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Vargas vs.

Ignes
RESOLUTION VILLARAMA, JR., J.: Before the Court is a petition for review of Resolution No. XVIII-2008[1] 335 passed on July 17, 2008 by the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in CBD Case No. 07-1953. The IBP Board of Governors dismissed the disbarment case filed by the complainants against the respondents. The facts and proceedings antecedent to this case are as follows: Koronadal Water District (KWD), a government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC), hired respondent Atty. Michael A. Ignes as private legal [2] counsel for one (1) year effective April 17, 2006. The Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) and the Commission on Audit (COA) gave their [3] consent to the employment of Atty. Ignes. However, controversy later erupted when two (2) different groups, herein referred to as the Dela Pea board and Yaphockun board, laid claim as the legitimate Board of Directors of KWD. On December 28, 2006, the members of the Dela Pea board filed Civil Case No. 1793[4] for Injunction and Damages, seeking to annul the appointment of two (2) directors, Joselito T. Reyes and Carlito Y. Uy, who will allegedly connive with Director Allan D. Yaphockun whose hostility to the present Board of Directors, the Dela Pea board, is supposedly of public knowledge. On January 18, 2007, the Dela Pea board also adopted Resolution No. [5] 009 appointing respondents Atty. Rodolfo U. Viajar, Jr. and Atty. Leonard Buentipo Mann as private collaborating counsels for all cases of KWD and its Board of Directors, under the direct supervision and control of Atty. Ignes. Subsequently, on February 9, 2007, Attys. Ignes, Viajar, Jr. and Mann filed SCA Case No. 50-24 for Indirect Contempt of Court[6] entitled Koronadal Water District (KWD), represented herein by its General Manager, Eleanor PimentelGomba v. Efren V. Cabucay, et al. On February 19, 2007, they also filed Civil Case No. 1799 for Injunction and Damages[7] entitled Koronadal Water District (KWD), represented herein by its General Manager, & Eleanor Pimentel-Gomba v. Rey J. Vargas. On March 9, 2007, KWD and Eleanor Pimentel-Gomba filed a supplemental complaint[8] in Civil Case No. 1799. [9] Meanwhile, in Contract Review No. 079 dated February 16, 2007, the OGCC had approved the retainership contract of Atty. Benjamin B. Cuanan as new legal counsel of KWD and stated that the retainership contract of Atty. Ignes had expired on January 14, 2007. In its letter[10] dated March 2, 2007, the OGCC also addressed Eleanor P. Gombas insistence that the retainership contract of Atty. Ignes will expire on April 17, 2007. The OGCC stated that as stipulated, the KWD or OGCC may terminate the contract anytime without need of judicial action; that OGCCs grant of authority to private counsels is a privilege withdrawable under justifiable circumstances; and that the termination of Atty. Igness contract was justified by the fact that the Local Water Utilities Administration had confirmed the Yaphockun board as the new Board of Directors of KWD and that said board had terminated Atty. Igness services and requested to hire another counsel. Alleging that respondents acted as counsel for KWD without legal authority, complainants filed a disbarment complaint[11] against the respondents before the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD), docketed as CBD Case No. 071953. Complainants alleged that respondents filed SCA Case No. 50-24 and Civil Case No. 1799 as counsels of KWD without legal authority. They likewise stated in their position paper[12] that Atty. Ignes continued representing KWD even after the OGCC had confirmed the expiration of Atty. Igness contract in its April 4, 2007 manifestation/motion[13] in Civil Case No. 1796-25 entitled Koronadal Water District (KWD), represented herein by its General Manager, Eleanor Pimentel Gomba v. Supreme Investigative and Security Agency, represented by its Manager Efren Y. Cabucay. In his defense,[14] Atty. Mann stated that he and his fellow respondents can validly represent KWD until April 17, 2007 since Atty. Ignes was not notified of his contracts pre-termination. Atty. Mann also stated that he stopped representing KWD after April 17, 2007 in deference to the OGCCs stand. Attys. Ignes, Viajar, Jr. and Nadua echoed Atty. Manns defense.[15] On March 10, 2008, complainants filed a manifestation[16] before the IBP with the following attachments: (1) the transcript of stenographic notes taken on January 28, 2008 in Civil Case No. 1799, and (2) the notice of appeal dated February 28, 2008 of the January 7, 2008 Order dismissing Civil Case No. 1799. Aforesaid transcript showed that Atty. Ignes appeared as counsel of KWD and Ms. Gomba. He also signed the notice of appeal. In his report and recommendation,[17] the Investigating Commissioner recommended that the charge against Atty. Ignes be dismissed for lack of merit. The Investigating Commissioner held that Atty. Ignes had valid authority as counsel of KWD for one (1) year, from April 2006 to April 2007, and he was unaware of the pre-termination of his contract when he filed pleadings in SCA Case No. 50-24 and Civil Case No. 1799 in February and March 2007. As to Attys. Viajar, Jr., Mann and Nadua, the Investigating Commissioner recommended that they be fined P5,000 each for appearing as attorneys for a party without authority to do so, per Santayana v. Alampay.[18] The Investigating Commissioner found that they failed to secure the conformity of the OGCC and COA to their engagement as collaborating counsels for KWD. As aforesaid, the IBP Board of Governors reversed the recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner and dismissed the case for lack of merit. Hence, the present petition. Complainants contend that the IBP Board of Governors erred in dismissing the case because respondents had no authority from the OGCC to file the complaints and appear as counsels of KWD in Civil Case No. 1799, SCA Case No. 50-24 and Civil Case No. 1796-25. Complainants point out that the retainership contract of Atty. Ignes had expired on January 14, 2007; that the Notice of Appeal filed by Atty. Ignes, et al. in Civil Case No. 1799 was denied per Order dated April 8, 2008 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) for being filed by one not duly authorized by law; and that the authority of Attys. Viajar, Jr. and Mann as collaborating counsels is infirm since Resolution No. 009 of the Dela Pea board lacks the conformity of the OGCC. As a consequence, according to complainants, respondents are liable for willfully appearing as attorneys for a party to a case without authority to do so. In his comment, Atty. Ignes admits that their authority to represent KWD had expired on April 17, 2007, but he and his fellow respondents stopped representing KWD after that date. He submits that they are not guilty of appearing as counsels without authority. In their comment, Attys. Viajar, Jr. and Nadua propound similar arguments. They also say that their fees were paid from private funds of the members of the Dela Pea board and KWD personnel who might need legal representation, not from the public coffers of KWD. In his own comment, Atty. Mann submits similar arguments. After a careful study of the case and the parties submissions, we find respondents administratively liable. At the outset, we note that the parties do not dispute the need for OGCC and COA conformity if a GOCC hires private lawyers. Nonetheless, we shall briefly recall the legal basis of this rule. Under Section 10, Chapter 3, Title III, Book IV of the Administrative Code of 1987, it is the OGCC which shall act as the principal law office of all GOCCs. And Section 3 of Memorandum Circular No. 9,[19] issued by President Estrada on August 27, 1998, enjoins GOCCs to refrain from hiring private lawyers or law firms to handle their cases and legal matters. But the same Section 3 provides that in exceptional cases, the written conformity and acquiescence of the Solicitor General or the Government Corporate Counsel, as the case may be, and the written concurrence of the COA

shall first be secured before the hiring or employment of a private lawyer or law [20] firm. In Phividec Industrial Authority v. Capitol Steel Corporation, we listed three (3) indispensable conditions before a GOCC can hire a private lawyer: (1) private counsel can only be hired in exceptional cases; (2) the GOCC must first secure the written conformity and acquiescence of the Solicitor General or the Government Corporate Counsel, as the case may be; and (3) the written concurrence of the COA must also be secured. In the case of respondents, do they have valid authority to appear as counsels of KWD? We find that Attys. Nadua, Viajar, Jr. and Mann had no valid authority to appear as collaborating counsels of KWD in SCA Case No. 50-24 and Civil Case No. 1799. Nothing in the records shows that Atty. Nadua was engaged by KWD th as collaborating counsel. While the 4 Whereas Clause of Resolution No. 009 partly states that he and Atty. Ignes presently stand as KWD legal counsels, there is no proof that the OGCC and COA approved Atty. Naduas engagement as legal counsel or collaborating counsel. Insofar as Attys. Viajar, Jr. and Mann are concerned, their appointment as collaborating counsels of KWD under Resolution No. 009 has no approval from the OGCC and COA. Attys. Nadua, Viajar, Jr. and Mann are in the same situation as the private counsel of Phividec Industrial Authority in Phividec. In that case, we also ruled that said private counsel of Phividec Industrial Authority, a GOCC, had no authority to file the expropriation case in Phividecs behalf considering that the requirements set by Memorandum Circular No. 9 were not complied [21] with. Thus, Resolution No. 009 did not grant authority to Attys. Nadua, Viajar, Jr. and Mann to act as collaborating counsels of KWD. That Atty. Ignes was not notified of the pre-termination of his own retainership contract cannot validate an inexistent authority of Attys. Nadua, Viajar, Jr. and Mann as collaborating counsels. In the case of Atty. Ignes, he also appeared as counsel of KWD without authority, after his authority as its counsel had expired. True, the OGCC and COA approved his retainership contract for one (1) year effective April 17, 2006. But even if we assume as true that he was not notified of the pretermination of his contract, the records still disprove his claim that he stopped representing KWD after April 17, 2007. Atty. Ignes offered no rebuttal to the verified manifestation of complainants filed with the IBP on March 10, 2008. Attached therein was the transcript of stenographic notes[22] in Civil Case No. 1799 taken on January 28, 2008 when Atty. Ignes argued the extremely urgent motion for the immediate return of the facilities of the KWD to the KWD Arellano Office. The RTC was compelled to ask him why he seeks the return of KWD properties if he filed the motion as counsel of Ms. Gomba. When the RTC noted that KWD does not appear to be a party to the motion, Atty. Ignes said that KWD is represented by Ms. Gomba per the caption of the case. Atty. Ignes also manifested that they will file a motion for reconsideration of the orders dismissing Civil Case No. 1799 and Civil Case No. 1793. The RTC ruled that it will not accept any motion for reconsideration in behalf of KWD unless he is authorized by the OGCC, but Atty. Ignes later filed a notice of appeal[23] dated February 28, 2008, in Civil Case No. 1799. As the notice of appeal signed by Atty. Ignes was filed by one (1) not duly authorized by law, the RTC, in its Order[24] dated April 8, 2008, denied due course to said notice of appeal. As we see it, Atty. Ignes portrayed that his appearance on January 28, 2008 was merely as counsel of Ms. Gomba. He indicted himself, however, when he said that Ms. Gomba represents KWD per the case title. In fact, the extremely urgent motion sought the return of the facilities of KWD to its Arellano Office. Clearly, Atty. Ignes filed and argued a motion with the interest of KWD in mind. The notice of appeal in Civil Case No. 1799 further validates that Atty. Ignes still appeared as counsel of KWD after his authority as counsel had expired. This fact was not lost on the RTC in denying due course to the notice of appeal. Now did respondents willfully appear as counsels of KWD without authority? The following circumstances convince us that, indeed, respondents willfully and deliberately appeared as counsels of KWD without authority. One, respondents have admitted the existence of Memorandum Circular No. 9 and professed that they are aware of our ruling in Phividec.[25] Thus, we entertain no doubt that they have full grasp of our ruling therein that there are indispensable conditions before a GOCC can hire private counsel and that for non-compliance with the requirements set by Memorandum Circular No. 9, the private counsel would have no authority to file a case in behalf of a GOCC. Still, respondents acted as counsels of KWD without complying with what the rule requires. They signed pleadings as counsels of KWD. They presented themselves voluntarily, on their own volition, as counsels of KWD even if they had no valid authority to do so. Two, despite the question on respondents authority as counsels of KWD which question was actually raised earlier in Civil Case No. 1799 by virtue of an urgent motion to disqualify KWDs counsels[26]dated February 21, 2007 and during the hearing on February 23, 2007[27] respondents still filed the supplemental complaint in the case on March 9, 2007. And despite the pendency of this case before the IBP, Atty. Ignes had to be reminded by the RTC that he needs OGCC authority to file an intended motion for reconsideration in behalf of KWD. With the grain of evidence before us, we do not believe that respondents are innocent of the charge even if they insist that the professional fees of Attys. Nadua, Viajar, Jr. and Mann, as collaborating counsels, were paid not from the public coffers of KWD. To be sure, the facts were clear that they appeared as counsels of KWD without authority, and not merely as counsels of the members of the Dela Pea board and KWD personnel in their private suits. Consequently, for respondents willful appearance as counsels of KWD without authority to do so, there is a valid ground to impose disciplinary action against them. Under Section 27, Rule 138 of theRules of Court, 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. Disbarment, however, is the most severe form of disciplinary sanction, and, as such, the power to disbar must always be exercised with great caution, and should be imposed only for the most imperative reasons and in clear cases of misconduct affecting the standing and moral character of the lawyer as an officer of the court and member of the bar. Accordingly, disbarment should not be decreed where any punishment less severe such as a reprimand, suspension or fine, would accomplish the end desired.[28] In Santayana,[29] we imposed a fine of P5,000 on the respondent for willfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority to do so. The respondent therein also appeared as private counsel of the National Electrification Administration, a GOCC, without any approval from the OGCC and COA. Conformably with Santayana, we impose a fine of P5,000 on each respondent. On another matter, we note that respondents stopped short of fully narrating what had happened after the RTC issued four (4) orders on March 24, 2007 and on April 13, 2007 in Civil Case No. 1799.[30] As willingly revealed by complainants, all four (4) orders were nullified by the Court of Appeals.[31] We are compelled to issue a reminder that our Code of Professional Responsibility

