from the order of dismissal. He justified his failure to file the position paper by
arguing that he misplaced the case records, adding that he was al so burdened with numerous other cases. The MTC denied the
motion.

The respondent filed a second motion for reconsideration, this time alleging that the ejectment case was a me ritorious one such that
its dismissal would cause injustice to Restituto (the plaintiff). He also filed a supplemental motion, but the court denied both motions.

On September 15, 2005, Restituto died and all his properties passed on to his heirs, the complainant among them.

The complainant alleges that he and his father Restituto did not know of the ejectment suit’s dismissal as the respondent had failed to
furnish them a copy of the MTC’s dismissal order. The complainant also asserts that the respondent did not inform them about the
filing of the motion for reconsideration or of its denial by the MTC. The complainant claims that he only found out that the case had
been dismissed when he personally went to the Office of the MTC Clerk of Court and was informed of the dismissal.

Because of the patent negligence, the complainant informed the respondent that his failure to file the position paper could be a ground
for his disbarment. Furthermore, the complainant, without the respondent’s intervention, entered into an oral extrajudicial compromise
with the daughter of defendant Anselmo.

On August 17, 2007, the respondent wrote the complainant and apologized for his repeated failure to communicate with him. He
reasoned out that he failed to file the position paper due to his poor health. He also claimed that he had suffered a stroke and had
become partially blind, which caused the delay in the preparation of the pleadings in the ejectment case.2

In his Answer3 dated December 22, 2006, the respondent asserted that at the time he received the MTC’s di rective to submit a
position paper, he was already suffering from "Hypertensi ve Cardiovascular Disease, Atrial Fibrillation, Intermittent, and Diabetes
Mellitus Type II." The respondent also alleged that further consultations confirmed that he had an undetected stroke and arterial
obstruction during the previous months. His health condition led to his loss of concentration in his cases and the loss of some of the
case folders, among them the re cords of the ejectment case. The respondent also claimed that he focused on his health for self-
preservation, and underwent vascular laboratory examinations; thus, he failed to communicate with the late Restituto and the
complainant.

The respondent further averred that his failure to file the position paper in the ejectment proceedings was not due to willful negligence
but to his undetected stroke. He never revealed the gravity of his illness to his clients or to the court out of fear that his disclosure
would affect his private practice.

Lastly, the respondent alleged that after the ejectment suit’s dismissal, he exerted all efforts, to the point of risking his poor health, by
filing successive pleadings to convince the court to reconsider its dismissal order. Because the dismissal was purely based on a
technical ground, he maintained that his failure to file the position paper did not amount to the abandonment of his client’s case.

The IBP’s Report and Recommendation

IBP Investigating Commissioner Acerey C. Pacheco issued his Report and Recommendation, finding the respondent guilty of both
negligence and betrayal of his client’s confidence. The Investigating Commissioner found that the respondent’s failure to file the
position paper in the ejectment proceedings and to apprise the client of the status of the case demonstrated his negligence and lack of
prudence in dealing with his clients.

The Investigating Commissioner likewise held that the respondent’s failure to promptly inform his client s, including the complainant,
of his medical condition deprived them of the opportunity to seek the services of other lawyers. Had he notified the complainant’s
father of his illness before the case was dismissed, the latter could have engaged the services of another lawyer, and the case would
not have been dismissed on a mere technical ground.

The Investigating Commissioner recommended the respondent’s suspension for one (1) month from the practice of law.

In a Resolution4 dated May 14, 2011, the IBP Board of Governors

adopted and approved the Investigating Commissioner’s Report and Recommendation after finding it to be fully supported by the
evidence on record and by the applicable laws and rules.

The complainant moved to reconsider the resolution but the IBP Board of Governors denied his motion in a resolution 5 dated June 21,
2013.

The Issue

The issue in this case is whether or not the respondent could be held administratively liable for negligence in the performance of duty.

The Court's Ruling

Except for the recommended penalty, we adopt the findings of the IBP.

A lawyer is bound to protect his client’s interests to the best of his ability and with utmost diligence. 6 He should serve his client in a
conscientious, diligent, and efficient manner; and provide the quality of service at least equal to that which he, himself, would expect
from a competent lawyer in a similar situation. By consenting to be his client’s counsel, a lawyer impliedly represents that he will
exercise ordinary diligence or that reasonable degree of care and skill demanded by his profession, and his client may reasonably
expect him to perform his obligations diligently.7The failure to meet these standards warrants the imposition of disciplinary action.

In this case, the record clearly shows that the respondent has been remiss in the performance of his duties as Restituto’s
counsel.1avvphi1 His inaction on the matters entrusted to his care is plainly obvious. He failed to file his position paper despite notice
from the MTC requiring him to do so. His omission greatly prejudiced his client as the Court in fact dismissed the ejectment suit.

In addition, the respondent fa iled to inform Restituto and the complainant of the status of the case. His failure to file the position
paper, and to inform his client of the status of the case, not only constituted inexcusable negligence; but it also amounted to evasion of
duty.8 All these acts violate the Code of Professional Responsibility warranting the court’s imposition of disciplinary action. The
pertinent provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility provide:

Canon 17 – A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he shall be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him.

Canon 18 – A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence.

Rule 18.03 – A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him
liable.

Rule 18.04 – A lawyer shall keep the client informed of the status of his case and shall respond within a reasonable time to the client’s
request for information.

In Perla Compania de Seguros, Inc. v. Saquilabon, 9 we considered a lawyer’s failure to file a brief for his client to be inexcusable
negligence. We held that the lawyer’s omission amounted to a serious lapse in the duty he owed his client and in his professional
obligation not to delay litigation and to aid the courts in the speedy administration of justice.

Similarly in Uy v. Tansinsin,10 we ruled that a lawyer’s failure to file the required pleadings and to inform his client about the
developments in her case fell below the standard and amounted to a violation of Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility. We emphasized the importance of the lawyers’ duty to keep their clients adequately and fully informed about the
developments in their cases, and held that a client should never be left in the dark, for to do so would be to destroy the trust, faith, and
confidence reposed in the retained lawyer and in the legal profession as a whole.

We also emphasized in Villaflores v. Limos1 that the trust and confidence reposed by a client in his lawyer impose a high standard that
includes the appreciation of the lawyer’s duty to his clients, to the profession, to the courts, and to the public. Every case a lawyer
accepts deserves his full attention, diligence, skill and competence, regardless of its importance and whether he accepts it for a fee or
for free.12

Because a lawyer-client relationship is one of trust and confidence, there is a need for the client to be adequately and fully informed
about the developments in his case. A client should never be left groping in the dark; to allow this situation is to destroy the trust,
faith, and confidence reposed in the retained lawyer and in the legal profession in general. 13

The respondent has apparently failed to measure up to these required standards. He neglected to file the required position paper, and
did not give his full commitment to maintain and defend his client’s interests. Aside from failing to file the required pleading, the
respondent never exerted any effort to inform his client of the dismissal of the ejectment case.

We also find the respondent’s excuse – that he had an undetected stroke and was suffering from other illnesses – unsatisfactory and
merely an afterthought. Even assuming that he was then suffering from numerous health problems (as evidenced by the medical
certificates he attached), his medical condition cannot serve as a valid reason to excuse the omission to file the necessary court
pleadings. Th e respondent could have requested an extension of time to file the required position paper, or at the very least, informed
his client of his medical condition; all these, the respondent failed to do.

Furthermore, the respondent’s subsequent filing of successive pleadings (after the ejectment case had been dismissed) significantly
weakens his health-based excuse. His efforts not only contradict his explanation that his physical predicament forced him to focus on
his illnesses; they also indicate that his illnesses (allegedly "Hypertensive Cardiovascular Disease, Atrial Fibrillation, Intermittent, and
Diabetes Mellitus Type II") were not at all incapacitating.

All told, we find that the respondent violated Canon 17, Canon 18, and Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility. We, however, find the IBP’s recommended penalty (one (1)month suspension from the practice of law) to be a mere
slap on the wrist considering the gravity of the infractions committed. Thus, we deem it appropriate to impose the penalty of two (2)
years suspension, taking into account the respondent's acts and omissions, as well as the consequence of his negligence.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we hereby SUSPEND Atty. Eutiquio M. Fudolin, Jr. from the practice of law for a period of two
(2) years for violating Rules 18.03 and Rule 18.04, Canon' 18, and Canon 17 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. We also
WARN him that the commission of the same or similar act or acts shall be dealt with more severely.

Atty. Eutiquio M. Fudolin, Jr. is DIRECTED to formally MANIFEST to this Court, upon receipt of this Decision, the date of his
receipt which shall be the starting point of his suspension. He shall furnish a copy of this Manifestation to all the courts and quasi-
judicial bodies where he has entered his appearance as counsel.
Let a copy of this decision be attached to Atty. Fudolin's records with the Office of the Bar Confidant and posted on the Supreme
Court website as a notice to the general public.

A.C. No. 7749 July 8, 2013

JOSEFINA CARANZA VDA. DE SALDIVAR, COMPLAINANT,


vs.
ATTY. RAMON SG CABANES, JR., RESPONDENT.

RESOLUTION

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

For the Court’s resolution is an administrative complaint 1 filed by Josefina Caranza vda. de Saldivar (complainant) against Atty.
Ramon SG Cabanes, Jr. (respondent), charging him for gross negligence in violation of Canon 17, and Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of
Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (Code).

