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Statute of Limitations1

Glaiza Narvacan
Shiela Marie Pascual
Rejyl Siang

The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.


- Martin Luther King, Jr.

I.

Introduction
The Supreme Court, the highest collegiate arbiter of justice in the country, has

been known to change its collective mind on a plethora of legal issues, principles and
cases. Jurisprudence is replete with examples of the Court vacillating between the
opposing poles of landmark cases (e.g. midnight appointment of judges and justices).
Case law is also pregnant with examples of the Court gradually moving the dial on what
is good law as it moves along the spectrum from strict construction to liberality when
deciding certain cases (e.g. psychological incapacity, frustrated theft, separation of
church and state through strict neutrality vs. benevolent neutrality). Whether the
decisions are sound is beside the point, what the picture painted above shows is a
healthy and thriving democracy undergirded by a strong adherence to the rule of law.
However there is one precept that the Supreme Court zealously guards and on this it
never makes a compromise; that the Court is to maintain moral ascendancy so that it is
not impaired as it administers justice.

The authors recognize the pun and are not referring to prescription periods. Instead what is being
described is the fact that the Code of Professional Responsibility is a statue that provides normative
limitations to a lawyers role.

The court in multiple occasions has had the chance to pass upon the issue of being
beyond ethical reproach and maintaining the trust that the judiciary has long strived to
cultivate. It once gave a stinging rebuke to a lawyer who undermined the trust reposed
on the court and instead cultivated an atmosphere of distrust and disbelief. It said,
"By now, a lawyer's duties to the Court have become
common place. Really, there could hardly be any valid
excuse for lapses in the observance thereof. Section 20(b),
Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, in categorical terms, spells
out one such duty: 'To observe and maintain the respect due
to the courts of justice and judicial officers.' As explicit is the
first canon of legal ethics which pronounces that '[i]t is the
duty of the lawyer to maintain towards the Courts a
respectful attitude, not for the sake of the temporary
incumbent of the judicial office, but for the maintenance of its
supreme importance.' That same canon, as a corollary,
makes it peculiarly incumbent upon lawyers to support the
courts against 'unjust criticism and clamor.' And more. The
attorney's oath solemnly binds him to a conduct that should
be 'with all good fidelity ... to the courts.' Worth remembering
is that the duty of an attorney to the courts can only be
maintained by rendering no service involving any disrespect
to the judicial office which he is bound to uphold.' "2

While the issue being discussed by the court in the above case was one for
contempt due to a lawyers false, ridiculous, wild statements and an arrogant attitude,
the discussion needs to proceed to the next logical step which is to identify how lawyers
may, inadvertently or deliberately, compromise the courts ability to administer justice.
A lawyer is an officer of the courts; he is, "like the court itself, an instrument or
agency to advance the ends of justice."3 His duty is to uphold the dignity and authority
of the courts to which he owes fidelity, "not to promote distrust in the administration of

Rheem of the Philippines vs. Ferrer (1967), 20 SCRA 441, 444


People ex rel. Karlin vs. Culkin, 60 A.L.R. 851, 855 in G.R. No. L-27072 January 9, 1970.

justice."4 Faith in the courts a lawyer should seek to preserve. For, to undermine the
judicial edifice "is disastrous to the continuity of government and to the attainment of the
liberties of the people."5 Thus has it been said of a lawyer that "[a]s an officer of the
court, it is his sworn and moral duty to help build and not destroy unnecessarily that
high esteem and regard towards the courts so essential to the proper administration of
justice."[6][7]
II.

The Problem
While there is a dearth of formal research in the Philippines tackling the public

perception of the legal profession, one has just to take a cursory survey of ones
acquaintances opinion to put together a dismal picture. For a profession with such high
ethical and moral expectations, the legal community has one of the most disappointing
reputations in the country. While doctors and engineers are given glowing reviews by
laymen, its not uncommon to hear the unflattering alliteration, Lawyers, Liars! This
notion comes from what is thought to be lawyers tendency to bend the truth in order to
win a clients case.
The reputation being suffered by lawyers brings into sharp focus the perennial
ethical conflict with which lawyers are confronted which has to do with the clash
between their duty to a client on the one hand and their duty to society (as well as to the
courts and the profession) on the other. The polar positions in this conflict all devolve to
the basic question of what role lawyers pursue. There is a disconnect between the role

