You are on page 1of 23

FIRST DIVISION

[A.C. No. 5299. August 19, 2003]

ATTY. ISMAEL G. KHAN, JR., Assistant Court Administrator and


Chief, Public Information Office, complainant, vs. ATTY.
RIZALINO T. SIMBILLO, respondent.

[G.R. No. 157053. August 19, 2003]

ATTY. RIZALINO T. SIMBILLO, petitioner, vs. IBP COMMISSION ON


BAR DISCIPLINE and ATTY. ISMAEL G. KHAN, JR., in his
capacity as Assistant Court Administrator and Chief, Public
Information Office, respondents.
RESOLUTION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

This administrative complaint arose from a paid advertisement that


appeared in the July 5, 2000 issue of the newspaper, Philippine Daily
Inquirer, which reads: ANNULMENT OF MARRIAGE Specialist 5324333/521-2667.
[1]

Ms. Ma. Theresa B. Espeleta, a staff member of the Public Information


Office of the Supreme Court, called up the published telephone number and
pretended to be an interested party. She spoke to Mrs. Simbillo, who claimed
that her husband, Atty. Rizalino Simbillo, was an expert in handling annulment
cases and can guarantee a court decree within four to six months, provided
the case will not involve separation of property or custody of children. Mrs.
Simbillo also said that her husband charges a fee of P48,000.00, half of which
is payable at the time of filing of the case and the other half after a decision
thereon has been rendered.
Further research by the Office of the Court Administrator and the Public
Information Office revealed that similar advertisements were published in the

August 2 and 6, 2000 issues of the Manila Bulletin and August 5, 2000 issue
of The Philippine Star.
[2]

On September 1, 2000, Atty. Ismael G. Khan, Jr., in his capacity as


Assistant Court Administrator and Chief of the Public Information Office, filed
an administrative complaint against Atty. Rizalino T. Simbillo for improper
advertising and solicitation of his legal services, in violation of Rule 2.03 and
Rule 3.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and Rule 138, Section 27
of the Rules of Court.
[3]

In his answer, respondent admitted the acts imputed to him, but argued
that advertising and solicitation per se are not prohibited acts; that the time
has come to change our views about the prohibition on advertising and
solicitation; that the interest of the public is not served by the absolute
prohibition on lawyer advertising; that the Court can lift the ban on lawyer
advertising; and that the rationale behind the decades-old prohibition should
be abandoned. Thus, he prayed that he be exonerated from all the charges
against him and that the Court promulgate a ruling that advertisement of legal
services offered by a lawyer is not contrary to law, public policy and public
order as long as it is dignified.
[4]

The case was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for
investigation, report and recommendation. On June 29, 2002, the IBP
Commission on Bar Discipline passed Resolution No. XV-2002-306, finding
respondent guilty of violation of Rules 2.03 and 3.01 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility and Rule 138, Section 27 of the Rules of Court,
and suspended him from the practice of law for one (1) year with the warning
that a repetition of similar acts would be dealt with more severely. The IBP
Resolution was noted by this Court on November 11, 2002.
[5]

[6]

[7]

In the meantime, respondent filed an Urgent Motion for


Reconsideration, which was denied by the IBP in Resolution No. XV-2002606 dated October 19, 2002
[8]

[9]

Hence, the instant petition for certiorari, which was docketed as G.R. No.
157053 entitled, Atty. Rizalino T. Simbillo, Petitioner versus IBP Commission
on Bar Discipline, Atty. Ismael G. Khan, Jr., Asst. Court Administrator and
Chief, Public Information Office, Respondents. This petition was
consolidated with A.C. No. 5299 per the Courts Resolution dated March 4,
2003.
In a Resolution dated March 26, 2003, the parties were required to
manifest whether or not they were willing to submit the case for resolution on
the basis of the pleadings. Complainant filed his Manifestation on April 25,
[10]

2003, stating that he is not submitting any additional pleading or evidence and
is submitting the case for its early resolution on the basis of pleadings and
records thereof. Respondent, on the other hand, filed a Supplemental
Memorandum on June 20, 2003.
[11]

We agree with the IBPs Resolutions Nos. XV-2002-306 and XV-2002606.


Rules 2.03 and 3.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility read:
Rule 2.03. A lawyer shall not do or permit to be done any act designed primarily to
solicit legal business.
Rule 3.01. A lawyer shall not use or permit the use of any false, fraudulent,
misleading, deceptive, undignified, self-laudatory or unfair statement or claim
regarding his qualifications or legal services.
Rule 138, Section 27 of the Rules of Court states:
SEC. 27. Disbarment and suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court, grounds
therefor. A member of the bar may be disbarred or suspended from his office as
attorney by the Supreme Court for any deceit, malpractice or other gross misconduct
in such office, grossly immoral conduct or by reason of his conviction of a crime
involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he is required to take
before the admission to practice, or for a willful disobedience appearing as attorney
for a party without authority to do so.
It has been repeatedly stressed that the practice of law is not a
business. It is a profession in which duty to public service, not money, is the
primary consideration. Lawyering is not primarily meant to be a moneymaking venture, and law advocacy is not a capital that necessarily yields
profits. The gaining of a livelihood should be a secondary
consideration. The duty to public service and to the administration of justice
should be the primary consideration of lawyers, who must subordinate their
personal interests or what they owe to themselves. The following elements
distinguish the legal profession from a business:
[12]

[13]

[14]

[15]

1.