The Facts

Complainant was the defendant in an unlawful detainer case, docketed as Civil Case No. 1972, 2 filed by the heirs of one Benjamin
Don (heirs) before the Municipal Trial Court of Pili, Camarines Sur (MTC), wherein she was represented by respondent. While
respondent duly filed an answer to the unlawful detainer complaint, he, however, failed to submit a pre-trial brief as well as to attend
the scheduled preliminary conference. Consequently, the opposing counsel moved that the case be submitted for decision which
motion was granted in an Order3 dated November 27, 2003. When complainant confronted respondent about the foregoing, the latter
just apologized and told her not to worry, assuring her that she will not lose the case since she had the title to the subject property.

On December 30, 2003, the MTC issued a Decision4 (MTC Decision) against complainant, ordering her to vacate and turn-over the
possession of the subject property to the heirs as well as to pay them damages. On appeal, the Regional Trial Court of Pili, Camarines
Sur, Branch 32 (RTC), reversed the MTC Decision and dismissed the unlawful detainer complaint. 5 Later however, the Court of
Appeals (CA) reversed the RTC’s ruling and reinstated the MTC Decision.6 Respondent received a copy of the CA’s ruling on
January 27, 2006. Yet, he failed to inform complainant about the said ruling, notwithstanding the fact that the latter frequented his
work place. Neither did respondent pursue any further action. 7 As such, complainant decided to engage the services of another counsel
for the purpose of seeking other available remedies. Due to respondent’s failure to timely turn-over to her the papers and documents in
the case, such other remedies were, however, barred. Thus, based on these incidents, complainant filed the instant administrative
complaint, alleging that respondent’s acts amounted to gross negligence which resulted in her loss. 8

In a Resolution9 dated March 10, 2008, the Court directed respondent to comment on the administrative complaint within ten (10)
days from notice.

Accordingly, respondent filed a Manifestation with Compliance10 dated May 19, 2008, admitting to have agreed to represent
complainant who claimed to be the tenant and rightful occupant of the subject property owned by the late Pelagia Lascano (Pelagia).
He alleged that upon careful examination of the heirs' unlawful detainer complaint, he noticed a discrepancy between the descriptions
of the subject property as indicated in the said pleading as opposed to that which complainant supplied to him. On the belief that the
parties may be contesting two (2) sets of properties which are distinct and separate from one another, respondent, at the preliminary
conference conducted on October 28, 2003, moved for the suspension of further proceedings and proposed that a commissioner be
appointed to conduct a re-survey in order to determine the true identity of the property in dispute. The MTC allowed the counsels for
both parties to decide on the manner of the proposed re-survey, leading to the assignment of a Department of Agrarian Reform Survey
Engineer (DAR Engineer) for this purpose. In relation, the heirs’ counsel agreed to turn-over to respondent in his office11 certain
documents which indicated the subject property’s description. Thus, pending the conduct and results of the re-survey, the preliminary
conference was tentatively reset to November 27, 2003. 12

As it turned out, the heirs’ counsel was unable to furnish respondent copies of the above-stated documents, notwithstanding their
agreement. This led the latter to believe that the preliminary conference scheduled on November 27, 2003 would not push through.
Respondent averred that the aforesaid setting also happened to coincide with an important provincial conference which he was
required to attend. As such, he inadvertently missed the hearing.13 Nonetheless, he proffered that he duly appealed the adverse MTC
Decision to the RTC,14 resulting to the dismissal of the unlawful detainer complaint, albeit later reversed by the CA.

Thereafter, pending the heirs' appeal to the CA, respondent came upon the information that the disputed property was subject of a
petition for exemption from the coverage of Presidential Decree No. (PD) 27 15 filed by Pelagia against complainant’s mother, Placida
Caranza (Placida). Based on several documents furnished to him by certain DAR personnel, respondent was satisfied that Placida
indeed held the subject property for a long time and actually tilled the same in the name of Pelagia, thereby placing it under PD 27
coverage. Due to such information, respondent was convinced that Placida – and consequently, complainant (who took over the
tilling) – was indeed entitled to the subject property. Hence, he advised complainant that it would be best to pursue remedies at the
administrative level, instead of contesting the appeal filed by the heirs before the CA. It was respondent’s calculated legal strategy that
in the event the CA reverses the decision of the RTC, an opposition to the issuance of a writ of execution or a motion to quash such
writ may be filed based on the afore-stated reasons, especially if an approved plan and later, an emancipation patent covering the
subject property is issued.16

Meanwhile, the survey conducted by the DAR Engineer revealed that complainant's tillage extended to about 5,000 square meters of
the subject property which was determined to belong to the heirs, the rest being covered by the title of Pelagia. Dissatisfied,
complainant manifested her intention to secure the services of a private surveyor of her own choice, and promised to furnish
respondent a copy of the survey results, which she, however, failed to do. Later, complainant accused respondent of manipulating the
DAR Survey Results which caused their lawyer-client relationship to turn sour and eventually be severed. She has since retrieved the
entire case folders and retained the services of another lawyer. 17

In a Resolution18 dated July 7, 2008, the Court resolved to refer the instant administrative case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
(IBP) for its evaluation, report and recommendation.

The IBP Commission on Bar Discipline set the case for mandatory conference on April 15, 2009 19 and required the parties to submit
their respective position papers.20

The IBP’s Report and Recommendation

On June 18, 2009, the Investigating IBP Commissioner, Rebecca Villanueva-Maala (Investigating Commissioner), issued a Report
and Recommendation (Commissioner’s Report),21 finding respondent to have been negligent in failing to attend the preliminary
conference in Civil Case No. 1972 set on November 27, 2003 which resulted in the immediate submission of the said case for decision
and eventual loss of complainant’s cause.

The Investigating Commissioner observed that respondent could have exercised ordinary diligence by inquiring from the court as to
whether the said preliminary conference would push through, considering that the November 27, 2003 setting was only tentative and
the heirs’ counsel was not able to confer with him. Further, the fact that respondent had to attend an important provincial conference
which coincided with the said setting hardly serves as an excuse since he should have sent a substitute counsel on his behalf. Also,
respondent never mentioned any legal remedy that he undertook when the heirs elevated the decision of the RTC to the CA. In fact, he
did not file any comment or opposition to the heirs’ appeal. Finally, respondent’s enumerations of his legal options to allegedly protect
the complainant’s interests were found to be thought only after the fact. 22

Thus, based on the foregoing, the Investigating Commissioner ruled that respondent failed to exercise ordinary diligence in handling
his client's cause, warranting his suspension from the practice of law for a period of six (6) months. 23

The IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the Commissioner’s Report in Resolution No. XIX-2011-26624dated May 14,
2011, finding the same to be fully supported by the evidence on record and in accord with applicable laws and rules.

Respondent filed a motion for reconsideration25 which was, however, denied, in Resolution No. XX-2012-51726dated December 14,
2012.

The Court's Ruling

The Court resolves to adopt the IBP's findings and recommendation.

The relationship between an attorney and his client is one imbued with utmost trust and confidence. In this light, clients are led to
expect that lawyers would be ever-mindful of their cause and accordingly exercise the required degree of diligence in handling their
affairs. Verily, a lawyer is expected to maintain at all times a high standard of legal proficiency, and to devote his full attention, skill,
and competence to the case, regardless of its importance and whether he accepts it for a fee or for free. 27 Canon 17, and Rules 18.03
and 18.04 of Canon 18 of the Code embody these quintessential directives and thus, respectively state:

CANON 17 - A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he shall be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him.

CANON 18 – A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence.

xxxx

Rule 18.03 – A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him
liable.

Rule 18.04 – A lawyer shall keep the client informed of the status of his case and shall respond within a reasonable time to the client's
request for information.

Case law further illumines that a lawyer’s duty of competence and diligence includes not merely reviewing the cases entrusted to the
counsel's care or giving sound legal advice, but also consists of properly representing the client before any court or tribunal, attending
scheduled hearings or conferences, preparing and filing the required pleadings, prosecuting the handled cases with reasonable
dispatch, and urging their termination without waiting for the client or the court to prod him or her to do so. 28

Conversely, a lawyer's negligence in fulfilling his duties subjects him to disciplinary action. 29 While such negligence or carelessness is
incapable of exact formulation, the Court has consistently held that the lawyer’s mere failure to perform the obligations due his client
is per se a violation.30

Applying these principles to the present case, the Court finds that respondent failed to exercise the required diligence in handling
complainant’s cause.

Records show that he failed to justify his absence during the scheduled preliminary conference hearing in Civil Case No. 1972 which
led the same to be immediately submitted for decision. As correctly observed by the Investigating Commissioner, respondent could
have exercised ordinary diligence by inquiring from the court as to whether the said hearing would push through, especially so since it
was only tentatively set and considering further that he was yet to confer with the opposing counsel. The fact that respondent had an
important commitment during that day hardly exculpates him from his omission since the prudent course of action would have been
for him to send a substitute counsel to appear on his behalf. In fact, he should have been more circumspect to ensure that the aforesaid
hearing would not have been left unattended in view of its adverse consequences, i.e., that the defendant’s failure to appear at the
preliminary conference already entitles the plaintiff to a judgment. 31 Indeed, second-guessing the conduct of the proceedings, much
less without any contingent measure, exhibits respondent’s inexcusable lack of care and diligence in managing his client’s
cause.1âwphi1

Equally compelling is the fact that respondent purposely failed to assail the heirs’ appeal before the CA. Records disclose that he even
failed to rebut complainant's allegation that he neglected to inform her about the CA ruling which he had duly received, thereby
precluding her from availing of any further remedies. As regards respondent’s suggested legal strategy to pursue the case at the
administrative level, suffice it to state that the same does not excuse him from failing to file a comment or an opposition to an appeal,
or even, inform his client of any adverse resolution, as in this case. Irrefragably, these are basic courses of action which every diligent
lawyer is expected to make.

