JURISPRUDENCE ON THE ISSUE OF UNETHICAL BEHAVIOR AND LACK OF MORAL FITNESS OF THE RESPONDENT.
Unlawful, dishonest and immoral or deceitful conduct. - In the case of NELIA PASUMBAL DE CHAVEZ-BLANCO, REPRESENTED BY HER ATTORNEY-IN-FACT, ATTY. EUGENIA J. MUÑOZ, Vs. ATTY. JAIME B. LUMASAG, JR., ADM. CASE NO. No. 5195, April 16, 2009, the Supreme Court held:
“x x x.
A lawyer may be disciplined for any conduct, in his professional or private capacity, that renders him unfit to continue to be an officer of the court. Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility commands all lawyers to uphold at all times the dignity and integrity of the legal profession. Specifically, Rule 1.01 thereof provides:
Rule 1.01—A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest and immoral or deceitful conduct.
There is no need to stretch one’s imagination to arrive at an inevitable conclusion that respondent committed dishonesty and abused the confidence reposed in him by the complainant and her spouse.
X x x.
Respondent’s actions erode the public perception of the legal profession. They constitute gross misconduct for which he may be suspended, following Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, which provides:
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 the admission to practice, or for a willful disobedience appearing as attorney for a party to a case without authority to so do.
X x x.”
Deceitful and dishonest conduct. - In the case of JOHN CHRISTEN S. HEGNA Vs. ATTY. GOERING G.C. PADERANGA, A.C. No. 5955, September 8, 2009, the Supreme Court held:
“X x x.
Under Section 27 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, a member of the Bar may be disbarred or suspended on any of the following grounds: (1) deceit; (2) malpractice or other gross misconduct in office; (3) grossly immoral conduct; (4) conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude; (5) violation of the lawyer’s oath; (6) willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court; and (7) willfully appearing as an attorney for a party without authority. In the present case, the Court finds respondent administratively liable for engaging in dishonest and deceitful conduct.
X x x.
Respondent violated the Lawyer’s Oath, which mandates that he should support the Constitution, obey the laws as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities therein, and do no falsehood or not consent to the doing of any in court. Further, he has also failed to live up to the standard set by law that he should refrain from counseling or abetting activities aimed at defiance of the law or at lessening confidence in the legal system. Respondent’s act of non-registration of the deeds of sale to avoid paying tax may not be illegal per se; but, as a servant of the law, a lawyer should make himself an exemplar for others to emulate. The responsibilities of a lawyer are greater than those of a private citizen. He is looked up to in the community. Respondent must have forgotten that a lawyer must refrain from committing acts which give even a semblance of impropriety to the profession.
In cases wherein lawyers have similarly engaged in deceitful and dishonest conduct, the Court has imposed the penalty of suspension from the practice of law ranging from six (6) months to one (1) year.
In Spouses Donato v. Asuncion, Sr., where therein respondent lawyer filed a complaint for reformation of instrument to obtain financial gain, and prepared a contract which did not express the true intention of the parties, he was found guilty of gross misconduct and suspended from the practice of law for six (6) months.
In Yap-Paras v. Paras, where therein respondent lawyer applied for free patents over lands owned by another person and not in the former’s physical possession, he was found guilty of committing a falsehood in violation of the Lawyer’s Oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility and suspended from the practice of law for one (1) year, with a warning that the commission of the same or similar offense in the future would result in the imposition of a more severe penalty.
X x x.”
MISCONDUCT. - In the case of SPOUSES STEVEN AND NORA WHITSON vs. ATTY. JUANITO C. ATIENZA, A.C. No. 5535. August 28, 2003, the Supreme Court held:
“x x x.
During the first hearing of the civil case, the judge advised the parties to compromise. Thus, the Whitsons sent a letter to the Alcantaras bearing the terms of their offer of settlement. However, the Whitsons were surprised with what happened on October 3, 2001, during the next hearing after the Alcantaras got the letter. The Whitsons went to court early that morning. While waiting for the session to start, they saw Atty. Atienza enter the room. The minute he saw them, he pointed a finger at them, erupting into an outburst of angry words, viz:
“Hey you, Mr. Whitson. Why did you call me stupid. You, son of a bitch! I demand an immediate apology! You should not forget that you are just a visitor here in the Philippines! You are only here on vacation. How dare you call me stupid! Fuck you! Tang-ina ka!”