requires lawyers, like respondents, to always show candor and good faith to the [32] courts. WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed Resolution No. XVIII-2008-335 passed on July 17, 2008 by the IBP Board of Governors in CBD Case No. 07-1953 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Respondents Attys. Michael A. Ignes, Leonard Buentipo Mann, Rodolfo U. Viajar, Jr., and John Rangal D. Nadua are found GUILTY of willfully appearing as attorneys for a party to a case without authority to do so and FINED P5,000 each, payable to this Court within ten (10) days from notice of this Resolution. They are STERNLY WARNED that a similar offense in the future will be dealt with more severely. Let a copy of this Resolution be attached to respondents personal records in the Office of the Bar Confidant. SO ORDERED.

JESUS E. SANTAYANA, vs. ATTY. ELISEO B. ALAMPAY


RESOLUTION SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.: Before us is a verified complaint[1] for disbarment filed by Jesus E. Santaya against Atty. Eliseo B. Alampay for malpractice and violation of the Attorneys Oath. Jesus E. Santayana, complainant herein, alleged in his complaint that respondent lawyer is a member of the Board of Administrators of the National Electrification Administration (NEA), a government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC). The laws provide that NEA shall be represented in all judicial proceedings by the following legal counsel: (1) the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC); (2) the Chief or any lawyer of the NEA Legal Division; and (3) the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG). Under Memorandum Circular No. 9 issued by the Office of the President on August 27, 1998, the GOCCs are barred from hiring private lawyers or law firms to represent them in law suits and to handle their legal matters, except in exceptional circumstances with the written conformity of the Solicitor General or Government Corporate Counsel. This conformity shall be with the written concurrence of the Commission on Audit. The petitioner further alleged that NEA is tasked with the implementation of the governments foreign-funded Rural Electrification Program. One of the components of this Program is the IPB 80 Project requiring NEA to purchase, through public bidding, 60,000 pieces of wooden poles and 20,000 pieces of cross arms to be used in the rural electric distribution network. In 1999, NEA conducted a public bidding for the purchase of poles and cross arms. In December 2000, Nerwin Industries Corporation (Nerwin) was declared the lowest bidder. Hence, the NEA Board of Administrators passed Resolution No. 32 approving the award to Nerwin of fifty percent (50%) of the IPB 80 project requirements. However, NEA disqualified Nerwin and instead granted the award to a losing bidder. Seeking a legal justification for its action, NEA twice asked the opinion of the OGCC. In both instances, the OGCC pointed out that NEAs action is in violation of the law. Respondent, despite his knowledge that NEA is represented by legal counsel specifically provided by law, had his law firm Alampay, Gatchalian, Mawis & Alampay rendered a legal opinion adverse to that of the OGCC. As a result, NEA nullified the award to Nerwin, prompting the latter to file with the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 36, Manila a complaint for specific performance, injunction, and damages against NEA, docketed as Civil Case No. 01-102000. Respondents law firm entered its appearance as counsel for NEA in Civil Case No. 01-10200. Nerwin filed a motion for the disqualification of respondents law firm as counsel for NEA. This was opposed by respondent. On December 10, 2001, the RTC issued an Order disqualifying respondents law firm from appearing as counsel for NEA, thus: WHEREFORE, the Court hereby rules as follows: (1) the motion to dismiss is denied, and (2) the motion to disqualify the Alampay, Gatchalian, Mawis and Alampay Law Office is granted thus this Courts recognition of the appearance and representation for and in behalf of NEA of ALAMPAY, GATCHALIAN, MAWIS and ALAMPAY Law Office is discontinued and terminated. The Chief of the Legal Division of NEA is directed to enter his appearance and to represent NEA in this case unless NEA chooses to avail of the services of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel or the Office of the Solicitor General. Furnish copies of this Order to plaintiffs counsel and the lawyers of the three (3) sets of defendants in this case. Let copies of this Order be served likewise on NEA, The Chief of the Legal Department/Division of the NEA, the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel and the Office of the Solicitor General. SO ORDERED.[2] Respondent filed a motion for reconsideration but this was denied by the trial court in its Order dated February 15, 2002. Respondent then filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 70355, assailing the Orders of the trial court dated December 10, 2001 and February 15, 2002. On September 24, 2002, the Court of Appeals dismissed the petition, holding that: In the absence of a written conformity from the duly mandated government lawyers appointed by law, and a written concurrence from the Commission on Audit, the Court finds no legal basis for the law office of Alampay, Gatchalian, Mawis, and Alampay to represent the petitioners in this case.[3] Complainant thus charged respondent with: (1) violation of Section 20(a) of Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court by usurping for himself and his law firm the authority of the legal counsel of NEA; (2) malpractice and violation of Section 27 of Rule 138, by willfully appearing, without lawful authority, as NEAs counsel on record in Civil Case No. 01-102000; (3) malpractice by rendering a legal opinion for NEA without authority; and (4) violation of the Attorneys Oath by appearing as counsel for NEA just to delay, injure, and damage the rights of Nerwin. In his answer, respondent prayed for the outright dismissal of the complaint. He claimed that complainant did not state his interest or position in Nerwin nor his authority to file this complaint. Furthermore, all the allegations therein are hearsay and distortions of the truth. Respondent also averred that Resolution No. 38 dated October 11, 2001 of the NEA Board of Administrators authorized his law firm Alampay, Gatchalian, Mawis, and Alampay to represent NEA in Civil Case No. 01-102000 sans attorneys fees. Since the OGCC took a stance adverse to that of NEA with respect to IBP 80 Project, the latter could engage the services of other counsel. Moreover, the NEA Charter does not prohibit its engagement of other counsel. On April 21, 2003, we issued a Resolution referring the instant case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report, and recommendation. In her Report and Recommendation dated February 24, 2004, IBP Commissioner Milagros V. San Juan found that respondent violated Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and Rule 1.02 of the same Canon and recommended that said respondent be reprimanded and warned, thus: It is submitted that the above actions of respondent are in violation of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which reads: A lawyer shall uphold the

Constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect for law and legal processes and Rule 1.02 of Canon 1 which reads: A lawyer shall not counsel or abet activities aimed at defiance of the law or lessening confidence in the legal system. Thus, it is recommended that respondent be meted the administrative penalty of reprimand with a warning that similar actions in the future shall be dealt with more severely. Respectfully submitted.[4] On April 16, 2004, the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution No. XVI-2004-223 adopting and approving the Report and Recommendation of Commissioner San Juan. We sustain the Resolution of the IBP Board of Governors. Section 10, Chapter 3, Title III, Book IV of the Administrative Code of 1987 provides: SEC. 10. Office of the Government Corporate Counsel. The Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) shall act as the principal law office of all government-owned or controlled corporations, their subsidiaries, other corporate offspring and government acquired asset corporations and shall exercise control and supervision over all legal departments or divisions maintained separately and such powers and functions as are now or may hereafter be provided by law. In the exercise of such control and supervision, the Government Corporate Counsel shall promulgate rules and regulations to effectively implement the objectives of this Office. The above provision lays down the rule that with respect to GOCCs, their principal counsel shall be the OGCC. Corollarily, Section 61 of Presidential Decree No. 269, the charter of the NEA, provides: SEC. 61. NEA Counsel. The Chief of the legal division or any other lawyer of the NEA shall represent the same in all judicial proceedings. It shall be the duty of the Solicitor General to represent NEA in any judicial proceedings if, for special reasons, the administrators shall request his intervention. Section 61 of the NEA Charter must be construed as an exception to the provision of the Administrative Code quoted earlier. This is in accordance with the rule of statutory construction that where two statutes are of equal theoretical application to a particular case, the one designed therefore specially should prevail.[5] Pertinent also is Memorandum Circular No. 9 issued by the Office of the President on August 27, 1998 which reads: SEC. 1. All legal matters pertaining to government-owned or controlled corporations, their subsidiaries, other corporate offspring and government acquired asset corporations (GOCCs) shall be exclusively referred to and handled by the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC). GOCCs are hereby enjoined from referring their cases and legal matters to the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) unless their respective corporate charters expressly name the Office of the Solicitor General as their legal counsel. However, under exceptional circumstances, the OSG may represent the GOCC concerned, Provided: This is authorized by the President or by the Head of the office concerned and approved by the President. SEC. 2. All pending cases of GOCCs being handled by the OSG and all pending requests for opinions and contract review which have been referred by said GOCCs to the OSG, may be retained and acted upon by the OSG, but the latter shall inform the OGCC of the said pending cases, requests for opinions and contract reviews, if any, to ensure proper monitoring and coordination. SEC. 3. GOCCs are likewise enjoined to refrain from hiring private lawyers or law firms to handle their cases and legal matters. But in exceptional cases, the written conformity and acquiescence of the Solicitor General or the Government Corporate Counsel, as the case may be, and the written concurrence of the Commission on Audit shall first be secured before the hiring or employment of a private lawyer or law firm. From all the foregoing legal provisions, it is evident that in all judicial proceedings, NEA shall be represented by the chief or any attorney of its Legal Division. However, for special reasons and where the NEA Board of Administrators requests in writing, it shall be the duty of the Solicitor General to represent NEA. NEA can hire or employ a private lawyer or law firm only in exceptional cases with (1) the conformity and acquiescence in writing of the Solicitor General or the OGCC; and (2) with the written concurrence of the Commission on Audit. We carefully examined Resolution No. 38 dated October 11, 2001 of the NEA Board of Administrators which respondent claims is the source of his authority to represent NEA in Civil Case No. 01-102000. Nothing therein indicates that the written conformity of the Solicitor General or the OGCC has been obtained nor is there any written concurrence by the Commission on Audit. Indeed, Resolution No. 38 is legally infirm. Hence, there can be no other conclusion than that respondents law firm, including himself, willfully appeared as counsel for NEA in the said case without authority to do so. Pertinent is Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court which provides: SEC. 27. Disbarment or suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court, grounds therefore. 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 is he is required to take before admission to practice, for a willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court or for corruptly and 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 (Stress supplied). However, there is no indication in the records that respondent acted in bad faith. In fact, his law firms services for NEA were pro bono. WHEREFORE, Atty. Eliseo B. Alampay is hereby FINED in the amount of P5,000.00 for appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority to do so and WARNED that a repetition of similar infraction in the future shall be dealt with more severely. Let a copy of this Resolution be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant and the Office of the Court Administrator to be distributed to all courts of the land for their information and guidance. SO ORDERED. .

Cambaliza vs. Cristal-Tenorio


RESOLUTION DAVIDE, JR., C.J.: In a verified complaint for disbarment filed with the Committee on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on 30 May 2000, complainant Ana Marie Cambaliza, a former employee of respondent Atty. Ana Luz B. Cristal-Tenorio in her law office, charged the latter with deceit, grossly immoral conduct, and malpractice or other gross misconduct in office. On deceit, the complainant alleged that the respondent has been falsely representing herself to be married to Felicisimo R. Tenorio, Jr., who has a prior and subsisting marriage with another woman. However, through spurious means, the respondent and Felicisimo R. Tenorio, Jr., were able to obtain a false [1] marriage contract, which states that they were married on 10 February 1980 in [2] Manila. Certifications from the Civil Registry of Manila and the National [3] Statistics Office (NSO) prove that no record of marriage exists between them. The false date and place of marriage between the two are stated in the birth certificates of their two children, Donnabel Tenorio[4] and Felicisimo Tenorio [5] [6] III. But in the birth certificates of their two other children, Oliver Tenorio and [7] John Cedric Tenorio, another date and place of marriage are indicated, namely, 12 February 1980 in Malaybalay, Bukidnon. As to grossly immoral conduct, the complainant alleged that the respondent caused the dissemination to the public of a libelous affidavit derogatory to Makati City Councilor Divina Alora Jacome. The respondent would often openly and sarcastically declare to the complainant and her co-employees the alleged immorality of Councilor Jacome. On malpractice or other gross misconduct in office, the complainant alleged that the respondent (1) cooperated in the illegal practice of law by her husband, who is not a member of the Philippine Bar; (2) converted her clients money to her own use and benefit, which led to the filing of an estafa case against her; and (3) threatened the complainant and her family on 24 January 2000 with the statement Isang bala ka lang to deter them from divulging respondents illegal activities and transactions. In her answer, the respondent denied all the allegations against her. As to the charge of deceit, she declared that she is legally married to Felicisimo R. Tenorio, Jr. They were married on 12 February 1980 as shown by their Certificate of Marriage, Registry No. 2000-9108 of the Civil Registry of Quezon City.[8] Her husband has no prior and subsisting marriage with another woman. As to the charge of grossly immoral conduct, the respondent denied that she caused the dissemination of a libelous and defamatory affidavit against Councilor Jacome. On the contrary, it was Councilor Jacome who caused the execution of said document. Additionally, the complainant and her cohorts are the rumormongers who went around the city of Makati on the pretext of conducting a survey but did so to besmirch respondents good name and reputation. The charge of malpractice or other gross misconduct in office was likewise denied by the respondent. She claimed that her Cristal-Tenorio Law Office is registered with the Department of Trade and Industry as a single proprietorship, as shown by its Certificate of Registration of Business Name.[9] Hence, she has no partners in her law office. As to the estafa case, the same had already been dropped pursuant to the Order of 14 June 1996 issued by Branch 103 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City.[10] The respondent likewise denied that she threatened the complainant with the words Isang bala ka lang on 24 January 2000. Further, the respondent averred that this disbarment complaint was filed by the complainant to get even with her. She terminated complainants employment after receiving numerous complaints that the complainant extorted money from different people with the promise of processing their passports and marriages to foreigners, but she reneged on her promise. Likewise, this disbarment complaint is politically motivated: some politicians offered to re-hire the complainant and her cohorts should they initiate this complaint, which they did and for which they were re-hired. The respondent also flaunted the fact that she had received numerous awards and citations for civic works and exemplary service to the community. She then prayed for the dismissal of the disbarment case for being baseless. The IBP referred this case to Investigating Commissioner Atty. Kenny H. Tantuico. During the hearing on 30 August 2000, the parties agreed that the complainant would submit a Reply to respondents Answer, while the respondent would submit a Rejoinder to the Reply. The parties also agreed that the Complaint, Answer, and the attached affidavits would constitute as the respective direct testimonies of the parties and the affiants.[11] In her Reply, the complainant bolstered her claim that the respondent cooperated in the illegal practice of law by her husband by submitting (1) the letterhead of Cristal-Tenorio Law Office[12] where the name of Felicisimo R. Tenorio, Jr., is listed as a senior partner; and (2) a Sagip Communication Radio Group identification card[13] signed by the respondent as Chairperson where her husband is identified as Atty. Felicisimo R. Tenorio, Jr. She added that respondents husband even appeared in court hearings. In her Rejoinder, respondent averred that she neither formed a law partnership with her husband nor allowed her husband to appear in court on her behalf. If there was an instance that her husband appeared in court, he did so as a representative of her law firm. The letterhead submitted by the complainant was a false reproduction to show that her husband is one of her law partners. But upon cross-examination, when confronted with the letterhead of Cristal-Tenorio Law Office bearing her signature, she admitted that Felicisimo R. Tenorio, Jr., is not a lawyer, but he and a certain Gerardo A. Panghulan, who is also not a lawyer, are named as senior partners because they have investments in her law office.[14] The respondent further declared that she married Felicisimo R. Tenorio, Jr., on 12 February 1980 in Quezon City, but when she later discovered that their marriage contract was not registered she applied for late registration on 5 April 2000. She then presented as evidence a certified copy of the marriage contract issued by the Office of the Civil Registrar General and authenticated by the NSO. The erroneous entries in the birth certificates of her children as to the place and date of her marriage were merely an oversight.[15] Sometime after the parties submitted their respective Offer of Evidence and Memoranda, the complainant filed a Motion to Withdraw Complaint on 13 November 2002 after allegedly realizing that this disbarment complaint arose out of a misunderstanding and misappreciation of facts. Thus, she is no