All told, it cannot be gainsaid that respondent was guilty of gross negligence, in violation of the above-cited provisions of the Code.

As regards the appropriate penalty, several cases show that lawyers who have been held liable for gross negligence for infractions
similar to those of the respondent were suspended for a period of six (6) months. In Aranda v. Elayda, 32 a lawyer who failed to appear
at the scheduled hearing despite due notice which resulted in the submission of the case for decision was found guilty of gross
negligence and hence, suspended for six (6) months. In Heirs of Tiburcio F. Ballesteros, Sr. v. Apiag, 33 a lawyer who did not file a
pre-trial brief and was absent during the pre-trial conference was likewise suspended for six (6) months. In Abiero v. Juanino, 34 a
lawyer who neglected a legal matter entrusted to him by his client in breach of Canons 17 and 18 of the Code was also suspended for
six (6) months. Thus, consistent with existing jurisprudence, the Court finds it proper to impose the same penalty against respondent
and accordingly suspends him for a period of six (6) months.

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Ramon SG Cabanes, Jr. is found guilty of gross negligence in violation of Canon 17, and Rules
18.03 and 18.04 of Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. He is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a
period of six (6) months, effective upon his receipt of this Resolution, and is STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of the same or
similar acts will be dealt with more severely.

Let a copy of this Resolution be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the Office of the
Court Administrator for circulation to all the courts.

SO ORDERED.

A.C. No. 10164 March 10, 2014

STEPHAN BRUNET and VIRGINIA ROMANILLOS BRUNET, Complainants,


vs.
ATTY. RONALD L. GUAREN, Respondent.

RESOLUTION

MENDOZA, J.:

On August 9, 2002, complainant spouses Stephan and Virginia Brunet (complainants) filed a complaint against respondent Atty.
Ronald L. Guaren (Atty. Guaren) before the Commission on Bar Discipline (CED), Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).

Complainants alleged that in February 1997, they engaged the services of Atty. Guaren for the titling of a residential lot they acquired
in Bonbon, Nueva Caseres; that Atty. Guaren asked for a fee of Ten Thousand Pesos (₱10,000.00) including expenses relative to its
proceeding; that it was agreed that full payment of the fee shall be made after the delivery of the title; that Atty. Guaren asked for an
advance fee of One Thousand Pesos (Pl,000.00) which they gave; that Atty. Guaren took all the pertinent documents relative to the
titling of their lot-certified true copy of the tax declaration, original copy of the deed of exchange, sketch plan, deed of donation,
survey plan, and original copy of the waiver; that on March 10, 1997, Atty. Guaren asked for additional payment of Six Thousand
Pesos (₱6,000.00) which they dutifully gave; that from 1997 to 2001, they always reminded Atty. Guaren about the case and each time
he would say that the titling was in progress; that they became bothered by the slow progress of the case so they demanded the return
of the money they paid; and that respondent agreed to return the same provided that the amount of Five Thousand Pesos (₱5,000.00)
be deducted to answer for his professional fees.

Complainants further alleged that despite the existence of an attorney-client relationship between them, Atty. Guaren made a special
appearance against them in a case pending before the Metropolitan Circuit Trial Court, Oslob, Cebu (MCTC).

Atty. Guaren admitted that he indeed charged complainants an acceptance fee of ₱10,000.00, but denied that the amount was inclusive
of expenses for the titling of the lot. He claimed, however, that he received the payment of ₱1,000.00 and ₱6,000.00; that their
agreement was that the case would be filed in court after the complainants fully paid his acceptance fee; that he did not take the
documents relative to the titling of the lot except for the photocopy of the tax declaration; and that he did not commit betrayal of trust
and confidence when he participated in a case filed against the complainants in MCTC explaining that his appearance was for and in
behalf of Atty. Ervin Estandante, the counsel on record, who failed to appear in the said hearing.
In the Report and Recommendation,1 dated August 24, 2012, the Investigating Commissioner found Atty. Guaren to have violated the
Canon of Professional Responsibility when he accepted the titling of complainants’ lot and despite the acceptance of ₱7,000.00, he
failed to perform his obligation and allowed 5 long years to elapse without any progress in the titling of the lot. Atty. Guaren should
also be disciplined for appearing in a case against complainants without a written consent from the latter. The CBD recommended that
he be suspended for six (6) months.

In its May 20, 2013 Resolution,2 the IBP Board of Governors, adopted and approved with modification the Report and
Recommendation of the CBD, suspending Atty. Guaren from the practice of law for three (3) months only.

The Court adopts the findings of the IBP Board of Governors on the unethical conduct of Atty. Guaren, except as to the penalty.

The practice of law is not a business. It is a profession in which duty to public service, not money, is the primary consideration.
Lawyering is not primarily meant to be a money-making venture, and law advocacy is not a capital that necessarily yields profits. The
gaining of a livelihood should be a secondary consideration. The duty to public service and to the administration of justice should be
the primary consideration of lawyers, who must subordinate their personal interests or what they owe to themselves.3

Canons 17 and 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides that:

CANON 17 - A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he shall be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him.

CANON 18 - A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence.

In the present case, Atty. Guaren admitted that he accepted the amount of ₱7,000.00 as partial payment of his acceptance fee. He,
however, failed to perform his obligation to file the case for the titling of complainants' lot despite the lapse of 5 years. Atty. Guaren
breached his duty to serve his client with competence and diligence when he neglected a legal matter entrusted to him.1âwphi1

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Ronald L. Guaren is found GUILTY of having violated Canons 17 and 18 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility and is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of SIX (6) MONTHS effective from
receipt of this Resolution, with a warning that a similar infraction in the future shall be dealt with more severely.

Let a copy of this resolution be furnished the Bar Confidant to be included in the records of the respondent; the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines for distribution to all its chapters; and the Office of the Court Administrator for dissemination to all courts throughout the
country.

SO ORDERED.

IPI No. 12-205-CA-J December 10, 2013

RE: VERIFIED COMPLAINT OF THOMAS S. MERDEGIA AGAINST HON. VICENTE S.E. VELOSO, ASSOCIATE
JUSTICE OF THE COURT OF APPEALS, RELATIVE TO CA G.R. SP No. 119461.

x---------------x

A.C. No.: 10300

RE: RESOLUTION DATED OCTOBER 8, 2013 IN OCA IPI No. 12-205-CA-J AGAINST ATTY. HOMOBONO ADAZA II.

RESOLUTION

BRION, J.:

On October 8, 2013, we issued a Resolution1 dismissing the administrative complaint of Tomas S. Merdegia against Court of Appeals
Associate Justice Vicente S.E. Veloso. In this same Resolution, we also directed Atty. Homobono Adaza II, Merdegia’s counsel, to
show cause why he should not be cited for contempt.

After considering Atty. Adaza’s explanation,2 we find his account insufficient, and find him guilty of indirect contempt.

According to Atty. Adaza, he should not bepunished for indirect contemptas he was merely performing his duty as Merdegia’s counsel
when he assisted him in preparing the administrative complaint against Justice Veloso. Atty. Adaza asserted that both he and his client
observed Justice Veloso’s partiality during the oral arguments, but instead of immediately filing an administrative complaint against
him, he counseled Merdegia to first file a Motion to Inhibit Justice Veloso from the case. However, upon finding that Justice Veloso
refused to inhibit himself, Merdegia repeated his request to file an administrative complaint against Justice Veloso, to which Atty.
Adaza acceded. Thus, Atty. Adaza pleaded that he should not be faulted for assisting his client, especially when heal so believes in the
merits of his client’s case.

Atty. Adaza’s explanation, read together with the totality of the facts of the case, fails to convince us of his innocence from the
contempt charge.

As Atty. Adaza himself admitted, he prepared the administrative complaint after Justice Veloso refused to inhibit himself from a case
he was handling. The complaint and the motion for inhibition were both based on the same main cause: the alleged partiality of Justice
Veloso during the oral arguments of Merdegia’s case. The resolution dismissing the motion for inhibition should have disposed of the
issue of Justice Veloso’s bias. While we do not discount the fact that it was Justice Veloso who penned the resolution denying the
motion for inhibition, we note that he was allowed to do this under the 2009 Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals. 3 Had Merdegia
and Atty. Adaza doubted the legality of this resolution, the proper remedy would have been to file a petition for certiorari assailing the
order denying the motion for inhibition. The settled rule is that administrative complaints against justices cannot and should not
substitute for appeal and other judicial remedies against an assailed decision or ruling. 4 While a lawyer has a duty to represent his
client with zeal, he must do so within the bounds provided by law. 5 He is also duty-bound to impress upon his client the propriety of
the legal action the latter wants to undertake, and to encourage compliance with the law and legal processes. 6

A reading of Merdegia’s administrative complaint7 shows an apparent failure to understand that cases are not always decided in one’s
favor, and that an allegation of bias must stem from an extrajudicial source other than those attendant to the merits and the
developments in the case.8 In this light, we cannot but attribute to Atty. Adaza the failure to impress upon his client the features of our
adversarial system, the substance of the law on ethics and respect for the judicial system, and his own failure to heed what his duties as
a professional and as an officer of the Court demand of him in acting for his client before our courts.