A duty of public service, of which the emolument is a by-product, and


in which one may attain the highest eminence without making much
money;

2.

A relation as an officer of the court to the administration of justice


involving thorough sincerity, integrity and reliability;

3.

A relation to clients in the highest degree of fiduciary;

4.

A relation to colleagues at the bar characterized by candor, fairness, and


unwillingness to resort to current business methods of advertising and
encroachment on their practice, or dealing directly with their clients.
[16]

There is no question that respondent committed the acts complained


of. He himself admits that he caused the publication of the
advertisements. While he professes repentance and begs for the Courts
indulgence, his contrition rings hollow considering the fact that he advertised
his legal services again after he pleaded for compassion and after claiming
that he had no intention to violate the rules. Eight months after filing his
answer, he again advertised his legal services in the August 14, 2001 issue of
the Buy & Sell Free Ads Newspaper. Ten months later, he caused the same
advertisement to be published in the October 5, 2001 issue of Buy &
Sell. Such acts of respondent are a deliberate and contemptuous affront on
the Courts authority.
[17]

[18]

What adds to the gravity of respondents acts is that in advertising himself


as a self-styled Annulment of Marriage Specialist, he wittingly or unwittingly
erodes and undermines not only the stability but also the sanctity of an
institution still considered sacrosanct despite the contemporary climate of
permissiveness in our society. Indeed, in assuring prospective clients that an
annulment may be obtained in four to six months from the time of the filing of
the case, he in fact encourages people, who might have otherwise been
disinclined and would have refrained from dissolving their marriage bonds, to
do so.
[19]

Nonetheless, the solicitation of legal business is not altogether


proscribed. However, for solicitation to be proper, it must be compatible with
the dignity of the legal profession. If it is made in a modest and decorous
manner, it would bring no injury to the lawyer and to the bar. Thus, the use of
simple signs stating the name or names of the lawyers, the office and
residence address and fields of practice, as well as advertisement in legal
periodicals bearing the same brief data, are permissible. Even the use of
calling cards is now acceptable. Publication in reputable law lists, in a
manner consistent with the standards of conduct imposed by the canon, of
brief biographical and informative data is likewise allowable. As explicitly
stated in Ulep v. Legal Clinic, Inc.:
[20]

[21]

[22]

Such data must not be misleading and may include only a statement of the lawyers
name and the names of his professional associates; addresses, telephone numbers,
cable addresses; branches of law practiced; date and place of birth and admission to

the bar; schools attended with dates of graduation, degrees and other educational
distinctions; public or quasi-public offices; posts of honor; legal authorships; legal
teaching positions; membership and offices in bar associations and committees
thereof, in legal and scientific societies and legal fraternities; the fact of listings in
other reputable law lists; the names and addresses of references; and, with their
written consent, the names of clients regularly represented.
The law list must be a reputable law list published primarily for that purpose; it
cannot be a mere supplemental feature of a paper, magazine, trade journal or
periodical which is published principally for other purposes. For that reason, a
lawyer may not properly publish his brief biographical and informative data in a
daily paper, magazine, trade journal or society program. Nor may a lawyer permit
his name to be published in a law list the conduct, management, or contents of which
are calculated or likely to deceive or injure the public or the bar, or to lower dignity
or standing of the profession.
The use of an ordinary simple professional card is also permitted. The card may
contain only a statement of his name, the name of the law firm which he is connected
with, address, telephone number and special branch of law practiced. The publication
of a simple announcement of the opening of a law firm or of changes in the
partnership, associates, firm name or office address, being for the convenience of the
profession, is not objectionable. He may likewise have his name listed in a telephone
directory but not under a designation of special branch of law. (emphasis and italics
supplied)
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, respondent RIZALINO T.
SIMBILLO is found GUILTY of violation of Rules 2.03 and 3.01 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility and Rule 138, Section 27 of the Rules of
Court. He is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for ONE (1) YEAR
effective upon receipt of this Resolution. He is likewise STERNLY WARNED
that a repetition of the same or similar offense will be dealt with more
severely.
Let copies of this Resolution be entered in his record as attorney and be
furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and all courts in the country for
their information and guidance.
SO ORDERED.
Vitug, (Acting Chairman),Carpio, and Azcuna, JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman ), abroad, on official business.

SECOND DIVISION

[A. C. No. 5485. March 16, 2005]

ELMER
CANOY, complainant,
ORTIZ, respondent.

vs. ATTY.