longer interested in pursuing the case. This motion was not acted upon by the IBP. In her Report and Recommendation dated 30 September 2003, IBP Commissioner on Bar Discipline Milagros V. San Juan found that the complainant failed to substantiate the charges of deceit and grossly immoral conduct. However, she found the respondent guilty of the charge of cooperating in the illegal practice of law by Felicisimo R. Tenorio, Jr., in violation of Canon 9 and Rule 9.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility based on the following evidence: (1) the letterhead of Cristal-Tenorio Law Office, which lists Felicisimo R. Tenorio, Jr., as a senior partner; (2) the Sagip Communication Radio Group identification card of Atty. Felicisimo R. Tenorio, Jr., signed by respondent as Chairperson; (3) and the Order dated 18 June 1997 issued by the Metropolitan Trial Court in Criminal Cases Nos. 20729 20734, wherein Felicisimo R. Tenorio, Jr., entered his appearance as counsel and even moved for the provisional dismissal of the cases for failure of the private complainants to appear and for lack of interest to prosecute the said cases. Thus, Commissioner San Juan recommended that the respondent be reprimanded. In its Resolution No. XVI-2003-228 dated 25 October 2003, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved with modification the Report and Recommendation of Commissioner San Juan. The modification consisted in increasing the penalty from reprimand to suspension from the practice of law for six months with a warning that a similar offense in the future would be dealt with more severely. We agree with the findings and conclusion of Commissioner San Juan as approved and adopted with modification by the Board of Governors of the IBP. At the outset, we find that the IBP was correct in not acting on the Motion to Withdraw Complaint filed by complainant Cambaliza. In Rayos-Ombac vs. Rayos,[16] we declared: The affidavit of withdrawal of the disbarment case allegedly executed by complainant does not, in any way, exonerate the respondent. A case of suspension or disbarment may proceed regardless of interest or lack of interest of the complainant. What matters is whether, on the basis of the facts borne out by the record, the charge of deceit and grossly immoral conduct has been duly proven. This rule is premised on the nature of disciplinary proceedings. A proceeding for suspension or disbarment is not in any sense a civil action where the complainant is a plaintiff and the respondent lawyer is a defendant. Disciplinary proceedings involve no private interest and afford no redress for private grievance. They are undertaken and prosecuted solely for the public welfare. They are undertaken for the purpose of preserving courts of justice from the official ministration of persons unfit to practice in them. The attorney is called to answer to the court for his conduct as an officer of the court. The complainant or the person who called the attention of the court to the attorney's alleged misconduct 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. Hence, if the evidence on record warrants, the respondent may be suspended or disbarred despite the desistance of complainant or his withdrawal of the charges. Hence, notwithstanding the Motion to Withdraw Complaint, this disbarment case should proceed accordingly. The IBP correctly found that the charges of deceit and grossly immoral conduct were not substantiated. In disbarment proceedings, the complainant has the burden of proving his case by convincing evidence.[17] With respect to the estafa case which is the basis for the charge of malpractice or other gross misconduct in office, the respondent is not yet convicted thereof. In Gerona vs. Datingaling,[18] we held that when the criminal prosecution based on the same act charged is still pending in court, any administrative disciplinary proceedings for the same act must await the outcome of the criminal case to avoid contradictory findings. We, however, affirm the IBPs finding that the respondent is guilty of assisting in the unauthorized practice of law. A lawyer who allows a non-member of the Bar to misrepresent himself as a lawyer and to practice law is guilty of violating Canon 9 and Rule 9.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which read as follows: Canon 9 A lawyer shall not directly or indirectly assist in the unauthorized practice of law. Rule 9.01 A lawyer shall not delegate to any unqualified person the performance of any task which by law may only be performed by a member of the Bar in good standing. The term practice of law implies customarily or habitually holding oneself out to the public as a lawyer for compensation as a source of livelihood or in consideration of his services. Holding ones self out as a lawyer may be shown by acts indicative of that purpose like identifying oneself as attorney, appearing in court in representation of a client, or associating oneself as a partner of a law office for the general practice of law.[19] Such acts constitute unauthorized practice of law. In this case, Felicisimo R. Tenorio, Jr., is not a lawyer, but he holds himself out as one. His wife, the respondent herein, abetted and aided him in the unauthorized practice of the legal profession. At the hearing, the respondent admitted that the letterhead of CristalTenorio Law Office listed Felicisimo R. Tenorio, Jr., Gerardo A. Panghulan, and Maricris D. Battung as senior partners. She admitted that the first two are not lawyers but paralegals. They are listed in the letterhead of her law office as senior partners because they have investments in her law office.[20] That is a blatant misrepresentation. The Sagip Communication Radio Group identification card is another proof that the respondent assisted Felicisimo R. Tenorio, Jr., in misrepresenting to the public that he is a lawyer. Notably, the identification card stating that he is Atty. Felicisimo Tenorio, Jr., bears the signature of the respondent as Chairperson of the Group. The lawyers duty to prevent, or at the very least not to assist in, the unauthorized practice of law is founded on public interest and policy. Public

policy requires that the practice of law be limited to those individuals found duly qualified in education and character. The permissive right conferred on the lawyer is an individual and limited privilege subject to withdrawal if he fails to maintain proper standards of moral and professional conduct. The purpose is to protect the public, the court, the client, and the bar from the incompetence or dishonesty of those unlicensed to practice law and not subject to the disciplinary control of the Court. It devolves upon a lawyer to see that this purpose is attained. Thus, the canons and ethics of the profession enjoin him not to permit his professional services or his name to be used in aid of, or to make possible the unauthorized practice of law by, any agency, personal or corporate. And, the law makes it a misbehavior on his part, subject to disciplinary action, to aid a [21] layman in the unauthorized practice of law. WHEREFORE, for culpable violation of Canon 9 and Rule 9.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, respondent Atty. Ana Luz B. Cristal-Tenorio is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of six (6) months effective immediately, with a warning that a repetition of the same or similar act in the future will be dealt with more severely. Let copies of this Resolution be attached to respondent CristalTenorios record as attorney in this Court and furnished to the IBP and the Office of the Court Administrator for circulation to all courts. SO ORDERED.

office being a public trust. Section 4 thereof provides for the norms of conduct of public officials and employees, among others: (a) commitment to public interest; (b) professionalism; and (c) justness and sincerity. Of particular significance is the statement under professionalism that [t]hey [public officials and employees] shall endeavor to discourage wrong perceptions of their roles as dispensers or peddlers of undue patronage. Thus, it may be well to say that the prohibition was intended to avoid any impropriety or the appearance of impropriety which may occur in any transaction between the retired government employee and his former colleagues, subordinates or superiors brought about by familiarity, moral ascendancy or undue influence, as the [2] case may be.

Subsequently, in a Minute Resolution dated July 15, 2008, we resolved to refer this case to the Office of the Chief Attorney (OCAT) for [3] evaluation, report and recommendation. The OCAT took the view that: The premise of the query is erroneous. She interprets Section 7 (b) (2) as a blanket authority for an incumbent clerk of court to practice law. Clearly, there is a [4] misreading of that provision of law. and further observed: The confusion apparently lies in the use of the term such practice after the phrase provided that. It may indeed be misinterpreted as modifying the phrase engage in the private practice of their profession should be prefatory sentence that public officials during their incumbency shall not be disregarded. However, read in its entirety, such practice may only refer to practice authorized by the Constitution or law or the exception to the prohibition against the practice of profession. The term law was intended by the legislature to include a memorandum or a circular or an administrative order issued pursuant to the authority of law. x x x

Query of Atty. Karen Silverio-Buffe


This administrative matter started as a letter-query dated March 4, 2008 of Atty. Karen M. Silverio-Buffe (Atty. Buffe) addressed to the Office of the Court Administrator, which query the latter referred to the Court for consideration. In the course of its action on the matter, the Court discovered that the query was beyond pure policy interpretation and referred to the actual situation of Atty. Buffe, and, hence, was a matter that required concrete action on the factual situation presented. The query, as originally framed, related to Section 7(b)(2) of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 6713, as amended (or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees). This provision places a limitation on public officials and employees during their incumbency, and those already separated from government employment for a period of one (1) year after separation, in engaging in the private practice of their profession. Section 7(b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713 provides: SECTION 7. Prohibited Acts and Transactions. In addition to acts and omissions of public officials and employees now prescribed in the Constitution and existing laws, the following shall constitute prohibited acts and transactions of any public official and employee and are hereby declared to be unlawful: x x (b) Outside employment and other activities related thereto. Public officials and employees during their incumbency shall not: x x (2) Engage in the private practice of their profession unless authorized by the Constitution or law, provided, that such practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with their official functions; or x x x x x

The interpretation that Section 7 (b) (2) generally prohibits incumbent public officials and employees from engaging in the practice of law, which is declared therein a prohibited and unlawful act, accords with the constitutional policy on accountability of public officers stated in Article XI of the Constitution x x x

The policy thus requires public officials and employees to devote full time public service so that in case of conflict between personal and public interest, the latter should take precedence over the former.[5][Footnotes omitted]

With respect to lawyers in the judiciary, the OCAT pointed to Section 5, Canon 3 of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel the rule that deals with outside employment by an incumbent judicial employee and which limits such outside employment to one that does not require the practice of law.[6] The prohibition to practice law with respect to any matter where they have intervened while in the government service is reiterated in Rule 6.03, Canon 6 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which governs the conduct of lawyers in the government service.[7] In view of the OCAT findings and recommendations, we issued an En Banc Resolution dated November 11, 2008 directing the Court Administrator to draft and submit to the Court a circular on the practice of profession during employment and within one year from resignation, retirement from or cessation of employment in the Judiciary. We likewise required the Executive Judge of the RTC of Romblon to (i) verify if Atty. Buffe had appeared as counsel during her incumbency as clerk of court and after her resignation in February 2008, and (ii) submit to the Court a report on his verification.[8] In compliance with this our Resolution, Executive Judge Ramiro R. Geronimo of RTC-Branch 81 of Romblon reported the following appearances made by Atty. Buffe: (1) Civil Case No. V-1564, entitled Oscar Madrigal Moreno, Jr. et al. versus Leonardo M. Macalam, et al. on February 19, 2008, March 4, 2008, April 10, 2008 and July 9, 2008 as counsel for the plaintiffs; (2) Civil Case No. V-1620, entitled Melchor M. Manal versus Zosimo Malasa, et al., on (sic) February, 2008, as counsel for the plaintiff; (3) Civil Case No. V-1396, entitled Solomon Y. Mayor versus Jose J. Mayor, on February 21, 2008, as counsel for the plaintiff; and (4) Civil Case No. V-1639, entitled Philippine National Bank versus Sps. Mariano and Olivia Silverio, on April 11, 2008 and July 9, 2008, as counsel for the defendants. Atty. Buffe herself was furnished a copy of our November 11, 2008 En Banc Resolution and she filed a Manifestation (received by the Court on February 2, 2009) acknowledging receipt of our November 11, 2008 Resolution. She likewise stated that her appearances are part of Branch 81 records. As well, she informed the Court that she had previously taken the following judicial remedies in regard to the above query: 1. SCA No. 089119028 (Annex C), filed with Branch 54 of the RTC Manila, which had been dismissed without prejudice on July 23, 2008 (Annex D) a recourse taken when undersigned was still a private practitioner; 2. SCA No. 08120423 (Annex A), filed with Branch 17 of the RTC of Manila, which had been

These prohibitions shall continue to apply for a period of one (1) year after resignation, retirement, or separation from public office, except in the case of subparagraph (b) (2) above, but the professional concerned cannot practice his profession in connection with any matter before the office he used to be with, in which case the one-year prohibition shall likewise apply. In her letter-query, Atty. Buffe posed these questions: Why may an incumbent engage in private practice under (b)(2), assuming the same does not conflict or tend to conflict with his official duties, but a non-incumbent like myself cannot, as is apparently prohibited by the last paragraph of Sec. 7? Why is the former allowed, who is still occupying the very public position that he is liable to exploit, but a non-incumbent like myself who is no longer in a position of possible abuse/exploitation cannot?[1] The query arose because Atty. Buffe previously worked as Clerk of Court VI of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 81 of Romblon; she resigned from her position effective February 1, 2008. Thereafter (and within the one-year period of prohibition mentioned in the above-quoted provision), she engaged in the private practice of law by appearing as private counsel in several cases before RTC-Branch 81 of Romblon. Atty. Buffe alleged that Section 7(b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713 gives preferential treatment to an incumbent public employee, who may engage in the private practice of his profession so long as this practice does not conflict or tend to conflict with his official functions. In contrast, a public official or employee who has retired, resigned, or has been separated from government service like her, is prohibited from engaging in private practice on any matter before the office where she used to work, for a period of one (1) year from the date of her separation from government employment. Atty. Buffe further alleged that the intention of the above prohibition is to remove the exercise of clout, influence or privity to insider information, which the incumbent public employee may use in the private practice of his profession. However, this situation did not obtain in her case, since she had already resigned as Clerk of Court of RTC-Branch 18 of Romblon. She advanced the view that she could engage in the private practice of law before RTC-Branch 81 of Romblon, so long as her appearance as legal counsel shall not conflict or tend to conflict with her former duties as former Clerk of Court of that Branch. Then Deputy Court Administrator (now Court Administrator) Jose P. Perez made the following observations when the matter was referred to him: The general intent of the law, as defined in its title is to uphold the time-honored principle of public