In re Sotto, 82 Phil. 595, 602.inG.R. No. L-27072 January 9, 1970


Malcolm, Legal and Judicial Ethics, 1949 ed., p. 160.in In re Sotto, 82 Phil. 595, 602.
6
People vs. Carillo, 77 Phil. 572, 580 .in In re Sotto, 82 Phil. 595, 602.
7
G.R. No. L-27072 January 9, 1970
5

lawyers want to pursue (i.e., a facilitator of justice) and the role that they perceive the
profession demands they play (i.e., a zealous advocate).8 This ethical counselor vs.
hired gun dilemma may be caused by three (3) things. The first cause may be purely
personal, which is to say that the decision to bend the rules set down by the profession
may be all due to the lawyers integrity or the lack of it. The second may be due to the
flawed systemic structure of the legal profession. By this we mean that although lawyers
start out as idealistic professionals, the legal system and mentors that they encounter
as they grow as lawyers affect their practice. The third and the more troubling cause
may be due to the lack of ethical mooring that the profession suffers.
A lawyers ultimate choice of role to play, according to research, may be due to
the first and second reason. It concludes that,
[a]lthough most lawyers, in the end, relinquished their
decision-making to their clients, this transition from
counsellor to hired gun, mandated by their professional
obligations, was one fraught with challenge for many
lawyers. Lawyers resolved their problems in these areas, not
by resort to official sources such as their code of conduct,
but by resort to internal, informal sources of information such
as mentors...9

Although research suggests that the dilemma is not particularly due to the lack of ethical
standards set by the legal profession, it behooves us, students of the law, to not leave
8

D. Tanovich, Laws Ambition and the Reconstruction of Role Morality in Canada. 28 Dalhousie Law
Journal (2005).
9
Margaret Ann Wilkinson, Christa Walker &Peter Mercer, Testing Theory and Debunking Stereotypes:
Lawyers Views On The Practice Of Law (2005) 18 Can. J.L .& Jur. 165 [Testing Theory]. See also,
Peter Mercer, Margaret Ann Wilkinson, and Terra Strong, The Practice of Ethical Precepts: Dissecting
Decision-Making By Lawyers (1996) 9 Can.J.L.&Jur.141at153 in D. Tanovich, Laws Ambition and the
Reconstruction of Role Morality in Canada. 28 Dalhousie Law Journal (2005).

the third cause uninspected and critically examined. In this paper, we will look at the
anchors laid down by the Supreme Court in jurisprudence as well as in our own
Canons. We will show that the courts has set a straight and unerring plumb in regards
to its expectations of how lawyers are supposed to comport themselves in and outside
court, in their professional and personal lives. Before we argue on the sufficiency of the
ethical moorings of the Philippine legal profession, we will first discuss the concepts of
justice, fidelity and role morality to lay a foundation of why ethical moorings should be
enough to dictate the actions of the members of a legal profession.
III.

Justice, Fidelity and Role Morality


Blacks Law Dictionary, borrowing from Justinian defined justice as the

constant and perpetual disposition to render every man his due. [10][11] This has also
been echoed by the Philippine Supreme Court in a number of cases.[12][13]It further said
that justice motivate(s) this Court when it assesses the facts and the law in every
case brought to it for decision. Justice is always an essential ingredient of its
decisions.14It should be noted however that the definition of justice should not be taken
on its own but in the context of social justice. One mans due should not come at the
expense and damage of another individual.
To give a more far-reaching and relevant definition to justice is to say that it is to
give one man his due without trampling on the rights of another. This circles right back
to the hired gun mind-set of some lawyers as it provides an exit to lawyers who feel that
10