To be sure, deciding administrative cases against erring judges is not an easy task.1âwphi1 We have to strike a balance between the
need for accountability and integrity in the Judiciary, on the one hand, with the need to protect the independence and efficiency of the
Judiciary from vindictive and enterprising litigants, on the other. Courts should not be made to bow down to the wiles of litigants who
bully judges into inhibiting from cases or deciding cases in their favor, but neither should we shut our doors from litigants brave
enough to call out the corrupt practices of people who decide the outcome of their cases. Indeed, litigants who feel unjustly injured by
malicious and corrupt acts of erring judges and officials should not be punished for filing administrative cases against them; neither
should these litigants be unjustly deterred from doing sobya wrong signal from this Court that they would be made to explain why
they should not be cited for contempt when the complaints they filed prove to be without sufficient cause.

What tipped the balance against Atty. Adaza, in this case, is the totality of the facts of thecasethat,when read together with the
administrative complaint heprepared,shows that his complaint is merelyan attempt to malign the administration of justice. We note
Atty. Adaza’s penchantfor filingmotions for inhibition throughout the case:first, against Judge Ma. Theresa Dolores C. Gomez
Estoesta of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, who issued an order unfavorable to his client; and second, against all the justices of the
Court of Appeals division hearing his appeal, for alleged bias during the oral arguments onhiscase. Theseindicators, taken together
with the baseless administrative complaint against Justice Veloso after he penned an order adverseto Atty. Adaza’s client, disclosethat
there was more to the administrative complaint than the report of legitimate grievances against members of the Judiciary.

In Re: Verified Complaint of Engr. Oscar L. Ongjoco, etc.,9 we cited a litigant in indirect contempt of court for his predisposition to
indiscriminately file administrative complaints against members of the Judiciary. We held that this conduct degrades the judicial
office, interferes with the due performance of their work for the Judiciary, and thus constitutes indirect contempt of court. Applying
this principle to the present case, we hold that Atty. Adaza’s acts constitute an improper conduct that tends to degrade the
administration of justice, and is thus punishable for indirect contempt under Section 3(d), Rule 71 of the Rules of Court.

As a final note, Atty. Adaza’s contemptuous conduct may also be subject to disciplinary sanction as a member of the bar. 10 If we do
not now proceed at all against Atty. Adaza to discipline him, we are prevented from doing so by our concern for his due process
rights. Our Resolution of October 8, 2013 only asked him to show cause why he should not be cited in contempt, and not why he
should not be administratively penalized. To our mind, imposing a disciplinary sanction against Atty. Adaza through a contempt
proceeding violates the basic tenets of due process as a disciplinary action is independent and separate from a proceeding for
contempt. A person charged of an offense, whether in an administrative or criminal proceeding, must be informed of the nature of the
charge against him, and given ample opportunity to explain his side. 11

While the two proceedings can proceed simultaneously with each other,12 a contempt proceeding cannot substitute for a disciplinary
proceeding for erring lawyers, 13 and vice versa. There can be no substitution between the two proceedings, as contempt proceedings
against lawyers, as officers of the Court, are different in nature and purpose from the discipline of lawyers as legal professionals. The
two proceedings spring from two different powers of the Court. The Court, in exercising its power of contempt, exercises an implied
and inherent power granted to courts in general.14 Its existence is essential to the preservation of order in judicial proceedings; to the
enforcement of judgments, orders and mandates of courts; and, consequently, in the administration of justice;15 thus, it may be
instituted against any person guilty of acts that constitute contempt of court. 16 Further, jurisprudence describes a contempt proceeding
as penal and summary in nature; hence, legal principles applicable to criminal proceedings also apply to contempt proceedings. A
judgment dismissing the charge of contempt, for instance, may no longer be appealed in the same manner that the prohibition against
double jeopardy bars the appeal of an accused’s acquittal. 17

In contrast, a disciplinary proceeding against an erring lawyer is sui generis in nature; it is neither purely civil nor purely criminal.
Unlike a criminal prosecution, a disciplinary proceeding is not intended to inflict punishment, but to determine whether a lawyer is
still fit to be allowed the privilege of practicing law. It involves an investigation by the Court of the conduct of its officers, and has, for
its primary objective, public interest.18 Thus, unlike a contempt proceeding, the acquittal of the lawyer from a disciplinary proceeding
cannot bar an interested party from seeking reconsideration of the ruling. Neither does the imposition of a penalty for contempt
operate as res judicata to a subsequent charge for unprofessional conduct.19

Contempt proceedings and disciplinary actions are also governed by different procedures.1âwphi1 Contempt of court is governed by
the procedures under Rule 71 of the Rules of Court, whereas disciplinary actions in the practice of law are governed by Rules138 and
139 thereof.20

IN THESE LIGHTS, the Court finds Atty. Homobomo Adaza II GUILTY OF INDIRECT CONTEMPT for filing a frivolous suit
against Court of Appeals Associate Justice Vicente S.E. Veloso, and hereby sentences him to pay, within the period of fifteen days
from the promulgation of this judgment, a fine of ₱5,000.00. The respondent is also WARNED that further similar misbehavior on his
part may be a ground for the institution of disciplinary proceedings against him.
A.C. No. 9149 September 4, 2013

JULIAN PENILLA, COMPLAINANT,


vs.
ATTY. QUINTIN P. ALCID, JR., RESPONDENT.

DECISION

VILLARAMA, JR., J.:

Before this Court is an administrative complaint1 filed against respondent Atty. Quintin P. Alcid, Jr. for violation of the Lawyer’s Oath
and the Code of Professional Responsibility, and for gross misconduct in the performance of his duty as a lawyer.

The antecedent facts follow:

Complainant Julian Penilla entered into an agreement with Spouses Rey and Evelyn Garin (the spouses) for the repair of his
Volkswagen automobile. Despite full payment, the spouses defaulted in their obligation. Thus, complainant decided to file a case for
breach of contract against the spouses where he engaged the services of respondent as counsel.

Respondent sent a demand letter to the spouses and asked for the refund of complainant’s payment. When the spouses failed to return
the payment, respondent advised complainant that he would file a criminal case for estafa against said spouses. Respondent charged
₱30,000 as attorney’s fees and ₱10,000 as filing fees. Complainant turned over the relevant documents to respondent and paid the fees
in tranches. Respondent then filed the complaint for estafa before Asst. City Prosecutor Jose C. Fortuno of the Office of the City
Prosecutor of Quezon City. Respondent attended the hearing with complainant but the spouses did not appear. After the hearing,
complainant paid another ₱1,000 to respondent as appearance fee. Henceforth, complainant and respondent have conflicting narrations
of the subsequent events and transactions that transpired.

Complainant alleges that when the case was submitted for resolution, respondent told him that they have to give a bottle of Carlos
Primero I to Asst. City Prosecutor Fortuno to expedite a favorable resolution of the case. Complainant claims that despite initial
reservations, he later acceded to respondent’s suggestion, bought a bottle of Carlos Primero I for ₱950 and delivered it to respondent’s
office.

Asst. City Prosecutor Fortuno later issued a resolution dismissing the estafa case against the spouses. Respondent allegedly told
complainant that a motion for reconsideration was "needed to have [the resolution] reversed." 2Respondent then prepared the motion
and promised complainant that he would fix the problem. On February 18, 2002, the motion was denied for lack of merit. Respondent
then told complainant that he could not do anything about the adverse decision and presented the option of filing a civil case for
specific performance against the spouses for the refund of the money plus damages. Complainant paid an additional ₱10,000 to
respondent which he asked for the payment of filing fees. After complainant signed the complaint, he was told by respondent to await
further notice as to the status of the case. Complainant claims that respondent never gave him any update thereafter.

Complainant asserts having made numerous and unsuccessful attempts to follow-up the status of the case and meet with respondent at
his office. He admits, however, that in one instance he was able to talk to respondent who told him that the case was not progressing
because the spouses could not be located. In the same meeting, respondent asked complainant to determine the whereabouts of the
spouses. Complainant returned to respondent’s office on January 24, 2005, but because respondent was not around, complainant left
with respondent’s secretary a letter regarding the possible location of the spouses.

Complainant claims not hearing from respondent again despite his several letters conveying his disappointment and requesting for the
return of the money and the documents in respondent’s possession. Complainant then sought the assistance of the radio program "Ito
ang Batas with Atty. Aga" to solve his predicament. Following the advice he gathered, complainant went to the Office of the Clerk of
Court of the Caloocan City Metropolitan Trial Court and Regional Trial Court (RTC). Complainant learned that a civil case for
Specific Performance and Damages was filed on June 6, 20023 but was dismissed on June 13, 2002. He also found out that the filing
fee was only ₱2,440 and not ₱10,000 as earlier stated by respondent. Atty. Aga of the same radio program also sent respondent a letter
calling his attention to complainant’s problem. The letter, like all of complainant’s previous letters, was unheeded.