also dismissed (with or without prejudice) on December 4, 2008 (Annex B) a recourse taken when undersigned was already a public prosecutor appearing before the same Branch 81, after she took her oath of office as such on August 15, 2008.[Emphasis supplied] She also made known her intent to elevate the dismissal of the above cases so that eventually, the Honorable Supreme Court may put to rest the legal issue/s presented in the above petitions which is, why is it that R.A. No. 6713, Sec. 7 (b)(2) and last par. thereof, apparently contains an express prohibition (valid or invalid) on the private practice of undersigneds law profession, before Branch 81, while on the other hand not containing a similar, express prohibition in regard to undersigneds practice of profession, before the same court, as a public prosecutor within the supposedly restricted 1-year period? OUR ACTION AND RULING Preliminary Considerations As we stated at the outset, this administrative matter confronts us, not merely with the task of determining how the Court will respond to the query, both with respect to the substance and form (as the Court does not give interpretative opinions[9] but can issue circulars and regulations relating to pleading, practice [10] and procedure in all courts and in the exercise of its administrative supervision [11] over all courts and personnel thereof ), but also with the task of responding to admitted violations of Section 7 (b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713 and to multiple recourses on the same subject. After our directive to the Office of the Court Administrator to issue a circular on the subject of the query for the guidance of all personnel in the Judiciary, we consider this aspect of the present administrative matter a finished task, subject only to confirmatory closure when the OCA reports the completion of the undertaking to us. Atty. Buffes admitted appearance, before the very same branch she served and immediately after her resignation, is a violation that we cannot close our eyes to and that she cannot run away from under the cover of the letter-query she filed and her petition for declaratory relief, whose dismissal she manifested she would pursue up to our level. We note that at the time she filed her letterquery (on March 4, 2008), Atty. Buffe had already appeared before Branch 81 in at least three (3) cases. The terms of Section 7 (b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713 did not deter her in any way and her misgivings about the fairness of the law cannot excuse any resulting violation she committed. In other words, she took the risk of appearing before her own Branch and should suffer the consequences of the risk she took. Nor can she hide behind the two declaratory relief petitions she filed, both of which were dismissed, and her intent to elevate the dismissal to this Court for resolution. The first, filed before the RTC, Branch 54, Manila, was dismissed on July 23, 2008 because the court declined to exercise the power to declare rights as prayed for in the petition, as any decision that may be rendered will be inutile and will not generally terminate the uncertainty or controversy.[12] The second, filed with the RTC, Branch 17, Manila, was dismissed for being an inappropriate remedy after the dismissal ordered by the RTC, Branch 54,Manila, on December 4, 2008.[13] Under these circumstances, we see nothing to deter us from ruling on Atty. Buffes actions, as no actual court case other than the present administrative case, is now actually pending on the issue she raised. On the contrary, we see from Atty. Buffes recourse to this Court and the filing of the two declaratory petitions the intent to shop for a favorable answer to her query. We shall duly consider this circumstance in our action on the case. A last matter to consider before we proceed to the merits of Atty. Buffes actions relates to possible objections on procedural due process grounds, as we have not made any formal directive to Atty. Buffe to explain why she should not be penalized for her appearance before Branch 81 soon after her resignation from that Branch. The essence of due process is the grant of the opportunity to be heard; what it abhors is the lack of the opportunity to be heard.[14] The records of this case show that Atty. Buffe has been amply heard with respect to her actions. She was notified, and she even responded to ourNovember 11, 2008 directive for the Executive Judge of the RTC of Romblon to report on Atty. Buffes appearances before Branch 81; she expressly manifested that these appearances were part of the Branch records. Her legal positions on these appearances have also been expressed before this Court; first, in her original letter-query, and subsequently, in her Manifestation. Thus, no due process consideration needs to deter us from considering the legal consequences of her appearances in her previous Branch within a year from her resignation. The Governing Law: Section 7 of R.A. No. 6713 Section 7 of R.A. No. 6713 generally provides for the prohibited acts and transactions of public officials and employees. Subsection (b)(2) prohibits them from engaging in the private practice of their profession during their incumbency. As an exception, a public official or employee can engage in the practice of his or her profession under the following conditions: first, the private practice is authorized by the Constitution or by the law; and second, the practice will not conflict, or tend to conflict, with his or her official functions. The Section 7 prohibitions continue to apply for a period of one year after the public official or employees resignation, retirement, or separation from public office, except for the private practice of profession under subsection (b)(2), which can already be undertaken even within the one-year prohibition period. As an exception to this exception, the one-year prohibited period applies with respect to any matter before the office the public officer or employee used to work with. The Section 7 prohibitions are predicated on the principle that public office is a public trust; and serve to remove any impropriety, real or imagined, which may occur in government transactions between a former government official or employee and his or her former colleagues, subordinates or superiors. The prohibitions also promote the observance and the efficient use of every moment of the prescribed office hours to serve the public.[15] Parenthetically, in the case of court employees, Section 7(b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713 is not the only prohibition to contend with; Section 5, Canon 3 of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel also applies. The latter provision provides the definitive rule on the outside employment that an incumbent court official or court employee may undertake in addition to his official duties: Outside employment may be allowed by the head of office provided it complies with all of the following requirements: (a) The outside employment is not with a person or entity that practices law before the courts or conducts business with the Judiciary;

(b) The outside employment can be performed outside of normal working hours and is not incompatible with the performance of the court personnels duties and responsibilities; (c) That outside employment does not require the practice of law; Provided, however, that court personnel may render services as professor, lecturer, or resource person in law schools, review or continuing education centers or similar institutions; (d) The outside employment does not require or induce the court personnel to disclose confidential information acquired while performing officials duties; (e) The outside employment shall not be with the legislative or executive branch of government, unless specifically authorized by the Supreme Court. Where a conflict of interest exists, may reasonably appear to exist, or where the outside employment reflects adversely on the integrity of the Judiciary, the court personnel shall not accept outside employment. [Emphasis supplied] In both the above discussed aspect of R.A. No. 6713 and the quoted Canon 3, the practice of law is covered; the practice of law is a practice of profession, while Canon 3 specifically mentions any outside employment requiring the practice of law. In Cayetano v. Monsod,[16] we defined the practice of law as any activity, in and out of court, that requires the application of law, legal procedure, knowledge, training and experience. Moreover, we ruled that to engage in the practice of law is to perform those acts which are characteristics of the profession; to practice law is to give notice or render any kind of service, which device or service requires the use in any degree of legal knowledge or skill.[17] Under both provisions, a common objective is to avoid any conflict of interest on the part of the employee who may wittingly or unwittingly use confidential information acquired from his employment, or use his or her familiarity with court personnel still with the previous office. After separation from the service, Section 5, Canon 3 of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel ceases to apply as it applies specifically to incumbents, but Section 7 and its subsection (b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713 continue to apply to the extent discussed above. Atty. Buffes situation falls under Section 7. Atty. Buffes Situation A distinctive feature of this administrative matter is Atty. Buffes admission that she immediately engaged in private practice of law within the oneyear period of prohibition stated in Section 7(b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713. We find it noteworthy, too, that she is aware of this provision and only objects to its application to her situation; she perceives it to be unfair that she cannot practice before her old office Branch 81 for a year immediately after resignation, as she believes that her only limitation is in matters where a conflict of interest exists between her appearance as counsel and her former duties as Clerk of Court. She believes that Section 7 (b)(2) gives preferential treatment to incumbent public officials and employees as against those already separated from government employment. Atty. Buffe apparently misreads the law. As the OCAT aptly stated, she interprets Section 7 (b)(2) as a blanket authority for an incumbent clerk of court to practice law. We reiterate what we have explained above, that the general rule under Section 7 (b)(2) is to bar public officials and employees from the practice of their professions; it is unlawful under this general rule for clerks of court to practice their profession. By way of exception, they can practice their profession if the Constitution or the law allows them, but no conflict of interest must exist between their current duties and the practice of their profession. As we also mentioned above, no chance exists for lawyers in the Judiciary to practice their profession, as they are in fact expressly prohibited by Section 5, Canon 3 of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel from doing so. Under both the general rule and the exceptions, therefore, Atty. Buffes basic premise is misplaced. As we discussed above, a clerk of court can already engage in the practice of law immediately after her separation from the service and without any period limitation that applies to other prohibitions under Section 7 of R.A. No. 6713. The clerk of courts limitation is that she cannot practice her profession within one year before the office where he or she used to work with. In a comparison between a resigned, retired or separated official or employee, on the one hand, and an incumbent official or employee, on the other, the former has the advantage because the limitation is only with respect to the office he or she used to work with and only for a period of one year. The incumbent cannot practice at all, save only where specifically allowed by the Constitution and the law and only in areas where no conflict of interests exists. This analysis again disproves Atty. Buffes basic premises. A worrisome aspect of Atty. Buffes approach to Section 7 (b)(2) is her awareness of the law and her readiness to risk its violation because of the unfairness she perceives in the law. We find it disturbing that she first violated the law before making any inquiry. She also justifies her position by referring to the practice of other government lawyers known to her who, after separation from their judicial employment, immediately engaged in the private practice of law and appeared as private counsels before the RTC branches where they were previously employed. Again we find this a cavalier attitude on Atty. Buffes part and, to our mind, only emphasizes her own willful or intentional disregard of Section 7 (b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713. By acting in a manner that R.A. No. 6713 brands as unlawful, Atty. Buffe contravened Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides: CANON 1 A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, OBEY THE LAWS OF THE LAND AND PROMOTE RESPECT FOR LAW AND FOR LEGAL PROCESSES x x x Rule 1.01 A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. As indicated by the use of the mandatory word shall, this provision must be strictly complied with. Atty. Buffe failed to do this, perhaps not with an evil intent, considering the misgivings she had about Section 7 (b)(2)s unfairness. Unlawful conduct under Rule 1.01 of Canon 1, however, does not necessarily require the element of criminality, although the Rule is broad enough [18] to include it. Likewise, the presence of evil intent on the part of the lawyer is