Blacks Law Dictionary, http://thelawdictionary.org/justice-n/


Institutes 1, 1, pr. as cited in Handbook for Roman Law, Miravite, Lorenzo F., p. 39, 1981
12
G.R. No. 133743 and G.R. No. 134029 February 6, 2007.
13
G.R. No. 72873 May 28, 1987
14
Ibid.
11

they have to do everything in their power to claim justice in behalf of their clients.
Justice is not to win a case! Said in a different way, winning a case does not mean that
justice has been served. Lawyers need to be cognizant of this and to keep a portion of
their mind glued to the bigger picture of a case which is not just winning it, but to effect
justice on an unjust situation.
To bring justice on the conflict between opposing parties, a lawyer has to balance
two (2) fidelities: a fidelity to his client and a fidelity to justice (and to the courts). Fidelity
to one does not necessarily equate fidelity to the other because as mentioned, injustice
can be meted out if the others right has been trampled on. What then is the role of a
lawyer who feels that his client is at the wrong? It is to protect his right to due process.
The lawyer needs to zealously safeguard this right but this does not mean to use lies
and deception just to win the case. Whether the lawyer will ask questions that will
directly point out a wrong or to just probe subtly so that he does not hear a direct
confession from a client is beyond the reach of this paper and will no longer be
discussed at this point.
Its interesting to note that in Agpalos commentary on The Code of Professional
Responsibility, he says that a lawyer owes his client the duty of entire devotion to his
genuine interest, undivided allegiance, loyalty, fidelity and absolute integrity.15 He goes
on to say that it is a breach of that duty to use unlawful means, deceit and
misrepresentation.16 The conclusion is inescapable; a lawyers full loyalty to the cause
of the client only means that he is not to have opposite and conflicting interests.

15

Agpalo, Ruben. The Code of Profess1onal Responsibility (2009) 417-418


Ibid, 420-421

16

However, the lawyers interest with and fidelity to justice is parallel and not adverse to
the client. A lawyer has to, therefore, keep a concurrent fidelity to the courts and to
justice in general as he champions his clients cause.
Justice Gibson was correct when he argued that,
[i]tis a popular, but gross mistake, to suppose that a lawyer
owes no delity to anyone (sic) except his client; and that the
latter is the keeper of his professional conscience. He is
expressly bound by his ofcial oath to behave himself in his
ofce of attorney with all due delity to the court as well as the
client; and he violates it when he consciously presses for an
unjust judgment; much more so when he presses for the
conviction of an innocent man [emphasis supplied].17

Tanovich equates the term professional conscience to role morality. By that he


means that the norms of our role as lawyers is not dictated by clients, not by the
subjective whims of some members of the profession but by the textually demonstrable
constitutional commitment of the power to create objective norms and standards to the
Supreme Court. Our role morality is to adhere to justice. Our justice is not to champion
a case at the expense of another but to bring equity to an unjust situation. At this point,
it is now proper to look at the Code of Professional Responsibility as well as
jurisprudence and decide on whether it has given clear guidelines to address the ethic
counselor vs. hired gun dilemma.

17

JusticeGibsonofthePennsylvaniaSupremeCourtin D. Tanovich, Laws Ambition and the Reconstruction


of Role Morality in Canada. 28 Dalhousie Law Journal (2005).

IV.

The Code and Jurisprudence

Code of Professional Responsibility


The existence of a set of professional standards (in the Philippines case, the
Code of Professional Responsibility) already alleviates the weight in resolving the
dilemma presented. Professional standards are said to serve as the lawyers chart and
compass

to

resolve

difficult

questions

of

duty

and

help

minimize

ethical

delinquencies18. In the Canons, we find concrete rules of conduct which are binding
upon all lawyers in the Philippines19. A read-through of the Code will result to the
inevitable conclusion that the Philippine lawyers loyalty to his client should only be to
the extent allowed by law and not to the detriment of administering justice.
Though the Canons are divided into four (4) chapters, namely: The Law and
Society; The Lawyer and the Legal Profession; The Lawyer and The Courts and the
Lawyer and the Clients, a unifying theme can be seen which reinforces the conclusion
mentioned above.
What follows is a survey of the Canons of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, as well as considered legal opinions which are of relevance to our
discussion.

18

Agpalo, Ruben. The Code of Professional Responsibility (2009) 2


Ibid, 3

19

CANON 1 - A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE


CONSTITUTION, OBEY THE LAWS OF THE LAND AND
PROMOTE
RESPECT
FOR
LAW
AND
LEGAL
PROCESSES
Rule 1.02 - A lawyer shall not counsel or abet activities
aimed at defiance of the law or at lessening confidence in
the legal system. [emphases supplied]20

It is noteworthy that at the outset, the Code of Professional Responsibility starts


with the very first Canon which tells the lawyer to promote respect for the law and legal
process. This is further supported by the corollary rule that one should not support
activities which will tend to lessen the confidence in the legal system. A lawyer aiming to
abide by these will not push for an unjust judgment, for he knows full well that he has a
duty to keep the reputation of the legal system untarnished.