On January 9, 2006, complainant filed before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) the
instant administrative case praying that respondent be found guilty of gross misconduct for violating the Lawyer’s Oath and the Code
of Professional Responsibility, and for appropriate administrative sanctions to be imposed.

Respondent harps a different tale.

In an Answer4 filed on January 30, 2006, respondent prayed that the case be dismissed for lack of merit. He denied charging
complainant ₱10,000 as filing fees for the estafa case and claimed that he charged and received only ₱2,000. He also countered that
the payment of ₱30,000 made by the complainant was his acceptance fee for both the estafa case and civil case. Respondent likewise
denied the following other allegations of complainant: that he assured the success of the case before the prosecutor; that he asked
complainant to give a bottle of Carlos Primero I to the prosecutor; that he promised to fix the case; and that he charged ₱10,000, as he
only charged ₱5,000, as filing fee for the civil case.

Respondent explained that it was not a matter of indifference on his part when he failed to inform petitioner of the status of the case.
In fact, he was willing to return the money and the documents of complainant. What allegedly prevented him from communicating
with complainant was the fact that complainant would go to his office during days and times that he would be attending his daily court
hearings.
The IBP-CBD called for a mandatory conference on April 28, 2006. Only complainant and his counsel attended. 5The conference was
reset and terminated on June 9, 2006. The parties were directed to file their verified position papers within 15 days, 6 to which
complainant and respondent complied.7

On July 18, 2006, respondent filed a Reply8 praying for the dismissal of the case for lack of factual and legal bases. He stated that he
had performed his duties as complainant’s counsel when he filed the criminal case before the Office of the City Prosecutor of Quezon
City and the civil case before the RTC of Caloocan City. He averred that he should not be blamed for the dismissal of both cases as his
job was to ensure that justice is served and not to win the case. It was unethical for him to guarantee the success of the case and resort
to unethical means to win such case for the client. He continued to deny that he asked complainant to give the prosecutor a bottle of
Carlos Primero I and that the filing fees he collected totalled ₱20,000. Respondent argued that it is incredulous that the total sum of all
the fees that he had allegedly collected exceeded ₱30,000 – the amount being claimed by complainant from the spouses.

In its Report and Recommendation9 dated September 12, 2008, the IBP-CBD recommended the suspension of respondent from the
practice of law for six months "for negligence within the meaning of Canon 18 and transgression of Rule 18.04 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility," viz:

In the case under consideration, there are certain matters which keep sticking out like a sore thumb rendering them difficult to escape
notice.

One is the filing of a criminal complaint for estafa arising out of a violation of the contract for repair of the Volks Wagon (sic) car. It
is basic that when an act or omission emanates from a contract, oral or written, the consequent result is a breach of the contract, hence,
properly actionable in a civil suit for damages. As correctly pointed out by the Investigating Prosecutor, the liability of the respondent
is purely civil in nature because the complaint arose from a contract of services and the respondent (spouses Garin) failed to perform
their contractual obligation under the contract.

xxxx

Another one is the filing of a civil complaint for specific performance and damages (after the dismissal of the criminal complaint for
estafa) in the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City where the actual damages claimed is ₱36,000.00.

It is also basic that the civil complaint for ₱36,000.00 should have been filed with the MTC [which] has jurisdiction over the same.
One of the "firsts" that a lawyer ascertains in filing an action is the proper forum or court with whom the suit or action shall be filed.
In June 2002 when the civil complaint was filed in court, the jurisdiction of the MTC has already expanded such that the jurisdictional
amount of the RTC is already ₱400,000.00.

xxxx

Another thing is the various follow-ups made by respondent’s client as evidenced by the letters marked as Exhibits "D", "E", "F", "G"
and "H" which were all received by complainant’s secretary, except for Exhibit "H" which was received by Atty. Asong, not to
mention Exhibit "M" which was sent by "Atty. Aga". These efforts of the complainant were not reciprocated by the respondent with
good faith. Respondent chose to ignore them and reasoned out that he is willing to meet with the complainant and return the money
and documents received by reason of the legal engagement, but omitted to communicate with him for the purpose of fixing the time
and place for the meeting. This failure suggests a clear disregard of the client’s demand which was done in bad faith on the part of
respondent.10

On December 11, 2008, the IBP Board of Governors issued Resolution No. XVIII-2008-646, adopting and approving the
recommendation of the IBP-CBD. The Resolution11 reads:

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby ADOPTED and APPROVED the Report and Recommendation of the
Investigating Commissioner of the above-entitled case, herein made part of this Resolution as Annex "A"; and, finding the
recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws and rules, and considering Respondent’s violation
of Canon 18 and Rule 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for his negligence, Atty. Quintin P. Alcid, Jr. is hereby
SUSPENDED from the practice of law for six (6) months.

On April 24, 2009, respondent sought reconsideration12 and asked that the penalty of suspension be reduced to warning or reprimand.
After three days, or on April 27, 2009, respondent filed a "Motion to Admit Amended ‘Motion for Reconsideration’ Upon Leave of
Office."13 Respondent asserted that the failure to inform complainant of the status of the cases should not be attributed to him alone.
He stressed that complainant had always been informed that he only had time to meet with his clients in the afternoon at his office in
Quezon City. Despite such notice, complainant kept going to his office in Tandang Sora. He admitted that though he committed lapses
which would amount to negligence in violation of Canon 18 and Rule 18.04, they were done unknowingly and without malice or bad
faith. He also stressed that this was his first infraction.

In its Resolution No. XIX-2011-473 dated June 26, 2011, the IBP Board of Governors denied respondent’s Motion for
Reconsideration for lack of merit.14 On August 15, 2011, respondent filed a second Motion for Reconsideration 15which was no longer
acted upon due to the transmittal of the records of the case to this Court by the IBP on August 16, 2011. 16

On September 14, 2011, the Court issued a Resolution17 and noted the aforementioned Notices of Resolution dated December 11,
2008 and June 26, 2011. On December 14, 2011, it issued another Resolution 18 noting the Indorsement dated August 16, 2011 of
Director Alicia A. Risos-Vidal and respondent’s second Motion for Reconsideration dated August 15, 2011.
We sustain the findings of the IBP that respondent committed professional negligence under Canon 18 and Rule 18.04 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, with a modification that we also find respondent guilty of violating Canon 17 and Rule 18.03 of the Code
and the Lawyer’s Oath.

A lawyer may be disbarred or suspended for any violation of his oath, a patent disregard of his duties, or an odious deportment
unbecoming an attorney. A lawyer must at no time be wanting in probity and moral fiber which are not only conditions precedent to
his entrance to the Bar but are likewise essential demands for his continued membership therein. 19

The Complaint before the IBP-CBD charged respondent with violation of his oath and the following provisions under the Code of
Professional Responsibility:

a)

Canon 15 – A lawyer shall observe candor, fairness and loyalty in all his dealings and transactions with his client;

b)

Rule 15.[06, Canon 15 – A lawyer shall not state or imply that he is able to influence any public official, tribunal or legislative body;

c)

Rule 16.01[, Canon 16 – A lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or received for or from his client;

d)

Canon 17 – A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he shall be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him;

e)

Canon 18 – A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence;

f)

Rule 18.03[, Canon 18 – A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him and his negligence in connection therewith shall
render him liable; and

g)

Rule 18.04[, Canon 18 – A lawyer shall keep his client informed of the status of his case and shall respond within a reasonable time to
the client’s request for information.20

A review of the proceedings and the evidence in the case at bar shows that respondent violated Canon 18 and Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of
the Code of Professional Responsibility. Complainant correctly alleged that respondent violated his oath under Canon 18 to "serve his
client with competence and diligence" when respondent filed a criminal case for estafa when the facts of the case would have
warranted the filing of a civil case for breach of contract. To be sure, after the complaint for estafa was dismissed, respondent
committed another similar blunder by filing a civil case for specific performance and damages before the RTC. The complaint, having
an alternative prayer for the payment of damages, should have been filed with the Municipal Trial Court which has jurisdiction over
complainant’s claim which amounts to only ₱36,000. As correctly stated in the Report and Recommendation of the IBP-CBD:

Batas Pambansa Blg. 129[,] as amended by R.A. No. 7691 which took effect on April 15, 1994[,] vests in the MTCs of Metro Manila
exclusive original jurisdiction of civil cases where the amount of demand does not exceed ₱200,000.00 exclusive of interest, damages
of whatever kind, attorney’s fees, litigation expenses and costs (Sec. 33), and after five (5) years from the effectivity of the Act, the
same shall be adjusted to ₱400,000.00 (Sec. 34). 21

The errors committed by respondent with respect to the nature of the remedy adopted in the criminal complaint and the forum selected
in the civil complaint were so basic and could have been easily averted had he been more diligent and circumspect in his role as
counsel for complainant. What aggravates respondent’s offense is the fact that his previous mistake in filing the estafa case did not
motivate him to be more conscientious, diligent and vigilant in handling the case of complainant. The civil case he subsequently filed
for complainant was dismissed due to what later turned out to be a basic jurisdictional error.