not essential to bring his or her act or omission within the terms of Rule 1.01, when it specifically prohibits lawyers from engaging in unlawful conduct.[19] Thus, we find Atty. Buffe liable under this quoted Rule. We also find that Atty. Buffe also failed to live up to her lawyers oath and thereby violated Canon 7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility when she blatantly and unlawfully practised law within the prohibited period by appearing before the RTC Branch she had just left. Canon 7 states: CANON 7. A LAWYER SHALL AT ALL TIMES UPHOLD THE INTEGRITY AND THE DIGNITY OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION AND SUPPORT THE ACTIVITIES OF THE INTEGRATED BAR. [Emphasis supplied] By her open disregard of R.A. No. 6713, she thereby followed the footsteps of the models she cited and wanted to replicate the former court officials who immediately waded into practice in the very same court they came from. She, like they, disgraced the dignity of the legal profession by openly [20] disobeying and disrespecting the law. By her irresponsible conduct, she also [21] eroded public confidence in the law and in lawyers. Her offense is not in any way mitigated by her transparent attempt to cover up her transgressions by writing the Court a letter-query, which she followed up with unmeritorious petitions for declaratory relief, all of them dealing with the same Section 7 (b)(2) issue, in the hope perhaps that at some point she would find a ruling favorable to her cause. These are acts whose implications do not promote public confidence [22] in the integrity of the legal profession. Considering Atty. Buffes ready admission of violating Section 7(b)(2), the principle of res ipsa loquitur finds application, making her administratively liable for violation of Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 and Canon 7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.[23] In several cases, the Court has disciplined lawyers without further inquiry or resort to any formal investigation where the facts on record sufficiently provided the basis for the determination of their administrative liability. In Prudential Bank v. Castro, the Court disbarred a lawyer without need of any further investigation after considering his actions based on records showing his unethical misconduct; the misconduct not only cast dishonor on the image of both the Bench and the Bar, but was also inimical to public interest and welfare. In this regard, the Court took judicial notice of several cases handled by the errant lawyer and his cohorts that revealed their modus operandi in circumventing the payment of the proper judicial fees for the astronomical sums they claimed in their cases.[25] The Court held that those cases sufficiently provided the basis for the determination of respondents' administrative liability, without need for further inquiry into the matter under the principle of res ipsa [26] loquitur. Also on the basis of this principle, we ruled in Richards v. Asoy,[27] that no evidentiary hearing is required before the respondent may be disciplined for professional misconduct already established by the facts on record. We applied the principle of res ipsa loquitur once more in In re: Wenceslao Laureta[28] where we punished a lawyer for grave professional misconduct solely based on his answer to a show-cause order for contempt and without going into a trial-type hearing. We ruled then that due process is satisfied as long as the opportunity to be heard is given to the person to be disciplined.[29] Likewise in Zaldivar v. Gonzales,[30] the respondent was disciplined and punished for contempt for his slurs regarding the Courts alleged partiality, incompetence and lack of integrity on the basis of his answer in a show-cause order for contempt. The Court took note that the respondent did not deny making the negative imputations against the Court through the media and even acknowledged the correctness of his degrading statements. Through a per curiam decision, we justified imposing upon him the penalty of suspension in the following tenor: The power to punish for contempt of court does not exhaust the scope of disciplinary authority of the Court over lawyers. The disciplinary authority of the Court over members of the Bar is but corollary to the Court's exclusive power of admission to the Bar. A lawyer is not merely a professional but also an officer of the court and as such, he is called upon to share in the task and responsibility of dispensing justice and resolving disputes in society. Any act on his part which visibly tends to obstruct, pervert, or impede and degrade the administration of justice constitutes both professional misconduct calling for the exercise of disciplinary action against him, and contumacious conduct warranting application of the contempt power.[31]
[24]

observation about her ignorance of and misgivings on the extent of the prohibition after separation from the service. Under the circumstances, we find that her actions merit a penalty of fine of P10,000.00, together with a stern warning to deter her from repeating her [35] transgression and committing other acts of professional misconduct. This penalty reflects as well the Courts sentiments on how seriously the retired, resigned or separated officers and employees of the Judiciary should regard and observe the prohibition against the practice of law with the office that they used to work with. WHEREFORE, premises considered, we find Atty. Karen M. SilverioBuffe GUILTY of professional misconduct for violating Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 and Canon 7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. She is hereby FINED in the amount of Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00), and STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of this violation and the commission of other acts of professional misconduct shall be dealt with more severely. Let this Decision be noted in Atty. Buffes record as a member of the Bar. SO ORDERED.

RUTHIE LIM-SANTIAGO vs. ATTY. CARLOS B. SAGUCIO DECISION CARPIO, J.: The Case This is a disbarment complaint against Atty. Carlos B. Sagucio for violating Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and for defying the prohibition against private practice of law while working as government prosecutor. The Facts Ruthie Lim-Santiago ("complainant") is the daughter of Alfonso Lim and Special 1 Administratrix of his estate. Alfonso Lim is a stockholder and the former President of Taggat Industries, Inc. 2 Atty. Carlos B. Sagucio ("respondent") was the former Personnel Manager and Retained Counsel of Taggat Industries, Inc. 3 until his appointment as Assistant Provincial Prosecutor of Tuguegarao, Cagayan in 1992. 4 Taggat Industries, Inc. ("Taggat") is a domestic corporation engaged in the operation of timber concessions from the government. The Presidential Commission on Good Government sequestered it sometime in 1986, 5 and its operations ceased in 1997. 6 Sometime in July 1997, 21 employees of Taggat ("Taggat employees") filed a criminal complaint entitled "Jesus Tagorda, Jr. et al. v. Ruthie Lim-Santiago," docketed as I.S. No. 97-240 ("criminal complaint"). 7 Taggat employees alleged that complainant, who took over the management and control of Taggat after the death of her father, withheld payment of their salaries and wages without valid cause from 1 April 1996 to 15 July 1997. 8 Respondent, as Assistant Provincial Prosecutor, was assigned to conduct the preliminary investigation. 9 He resolved the criminal complaint by recommending the filing of 651 Informations 10 for violation of Article 288 11 in relation to Article 116 12 of the Labor Code of the Philippines. 13 Complainant now charges respondent with the following violations: 1. Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility Complainant contends that respondent is guilty of representing conflicting interests. Respondent, being the former Personnel Manager and Retained Counsel of Taggat, knew the operations of Taggat very well. Respondent should have inhibited himself from hearing, investigating and deciding the case filed by Taggat employees. 14Furthermore, complainant claims that respondent instigated the filing of the cases and even harassed and threatened Taggat employees to accede and sign an affidavit to support the complaint. 15 2. Engaging in the private practice of law while working as a government prosecutor Complainant also contends that respondent is guilty of engaging in the private practice of law while working as a government prosecutor. Complainant presented evidence to prove that respondent received P10,000 as retainers fee for the months of January and February 1995, 16 another P10,000 for the months of April and May 1995, 17and P5,000 for the month of April 1996. 18 Complainant seeks the disbarment of respondent for violating Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and for defying the prohibition against private practice of law while working as government prosecutor. Respondent refutes complainants allegations and counters that complainant was merely aggrieved by the resolution of the criminal complaint which was adverse and contrary to her expectation. 19 Respondent claims that when the criminal complaint was filed, respondent had resigned from Taggat for more than five years. 20 Respondent asserts that he no longer owed his undivided loyalty to Taggat. 21 Respondent argues that it was his sworn duty to conduct the necessary preliminary investigation. 22 Respondent contends that complainant failed to establish lack of impartiality when he performed his duty. 23 Respondent points out that complainant did not file a motion to inhibit respondent from hearing the criminal complaint 24 but instead complainant voluntarily executed and filed her counter-affidavit without mental reservation. 25 Respondent states that complainants reason in not filing a motion to inhibit was her impression that respondent would exonerate her from the charges filed as gleaned from complainants statement during the hearing conducted on 12 February 1999: xxx Q. (Atty. Dabu). What do you mean you didnt think he would do it, Madam Witness? A. Because he is supposed to be my fathers friend and he was working with my Dad and he was supposed to be trusted by my father. And he came to me and told me he gonna help me. x x x. 26 Respondent also asserts that no conflicting interests exist because he was not representing Taggat employees or complainant. Respondent claims he was merely performing his official duty as Assistant Provincial Prosecutor. 27Respondent argues that complainant failed to establish that respondents act was tainted with personal interest, malice and bad faith. 28 Respondent denies complainants allegations that he instigated the filing of the cases, threatened and harassed Taggat employees. Respondent claims that this accusation is bereft of proof because complainant failed to mention the names of the employees or present them for cross-examination. 29 Respondent does not dispute his receipt, after his appointment as government prosecutor, of retainer fees from complainant but claims that it was only on a case-to-case basis and it ceased in 1996. 30 Respondent contends that the fees were paid for his consultancy services and not for representation. Respondent submits that consultation is not the same as representation and that rendering consultancy services is not prohibited. 31 Respondent, in his ReplyMemorandum, states: x x x [I]f ever Taggat paid him certain amounts, these were paid voluntarily by Taggat without the respondents asking, intended as token consultancy fees on a case-to-case basis and not as or for retainer fees. These payments do not at all show or translate as a specie of conflict of interest. Moreover, these

These cases clearly show that the absence of any formal charge against and/or formal investigation of an errant lawyer do not preclude the Court from immediately exercising its disciplining authority, as long as the errant lawyer or judge has been given the opportunity to be heard. As we stated earlier, Atty. Buffe has been afforded the opportunity to be heard on the present matter through her letter-query and Manifestation filed before this Court. A member of the bar may be penalized, even disbarred or suspended from his office as an attorney, for violation of the lawyers oath and/or for breach of the ethics of the legal profession as embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility.[32] The appropriate penalty on an errant lawyer depends on the exercise of sound judicial discretion based on the surrounding facts.[33] In this case, we cannot discern any mitigating factors we can apply, save OCATs observation that Atty Buffes letter-query may really reflect a misapprehension of the parameters of the prohibition on the practice of the law profession under Section 7 (b) (2) of R.A. No. 6713. Ignorance of the law, however, is no excuse, particularly on a matter as sensitive as practice of the legal profession soon after ones separation from the service. If Atty. Buffe is correct in the examples she cited, it is time to ring the bell and to blow the whistle signaling that we cannot allow this practice to continue. As we observed earlier,[34] Atty. Buffe had no qualms about the simultaneous use of various fora in expressing her misgivings about the perceived unfairness of Section 7 of R.A. 6713. She formally lodged a query with the Office of the Court Administrator, and soon after filed her successive petitions for declaratory relief. Effectively, she exposed these fora to the possibility of embarrassment and confusion through their possibly differing views on the issue she posed. Although this is not strictly the forum-shopping that the Rules of Court prohibit, what she has done is something that we cannot help but consider with disfavor because of the potential damage and embarrassment to the Judiciary that it could have spawned. This is a point against Atty. Buffe that cancels out the leniency we might have exercised because of the OCATs