Aside from the vehement words, Atty. Atienza kept shoving the astounded and embarrassed Steven. Because of the actions of the respondent, the parties were told to move to the hallway. Nevertheless, despite being restrained by the people surrounding them, Atty. Atienza could not be stopped. They were thus further asked to go out of the building. Once outside, Atty. Atienza motioned for Steven Whitson to approach him, telling him, “I want an apology, Mr. Whitson(.) (W)e can talk over here.” Thinking the latter had already cooled down, Steven approached him and offered an apology. However, even before he was done with his apology, Atty. Atienza punched him on the chest. Because of the tense atmosphere, the hearing scheduled for the day had to be postponed.
Atty. Atienza, on the same day, likewise filed a case for libel against the Whitsons. He alleged that their letter of compromise sent to the Alcantaras contained libelous remarks, viz: “Your stupid attorney did not know where the van is (sic).” A warrant of arrest was issued against the Whitsons. They were not able to immediately post bail and had to spend the night in jail.
X x x.
An investigation was conducted by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (“IBP”). The Investigating Commissioner recommended the suspension of the respondent for three months with the following rationalization:
From the facts obtaining, it is apparent that the respondent lost his composure at the sight of complainant who accused him of being stupid and (a) liar(,) which led him to forget his sense of propriety and proper decorum unbecoming of a seasoned and respectable practitioner in law.
Respondent should have been magnanimous in dealing with the complainant, (es)specially so (sic) he had already made the proper remedy of filing a libel suit against the complainant; and for such misgiving of having punched complainant, proper sanction should be made against the respondent.
Wherefore, in view of the foregoing, the undersigned respectfully recommends that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for a period of three (3) months from receipt hereof.
The Board of Governors of the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline, in its Notice of Resolution, modified the recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner X X X.
We affirm with modification the recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors. The practice of law is a privilege that is subject to regulation by the State. The Supreme Court is mandated by the 1987 Philippine Constitution to “promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of ... the admission to the practice of law, the Integrated Bar ....” Thus, Sec. 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court provides for:
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 for 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 of any lawful order of a superior court, or for corruptly or wilfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority so to do. The practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice.
It is shown that Atty. Atienza exhibited gross misconduct in his dealing with the Whitsons. Gross misconduct is “improper or wrong conduct, the transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful in character, and implies a wrongful intent and not mere error in judgment.” Any gross misconduct of a lawyer in his professional or private capacity which shows him unfit to manage the affairs of others, is a ground for the imposition of the penalty of suspension or disbarment because good character is an essential qualification for the admission of an attorney and for the continuance of such privilege.
In the case at bar, the medical certificate presented proved that Steven Whitson suffered contusion from the blow delivered by Atty. Atienza. Respondent failed to exercise the propriety and proper decorum expected from members of the bar. Even in the heat of anger, his act, along with vehement words and shouts, was uncalled for. Furthermore, the Board of Governors correctly noted that Atty. Atienza should have been more magnanimous in dealing with the Whitsons, especially since he already vindicated himself with the filing of the libel suit.
Thus, Atty. Atienza should properly be penalized for his conduct which is unbecoming of a lawyer. The penalty of suspension is imposed to punish the lawyer or to set an example or a warning for the other members of the bar.
X x x.”
In the case of PEDRO L. LINSANGAN Vs. ATTY. NICOMEDES TOLENTINO, A.C. No. 6672, September 4, 2009, the Supreme Court held:
“x x x.
Based on testimonial and documentary evidence, the CBD, in its report and recommendation, found that respondent had encroached on the professional practice of complainant, violating Rule 8.02 and other canons of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR). Moreover, he contravened the rule against soliciting cases for gain, personally or through paid agents or brokers as stated in Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court. Hence, the CBD recommended that respondent be reprimanded with a stern warning that any repetition would merit a heavier penalty.
We adopt the findings of the IBP on the unethical conduct of respondent but we modify the recommended penalty.
X x x.
Canons of the CPR are rules of conduct all lawyers must adhere to, including the manner by which a lawyer’s services are to be made known. Thus, Canon 3 of the CPR provides:
CANON 3 - A lawyer in making known his legal services shall use only true, honest, fair, dignified and objective information or statement of facts.
Time and time again, lawyers are reminded that the practice of law is a profession and not a business; lawyers should not advertise their talents as merchants advertise their wares. To allow a lawyer to advertise his talent or skill is to commercialize the practice of law, degrade the profession in the public’s estimation and impair its ability to efficiently render that high character of service to which every member of the bar is called.