Rule 6.01 - The primary duty of a lawyer engaged in public


prosecution is not to convict but to see that justice is done.
The suppression of facts or the concealment of witnesses
capable of establishing the innocence of the accused is
highly reprehensible and is cause for disciplinary action
[emphasis supplied]21
The rule cant be any clearer seeing that justice is served is of paramount
importance. Quoting from Agpalos commentary on the Code, a public prosecutor...is in
a peculiar and very definite sense the servant of the law, the two-fold aim of which is
that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer [emphasis supplied] 22.

20

Canon 1, Code of Professional Responsibility


Canon 6, Rule 6.01, Code of Professional Responsibility
22
Agpalo, Ruben. The Code of Professional Responsibility (2009) 52
21

CANON 7 - A LAWYER SHALL AT ALL TIMES UPHOLD


THE INTEGRITY AND DIGNITY OF THE LEGAL
PROFESSION AND SUPPORT THE ACTIVITIES OF THE
INTEGRATED BAR.23

It has always been emphasized, whether in the Canons or in jurisprudence, that


the conduct of a lawyer should be beyond reproach for the legal profession is a form of
public trust and it should only be entrusted to those who have the qualifications and
good moral character24. A lawyer upholding integrity will only present his clients case by
using truthful claims and will not resort to illegal means. The bar of integrity is especially
high for lawyers; any behavior below what the profession calls for cheapens the latter
and strips it off of its dignity.

CANON 10 - A LAWYER OWES CANDOR, FAIRNESS AND


GOOD FAITH TO THE COURT.
Rule 10.01 - A lawyer shall not do any falsehood, nor
consent to the doing of any in Court; nor shall he mislead, or
allow the Court to be misled by any artifice.
Rule 10.03 - A lawyer shall observe the rules of procedure
and shall not misuse them to defeat the ends of justice.
[emphases supplied]25

In the commentaries of Agpalo, he asserts that a lawyer is an officer of the court,


first and foremost, and that his duties to the courts are more significant than those he
holds for his client. He went on to say that the lawyers
first duty is not to his client but to the
administration of justice; to that end, his client's success is
wholly subordinate; and his conduct ought to and must
23

Canon 7, Code of Professional Responsibility


Supra, note 18
25
Canon 10, Code of Professional Responsibility
24

10

always be scrupulously observant of the law and the ethics


of the profession Accordingly, should there be a conflict
between his duty to his client and that to the court, he should
resolve the conflict against the former and in favor of the
latter, his primary responsibility being to uphold the cause of
justice.26 Furthermore, Rules of Court states that it is a duty
of a lawyer: to observe and maintain the respect due to the
courts of justice and judicial officers.27
The mandate to not do any falsehood is not just stated in the Code but has also
been sworn to by a lawyer before becoming a member of the Bar. He is bound to
always be truthful and not mislead the court, regardless of his duties to his clients. 28 His
fidelity to the client, as earlier stated, should be balanced with his fidelity to the court;
while he owes fidelity to the cause of his client, it should not be at the expense of truth
and the administration of justice29 Both fidelities dont run counter to each other but run
parallel each other, with fidelity to the court and justice having more weight and
importance.
It is also stated in the Rules of Court that one of the duties of the lawyer is to to
employ for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to him, such means only as
are consistent with truth and honor, and never seek to mislead the judge or any judicial
officer by an artifice or false statement of fact or law.30

26

Agpalo, Ruben. The Code of Professional Responsibility (2009) 98-99


Rules of Court. Rule 138 Sec 20 (b)
28
Agpalo, Ruben. The Code of Professional Responsibility (2009) 102
29
Ibid, 104
30
Rules of Court. Rule 138 Sec 20 (d)
27

11

CANON 12 - A LAWYER SHALL EXERT EVERY EFFORT


AND CONSIDER IT HIS DUTY TO ASSIST IN THE
SPEEDY AND EFFICIENT ADMINISTRATION OF
JUSTICE.31
Part of the lawyers responsibility as an officer of the court is to assist in the
speedy and efficient administration of justice. This can be facilitated by not doing any
act that obstructs the administration of justice and by faithfully complying to his duties to
the courts and to his client.32

CANON 15 - A LAWYER SHALL OBSERVE CANDOR,


FAIRNESS AND LOYALTY IN ALL HIS DEALINGS AND
TRANSACTIONS WITH HIS CLIENTS.
Rule 15.07 - A lawyer shall impress upon his client
compliance with the laws and principles of fairness.