That is not all. After the criminal and civil cases were dismissed, respondent was plainly negligent and did not apprise complainant of
the status and progress of both cases he filed for the latter. He paid no attention and showed no importance to complainant’s cause
despite repeated follow-ups. Clearly, respondent is not only guilty of incompetence in handling the cases. His lack of professionalism
in dealing with complainant is also gross and inexcusable. In what may seem to be a helpless attempt to solve his predicament,
complainant even had to resort to consulting a program in a radio station to recover his money from respondent, or at the very least,
get his attention.

Respondent’s negligence under Rules 18.03 and 18.04 is also beyond contention. A client pays his lawyer hard-earned money as
professional fees. In return, "[e]very case a lawyer accepts deserves his full attention, skill and competence, regardless of its
importance and whether he accepts it for a fee or for free. Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility enjoins a lawyer not
to ‘neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.’ He must constantly
keep in mind that his actions or omissions or nonfeasance would be binding upon his client. He is expected to be acquainted with the
rudiments of law and legal procedure, and a client who deals with him has the right to expect not just a good amount of professional
learning and competence but also a whole-hearted fealty to the client’s cause." 22 Similarly, under Rule 18.04, a lawyer has the duty to
apprise his client of the status and developments of the case and all other information relevant thereto. He must be consistently
mindful of his obligation to respond promptly should there be queries or requests for information from the client.

In the case at bar, respondent explained that he failed to update complainant of the status of the cases he filed because their time did
not always coincide. The excuse proffered by respondent is too lame and flimsy to be given credit. Respondent himself admitted that
he had notice that complainant had visited his office many times. Yet, despite the efforts exerted and the vigilance exhibited by
complainant, respondent neglected and failed to fulfill his obligation under Rules 18.03 and 18.04 to keep his client informed of the
status of his case and to respond within a reasonable time to the client’s request for information.

Finally, respondent also violated Canon 17 of the Code which states that "[a] lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he
shall be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him." The legal profession dictates that it is not a mere duty, but an obligation,
of a lawyer to accord the highest degree of fidelity, zeal and fervor in the protection of the client’s interest. The most thorough
groundwork and study must be undertaken in order to safeguard the interest of the client. The honor bestowed on his person to carry
the title of a lawyer does not end upon taking the Lawyer’s Oath and signing the Roll of Attorneys. Rather, such honor attaches to him
for the entire duration of his practice of law and carries with it the consequent responsibility of not only satisfying the basic
requirements but also going the extra mile in the protection of the interests of the client and the pursuit of justice. Respondent has
defied and failed to perform such duty and his omission is tantamount to a desecration of the Lawyer’s Oath.

All said, in administrative cases for disbarment or suspension against lawyers, it is the complainant who has the burden to prove by
preponderance of evidence23 the allegations in the complaint. In the instant case, complainant was only able to prove respondent’s
violation of Canons 17 and 18, and Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, and the Lawyer’s Oath.
Complainant failed to substantiate his claim that respondent violated Canon 15 and Rule 15.06 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility when respondent allegedly instructed him to give a bottle of Carlos Primero I to Asst. City Prosecutor Fortuno in order
to get a favorable decision. Similarly, complainant was not able to present evidence that respondent indeed violated Rule 16.01 of
Canon 16 by allegedly collecting money from him in excess of the required filing fees.

As to respondent’s proven acts and omissions which violate Canons 17 and 18 and Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, and the Lawyer’s Oath, we find the same to constitute gross misconduct for which he may be suspended under Section
27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, viz:

SEC. 27. Disbarment or suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court, grounds therefor. – A member of the bar may be disbarred or
suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any deceit, malpractice, or other gross misconduct in such office,
grossly immoral conduct, or by reason of his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he
is required to take before admission to practice, or for a willful disobedience appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without
authority to do so. x x x.

WHEREFORE, the Resolution of the IBP Board of Governors adopting and approving the Decision of the Investigating
Commissioner is hereby AFFIRMED with a MODIFICATION that respondent Atty. Quintin P. Alcid, Jr. is hereby found GUILTY of
gross misconduct for violating Canons 17 and 18, and Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, as well as the
Lawyer’s Oath. This Court hereby imposes upon respondent the penalty of SUSPENSION from the practice of law for a period of SIX
(6) MONTHS to commence immediately upon receipt of this Decision. Respondent is further ADMONISHED to be more circumspect
and diligent in handling the cases of his clients, and STERNLY WARNED that a commission of the same or similar acts in the future
shall be dealt with more severely.

Let copies of this Decision be furnished to the Office of the Court Administrator to be disseminated to all courts throughout the
country, to the Office of the Bar Confidant to be appended to Atty. Quintin P. Alcid, Jr.’s personal records, and to the Integrated Bar
of the Philippines for its information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.

Adm. Case No. 2417 February 6, 2002

ALEX ONG, complainant,


vs.
ATTY. ELPIDIO D. UNTO, respondent.

DECISION

PUNO, J.:

This is a disbarment1 case filed by Alex Ong, a businessman from Dumaguete City, against Atty. Elpidio D. Unto, for malpractice of
law and conduct unbecoming of a lawyer.

The Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP-Pasig City) found Atty. Unto guilty of malpractice
and recommended the penalty of one-month suspension from the practice of law or, at the very least, a severe reprimand against him. 2
First, we look at the antecedent facts. The records show that the complainant received a demand-letter from the respondent, in the
latter’s capacity as legal counsel of one Nemesia Garganian. The full text of respondent’s letter 3reads:

"Dear Mr. Ong:

This is in connection with the claim of support of Miss Nemesia Garganian (my client) from you for your only child, Anson
Garganian, with her (Miss Nemesia Garganian) and other claims which Miss Garganian is demanding from you. It is now about two
months that you have abandoned your legal and moral obligations to support your only child with her (Miss Nemesia Garganian) and
up to this moment you have not given said financial support.

I am doing this as a preliminary basis to a possible amicable settlement, if you desire so, so that you will not be dragged unnecessarily
to a court proceeding in connection with your legal and moral obligations to your son with Miss Garganian.

May I advise you that within three (3) days from your receipt of this letter, you should return to her house her television and betamax
which you got from her house during her absence and without her knowledge and consent. Your failure to comply with this demand,
this office will be constrained to file the proper action in court against you.

I hope within three (3) days from your receipt of this letter you may come to my Law Office at the above address or you may send
your lawyer and/or representative to discuss with me about the preliminary matters in connection with all the claims of Miss
Garganian against you.

I hope that you will not fail us, so that we can thresh out this matter smoothly, otherwise your intentional failure or refusal to discuss
these claims amicably with our office might be construed as your absolute refusal really.

Expecting you then.

Very truly yours,

ATTY. ELPIDIO D. UNTO


Counsel for Miss Nemesia Garganian
Dumaguete City

WITH MY CONSENT:

NEMESIA GARGANIAN"

A few days thereafter, the respondent wrote a letter addressed to Dr. Jose Bueno (Agaw), an emissary of the complainant. In this
letter, the respondent listed down the alleged additional financial demands of Ms. Garganian against the complainant and discussed the
courses of action that he would take against the complainant should the latter fail to comply with his obligation to support Ms.
Garganian and her son. The relevant portion of the respondent’s second letter reads: 4

"These are the demands which my client would want to be complied (with):

1. ₱1,500.00 monthly – For the sustenance of Mr. Ong’s son. x x x (Note: That this amount of P1,500.00 should be up to the
completion of Mr. Ong’s son in the elementary course and this is subject to adjustment when the son is already in the secondary
course or up to his college course).

2. ₱50,000.00 - This amount should be given to Miss Garganian as her starting capital for her planned business venture to give her a
source of her living since she cannot anymore be a teacher in any government position because of her status, having a child without
being lawfully wedded. x x x.

3. The TV and the Betamax should be returned and delivered to the house of Miss Garganian, without the presence of Mr. Alex Ong x
x x.

4. The amount of ₱5,000.00 as my attorney’s fees should be given or paid to me tomorrow before noon in my Law Office, through my
cousin, Dr. Jose Bueno.

Criminal, civil and administrative actions that I am contemplating to file against Mr. Alex Ong will be withheld pending the
compliance by Mr. Ong of these compromise agreements.

Gaw, if not of (sic) your representation I believe that one-week time as grace period for Mr. Ong is too long a time.

Thank you very much.

Very truly yours,

ATTY. ELPIDIO D. UNTO


Counsel for Miss Nemesia Garganian"
It was alleged that the real father of Ms. Garganian’s son was the complainant’s brother and that the complainant merely assumed his
brother’s obligation to appease Ms. Garganian who was threatening to sue them. The complainant then did not comply with the
demands against him.

Consequently, the respondent filed a complaint5 with the Office of the City Fiscal (now Prosecutor’s Office) of Dumaguete City
against the complainant, his wife, Bella Lim, and one Albina Ong, for alleged violation of the Retail Trade Nationalization Law and
the Anti-Dummy Law.

The next day, the respondent filed another criminal complaint against the complainant, Lim, Ong and Adela Peralta for their alleged
violation of the Anti-Dummy Law.

In addition, the respondent commenced administrative cases against the complainant before the Bureau of Domestic Trade, the
Commission on Immigration and Deportation, and the Office of the Solicitor General. 6According to the complainant, these cases were
subsequently denied due course and dismissed by the aforesaid government agencies.