consultations had no relation to, or connection with, the above-mentioned labor complaints filed by former Taggat employees. 32 Respondent insists that complainants evidence failed to prove that when the criminal complaint was filed with the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of 33 Cagayan, respondent was still the retained counsel or legal consultant. While this disbarment case was pending, the Resolution and Order issued by respondent to file 651 Informations against complainant was reversed and set aside by Regional State Prosecutor of Cagayan Rodolfo B. Cadelina last 4 January 1999. 34 Hence, the criminal complaint was dismissed. 35 The IBPs Report and Recommendation The Integrated Bar of the Philippines Investigating Commissioner Ma. Carmina 36 M. Alejandro-Abbas ("IBP Commissioner Abbas") heard the case and allowed 37 the parties to submit their respective memoranda. Due to IBP Commissioner Abbas resignation, the case was reassigned to Commissioner Dennis A.B. Funa 38 ("IBP Commissioner Funa"). After the parties filed their memoranda and motion to resolve the case, the IBP Board of Governors issued Resolution No. XVI-2004-479 ("IBP Resolution") 39 dated 4 November 2004 adopting with modification IBP Commissioner Funas Report and Recommendation ("Report") finding respondent guilty of conflict of interests, failure to safeguard a former clients interest, and violating the prohibition against the private practice of law while being a government prosecutor. The IBP Board of Governors recommended the imposition of a penalty of three years suspension from the practice of law. The Report reads: Now the issue here is whether being a former lawyer of Taggat conflicts with his role as Assistant Provincial Prosecutor in deciding I.S. No. 97-240. A determination of this issue will require the test of whether the matter in I.S. No. 97-240 will conflict with his former position of Personnel Manager and Legal Counsel of Taggat. I.S. No. 97-240 was filed for "Violation of Labor Code" (see Resolution of the Provincial Prosecutors Office, Annex "B" of Complaint). Herein Complainant, Ruthie Lim-Santiago, was being accused as having the "management and control" of Taggat (p. 2, Resolution of the Prov. Pros. Office, supra). Clearly, as a former Personnel Manager and Legal Counsel of Taggat, herein Respondent undoubtedly handled the personnel and labor concerns of Taggat. Respondent, undoubtedly dealt with and related with the employees of Taggat. Therefore, Respondent undoubtedly dealt with and related with complainants in I.S. No. 97-240. The issues, therefore, in I.S. No. 97-240, are very much familiar with Respondent. While the issues of unpaid salaries pertain to the periods 1996-1997, the mechanics and personalities in that case are very much familiar with Respondent. A lawyer owes something to a former client. Herein Respondent owes to Taggat, a former client, the duty to "maintain inviolate the clients confidence or to refrain from doing anything which will injuriously affect him in any matter in which he previously represented him" (Natam v. Capule, 91 Phil. 640; p. 231, Agpalo, Legal Ethics, 4th ed.) Respondent argues that as Assistant Provincial Prosecutor, he does not represent any client or any interest except justice. It should not be forgotten, however, that a lawyer has an immutable duty to a former client with respect to matters that he previously handled for that former client. In this case, matters relating to personnel, labor policies, and labor relations that he previously handled as Personnel Manager and Legal Counsel of Taggat. I.S. No. 97-240 was for "Violation of the Labor Code." Here lies the conflict. Perhaps it would have been different had I.S. No. 97-240 not been labor-related, or if Respondent had not been a Personnel Manager concurrently as Legal Counsel. But as it is, I.S. No. 97-240 is labor-related and Respondent was a former Personnel Manager of Taggat. xxxx While Respondent ceased his relations with Taggat in 1992 and the unpaid salaries being sought in I.S. No. 97-240 were of the years 1996 and 1997, the employees and management involved are the very personalities he dealt with as Personnel Manager and Legal Counsel of Taggat. Respondent dealt with these persons in his fiduciary relations with Taggat. Moreover, he was an employee of the corporation and part of its management. xxxx As to the propriety of receiving "Retainer Fees" or "consultancy fees" from herein Complainant while being an Assistant Provincial Prosecutor, and for rendering legal consultancy work while being an Assistant Provincial Prosecutor, this matter had long been settled. Government prosecutors are prohibited to engage in the private practice of law (see Legal and Judicial Ethics, Ernesto Pineda, 1994 ed., p. 20; People v. Villanueva, 14 SCRA 109; Aquino v. Blanco 70 Phil. 647). The act of being a legal consultant is a practice of law. To engage in the practice of law is to do any of those acts that are characteristic of the legal profession (In re: David, 93 Phil. 461). It covers any activity, in or out of court, which required the application of law, legal principles, practice or procedures and calls for legal knowledge, training and experience (PLA v. Agrava, 105 Phil. 173; People v. Villanueva, 14 SCRA 111; Cayetano v. Monsod, 201 SCRA 210). Respondent clearly violated this prohibition. As for the secondary accusations of harassing certain employees of Taggat and instigating the filing of criminal complaints, we find the evidence insufficient. Accordingly, Respondent should be found guilty of conflict of interest, failure to safeguard a former clients interest, and violating the prohibition against the private practice of law while being a government prosecutor. 40 The IBP Board of Governors forwarded the Report to the Court as provided under Section 12(b), Rule 139-B 41 of the Rules of Court. The Ruling of the Court The Court exonerates respondent from the charge of violation of Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility ("Code"). However, the Court finds respondent liable for violation of Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility against unlawful conduct. 42 Respondent committed unlawful conduct when he violated Section 7(b)(2) of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees or Republic Act No. 6713 ("RA 6713"). Canon 6 provides that the Code "shall apply to lawyers in government service in the discharge of their official duties." 43 A government lawyer is thus bound by the prohibition "not [to] represent conflicting interests." 44However, this rule is subject to certain limitations. The prohibition to represent conflicting interests does not apply when no conflict of interest exists, when a written consent of all concerned is given after a full disclosure of the facts or when no true attorney-client relationship exists. 45 Moreover, considering the serious consequence of the disbarment or suspension of a member of the Bar, clear preponderant evidence is necessary to justify the imposition of the administrative penalty. 46 Respondent is also mandated under Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 not to engage in "unlawful x x x conduct." Unlawful conduct includes violation of the statutory prohibition on a government employee to "engage in the private practice of [his] profession unless authorized by the Constitution or law, provided, that such practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with [his] official functions." 47 Complainants evidence failed to substantiate the claim that respondent represented conflicting interests In Quiambao v. Bamba, 48 the Court enumerated various tests to determine conflict of interests. One test of inconsistency of interests is whether the lawyer will be asked to use against his former client any confidential information acquired through their connection or previous employment. 49 In essence, what a lawyer owes his former client is to maintain inviolate the clients confidence or to refrain from doing anything which will injuriously affect him in any matter in which 50 he previously represented him.

In the present case, we find no conflict of interests when respondent handled the preliminary investigation of the criminal complaint filed by Taggat employees in 1997. The issue in the criminal complaint pertains to non-payment of wages that occurred from 1 April 1996 to 15 July 1997. Clearly, respondent was no longer connected with Taggat during that period since he resigned sometime in 1992. In order to charge respondent for representing conflicting interests, evidence must be presented to prove that respondent used against Taggat, his former client, any confidential information acquired through his previous employment. The only established participation respondent had with respect to the criminal complaint is that he was the one who conducted the preliminary investigation. On that basis alone, it does not necessarily follow that respondent used any confidential information from his previous employment with complainant or Taggat in resolving the criminal complaint. The fact alone that respondent was the former Personnel Manager and Retained Counsel of Taggat and the case he resolved as government prosecutor was labor-related is not a sufficient basis to charge respondent for representing conflicting interests. A lawyers immutable duty to a former client does not cover transactions that occurred beyond the lawyers employment with the client. The intent of the law is to impose upon the lawyer the duty to protect the clients 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. Further, complainant failed to present a single iota of evidence to prove her allegations. Thus, respondent is not guilty of violating Rule 15.03 of the Code. Respondent engaged in the private practice of law while working as a government prosecutor The Court has defined the practice of law broadly as x x x any activity, in or out of court, which requires the application of law, legal procedure, knowledge, training and experience. "To engage in the practice of law is to perform those acts which are characteristics of the profession. Generally, to practice law is to give notice or render any kind of service, which device or service requires the use in any degree of legal knowledge or skill." 51 "Private practice of law" contemplates a succession of acts of the same nature habitually or customarily holding ones self to the public as a lawyer. 52 Respondent argues that he only rendered consultancy services to Taggat intermittently and he was not a retained counsel of Taggat from 1995 to 1996 as alleged. This argument is without merit because the law does not distinguish between consultancy services and retainer agreement. For as long as respondent performed acts that are usually rendered by lawyers with the use of their legal knowledge, the same falls within the ambit of the term "practice of law." Nonetheless, respondent admitted that he rendered his legal services to complainant while working as a government prosecutor. Even the receipts he signed stated that the payments by Taggat were for "Retainers fee."53 Thus, as correctly pointed out by complainant, respondent clearly violated the prohibition in RA 6713. However, violations of RA 6713 are not subject to disciplinary action under the Code of Professional Responsibility unless the violations also constitute infractions of specific provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Certainly, the IBP has no jurisdiction to investigate violations of RA 6713 the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees unless the acts involved also transgress provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Here, respondents violation of RA 6713 also constitutes a violation of Rule 1.01 of Canon 1, which mandates that "[a] lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct." Respondents admission that he received from Taggat fees for legal services while serving as a government prosecutor is an unlawful conduct, which constitutes a violation of Rule 1.01. Respondent admitted that complainant also charged him with unlawful conduct when respondent stated in his Demurrer to Evidence: In this instant case, the complainant prays that the respondent be permanently and indefinitely suspended or disbarred from the practice of the law profession and his name removed from the Roll of Attorneys on the following grounds: xxxx d) that respondent manifested gross misconduct and gross violation of his oath of office and in his dealings with the public. 54 On the Appropriate Penalty on Respondent The appropriate penalty on an errant lawyer depends on the exercise of sound judicial discretion based on the surrounding facts. 55 Under Civil Service Law and rules, the penalty for government employees engaging in unauthorized private practice of profession is suspension for six months and one day to one year. 56 We find this penalty appropriate for respondents violation in this case of Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. WHEREFORE, we find respondent Atty. Carlos B. Sagucio GUILTY of violation of Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Accordingly, we SUSPEND respondent Atty. Carlos B. Sagucio from the practice of law for SIX MONTHS effective upon finality of this Decision. Let copies of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant to be appended to respondents personal record as an attorney, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Department of Justice, and all courts in the country for their information and guidance. SO ORDERED.