CANON 19 - A LAWYER SHALL REPRESENT HIS CLIENT


WITH ZEAL WITHIN THE BOUNDS OF THE LAW.

Rule 19.01 - A lawyer shall employ only fair and honest


means to attain the lawful objectives of his client and shall
not present, participate in presenting or threaten to present
unfounded criminal charges to obtain an improper advantage
in any case or proceeding.
Rule 19.02 - A lawyer who has received information that his
client has, in the course of the representation, perpetrated a
fraud upon a person or tribunal, shall promptly call upon the
client to rectify the same, and failing which he shall terminate
the relationship with such client in accordance with the Rules
of Court.[emphases supplied]33

31

Canon 12, Code of Professional Responsibility


Agpalo, Ruben. The Code of Professional Responsibility (2009) 117-118
33
Canons 15 & 19, Code of Professional Responsibility
32

12

The above-cited Canons were taken from the last chapter of the Code entitled:
The Lawyer and The Clients, these further illustrate that the duty of the lawyer to his
clients has boundaries. While he definitely has the duty to be entirely devoted to his
clients cause, he should only employ means that are honorable to secure the latter
what is justly due him. As previously stated, the Code and the Rules are not adverse to
the client; a lawyer can present every defense available for the client, provided they are
within the bounds of law or they are defenses which the lawyer believes to be honestly
debatable under the law34. Due process must always be endeavored regardless of the
opinion of the lawyer as to the guilt of the client.

35

Then again, a clash of duties, should

there be any, should always be resolved in favor of the lawyers fidelity to the courts.
The different obligations of a lawyer have been summarized in the following
commentaries by Agpalo:
To society, he owes the duty not to engage in unlawful,
dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct; not to counsel or to
abet activities aimed at defiance of the law or lessening
confidence in the legal profess (sic). To the legal profession,
he is not to engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his
fitness to practice law not to behave in a scandalous manner
to the discredit of the legal profession. To the courts, he is
not to do any falsehood, nor to consent to the doing of any in
court, nor to mislead or allow the court to be misled by any
artifice. And to the client, he is to impress upon him
compliance with the laws and principles of fairness. In other
words, while his zeal in the task of advocacy is
commendable and his persistence in the discharge of his
responsibility is understandable, it should not amount to
obstinacy nor should it be carried beyond the limits of
sobriety and decorum36

34

Agpalo, Ruben. The Code of Professional Responsibility (2009) 225-226; Rules of Court. Rule 138 Sec
(c)
35
Rules of Court. Rule 138 Sec 20 (i)
36
Agpalo, Ruben. The Code of Professional Responsibility (2009), 225

13

The Canons also provide exceptions as to when a lawyer may reveal the
confidences or secrets of his client and when he can withdraw his services from a client:
CANON 21 - A LAWYER SHALL PRESERVE THE
CONFIDENCE AND SECRETS OF HIS CLIENT EVEN
AFTER
THE
ATTORNEY-CLIENT
RELATION
IS
TERMINATED
Rule 21.01 - A lawyer shall not reveal the confidences or
secrets of his client except:
a) When authorized by the client after acquainting him of the
consequences
of
the
disclosure;
b) When required by law;
c) When necessary to collect his fees or to defend himself,
his employees or associates or by judicial action.
CANON 22 - A LAWYER SHALL WITHDRAW HIS
SERVICES ONLY FOR GOOD CAUSE AND UPON
NOTICE APPROPRIATE IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES.
Rule 22.01 -A lawyer may withdraw his services in any of the
following cases:
a) When the client pursues an illegal or immoral course of
conduct in connection with the matter he is handling;
b) When the client insists that the lawyer pursue conduct
violative
of
these
canons
and
rules;
c) When his inability to work with co-counsel will not promote
the
best
interest
of
the
client;
d) When the mental or physical condition of the lawyer
renders it difficult for him to carry out the employment
effectively;
e) When the client deliberately fails to pay the fees for the
services or fails to comply with the retainer agreement;
f) When the lawyer is elected or appointed to public office;
and
g) Other similar cases.[Emphases supplied]

It can be seen, therefore, that the Canons provide clear guidance in resolving questions
of duty when faced with the dilemma of choosing between seemingly contradictory roles
(which in reality, shouldnt be viewed in that manner for whatever the cause of the client

14

may be, the goal should be to the end of administration of justice and the prevailing of
due process).

