Monday, December 23, 2013
Conflict of interests
"The Court concurs with the IBP’s finding that respondent violated
Rule 15.03 of the Code, but reduced the recommended period of suspension to three (3) months.
Rule 15.03 of the Code reads:
CANON 15 – A LAWYER SHALL OBSERVE CANDOR, FAIRNESS AND LOYALTY IN ALL HIS DEALINGS AND TRANSACTIONS WITH HIS CLIENTS.
Rule 15.03 - A lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests except by written consent of all concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts. (Emphasis supplied)
Under the afore-cited rule, it is explicit that a lawyer is prohibited from representing new clients whose interests oppose those of a former client in any manner, whether or not they are parties in the same action or on totally unrelated cases. The prohibition is founded on the principles of public policy and good taste.26 It behooves lawyers not only to keep inviolate the client's confidence, but also to avoid the appearance of treachery and doubledealing for only then can litigants be encouraged to entrust their secrets to their lawyers, which is of paramount importance in the administration of justice.27 In Hornilla v. Salunat28 (Hornilla), the Court explained the concept of conflict of interest, to wit:
There is conflict of interest when a lawyer represents inconsistent interests of two or more opposing parties. The test is “whether or not in behalf of one client, it is the lawyer's duty to fight for an issue or claim, but it is his duty to oppose it for the other client. In brief, if he argues for one client, this argument will be opposed by him when he argues for the other client.” This rule covers not only cases in
which confidential communications have been confided, but also those in which no confidence has been bestowed or will be used. Also, there is conflict of interests if the acceptance of the new retainer will require the attorney to perform an act which will injuriously affect his first client in any matter in which he represents him and also whether he will be called upon in his new relation to use against his first client any knowledge acquired through their connection. Another test of the inconsistency of interests is whether the acceptance of a new relation will prevent an attorney from the full discharge of his duty of undivided fidelity and loyalty to his client or invite suspicion of unfaithfulness or double dealing
in the performance thereof.29 (Emphasis supplied; citations omitted).
It must, however, be noted that a lawyer’s immutable duty to a former client does not cover transactions that occurred beyond the lawyer’s employment with the client. The intent of the law is to impose upon the lawyer the duty to protect the client’s interests only on matters that he previously handled for the former client and not for matters that arose after the lawyer-client relationship has terminated.30
Applying the above-stated principles, the Court agrees with the IBP’s finding that respondent represented conflicting interests and, perforce, must be held administratively liable therefor.
Records reveal that respondent was the collaborating counsel not only for Maricar as claimed by him, but for all the Heirs of Antonio in Special
Proceeding No. V-3639. In the course thereof, the Heirs of Trinidad and the
Heirs of Antonio succeeded in removing Emilio as administrator for having
committed acts prejudicial to their interests. Hence, when respondent
proceeded to represent Emilio for the purpose of seeking his reinstatement as administrator in the same case, he clearly worked against the very interest of the Heirs of Antonio – particularly, Karen – in violation of the above-stated rule."
JOSEPHINE L. OROLA, MYRNA
L. OROLA, MANUEL L. OROLA,
MARY ANGELYN OROLABELARGA,
OROLA-CALIP, and KAREN
ATTY. JOSEPH ADOR RAMOS,
A.C. No. 9860
Promulgated: SEP 11, 2013.