WILFREDO M. CATU vs. ATTY. VICENTE G. RELLOSA RESOLUTION CORONA, J.: Complainant Wilfredo M. Catu is a co-owner of a lot[1] and the building erected thereon located at 959 San Andres Street, Malate, Manila. His mother and brother, Regina Catu and Antonio Catu, contested the possession of Elizabeth C. Diaz-Catu[2]and Antonio Pastor[3] of one of the units in the building. The latter ignored demands for them to vacate the premises. Thus, a complaint was initiated against them in theLupong Tagapamayapa of Barangay 723, Zone 79 of the 5th District of Manila[4]where the parties reside. Respondent, as punong barangay of Barangay 723, summoned the parties to conciliation meetings.[5] When the parties failed to arrive at an amicable settlement, respondent issued a certification for the filing of the appropriate action in court. Thereafter, Regina and Antonio filed a complaint for ejectment against Elizabeth and Pastor in the Metropolitan Trial Court of Manila, Branch 11. Respondent entered his appearance as counsel for the defendants in that case. Because of this, complainant filed the instant administrative complaint,[6] claiming that respondent committed an act of impropriety as a lawyer and as a public officer when he stood as counsel for the defendants despite the fact that he presided over the conciliation proceedings between the litigants as punong barangay. In his defense, respondent claimed that one of his duties as punong barangay was to hear complaints referred to the barangays Lupong Tagapamayapa. As such, he heard the complaint of Regina and Antonio against Elizabeth and Pastor. As head of theLupon, he performed his task with utmost objectivity, without bias or partiality towards any of the parties. The parties,

however, were not able to amicably settle their dispute and Regina and Antonio filed the ejectment case. It was then that Elizabeth sought his legal assistance. He acceded to her request. He handled her case for free because she was financially distressed and he wanted to prevent the commission of a patent injustice against her. The complaint was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation. As there was no factual issue to thresh out, the IBPs Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) required the parties to submit their respective position papers. After evaluating the contentions of the parties, the IBP-CBD found sufficient ground to discipline respondent.[7] According to the IBP-CBD, respondent admitted that, as punong barangay, he presided over the conciliation proceedings and heard the complaint of Regina and Antonio against Elizabeth and Pastor. Subsequently, however, he represented Elizabeth and Pastor in the ejectment case filed against them by Regina and Antonio. In the course thereof, he prepared and signed pleadings including the answer with counterclaim, pre-trial brief, position paper and notice of appeal. By so doing, respondent violated Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility: Rule 6.03 A lawyer shall not, after leaving government service, accept engagement or employment in connection with any matter in which he intervened while in said service. Furthermore, as an elective official, respondent contravened the prohibition [8] under Section 7(b)(2) of RA 6713: SEC. 7. Prohibited Acts and Transactions. In addition to acts and omissions of public officials and employees now prescribed in the Constitution and existing laws, the following shall constitute prohibited acts and transactions of any public official ands employee and are hereby declared to be unlawful: xxx xxx xxx (b) Outside employment and other activities related thereto. Public officials and employees during their incumbency shall not: xxx xxx xxx (2) Engage in the private practice of profession unless authorized by the Constitution or law, provided that such practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with their official functions; xxx (emphasis supplied) According to the IBP-CBD, respondents violation of this prohibition constituted a breach of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility: CANON 1. A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, OBEY THE LAWS OF THE LAND, PROMOTE RESPECT FOR LAW AND LEGAL PROCESSES. (emphasis supplied) For these infractions, the IBP-CBD recommended the respondents suspension from the practice of law for one month with a stern warning that the commission of the same or similar act will be dealt with more severely.[9] This was adopted [10] and approved by the IBP Board of Governors. We modify the foregoing findings regarding the transgression of respondent as well as the recommendation on the imposable penalty. Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility Applies Only to Former Government Lawyers Respondent cannot be found liable for violation of Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. As worded, that Rule applies only to a lawyer who has left government service and in connection with any matter in which he intervened while in said service. In PCGG v. Sandiganbayan,[11] we ruled that Rule 6.03 prohibits former government lawyers from accepting engagement or employment in connection with any matter in which [they] had intervened while in said service. Respondent was an incumbent punong barangay at the time he committed the act complained of. Therefore, he was not covered by that provision. Section 90 of RA 7160, Not Section 7(b)(2) of RA 6713, Governs The Practice of Profession of Elective Local Government Officials Section 7(b)(2) of RA 6713 prohibits public officials and employees, during their incumbency, from engaging in the private practice of their profession unless authorized by the Constitution or law, provided that such practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with their official functions. This is the general law which applies to all public officials and employees. For elective local government officials, Section 90 of RA 7160[12] governs: SEC. 90. Practice of Profession. (a) All governors, city and municipal mayors are prohibited from practicing their profession or engaging in any occupation other than the exercise of their functions as local chief executives. (b) Sanggunian members may practice their professions, engage in any occupation, or teach in schools except during session hours: Provided, That sanggunianmembers who are members of the Bar shall not: (1) Appear as counsel before any court in any civil case wherein a local government unit or any office, agency, or instrumentality of the government is the adverse party; (2) Appear as counsel in any criminal case wherein an officer or employee of the national or local government is accused of an offense committed in relation to his office; (3) Collect any fee for their appearance in administrative proceedings involving the local government unit of which he is an official; and (4) Use property and personnel of the Government except when the sanggunian member concerned is defending the interest of the Government. (c) Doctors of medicine may practice their profession even during official hours of work only on occasions of emergency: Provided, That the officials concerned do not derive monetary compensation therefrom. This is a special provision that applies specifically to the practice of profession by elective local officials. As a special law with a definite scope (that is, the practice of profession by elective local officials), it constitutes an exception to Section 7(b)(2) of RA 6713, the general law on engaging in the private practice of profession by public officials and employees. Lex specialibus derogat generalibus.[13] Under RA 7160, elective local officials of provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays are the following: the governor, the vice governor and members of thesangguniang panlalawigan for provinces; the city mayor, the city vice mayor and the members of the sangguniang panlungsod for cities; the municipal mayor, the municipal vice mayor and the members of the sangguniang bayan for municipalities and the punong barangay, the members of the sangguniang

barangay and the members of the sangguniang kabataan for barangays. Of these elective local officials, governors, city mayors and municipal mayors are prohibited from practicing their profession or engaging in any occupation other than the exercise of their functions as local chief executives. This is because they are required to render full time service. They should therefore devote all their time and attention to the performance of their official duties. On the other hand, members of the sangguniang panlalawigan, sangguniang panlungsod or sangguniang bayan may practice their professions, engage in any occupation, or teach in schools except during session hours. In other words, they may practice their professions, engage in any occupation, or teach in schools outside their session hours. Unlike governors, city mayors and municipal mayors, members of thesangguniang panlalawigan, sangguniang panlungsod or sangguniang bayan are required to hold regular sessions only at least once a week.[14] Since the law itself grants them the authority to practice their professions, engage in any occupation or teach in schools outside session hours, there is no longer any need for them to secure prior permission or authorization from any other person or office for any of these purposes. While, as already discussed, certain local elective officials (like governors, mayors, provincial board members and councilors) are expressly subjected to a total or partial proscription to practice their profession or engage in any occupation, no such interdiction is made on the punong barangay and the members of the sangguniang barangay. Expressio unius est exclusio [15] alterius. Since they are excluded from any prohibition, the presumption is that they are allowed to practice their profession. And this stands to reason because they are not mandated to serve full time. In fact, thesangguniang barangay is supposed to hold regular sessions only twice a month.[16] Accordingly, as punong barangay, respondent was not forbidden to practice his profession. However, he should have procured prior permission or authorization from the head of his Department, as required by civil service regulations. A Lawyer In Government Service Who Is Not Prohibited To Practice Law Must Secure Prior Authority From The Head Of His Department A civil service officer or employee whose responsibilities do not require his time to be fully at the disposal of the government can engage in the private practice of law only with the written permission of the head of the department concerned.[17] Section 12, Rule XVIII of the Revised Civil Service Rules provides: Sec. 12. No officer or employee shall engage directly in anyprivate business, vocation, or profession or be connected with any commercial, credit, agricultural, or industrial undertaking without a written permission from the head of the Department: Provided, That this prohibition will be absolute in the case of those officers and employees whose duties and responsibilities require that their entire time be at the disposal of the Government; Provided, further, That if an employee is granted permission to engage in outside activities, time so devoted outside of office hours should be fixed by the agency to the end that it will not impair in any way the efficiency of the officer or employee: And provided, finally, that no permission is necessary in the case of investments, made by an officer or employee, which do not involve real or apparent conflict between his private interests and public duties, or in any way influence him in the discharge of his duties, and he shall not take part in the management of the enterprise or become an officer of the board of directors. (emphasis supplied) As punong barangay, respondent should have therefore obtained the prior written permission of the Secretary of Interior and Local Government before he entered his appearance as counsel for Elizabeth and Pastor. This he failed to do. The failure of respondent to comply with Section 12, Rule XVIII of the Revised Civil Service Rules constitutes a violation of his oath as a lawyer: to obey the laws. Lawyers are servants of the law, vires legis, men of the law. Their paramount duty to society is to obey the law and promote respect for it. To underscore the primacy and importance of this duty, it is enshrined as the first canon of the Code of Professional Responsibility. In acting as counsel for a party without first securing the required written permission, respondent not only engaged in the unauthorized practice of law but also violated civil service rules which is a breach of Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility: Rule 1.01 A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. (emphasis supplied) For not living up to his oath as well as for not complying with the exacting ethical standards of the legal profession, respondent failed to comply with Canon 7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility: CANON 7. A LAWYER SHALL AT ALL TIMES UPHOLD THE INTEGRITY AND THE DIGNITY OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION AND SUPPORT THE ACTIVITIES OF THE INTEGRATED BAR. (emphasis supplied) Indeed, a lawyer who disobeys the law disrespects it. In so doing, he disregards legal ethics and disgraces the dignity of the legal profession. Public confidence in the law and in lawyers may be eroded by the irresponsible and improper conduct of a member of the bar.[18] Every lawyer should act and comport himself in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity of the legal profession.[19] A member of the bar may be disbarred or suspended from his office as an attorney for violation of the lawyers oath[20] and/or for breach of the ethics of the legal profession as embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility. WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Vicente G. Rellosa is hereby found GUILTY of professional misconduct for violating his oath as a lawyer and Canons 1 and 7 and Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. He is therefore SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of six months effective from his receipt of this resolution. He is sternly WARNED that any repetition of similar acts shall be dealt with more severely. Respondent is strongly advised to look up and take to heart the meaning of the worddelicadeza. Let a copy of this resolution be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant and entered into the records of respondent Atty. Vicente G. Rellosa. The Office of the Court Administrator shall furnish copies to all the courts of the land for their information and guidance. SO ORDERED.