Jurisprudence:

Now that the relevant Canons have been discussed, it is also proper to check if
the principles laid down by the Code have been concretized in jurisprudence. Below are
examples of cases illustrating that justice should always be the primary consideration
and, when the situation calls for it, the fidelity to the courts should be treated more
significantly than fidelity to the client and the lawyer should not resort to illegal means
just to defend a client:

In A.M. No. 1769 Lantoria v. Bunyi, Lantoria filed an administrative case against
Atty. Bunyi. Complainant asserted that Atty. Bunyi won the three (3) cases in which he
was the counsel of one of the parties through corruption of the judge and bribery.
Allegedly, he was the one who unethically prepared the decisions rendered therein; and
that the preparation by respondent of said decisions warranted disciplinary action
against him. The Court found respondent guilty of unethical practice in attempting to
influence the court where he had pending civil case and was suspended from the
practice of law for a period of one year.37

In A.M. No. 1302 Valencia v. Cabanting, the Supreme Court provided that:

A lawyer owes entire devotion to the interest of his client


(Santos vs. Dichoso, 84 SCRA 622), but not at the expense
of truth. (Cosmos Foundry Shopworkers Union vs. La Bu, 63
37

Lantoria v . Atty. Ireneo Bunyi , Administrative Case No. 1769, Resolution dated June 8, 1992

15

SCRA 313). The first duty of a lawyer is not to his client but
to the administration of justice. (Lubiano vs. Gordalla, 115
SCRA 459) To that end, his clients success is wholly
subordinate. His conduct ought to and must always be
scrupulously observant of law and ethics. While a lawyer
must advocate his clients cause in utmost earnestness and
with the maximum skill he can marshal, he is not at liberty to
resort to illegal means for his clients interest. It is the duty of
an attorney to employ, for the purpose of maintaining the
causes confided to him, such means as are consistent with
truth and honor. (Pangan vs. Ramos, 93 SCRA 87).
In line with the reasoning of the Court in the previous paragraph and upon finding of
respondents Atty. Cabanting and Atty. Antiniw guilty of malpractice in falsifying notarial
documents, the judgment declared Atty. Antiniw disbarred from the practice of law, and
his name is ordered stricken off from the roll of attorneys; and Atty. Cabanting
suspended from the practice of law for six months.38

In AC No. 1892 Artiaga v. Villanueva, Atty. Luis V. Artiaga, Jr. sought the
disbarment of Atty. Enrique C. Villanueva for he had employed every step necessary to
forestall complainant's client from taking rightful possession of subject property. He has
shown utter disregard of the proper rules of procedure to suit his purpose since the
cause of his clients was obviously bereft of merit. The Court Likewise mentioned:

A legal counsel is of course expected to defend his


client's cause with zeal, but not at the disregard of the truth.4
The duty of an attorney to the courts to employ, for the
purpose of maintaining the causes confided to him, such
means as are consistent with truth and honor cannot be
overemphasized.5 His high vocation is to correctly inform the
court upon the law and the facts of the case, and to aid it in
doing justice and arriving at correct conclusions.

38

Valencia vs. Cabanting, 196 SCRA 302, April 26, 1991; Valencia vs. Antiniw, 556 SCRA 503, June 30, 2008

16

Thus, he was suspended indefinitely from the practice of law for employing dilatory
tactics by filing a clearly frivolous case amounting to obstruction of the administration of
justice.39