JOSE

MAX

DECISION
TINGA, J.:

There are no good reasons that would justify a lawyer virtually abandoning
the cause of the client in the midst of litigation without even informing the
client of the fact or cause of desertion. That the lawyer forsook his legal
practice on account of what might be perceived as a higher calling, election to
public office, does not mitigate the dereliction of professional duty.
Suspension from the practice is the usual penalty, and there is no reason to
deviate from the norm in this case.
A Complaint[1] dated 10 April 2001 was filed with the Office of the Bar
Confidant by Elmer Canoy (Canoy) accusing Atty. Jose Max Ortiz (Atty. Ortiz)
of misconduct and malpractice. It was alleged that Canoy filed a complaint for
illegal dismissal against his former employer, Coca Cola Bottlers Philippines.
The complaint was filed with the National Labor Relations Commission
(NLRC) Regional Arbitration Board VI in Bacolod City.[2]Atty. Ortiz appeared
as counsel for Canoy in this proceeding. In 1998, the labor arbiter hearing the
complaint ordered the parties to submit their respective position papers.
Canoy submitted all the necessary documents and records to Atty. Ortiz for
the preparation of the position paper. Thereafter, he made several unfruitful
visits to the office of Atty. Ortiz to follow-up the progress of the case. After a
final visit at the office of Atty. Ortiz in April of 2000, during which Canoy was
told to come back as his lawyer was not present, Canoy decided to follow-up
the case himself with the NLRC. He was shocked to learn that his complaint
was actually dismissed way back in 1998, for failure to prosecute, the parties
not having submitted their position papers.[3] The dismissal was without
prejudice. Canoy alleged that Atty. Ortiz had never communicated to him
about the status of the case, much less the fact that he failed to submit the
position paper.

The Comment[4] filed by Atty. Ortiz is the epitome of self-hagiography. He


informs the Court that since commencing his law practice in 1987, he has
mostly catered to indigent and low-income clients, at considerable financial
sacrifice to himself. Atty. Ortiz claims that for more than ten years, his law
office was a virtual adjunct of the Public Attorneys Office with its steady
stream of non-paying clients in the hundreds or thousands.[5] At the same
time, he hosted a legal assistance show on the radio, catering to far-flung
municipalities and reaching the people who need legal advice and
assistance.[6] Atty. Ortiz pursued on with this lifestyle until his election as
Councilor of Bacolod City, a victory which he generously attributes to the help
of the same people whom he had helped by way of legal assistance
before.[7]
Canoy was among those low-income clients whom Atty. Ortiz deigned to
represent. The lawyer was apparently confident that the illegal dismissal case
would eventually be resolved by way of compromise. He claims having
prepared the position paper of Canoy, but before he could submit the same,
the Labor Arbiter had already issued the order dismissing the case. [8] Atty.
Ortiz admits though that the period within which to file the position paper had
already lapsed. He attributes this failure to timely file the position paper to the
fact that after his election as Councilor of Bacolod City, he was frankly
preoccupied with both his functions as a local government official and as a
practicing lawyer. Eventually, his desire to help was beyond physical
limitations, and he withdrew from his other cases and his free legal
services.[9]
According to Atty. Ortiz, Mr. Canoy should have at least understood that
during all that time, he was free to visit or call the office and be entertained by
the secretary as [he] would normally report to the office in the afternoon as he
had to attend to court trials and report to the Sanggunian office.[10] He states
that it was his policy to inform clients that they should be the ones to follow-up
their cases with his office, as it would be too difficult and a financial burden to
attend making follow-ups with hundreds of clients, mostly indigents with only
two office personnel.[11]
Nonetheless, Atty. Ortiz notes that the dismissal of Canoys complaint was
without prejudice, thus the prescriptive period had been tolled. He claims not
being able to remember whether he immediately informed Canoy of the
dismissal of the case, though as far as he could recall, Canoy had conveyed a
message to him that he had a lawyer to handle the case, thus his office did
not insist on refiling the same.[12]