Rule 2.03 of the CPR provides:
RULE 2.03. A lawyer shall not do or permit to be done any act designed primarily to solicit legal business.
Hence, lawyers are prohibited from soliciting cases for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or brokers. Such actuation constitutes malpractice, a ground for disbarment.
Rule 2.03 should be read in connection with Rule 1.03 of the CPR which provides:
RULE 1.03. A lawyer shall not, for any corrupt motive or interest, encourage any suit or proceeding or delay any man’s cause.
This rule proscribes “ambulance chasing” (the solicitation of almost any kind of legal business by an attorney, personally or through an agent in order to gain employment) as a measure to protect the community from barratry and champerty.
x x x.”
Moreover, by engaging in a money-lending venture with his clients as borrowers, respondent violated Rule 16.04:
Rule 16.04 – A lawyer shall not borrow money from his client unless the client’s interests are fully protected by the nature of the case or by independent advice. Neither shall a lawyer lend money to a client except, when in the interest of justice, he has to advance necessary expenses in a legal matter he is handling for the client.
X x x.
The rule is intended to safeguard the lawyer’s independence of mind so that the free exercise of his judgment may not be adversely affected. It seeks to ensure his undivided attention to the case he is handling as well as his entire devotion and fidelity to the client’s cause. If the lawyer lends money to the client in connection with the client’s case, the lawyer in effect acquires an interest in the subject matter of the case or an additional stake in its outcome. Either of these circumstances may lead the lawyer to consider his own recovery rather than that of his client, or to accept a settlement which may take care of his interest in the verdict to the prejudice of the client in violation of his duty of undivided fidelity to the client’s cause.
As previously mentioned, any act of solicitation constitutes malpractice which calls for the exercise of the Court’s disciplinary powers. Violation of anti-solicitation statutes warrants serious sanctions for initiating contact with a prospective client for the purpose of obtaining employment. Thus, in this jurisdiction, we adhere to the rule to protect the public from the Machiavellian machinations of unscrupulous lawyers and to uphold the nobility of the legal profession.
X x x.”
In the case of RE: DECISION DATED 17 MARCH 2011 IN CRIMINAL CASE NO. SB-28361 ENTITLED “PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES VS. JOSELITO C. BARROZO”, FORMER ASSISTANT PROSECUTOR JOSELITO C. BARROZO, RESPONDENT. EN BANC, A.C. No. 10207, July 21, 2015, the Supreme Court held:
“x x x.
Under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, one of the grounds for the suspension or disbarment of a lawyer is his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude. And with the finality of respondent’s conviction for direct bribery, the next question that needs to be answered is whether direct bribery is a crime that involves moral turpitude.
To consider a crime as one involving moral turpitude, the act constituting the same must have been “done contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals. [It must involve] an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private duties which a man owes his fellowmen, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and woman, or conduct contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals.”
In Catalan, Jr. v. Silvosa, the Court already had the occasion to answer the same question posed in this case, viz:
Moral turpitude is defined as an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private duties which a man owes to his fellowmen, or to society in general, contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals. Section 27, Rule 138 provides:
‘Section 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 of any lawful order of a superior court, or for corruptly or willfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority [to do so]. The practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice.’
X x x.
Respondent’s conduct in office fell short of the integrity and good moral character required of all lawyers, especially one occupying a public office. Lawyers in public office are expected not only to refrain from any act or omission which tend to lessen the trust and confidence of the citizenry in government but also uphold the dignity of the legal profession at all times and observe a high standard of honesty and fair dealing. A government lawyer is a keeper of public faith and is burdened with a high degree of social responsibility, higher than his brethren in private practice.
Hence, for committing a crime which does not only show his disregard of his oath as a government official but is likewise of such a nature as to negatively affect his qualification as a lawyer, respondent must be disbarred from his office as an attorney.
As a final note, it is well to state that:
The purpose of a proceeding for disbarment is to protect the administration of justice by requiring that those who exercise this important function be competent, honorable and reliable – lawyers in whom courts and [the public at large] may repose confidence. Thus, whenever a clear case of degenerate and vile behavior disturbs that vital yet fragile confidence, [the Court] shall not hesitate to rid [the] profession of odious members.
X x x.”
x x x
In the case of SPOUSES VICTOR ONG and GRACE TIU ONG vs. COURT OF APPEALS, HON. RODOLFO R. BONIFACIO in his capacity as Presiding Judge, RTC, Pasig City, Branch 159; PROVINCIAL SHERIFF OF RIZAL GRACE S. BELVIS; DEPUTY SHERIFF VICTOR S. STA. ANA; and PREMIERE DEVELOPMENT BANK, G.R. No. 121494, June 8, 2000, the rule against forum shopping was not applied by the Supreme Court:
“x x x.