In Chavez v. Viola, Atty. Viola disregarded his overriding duty to the court and to
the law itself in his apparent zeal to secure the title to the property involved for his
clients. The Court accordingly emphasized that the lawyers first duty is not to their
clients but rather to the courts, that they are above all officers of court sworn to assist
the courts in rendering justice to all and sundry, and only secondarily are they
advocates of the exclusive interests of their clients. Thus in finding respondent
Escolastico R. Viola guilty of committing a falsehood in violation of his lawyers oath and
of the Canons of Professional Ethics (now the Code of Professional Responsibility), the
Court Resolved to suspend respondent from the practice of law for a period of five
months.40
In Wicker v. Arcangel, Atty. Rayos, Wickers counsel, filed a motion for inhibition
which leads to no other conclusion than that respondent judge was beholden to the
opposing counsel in the case, Atty. Santos. Considering the allegations to be
malicious, derogatory and contemptuous, respondent judge ordered both counsel and
client to appear before him to show cause why they should not be cited for contempt of
court. Atty. Rayos claimed that the allegations in the motion did not necessarily express
his views because he merely signed the motion in a representative capacity, in other
words, just lawyering, for Wicker. The Court held that:

39
40

Artiaga, Jr. vs. Villanueva, 163 SCRA 638, July 29, 1988
Chavez vs. Viola, 196 SCRA 10, April 19, 1991

17

Atty. Rayos, however, cannot evade responsibility for


the allegations in question. As a lawyer, he is not just an
instrument of his client. His client came to him for
professional assistance in the representation of a cause, and
while he owed him whole-souled devotion, there were
bounds set by his responsibility as a lawyer which he could
not overstep. Even a hired gun cannot be excused for what
Atty. Rayos stated in the motion. Based on Canon 11 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility, Atty. Rayos bears as
much responsibility for the contemptuous allegations in the
motion for inhibition as his client.
Atty. Rayos duty to the courts is not secondary to that
of his client. The Code of Professional Responsibility enjoins
him to observe and maintain the respect due to the courts
and to judicial officers and [to] insist on similar conduct by
others12 and not [to] attribute to a Judge motives not
supported by the record or have materiality to the case.41
In Rural Bank of Calape, Inc. (RBCI) Bohol vs. Florido, a complaint for disbarment
was filed by the members of the Board of Directors of RBCI against respondent Atty.
Florido (respondent) for acts constituting grave coercion and threats when he, as
counsel for the minority stockholders of RBCI, led his clients in physically taking over
the management and operation of the bank through force, violence and intimidation.
The Court cited IBP Commissioner Villadolid, Jr.s conclusion:

Lawyers are indispensable instruments of justice and


peace. Upon taking their professional oath, they become
guardians of truth and the rule of law. Verily, when they
appear before a tribunal, they act not merely as
representatives of a party but, first and foremost, as officers
of the court. Thus, their duty to protect their clients interests
is secondary to their obligation to assist in the speedy and
efficient administration of justice. While they are obliged to
present every available legal remedy or defense, their fidelity
41

Wicker vs. Arcangel, 252 SCRA 444, January 29, 1996

18

to their clients must always be made within the parameters


of law and ethics, never at the expense of truth, the law, and
the fair administration of justice.10
Accordingly, the Court suspended respondent from the practice of law for one year.42

V.

Conclusion
We posited earlier that the ethical mooring of the profession is sufficient to dictate

the conduct of the members of the bar, and hopefully lead them to the direction where
first and foremost, administration of justice is endeavored. As illustrated by the cited
statutes and jurisprudence, we conclude that the standards of the legal profession is
clear enough to settle the perennial ethical counselor vs. hired gun dilemma. Fidelity to
the client should be practiced to the end that no one is deprived of due process,
regardless if the client is deemed guilty by the lawyer or not, but the zealousness to
defend the client should be confined where the law allows. Means employed should
only be honourable so as to show respect to the courts, of which the lawyer is an officer.
The persistence of the dilemma in the Philippine legal system is a concern not
only of the Supreme Court but of every law school, judge and lawyer. It does not help
that we wait for opportunities to correct the problem only when an administrative
complaint is lodged against an offending member of the profession. What each member
of the Bar should do is to actively live out the integrity expected of him and to hold his
fellow accountable with the same measure.

42

Rural Bank of Calape, Inc. (RBCI) Bohol vs. Florido, 621 SCRA 182, June 18, 2010

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To our mind, there should be no mental struggle as to what will prevail when the
duties to the clients and to the courts seemingly clash. The latter should prevail over the
other. Moral ascendancy should always prevail over the desire to win a case.
Regardless of the case at hand, the lawyers duty compass should point to the direction
of justice and due process and nowhere else.

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