The matter was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for
investigation, report and recommendation.[13] Canoy eventually submitted a
motion withdrawing the complaint, but this was not favorably acted upon by
the IBP in view of the rule that the investigation of a case shall not be
interrupted
or
terminated
by
reason
of
withdrawal
of
the
[14]
charges. Eventually, the investigating commissioner concluded that clearly,
the records show that [Atty. Ortiz] failed to exercise that degree of
competence and diligence required of him in prosecuting his clients (sic)
claim, and recommended that Atty. Ortiz be reprimanded.[15] The IBP
Commission on Discipline adopted the recommendation, with the slight
modification that Atty. Ortiz be likewise warned that a repetition of the same
negligence shall be dealt with more severely in the future.
The Court is sensitive to the difficulties in obtaining legal representation for
indigent or low-income litigants. Apart from the heroic efforts of government
entities such as the Public Attorneys Office, groups such as the IBP National
Committee on Legal Aid and the Office of Legal Aid of the UP College of Law
have likewise been at the forefront in the quest to provide legal representation
for those who could not otherwise afford the services of lawyers. The efforts of
private practitioners who assist in this goal are especially commendable,
owing to their sacrifice in time and resources beyond the call of duty and
without expectation of pecuniary reward.
Yet, the problem of under-representation of indigent or low-income clients
is just as grievous as that of non-representation. Admirable as the apparent
focus of Atty. Ortizs legal practice may have been, his particular
representation of Canoy in the latters illegal dismissal case leaves much to be
desired.
Several of the canons and rules in the Code of Professional Responsibility
guard against the sort of conduct displayed by Atty. Ortiz with respect to the
handling of Canoys case.
CANON 17A LAWYER OWES FIDELITY TO THE CAUSE OF HIS CLIENT
AND HE SHALL BE MINDFUL OF THE TRUST AND CONFIDENCE REPOSED
IN HIM.
CANON 18A LAWYER SHALL SERVE HIS CLIENT WITH COMPETENCE
AND DILIGENCE.
...

Rule 18.03A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his
negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.
Rule 18.04A lawyer shall keep the client informed of the status of his case and shall
respond within a reasonable time to the clients request for information.
...
CANON 22A LAWYER SHALL WITHDRAW HIS SERVICES ONLY FOR
GOOD CAUSE AND UPON NOTICE APPROPRIATE IN THE
CIRCUMSTANCES.
...
Rule 22.02 A lawyer who withdraws or is discharged shall, subject to a retainer lien,
immediately turn over all papers and property to which the client is entitled, and shall
cooperate with his successor in the orderly transfer of the matter, including all
information necessary for the proper handling of the matter.
Atty. Ortiz should have filed the position paper on time, owing to his duty
as counsel of Canoy to attend to this legal matter entrusted to him. His failure
to do so constitutes a violation of Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility.
Once he agrees to take up the cause of a client, a lawyer owes fidelity to such cause
and must always be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him. He must serve
the client with competence and diligence and champion the latter's cause with
wholehearted fidelity, care and devotion. Elsewise stated, he owes entire devotion to
the interest of the client, warm zeal in the maintenance and defense of his client's
rights, and the exertion of his utmost learning and ability to the end that nothing be
taken or withheld from his client, save by the rules of law, legally applied. This
simply means that his client is entitled to the benefit of any and every remedy and
defense that is authorized by the law of the land and he may expect his lawyer to
assert every such remedy or defense. If much is demanded from an attorney, it is
because the entrusted privilege to practice law carries with it the correlative duties not
only to the client but also to the court, to the bar and to the public. A lawyer who
performs his duty with diligence and candor not only protects the interest of his client;
he also serves the ends of justice, does honor to the bar and helps maintain the respect
of the community to the legal profession.[16]
If indeed Atty. Ortizs schedule, workload, or physical condition was such
that he would not be able to make a timely filing, he should have informed

Canoy of such fact. The relationship of lawyer-client being one of confidence,


there is ever present the need for the client to be adequately and fully
informed of the developments of the case and should not be left in the dark as
to the mode and manner in which his/her interests are being defended.[17]
There could have been remedies undertaken to this inability of Atty. Ortiz
to file on time the position paper had Canoy been told of such fact, such as a
request for more time to file the position paper, or maybe even the hiring of
collaborating counsel or substitution of Atty. Ortiz as counsel. Since Atty. Ortiz
did not exercise the necessary degree of care by either filing the position
paper on time or informing Canoy that the paper could not be submitted
seasonably, the ignominy of having the complaint dismissed for failure to
prosecute could not be avoided.
That the case was dismissed without prejudice, thus allowing Canoy to
refile the case, hardly serves to mitigate the liability of Atty. Ortiz, as the failure
to file the position paper is per se a violation of Rule 18.03.[18]
Neither is the Court mollified by the circumstance of Atty. Ortizs election
as a City Councilor of Bacolod City, as his adoption of these additional duties
does not exonerate him of his negligent behavior. The Code of Professional
Responsibility does allow a lawyer to withdraw his legal services if the lawyer
is elected or appointed to a public office.[19] Statutes expressly prohibit the
occupant of particular public offices from engaging in the practice of law, such
as governors and mayors,[20] and in such instance, the attorney-client
relationship is terminated.[21] However, city councilors are allowed to practice
their profession or engage in any occupation except during session hours, and
in the case of lawyers such as Atty. Ortiz, subject to certain prohibitions which
are not relevant to this case.[22] In such case, the lawyer nevertheless has the
choice to withdraw his/her services.[23] Still, the severance of the relation of
attorney-client is not effective until a notice of discharge by the client or a
manifestation clearly indicating that purpose is filed with the court or tribunal,
and a copy thereof served upon the adverse party, and until then, the lawyer
continues to be counsel in the case.[24]
Assuming that Atty. Ortiz was justified in terminating his services, he,
however, cannot just do so and leave complainant in the cold
unprotected.[25] Indeed, Rule 22.02 requires that a lawyer who withdraws or is
discharged shall, subject to a lien, immediately turn over all papers and
property to which the client is entitled, and shall cooperate with his successor
in the orderly transfer of the matter. Atty. Ortiz claims that the reason why he
took no further action on the case was that he was informed that Canoy had