The foregoing prompted the complainant to file the present case for disbarment. Essentially, the complainant alleged that the
respondent "manufactured" the criminal and administrative cases against him to blackmail him or extort money from him. He claimed
that the respondent solicited for any information that could be used against him in the aforementioned cases by offering any informer
or would-be witness a certain percentage of whatever amounts they could get from him. The complainant branded the respondent’s
tactics as "highly immoral, unprofessional and unethical, constituting…malpractice of law and conduct gravely unbecoming of a
lawyer."

In support of his accusations, the complainant submitted the following documents: (1) the afore-quoted letters of the respondent
addressed to the complainant and Dr. Bueno; (2) Nemesia Garganian’s affidavit where she denied any knowledge regarding the
demands listed in the letter addressed to Dr. Bueno; (3) an unsigned affidavit allegedly prepared by the respondent for the
complainant, wherein the latter was acknowledging that he sired Ms. Ganganian’s son illegitimate child; (4) the criminal complaints
filed against the complainant for alleged violation of the Retail Trade Nationalization Law and the Anti-Dummy Law; and (5) an
affidavit of Manuel Orbeta, a neighbor of the complainant who claimed that a representative of the respondent had asked him to sign
an affidavit allegedly prepared by the respondent, with an offer "to give any informer 20% and witness, 10%, of any amount he can
get from Mr. Alex Ong." To further bolster the disbarment case against the respondent, the complainant also included a Supplemental
Affidavit,7 citing several cases previously filed against the respondent by other parties. 8

The records show that the respondent was directed to submit his comment on the complaint lodged against him. 9 He did not file any.
Subsequently, the case was endorsed to the Office of the Solicitor General for investigation, report and recommendation. In turn, the
OSG forwarded the records of the case to the Office of the Provincial Fiscal of Negros Oriental, authorizing said office to conduct the
investigation.

It appears that the respondent did not appear before the investigating officer, then Provincial Fiscal Jacinto Bautista, to answer the
charges against him. Instead, he moved for postponement. After denying the respondent’s third request for postponement, Fiscal
Bautista proceeded with the reception of the complainant’s evidence. The respondent was duly notified of the on-going
investigation but he did not show up. When it was the respondent’s turn to present evidence, notices of the preliminary investigation
were sent to his home address in Valenzuela, Negros Oriental, his law office in Dumaguete City and his last known address in Quezon
City. The return cards showed that he could not be located, although his wife received some of the notices sent to his home in
Dumaguete.

Meanwhile, the case was transferred from one investigating officer to another, with some of them inhibiting from the investigation.
Finally, the case was assigned to 2nd Asst. Provincial Prosecutor Cristino Pinili. Atty. Pinili deemed the respondent’s absence as
waiver of his right to present his evidence. Finding merit in the complainant’s cause, the investigator recommended that respondent be
suspended from the practice of law for one month, or, at the very least, be severely reprimanded.

The records of the case were endorsed to the Office of the Solicitor General. 10 Thereafter, the OSG transmitted the records to the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines in Manila, "for proper disposition, conformably with adopted policies and procedures." 11 The IBP’s
Commission on Bar Discipline adopted Atty. Pinili’s report and recommendation in toto.12

We affirm with modification.

The complainant seeks the disbarment of the respondent. Thus, it is meet to revisit the importance of the legal profession and the
purpose of the disbarment as aptly discussed in Noriega vs. Sison.13 We then held:

"In resolving this disbarment case, (w)e must initially emphasize the degree of integrity and respectability attached to the law
profession. There is no denying that the profession of an attorney is required after a long and laborious study. By years of patience,
zeal and ability, the attorney acquires a fixed means of support for himself and his family. This is not to say, however, that the
emphasis is on the pecuniary value of this profession but rather on the social prestige and intellectual standing necessarily arising from
and attached to the same by reason of the fact that every attorney is deemed an officer of the court.

The importance of the dual aspects of the legal profession has been wisely put by Chief Justice Marshall of the United States Court
when he said:

‘On one hand, the profession of an Atty. is of great importance to an individual and the prosperity of his life may depend on its
exercise. The right to exercise it ought not to be lightly or capriciously taken from him. On the other hand, it is extremely desirable
that the respectability of the Bar should be maintained and that its harmony with the bench should be preserved. For these objects,
some controlling power, some discretion ought to be exercised with great moderation and judgment, but it must be exercised.’
The purpose of disbarment, therefore, is not meant as a punishment depriving him of a source of livelihood but is rather intended to
protect the administration of justice by requiring that those who exercise this function should be competent, honorable and reliable in
order that the courts and clients may rightly repose confidence in them."

The relevant rule to the case at bar is Canon 19 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. 14 It mandates lawyers to represent their
clients with zeal but within the bounds of the law. Rule 19.01 further commands that "a lawyer shall employ only fair and honest
means to attain the lawful objectives of his client and shall not present, participate or threaten to present unfounded criminal
charges to obtain an improper advantage in any case or proceeding."

Considering the facts of this case, we find that respondent has not exercised the good faith required of a lawyer in handling the legal
affairs of his client. It is evident from the records that he tried to coerce the complainant to comply with his letter-demand by
threatening to file various charges against the latter. When the complainant did not heed his warning, he made good his threat and filed
a string of criminal and administrative cases against the complainant. We find the respondent’s action to be malicious as the cases he
instituted against the complainant did not have any bearing or connection to the cause of his client, Ms. Garganian. Clearly, the
respondent has violated the proscription in Canon 19, Rule 19.01. His behavior is inexcusable.

The records show that the respondent offered monetary rewards to anyone who could provide him any information against the
complainant just so he would have a leverage in his actions against the latter. His tactic is unethical and runs counter to the rules that a
lawyer shall not, for corrupt motive or interest, encourage any suit or proceeding 15and he shall not do any act designed primarily to
solicit legal business.16 In the case of Choa vs. Chiongson,17 we held:

"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 right, as well as the exercise of his utmost learning and ability, he must do so only within the bounds
of the law. He must give a candid and honest opinion on the merits and probable results of his client’s case with the end view of
promoting respect for the law and legal processes, and counsel or maintain such actions or proceedings only as appear to him to be
just, and such defenses only as he believes to be honestly debatable under the law. He must always remind himself of the oath he
took upon admission to the Bar that "he will not wittingly or willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit
nor give aid nor consent to the same"; … Needless to state, the lawyer’s fidelity to his client must not be pursued at the expense of
truth and the administration of justice, and it must be done within the bounds of reason and common sense. A lawyer’s responsibility
to protect and advance the interests of his client does not warrant a course of action propelled by ill motives and malicious
intentions against the other party."

(emphases ours)

The ethics of the legal profession rightly enjoin lawyers to act with the highest standards of truthfulness, fair play and nobility in the
course of his practice of law. A lawyer may be disciplined or suspended for any misconduct, whether in his professional or private
capacity.18 Public confidence in law and lawyers may be eroded by the irresponsible and improper conduct of a member of the Bar.
Thus, every lawyer should act and comport himself in such a manner that would promote public confidence in the integrity of the legal
profession.19

Finally, we note that during the investigation of the case, despite being duly notified thereof as evidenced by the motions for
postponement he filed on several occasions, the respondent chose not to participate in the proceedings against him. His nonchalance
does not speak well of him as it reflects his utter lack of respect towards the public officers who were assigned to investigate the case.
He should be watchful of his conduct.20 The respondent should keep in mind the solemn oath21 he took before this Court when he
sought admission to the bar. The lawyer’s oath should not be reduced to mere recital of empty words for each word aims to promote
the high standard of professional integrity befitting a true officer of the court.1âwphi1

The recommended penalty for the unprofessional conduct of the respondent was one (1) month suspension or reprimand. We believe
that the same is too light vis-à-vis the misconduct of the respondent.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, respondent ATTY. ELPIDIO D. UNTO is hereby declared guilty of conduct unbecoming of a lawyer. He is
SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of five (5) months and sternly warned that a repetition of the same or similar act
will be dealt with more severely.

Adm. Case No. 1424 October 15, 1991

ISMAELA DIMAGIBA, complainant,


vs.
ATTY. JOSE MONTALVO, JR., respondent.

PER CURIAM:

This is a complaint filed by Ismaela Dimagiba against Atty. Jose Montalvo for Malpractice, for stretching to almost a half a century a
litigation arising from the probate of a will of the late Benedicta de Los Reyes which instituted Ismaela Dimagiba as the sole heir of all
the properties.

The letter of the private complainant, Ismaela Dimagiba, received on January 15,1975 by the Supreme Court, states:

The clients of Atty. Montalvo, namely: Dionisio Fernandez, Eusebio Reyes, Luisa Reyes, Mariano Reyes, Cesar Reyes, Leonor Reyes,
filed a case against me with the Court of First Instance of Bulacan in 1946 for annulment of sale and was docketed as Civil Case No.
108 of said Court. This case was terminated annulling the sale, as per decision in 1954 in G.R. No. L-5618 and L-5620.
On January 19, 1955, 1 filed a case for Probate of Will with the Court of First Instance of Bulacan, regarding the same property
subject of the annulment of sale and was docketed with the Court of First Instance of Bulacan as Sp. Proc. No. 831-M. Luckily, the
said case was terminated on June 20, 1958, probating the said will. The oppositors in this case who are the same persons mentioned
above appealed this case to the Higher Court of the Philippines and was decided by the Hon. Supreme Court of the Philippines on
October 12, 1967 in G.R. No. L-23638 and L-23662, affirming the decision of the Lower Court;

That after the decision of the above-mentioned case was promulgated, the same parties filed on June 5, 1968 Civil Case No. 3677-M
with the CFI of Bulacan for annulment of will; this case was filed through their counsel, Atty. Gregorio Centeno.