With regard to the second issue, it will be recalled that the essence of forum-shopping is the filing of multiple suits involving the same parties for the same cause of action, either simultaneously or successively, for the purpose of obtaining favorable judgment. It exists where the elements of litis pendentia are present or where a final judgment in one case will amount to res judicata in another. The issuance of the writ of possession being a ministerial function, and summary in nature, it cannot be said to be a judgment on the merits, but simply an incident in the transfer of title. Hence, a separate case for annulment of mortgage and foreclosure sale cannot be barred by litis pendentia or res judicata. Clearly, insofar as LRC Case No. R-4874 and Civil Case No. 64604 pending before different RTCs are concerned, there is no forum shopping.
In fact, in Nartates v. GSIS, 156 SCRA 205 (1987), two cases, one for annulment of foreclosure proceedings (G.R. No. L-47669) and another for annulment of the writ of possession (G.R. No. L-47744), both reached this Court at the same time. The Court consolidated the cases since they both stemmed from the foreclosure of the GSIS of the property mortgaged to it by petitioner. As to the issuance of the writ of possession, the Court upheld the issuance of the writ. As to the foreclosure proceedings, the records being complete, the Court found the foreclosure in order.
In this case, however, only the issue of the implementation of the writ of possession is before us. Civil Case No. 64604 is still pending with the trial court. Hence, the allegations as to the failure to comply with procedural requirements of the extrajudicial foreclosure sale, being factual, is for the trial court to determine.
As of the time of filing the petition, private respondent bank has not yet been placed in possession of the property. Section 8 of Act 3135 as amended by Act 4118 provides that petitioners-mortgagors have "30 days after the purchaser was given possession" to file a petition that the sale be set aside and the writ of possession cancelled. Hence, the filing of the petition for prohibition with the CA to enjoin the implementation of the writ of possession is ill-advised and premature.
X x x.”
In the case of NORIEL MICHAEL J. RAMIENTAS vs. ATTY. JOCELYN P. REYALA, En Banc, A.C. No. 7055, July 31, 2006, there is no mention that a motion for reconsideration shall be verified or that it shall contain a notice of hearing. Thus:
“X x x.
IN CONCURRENCE WITH THE ABOVE, NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, as it is hereby resolved, that in accordance with our ruling in Halimao v.Villanueva, pertinent provisions of Rule III of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission on Bar Discipline, as contained in the By-Laws of the IBP, particularly § 1 and § 2, are hereby deemed amended. Accordingly, § 1 of said rules now reads as follows:
SECTION. 1. Pleadings. – The only pleadings allowed are verified complaint, verified answer, verified position papers and motion for reconsideration of a resolution. [Emphasis supplied.]
And in § 2, a motion for reconsideration is, thus, removed from the purview of the class of prohibited pleadings.
Further, the following guidelines shall be observed by the IBP in respect of disciplinary cases against lawyers:
1. The IBP must first afford a chance to either party to file a motion for reconsideration of the IBP resolution containing its findings and recommendations within fifteen (15) days from notice of receipt by the parties thereon;
2. If a motion for reconsideration has been timely filed by an aggrieved party, the IBP must first resolve the same prior to elevating to this Court the subject resolution together with the whole record of the case;
3. If no motion for reconsideration has been filed within the period provided for, the IBP is directed to forthwith transmit to this Court, for final action, the subject resolution together with the whole record of the case;
4. A party desiring to appeal from the resolution of the IBP may file a petition for review before this Court within fifteen (15) days from notice of said resolution sought to be reviewed; and
5. For records of cases already transmitted to this Court where there exist pending motions for reconsideration filed in due time before the IBP, the latter is directed to withdraw from this Court the subject resolutions together with the whole records of the cases, within 30 days from notice, and, thereafter, to act on said motions with reasonable dispatch.
X x x.”
In BAR MATTER N0. 1645 (RE: AMENDMENT OF RULE 139-B), dated October 13, 2015, the Supreme Court issued new rules governing administrative disciplinary cases against lawyers.
The premises of Bar Matter 1645 are as follows:
X x x
3. Dismissal of complaints filed against lawyers is a power of the Supreme Court that cannot be delegated to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
X x x
X x x.