acquired the services of another counsel. Assuming that were true, there was
no apparent coordination between Atty. Ortiz and this new counsel.
In fact, it took nearly two years before Canoy had learned that the position
paper had not been filed and that the case had been dismissed. This was
highly irresponsible of Atty. Ortiz, much more so considering that Canoy was
one of the indigent clients whom Atty. Ortiz proudly claims as his favored
clientele. It does not escape the Courts attention that Atty. Ortiz faults Canoy
for not adequately following up the case with his office.[26] He cannot now shift
the blame to complainant for failing to inquire about the status of the case,
since, as stated above, it was his duty as lawyer to inform his clients of the
status of cases entrusted to him.[27]
The appropriate sanction is within the sound discretion of this Court. In
cases of similar nature, the penalty imposed by the Court consisted of either a
reprimand, a fine of five hundred pesos with warning, suspension of three
months, six months, and even disbarment in aggravated cases.[28] Given the
circumstances, the Court finds the penalty recommended by the IBP too
lenient and instead suspends Atty. Ortiz from the practice of law for one (1)
month. The graver penalty of suspension is warranted in lieu of an admonition
or a reprimand considering that Atty. Ortizs undisputed negligence in failing to
timely file the position paper was compounded by his failure to inform Canoy
of such fact, and the successive dismissal of the complaint.
Lawyers who devote their professional practice in representing litigants
who could ill afford legal services deserve commendation. However, this
mantle of public service will not deliver the lawyer, no matter how wellmeaning, from the consequences of negligent acts. It is not enough to say that
all pauper litigants should be assured of legal representation. They deserve
quality representation as well.
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Jose Max S. Ortiz is ordered
SUSPENDED from the practice of law for one (1) month from notice, with the
warning that a repetition of the same negligence will be dealt with more
severely. Let a copy of this decision be attached to respondent's personal
record in the Office of the Bar Confidant and copies be furnished to all
chapters of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and to all the courts in the
land.
SO ORDERED.
Puno, (Chairman), Austria-Martinez, Callejo, Sr., and Chico-Nazario,
JJ., concur.

FIRST DIVISION
PEDRO L. LINSANGAN,
Complainant,

A.C. No. 6672


Present:
PUNO, C.J., Chairperson,
CARPIO,
CORONA,
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO and
BERSAMIN, JJ.

- versus -

ATTY. NICOMEDES TOLENTINO,


Respondent.

Promulgated:
September 4, 2009

x-----------------------------------------x
RESOLUTION
CORONA, J.:

This is a complaint for disbarment[1] filed by Pedro Linsangan


of the Linsangan Linsangan & Linsangan Law Office against Atty.
Nicomedes Tolentino for solicitation of clients and encroachment of
professional services.
Complainant alleged that respondent, with the help of
paralegal Fe Marie Labiano, convinced his clients[2] to transfer legal
representation.

Respondent

promised

them

financial

assistance[3] and expeditious collection on their claims.[4] To induce

them to hire his services, he persistently called them and sent them
text messages.
To support his allegations, complainant presented the sworn
affidavit[5] of James Gregorio attesting that Labiano tried to prevail
upon him to sever his lawyer-client relations with complainant and
utilize respondents services instead, in exchange for a loan
of P50,000.

Complainant

also

attached

respondents

card:[6]
Front
NICOMEDES TOLENTINO
LAW OFFFICE
CONSULTANCY & MARITIME SERVICES
W/ FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE
Fe Marie L. Labiano
Paralegal
1st MIJI Mansion, 2nd Flr. Rm. M-01
6th Ave., cor M.H. Del Pilar
Grace Park, Caloocan City

Tel: 362-7820
Fax: (632) 362-7821
Cel.: (0926) 2701719

Back
SERVICES OFFERED:
CONSULTATION AND ASSISTANCE
TO OVERSEAS SEAMEN
REPATRIATED DUE TO ACCIDENT,
INJURY, ILLNESS, SICKNESS, DEATH
AND INSURANCE BENEFIT CLAIMS
ABROAD.
(emphasis supplied)

Hence, this complaint.

calling

Respondent, in his defense, denied knowing Labiano and


authorizing the printing and circulation of the said calling card.[7]
The complaint was referred to the Commission on Bar
Discipline (CBD) of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for
investigation, report and recommendation.[8]
Based on testimonial and documentary evidence, the CBD, in
its report and recommendation,[9] found that respondent had
encroached on the professional practice of complainant, violating
Rule 8.02[10] and other canons[11] of the Code of Professional
Responsibility (CPR). Moreover, he contravened the rule against
soliciting cases for gain, personally or through paid agents or
brokers as stated in Section 27, Rule 138[12] of the Rules of Court.
Hence, the CBD recommended that respondent be reprimanded
with a stern warning that any repetition would merit a heavier
penalty.
We adopt the findings of the IBP on the unethical conduct of
respondent but we modify the recommended penalty.
The complaint before us is rooted on the alleged intrusion by
respondent into complainants professional practice in violation of
Rule 8.02 of the CPR. And the means employed by respondent in
furtherance of the said misconduct themselves constituted distinct
violations of ethical rules.