Said case was dismissed by the Court on February 11, 1970 without pronouncement of costs;

That on August 13,1971, again, the clients of Atty. Montalvo filed Civil Case No. 4078 with the Court of First Instance of Bulacan for
annulment of the said will; this case was again dismissed by the Court on December 21, 1971;

That on April 22, 1972, again the same parties, through their counsel Atty. Montalvo, filed another case with the Court of First
Instance of Bulacan, allegedly for Partition of the same property mentioned in the probate of will which was docketed as Civil Case
No. 4151. This case was again dismissed by the Court in its Order dated October 11, 1972;

That on May 25, 1972, still another case was filed by the same parties, through Atty. Montalvo, for specific performance, with the CFI
of Bulacan and was docketed as Civil Case No. 4188-M. This case was again dismissed by the Court in its Order dated October
24,1973. On August 12, 1974, the said case was remanded to the Court of Appeals, Manila, by the Court of First Instance of Bulacan;

Still on April 5, 1974, I was again surprised to know that there was another case filed by the same persons mentioned above through
Atty. Montalvo with the Court of First Instance of Bulacan and was docketed as Civil Case No. 4458. This case is still pending before
said court.

In view of the numerous cases filed against me by the same parties, through their counsel, Atty. Montalvo, I am constrained to report
to that [sic] Honorable Court of the actuation of said lawyer who is a member of the Philippine Bar attending to cases of non suit,
which cause harassment on may part.

The parties in this case are the ones in possession of the property Subject of Sp. Proc. No. 831 of the CFI, Bulacan. They can not be
ejected from the land holdings because they claim that the case filed by Atty. Montalvo is still pending in Court.

In all the foregoing [sic] I respectfully submit to this Honorable Court for appropriate action.

In the Resolution of the Second Division of the Supreme Court dated January 27, 1975, the respondent Montalvo was required to file
an Answer within ten days from notice. 2

In his Answer dated March 3, 1975, Montalvo, claims that the case filed against the complainant were done.

at the instance of different parties; or by reason of different causes of action and all the pleadings filed by the undersigned were and/or the result of a very painstaking, diligent, and careful study and
evaluation of the facts and law involved therein such that even before signing the same, the undersigned has always been of the honest and sincere belief that its filing is for the interest of justice — certainly
never for harassment; (2) that the reason why the parties tenant could not be ejected from their land as stated by complainant in her complaint is because of the passage of Presidential Decree No. 27 which
emancipated the farmers from their bondage and declared them as owners of the rice and corn land they tilled upon the passage of the decree coupled with the very acts of the complainant herself; and that (3)
the complainant by filing this instant complaint for disbarment wants to cow and intimidate the undersigned in order to withdraw as counsel of his clients because she has been thwarted in her erroneous
belief that she owns exclusively all the properties comprising the estate of the late Benedicta de Los Reyes and could not accept and take into account the reality that by virtue of the final decision of the
Supreme Court in G.R. No. 5618 and 5620 she is not the sole owner of the present estate of the deceased but only a co-owner with the clients of the undersigned. 3

In addition, Montalvo stated that it was Dimagiba who refused to be bound by the Supreme Court Decision in G.R. Nos. 5618 and
5620. 4

As a Rejoinder to the Respondent's Answer, the complainant Dimagiba stated that in Civil Case No. 3677-M, the plaintiffs are the same parties-oppositors who opposed the petition for probate of the Last
Will and Testament of the deceased Benedicta De Los Reyes in Special Proceeding No. 831. The same case was dismissed by the Court of First Instance of Bulacan on the ground that the issue raised had
been decided by the Court. 5

Likewise Civil Case No. 4078-M was also dismissed by Branch 2 of the Court of First Instance of Bulacan presided by Judge Ricardo C. Pronove, Jr., in the order of August 24, 1973 on the ground of res
judicata.

But a closer analysis [sic) it is clear that this action is merely a rehash of the other cases previously litigated between the plaintiffs and the defendant and already settled by final judgment. 6

In fact, in that case, Atty. Jose Montalvo, Jr., included himself as one of the defendants.

Finally, the fact that plaintiffs counsel, Jose Montalvo, Jr., had decided to join cause with the other plaintiffs in this case does no mean
that there is no Identity of parties between this case and Civil Case No. 3677-M. Atty. Jose Montalvo, Jr., is not alleged to be are party
in interest in this case so that Ills inclusion herein as a p plaintiff can not produce any legal significance. 7
This notwithstanding, Montalvo filed another case against Dimagiba which was docketed as Civil Case No. 4458-M of the CFI
Bulacan where the plaintiffs and causes of action were again the same as 3677-M and 4188-M. Again, the CFI Bulacan dismissed the
cases.

On April 16, 1975, the Second Division, following the procedure then obtaining for the resolution of disciplinary case against lawyers,
referred the case to the Solicitor General for investigation, report, and recommendation. 8

It was only on May 4,1990, or almost fifteen years later, that the entire records of Adm. Case No. 1424 involving Ismaela Dimagiba versus Atty. Jose Montalvo was returned to the Clear of Court of the
Supreme Court by the Office of the Solicitor General through Solicitor Aurora P. Cortes.

In summary, the following are the litigations that ensue from the probate of the Will of De Los Reyes as found by the Solicitor General involving the same parties and the same cause of action:

1. Special Proceedings No. 831 instituted on January 1 1955. The Will was admitted to probate but was subsequently appealed.

2. CA-G.R. No. 31221-R. This was an appeal of the decision in Spec. Proc. No. 831. The decision was affirmed.

3. G.R. Nos. L-23638 and L-23662. This decision dated October 12, 1967, in the Supreme Court, upheld the decision CA-G.R. No. 31221-R, in effect, affirming the due execution the Will and
the capacity of the Testator as well as the institution of the complainant.

4. Civil Case No. 3677-M. Filed in the Court of First Instance of Bulacan on June 4, 1968, this was a petition for the nullification of the Will. This was dismissed.

5. Civil Case No. 200 which was redocketed as Civil Case No. 4078-M. This complaint dated November 3, 1970 was again dismissed.

6. Civil Case No. 4151-M. This case, filed on February l6, 1972, for the partition of the property left by the deceased Benedicta De los Reyes on the ground of the nullity of the Will, was again
dismissed for failure to prosecute.

7. Civil Case No. 4188-M. Filed on May 25,1972, with the Court of First Instance of Bulacan, Branch 2, the respondent Atty. Montalvo, Jr., joined the descendants of the collateral relatives of
the deceased De Los Reyes against herein complainant Dimagiba. This case was dismissed.

8. Civil Case No. 4458-M. Civil Case No. 4188-M was appealed. But without waiting for the outcome, Atty. Montalvo, Jr., filed Civil Case No. 4458-M on April 5, 1974 which was a complaint
for the cancellation of the transfer certificates of title in the name of Ismaela Dimagiba and the issuance of new certificates of title in the name of the late Benedicta de los Reyes.

Clearly, the respondent Montalvo, Jr. repetitively filed several complaints in various forms involving the same parties and the same subject matter, persistently raising issues long laid to rest by final
judgment.

This misbehavior in facie curia consisting of a stubborn refusal to accept this Court's pronouncements is in fact even summarily punishable under Rule 71, Suction 1 of the Rules of Court. 9

Any lawyer who assumes the responsibility for a client' cause has the duty to know the entire history of a case, specially if any litigation has commenced. In the case at bar, even Atty. Montalvo does not deny
the fact that the probate of the will o the late Benedicta de los Reyes has been an over-extended an contentious litigation between the heirs.

A lawyer should never take advantage of the seemingly end less channels left dangling by our legal system in order wangle the attention of the court. Atty. Montalvo may have thought that lie could get away
with his indiscriminate filing o suits that were clearly intended to harass Ismaela Dimagiba When court dockets get clogged and the administration of justice is delayed, our judicial system may not be entirely
blame less, yet the greater fault lies in the lawyers who had take their privilege so lightly, and in such mindless fashion.

The Code of Professional Responsibility states that:

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

Rule 1.03 — A lawyer shall not for any corrupt motive or interest encourage any suit or proceeding or delay any man's cause.

On the basis of the foregoing, we find him guilty of malpractice as charged. He has violated his oath not to delay any ma for money or malice, besmirched the name of an honorable profession, and has
proven himself unworthy of the trust repose in him by law as an officer of the Court. We have not countenanced other less significant infractions among the ranks of our lawyers. He deserves the severest
punishment of DISBARMENT.

WHEREFORE on the basis of the foregoing, and consisted with the urgent need to maintain the high traditions an standards of the legal profession and to preserve undiminished public faith in attorneys-at-
law, the Court Resolved to DISBAR the respondent Atty. Jose Montalvo, Jr. from the practice law. His name is hereby ordered stricken from the Roll of Attorneys.