Friday, December 28, 2007

Commission on Bar Discipline: new rules

In Bar Matter No. 1755 (Re: Rules of Procedure pf the Commission on Bar Discipline), dated September 25, 2007, the Philippine Supreme Court approved the new rules of procedure of the Commission on Bar Discipline as recommended by the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in a meeting on March 17, 2007, the salient parts of which are described hereinbelow, for purposes of legal research of the readers, thus:

In the absence of any applicable provision in the Revised Rules of Court of the Philippines may, in the interest of expeditious justice and whenever practicable and convenient, be applied in a suppletory character and effect. (Sec. 3, Rule I).

Proceeding before the Commission shall be confidential in character and summary in nature. (Sec. 4, Rule I)

Under Sec.1, Rule II, a complaint for disbarment, suspension or discipline of attorneys may be instituted before the Commission on Bar Discipline by filing six (6) copies of a verified complaint. It may be likewise filed before the Supreme Court.

The only pleadings allowed, under Sec. 1, Rule III, are (a) verified complaint, (b) verified answer, (c) verified position papers, and (d) motion for reconsideration of an (interlocutory) resolution.

Under Sec. 2, Rule III, the following pleadings are prohibited: (a) Motion to dismiss the compliant or petition; (b) Motion for a bill of particulars; (c) Motion for new trial; (d) Petition for relief from judgment; (e) Motion for Reconsideration (of a final judgment on the merits); and (f) Supplemental pleadings.

Within two (2) days from receipt of the verified complaint, the Commission shall issue the required summons, attaching thereto a copy of the compliant and supporting documents, if any. The summons shall indicate that the respondent has fifteen (15) days from receipt within which to file six (6) verified copies of his answer. (Sec. 3, Rule III).

All cases filed before or referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines shall be heard by the Commission on Bar Discipline in its principal office at the IBP Bldg., Julia Vargas St., Ortigas Center, Pasig City. (Sec. 1, Rule IV).

All cases shall be assigned to an Investigating Commissioner by raffle. (Sec. 2, Rule IV).

Where there are two or more cases pending before the Commission “involving the same parties”, the same shall “motu propio be consolidated with the first case filed” to avoid unnecessary costs or delay. (Sec. 3, Rule IV).

Under Sec. 4, Rule IV, “upon agreement of parties or upon motion” based on meritorious ground, the Investigating Commissioner, “upon endorsement of the Board of Governors”, may refer to the Chapter President concerned the “reception of evidence from the complainant or respondent of their respective witnesses”. Such evidence shall then be forwarded by the Chapter President to the Investigating Commissioner “for evaluation and consideration in the preparation of his report and recommendation”.

Under Sec. 1, Rule V, immediate upon receipt of the verified answer, the Investigating Commissioners shall set a “mandatory conference” where, the following matters shall be taken: (a) Admissions; (b) Stipulation of facts; and (c) Definition of issues.

After the mandatory conference, the Investigating Commissioner shall direct both parties “to submit simultaneously their verified position papers” with supporting documents and affidavits “within an inextendible period of ten (10) days from notice of termination of the mandatory conference”. (Sec. 2, Rule V).

Under Sec.. 3, Rule V, immediately after the submission by the parties of their position papers, the Investigating Commissioner shall determine “whether there is a need to conduct clarificatory questioning”. If necessary, a hearing date shall be set wherein “the Investigating Commissioner shall ask clarificatory questions” to the parties or their witnesses to further elicit facts or information.

The proceedings before the Commission shall be recorded. (Sec. 4, Rule V).

Non-appearance (a) at the mandatory conference or (b) at the clarificatory questioning date shall be “deemed a waiver” of right to participate in the proceeding. “Ex parte conference or hearings shall then be conducted”. Pleadings submitted or filed which are “not verified” shall “not be given weight” by the Investigating Commissioner. (Sec. 5, Rule V).

After the parties have submitted their position papers or after the clarificatory questioning date, the Investigating Commissioner shall issue “an order expressly declaring the submission of the case for resolution”. (Sec. 6, Rule V).

The Investigating Commissioner shall submit his “report and recommendation” the Board of Governors within (30) calendar days “from the date the order declaring the submission of the case for resolution was issued”. (Sec. 7, Rule V).

A Commissioner has the authority “to administer oaths” on the conduct of the proceedings before him/her. (Sec. 1, Rule VI)

He may “compel attendance of witnesses and production of pertinent documents or papers by subpoena”. (Sec. 2, Rule VI).

Service of papers pr notices required by theses rules shall be made upon the parties or Commission, personally, “by registered mail with return card or through e-mail if applicable”. (Sec. 3, Rule VI).

Under Sec. 1, Rule VII, the Investigating Commissioner has the authority to adjudge any party or witness “in direct or indirect contempt” for misbehavior or obstruction of proceedings including disrespect towards the Investigating Commissioner or disobedience to his lawful order or writ. Any person adjudged guilty of contempt may be “fined not exceeding One Thousand Pesos (P1,000.00)”.

Atty. Manuel J. Laserna Jr.

LCM Law Offices, Las Pinas City

December 28, 2007