Canons of the CPR are rules of conduct all lawyers must


adhere to, including the manner by which a lawyers services are to
be made known. Thus, Canon 3 of the CPR provides:
CANON 3 - A LAWYER IN MAKING KNOWN HIS LEGAL
SERVICES SHALL USE ONLY TRUE, HONEST, FAIR,
DIGNIFIED AND OBJECTIVE INFORMATION OR STATEMENT
OF FACTS.

Time and time again, lawyers are reminded that the practice of
law is a profession and not a business; lawyers should not advertise
their talents as merchants advertise their wares.[13] To allow a
lawyer to advertise his talent or skill is to commercialize the
practice of law, degrade the profession in the publics estimation
and impair its ability to efficiently render that high character of
service to which every member of the bar is called.[14]
Rule 2.03 of the CPR provides:
RULE 2.03. A LAWYER SHALL NOT DO OR PERMIT TO BE
DONE ANY ACT DESIGNED PRIMARILY TO SOLICIT LEGAL
BUSINESS.

Hence, lawyers are prohibited from soliciting cases for the purpose
of

gain,

either

personally

or

through

paid

agents

or

brokers.[15] Such actuation constitutes malpractice, a ground for


disbarment.[16]
Rule 2.03 should be read in connection with Rule 1.03 of the
CPR which provides:

RULE 1.03. A LAWYER SHALL NOT, FOR ANY CORRUPT


MOTIVE OR INTEREST, ENCOURAGE ANY SUIT OR
PROCEEDING OR DELAY ANY MANS CAUSE.

This rule proscribes ambulance chasing (the solicitation of almost


any kind of legal business by an attorney, personally or through an
agent in order to gain employment)[17] as a measure to protect the
community from barratry and champerty.[18]
Complainant presented substantial evidence[19] (consisting of
the sworn statements of the very same persons coaxed by Labiano
and referred to respondents office) to prove that respondent indeed
solicited legal business as well as profited from referrals suits.
Although respondent initially denied knowing Labiano in his
answer, he later admitted it during the mandatory hearing.
Through Labianos actions, respondents law practice was
benefited. Hapless seamen were enticed to transfer representation
on the strength of Labianos word that respondent could produce a
more favorable result.
Based

on

the

foregoing,

respondent

clearly

solicited

employment violating Rule 2.03, and Rule 1.03 and Canon 3 of the
CPR and Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court.
With regard to respondents violation of Rule 8.02 of the CPR,
settled is the rule that a lawyer should not steal another lawyers
client nor induce the latter to retain him by a promise of better

service, good result or reduced fees for his services.[20] Again the
Court notes that respondent never denied having these seafarers in
his client list nor receiving benefits from Labianos referrals.
Furthermore,

he

never

denied

Labianos

connection

to

his

office.[21] Respondent committed an unethical, predatory overstep


into anothers legal practice. He cannot escape liability under Rule
8.02 of the CPR.
Moreover, by engaging in a money-lending venture with his
clients as borrowers, respondent violated Rule 16.04:
Rule 16.04 A lawyer shall not borrow money from his client
unless the clients interests are fully protected by the nature of the
case or by independent advice. Neither shall a lawyer lend
money to a client except, when in the interest of justice, he has to
advance necessary expenses in a legal matter he is handling for
the client.

The rule is that a lawyer shall not lend money to his


client. The only exception is, when in the interest of justice, he has
to advance necessary expenses (such as filing fees, stenographers
fees for transcript of stenographic notes, cash bond or premium for
surety bond, etc.) for a matter that he is handling for the client.
The rule is intended to safeguard the lawyers independence of
mind so that the free exercise of his judgment may not be adversely
affected.[22] It seeks to ensure his undivided attention to the case he
is handling as well as his entire devotion and fidelity to the clients
cause. If the lawyer lends money to the client in connection with
the clients case, the lawyer in effect acquires an interest in the

subject

matter of

the

case

or

an

additional

stake

in

its

outcome.[23] Either of these circumstances may lead the lawyer to


consider his own recovery rather than that of his client, or to accept
a settlement which may take care of his interest in the verdict to the
prejudice of the client in violation of his duty of undivided fidelity to
the clients cause.[24]
As previously mentioned, any act of solicitation constitutes
malpractice[25] which calls for the exercise of the Courts disciplinary
powers. Violation of anti-solicitation statutes warrants serious
sanctions for initiating contact with a prospective client for the
purpose of obtaining employment.[26] Thus, in this jurisdiction, we
adhere to the rule to protect the public from the Machiavellian
machinations of unscrupulous lawyers and to uphold the nobility of
the legal profession.
Considering the myriad infractions of respondent (including
violation of the prohibition on lending money to clients), the
sanction recommended by the IBP, a mere reprimand, is a wimpy
slap on the wrist. The proposed penalty is grossly incommensurate
to its findings.
A final word regarding the calling card presented in evidence
by petitioner. A lawyers best advertisement is a well-merited
reputation for professional capacity and fidelity to trust based on
his character and conduct.[27] For this reason, lawyers are only

allowed to announce their services by publication in reputable law


lists or use of simple professional cards.
Professional calling cards may only contain the following
details:
(a)
(b)
(c)
(d)
(e)

lawyers name;
name of the law firm with which he is connected;
address;
telephone number and
special branch of law practiced.[28]

Labianos calling card contained the phrase with financial


assistance. The phrase was clearly used to entice clients (who
already had representation) to change counsels with a promise of
loans to finance their legal actions. Money was dangled to lure
clients away from their original lawyers, thereby taking advantage of
their financial distress and emotional vulnerability. This crass
commercialism degraded the integrity of the bar and deserved no
place in the legal profession. However, in the absence of substantial
evidence to prove his culpability, the Court is not prepared to rule
that respondent was personally and directly responsible for the
printing and distribution of Labianos calling cards.
WHEREFORE, respondent

Atty.

Nicomedes

Tolentino

for

violating Rules 1.03, 2.03, 8.02 and 16.04 and Canon 3 of the Code
of Professional Responsibility and Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules
of Court is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a
period of one year effective immediately from receipt of this

resolution. He is STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of the same


or similar acts in the future shall be dealt with more severely.
Let a copy of this Resolution be made part of his records in the
Office of the Bar Confidant, Supreme Court of the Philippines, and
be furnished to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office
of the Court Administrator to be circulated to all courts.
SO ORDERED.

RENATO C. CORONA
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:
REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice
Chairperson

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO


Associate Justice

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN
Associate Justice

SECOND DIVISION
[A.C. No. 1261. December 29, 1983.]
TAN TEK BENG, Complainant, v. TIMOTEO A. DAVID, Respondent.
Basilio Lanoria for complainant.
Timoteo A. David for and in his own behalf.

SYLLABUS

1. LEGAL ETHICS; MEMBER OF THE BAR; SOLICITING CASES AT LAW FOR THE PURPOSE OF GAIN;
CONSTITUTES MALPRACTICE. Where in the agreement lawyer David not only agreed to give one-half of
his professional fees to an intermediary or commission agent but he also bound himself not to deal directly
with the clients, the Court held that the said agreement is void because it was tantamount to malpractice
which is "the practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid
agents or brokers" (Sec. 27, Rule 138, Rules of Court). Malpractice ordinarily refers to any malfeasance or
dereliction of duty committed by a lawyer. Section 27 gives a special and technical meaning to the term
"malpractice" (Act No. 2828, amending Sec. 21 of Act No. 190). That meaning is in consonance with the
elementary notion that the practice of law is a profession, not a business. "The lawyer may not seek or
obtain employment by himself or through others for to do so would be unprofessional" (2 R.C.L. 1097 cited
in In re Tagorda, 33 Phil. 37, 42).
2. ID.; ID.; ID.; UNPROFESSIONAL CONDUCT; CAUSE FOR CENSURE. The commercialization of law
practice is condemned in certain canons of professional ethics adopted by the American Bar Association.
"Unprofessional conduct in an attorney is that which violates the rules or ethical code of his profession or
which is unbecoming a member of that profession" (Note 14, 7 C.J.S. 743). We censure lawyer David for
having entered and acted upon such void and unethical agreement. We discountenance his conduct, not
because of the complaint of Tan Tek Beng (who did not know legal ethics) but because David should have
known better.

DECISION

AQUINO, J.:

The issue in this case is whether disciplinary action should be taken against lawyer Timoteo A. David
(admitted to the bar in 1945) for not giving Tan Tek Beng, a nonlawyer (alleged missionary of the Seventh
Day Adventists), one-half of the attorneys fees received by David from the clients supplied by Tan Tek
Beng. Their agreement reads:
jgc:chan roble s.com.p h

"December 3, 1970
"Mr. Tan Tek Beng
"Manila
"Dear Mr. Tan:

chanrob1es vi rtua l 1aw lib ra ry

In compliance with your request, I am now putting into writing our agreement which must be followed in
connection with the accounts that you will entrust to me for collection. Our terms and conditions shall be as
follows:
jgc:c hanrobles. com.ph

"1. On all commission or attorneys fees that we shall receive from our clients by virtue of the collection that
we shall be able to effect on their accounts, we shall divide fifty-fifty. Likewise you are entitled to

commission, 50/50 from domestic, inheritance and commercial from our said clients or in any criminal cases
where they are involved.
"2. I shall not deal directly with our clients without your consent.
"3. You shall take care of collecting our fees as well as advances for expenses for the cases referred to us by
our clients and careful in safeguarding our interest.
"4. It is understood that legal expenses that we shall recover from the debtors shall be turned over to our
clients. Other clients who directly or indirectly have been approached or related (sic) to you as a result of
your labor are your clients.
"I hereby pledge in the name of God, our Heavenly Father, that I will be sincere, honest and fair with you in
connection with our transactions with our clients. Likewise you must be sincere, honest and fair with me.
Very truly yours,
(Sgd.) Illegible
TIMOTEO A. DAVID
"P.S.
I will be responsible for all documents entrusted me by our clients.
(Sgd.) Initial
"CONFORME to the above and likewise will reciprocate my sincerity to Atty. David as stated in the last
paragraph of this letter.
(Sgd.) Tan Tek Beng
MR. TAN TEK BENG"
The foregoing was a reiteration of an agreement dated August 5, 1969. Note that in said agreement lawyer
David not only agreed to give one-half of his professional fees to an intermediary or commission agent but
he also bound himself not to deal directly with the clients.
The business relationship between David and Tan Tek Beng did not last. There were mutual accusations of
doublecross. For allegedly not living up to the agreement, Tan Tek Beng in 1973 denounced David to
Presidential Assistant Ronaldo B. Zamora, to the Office of Civil Relations at Camp Crame and to this Court.
He did not file any civil action to enforce the agreement.
In his 1974 comment, David clarified that the partnership was composed of himself as manager, Tan Tek
Beng as assistant manager and lawyer Pedro Jacinto as president and financier. When Jacinto became ill and
the costs of office maintenance mounted, David suggested that Tan Tek Beng should also invest some
money or shoulder a part of the business expenses but Tan Tek Beng refused.
chanroble s.com : vi rtua l law lib rary

This case was referred to the Solicitor General for investigation, report and recommendation. Hearings were
scheduled from 1974 to 1981. It was proposed that respondent should submit a stipulation of facts but that
did not materialize because the scheduled hearings were not held due to the nonavailability of Tan Tek Beng
and his counsel.
On September 16, 1977 Tan Tek Beng died at the Philippine Union Colleges Compound, Baesa, Caloocan
City but it was only in the manifestation of his counsel dated August 10, 1981 that the Solicitor Generals
Office was informed of that fact. A report on this case dated March 21, 1983 was submitted by the Solicitor
General to this Court.
We hold that the said agreement is void because it was tantamount to malpractice which is "the practice of
soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or brokers" Sec. 27,
Rule 138, Rules of Court). Malpractice ordinarily refers to any malfeasance or dereliction of duty committed
by a lawyer. Section 27 gives a special and technical meaning to the term "malpractice" (Act No. 2828,

amending sec. 21 of Act No. 190).


That meaning is in consonance with the elementary notion that the practice of law is a profession, not a
business. "The lawyer may not seek or obtain employment by himself or through others for to do so would
be unprofessional" (2 R.C.L. 1097 cited in In re Tagorda, 53 Phil. 37, 42; Malcolm, J., Jayme v. Bualan, 58
Phil. 422; Arce v. Philippine National Bank, 62 Phil. 569). The commercialization of law practice is
condemned in certain canons of professional ethics adopted by the American Bar Association:
jgc:chan roble s.com.p h

"34. Division of Fees. No division of fees for legal services is proper, except with another lawyer, based
upon a division of service or responsibility."
cralaw vi rtua 1aw lib rary

"35. Intermediaries. The professional services of a lawyer should not be controlled or exploited by any law
agency, personal or corporate, which intervenes between client and lawyer. A lawyers responsibilities and
qualifications are individual. He should avoid all relations which direct the performance of his duties by or in
the interest of such intermediary. A lawyers relation to his client should be personal, and the responsibility
should be direct to the client. . . ."
cralaw virt ua1aw lib ra ry

"38. Compensation, Commissions and Rebates. A lawyer should accept no compensation, commissions,
rebates or other advantages from others without the knowledge and consent of his client after full
disclosure." (Appendix, Malcolm, Legal Ethics).
We censure lawyer David for having entered and acted upon such void and unethical agreement. We
discountenance his conduct, not because of the complaint of Tan Tek Beng (who did not know legal ethics)
but because David should have known better.
chanroble s law lib ra ry

"Unprofessional conduct in an attorney is that which violates the rules or ethical code of his profession or
which is unbecoming a member of that profession" (Note 14, 7 C.J.S. 743).
WHEREFORE, respondent is reprimanded for being guilty of malpractice. A copy of this decision should be
attached to his record in the Bar Confidants office.
SO ORDERED.
Concepcion, Jr., Guerrero, Abad Santos, De Castro and Escolin, JJ., concur.