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DANTE LA JIMENEZ & LAURO G. VIZCONDE, vs. ATTY. FELISBERTO L. VERANO, JR.

FACTS: The complainants in Administrative Case (A.C.) No. 8108 are Dante La Jimenez and Lauro G.
Vizconde, while complainant in Adm. Case No. 10299 is Atty. Oliver O. Lozano.
At the time of the filing of the complaints, respondent Atty. Verano was representing his clients Richard
S. Brodett and Joseph R. Tecson. Brodett and Tecson (identified in media reports attached to the
Complaint as the “Alabang Boys”) were the accused in cases filed by PDEA for the illegal sale and use of
dangerous drugs.
In a Joint Inquest Resolution, the charges were dropped for lack of probable cause. Because of the
failure of Prosecutor John R. Resado to ask clarificatory questions during the evaluation of the case,
several media outlets reported on incidents of bribery and “cover-up” allegedly prevalent in
investigations of the drug trade. This prompted the House Committee on Illegal Drugs to conduct its
own congressional hearings.
It was revealed during one such hearing that respondent had prepared the release order for his three
clients using the letterhead of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the stationery of then Secretary Raul
Gonzales. Jimenez and Vizconde, in their capacity as founders of Volunteers Against Crime and
Corruption (VACC), sent a letter of complaint to Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno. They stated that
respondent had admitted to drafting the release order, and had thereby committed a highly irregular
and unethical act. He had no authority to use the DOJ letterhead and should be penalized for acts
unbecoming a member of the bar.
For his part, Atty. Lozano anchored his Complaint on respondent’s alleged violation of Canon 1 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility, which states that a lawyer shall uphold the Constitution, obey the
laws of the land, and promote respect for legal processes. Atty. Lozano contended that respondent
showed disrespect for the law and legal processes in drafting the said order and sending it to a high-
ranking public official, even though the latter was not a government prosecutor. Atty. Lozano withdrew
his Complaint on the ground that a similar action had been filed by Dante Jimenez.
DEFENSE: Sheer faith in the innocence of his clients and fidelity to their cause prompted him to prepare
and draft the release order. Respondent admits that perhaps he was overzealous; yet, âif the Secretary
of Justice approves it, then everything may be expedited. In any case, respondent continues, the drafted
release order was not signed by the Secretary and therefore remained “a mere scrap of paper with no
effect at all.” The Investigating Commissioner noted that both complaints remained unsubstantiated,
while the letter-complaint of Jimenez and Vizconde had not been verified. Therefore, no evidence was
adduced to prove the charges. However, by his own admissions in paragraphs 11 and 12 of his
Comment, respondent drafted the release order specifically for the signature of the DOJ Secretary. This
act of “feeding” the draft order to the latter was found to be highly irregular, as it tended to influence a
public official. Hence, Commissioner Abelita found respondent guilty of violating Canon 13 of the Code
of Professional Responsibility and recommended that he be issued a warning not to repeat the same or
any similar action.

ISSUE: Whether or not Verano should be suspended for violating CPR.

HELD: Atty. Felisberto L. Verano, Jr. is found guilty of violating Rules 1.02 and 15.07, in relation to Canon
13 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, for which he is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for six
(6) months. The Court may conduct its own investigation into charges against members of the bar,
irrespective of the form of initiatory complaints brought before it. Thus, a complainant in a disbarment
case is not a direct party to the case, but a witness who brought the matter to the attention of the
Court.
By now, it is basic that there is neither a plaintiff nor a prosecutor in disciplinary proceedings against
lawyers. The real question for determination in these proceedings is whether or not the attorney is still a
fit person to be allowed the privileges of a member of the bar. 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 xxx. 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. Canon 13 states that a lawyer shall rely
upon the merits of his cause and refrain from any impropriety which tends to influence, or gives the
appearance of influencing the court.
We believe that other provisions in the Code of Professional Responsibility likewise prohibit acts of
influence-peddling not limited to the regular courts, but even in all other venues in the justice sector,
where respect for the rule of law is at all times demanded from a member of the bar. During the
mandatory hearing, the following statements were established as respondent’s admission that:
1) he personally approached the DOJ Secretary despite the fact that the case was still pending before
the latter; and
2) respondent caused the preparation of the draft release order on official DOJ stationery despite being
unauthorized to do so, with the end in view of expediting the case.
The way respondent conducted himself manifested a clear intent to gain special treatment and
consideration from a government agency. This is precisely the type of improper behavior sought to be
regulated by the codified norms for the bar. The primary duty of lawyers is not to their clients but to the
administration of justice. To that end, their clients’ success is wholly subordinate. The conduct of a
member of the bar ought to and must always be scrupulously observant of the law and ethics. Any
means, not honorable, fair and honest which is resorted to by the lawyer, even in the pursuit of his
devotion to his client’s cause, is condemnable and unethical. Zeal and persistence in advancing a clientâs
cause must always be within the bounds of the law.
Rule 1.02 states: A lawyer shall not counsel or abet activities aimed at defiance of the law or at
lessening confidence in the legal system. Further, according to Rule 15.06, a lawyer shall not state or
imply that he is able to influence any public official, tribunal or legislative body. The succeeding rule,
Rule 15.07, mandates a lawyer to impress upon his client compliance with the laws and the principles
of fairness.
FOSTER vs AGTANG A.C. No. 10579 – Legal Ethics – Borrowing From Clients Not Appropriate
Civil Claims Cannot Be Litigated in a Disbarment Suit

FACTS: In 2009, Erlinda Foster engaged the services of Atty. Jaime Agtang in a realty dispute in Ilocos
Norte. Agtang’s acceptance fee was P20,000.00 plus P5,000.00 for incidental expenses.
For the case, Agtang collected P150,000.00 from Foster as filing fee. He also advised Foster to shell out a
total of P50,000.00 for them to bribe the judge and get a favorable decision. Although reluctant, Foster
gave in to Agtang’s demands.
On various occasions, Agtang borrowed money from Foster for his personal use, i.e., car repair. Such
loan amounted to P122,000.00. Foster, being prudent, asked for receipts for all funds she handed over
to Agtang.
Later however, Foster learned that she lost the case due to Agtang’s negligence and incompetence in
drafting the complaint. She also found out that the filing fee therefor was only P22,410 (not P150k).
Further, it turned out that Agtang was once the lawyer of the opposing party. When she asked Agtang to
return her the balance, the said lawyer failed to do so hence, she filed an administrative complaint
against Agtang.
The IBP Board of Governors (IBP-BOG) eventually ordered Agtang to return the balance of the filing fee
(P127,590.00) as well as the money he borrowed from Foster (P122,000.00). It was also recommended
that Agtang be suspended for three months only.

ISSUE: Whether or not the recommendation by the IBP-BOG is proper.

HELD: No. The recommended penalty of 3 months suspension is too light. Agtang was disbarred by the
Supreme Court.
Rule 1.0, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, provides that “a lawyer shall not engage in
unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.”
In this case, Agtang is guilty of engaging in dishonest and deceitful conduct, both in his professional and
private capacity. As a lawyer, he clearly misled Foster into believing that the filing fees for her case were
worth more than the prescribed amount in the rules, due to feigned reasons such as the high value of
the land involved and the extra expenses to be incurred by court employees. In other words, he resorted
to overpricing, an act customarily related to depravity and dishonesty.
When asked to return the balance, he failed and refused to do so and even had the temerity that it was
all the client’s idea. . A lawyer’s failure to return upon demand the funds held by him on behalf of his
client gives rise to the presumption that he has appropriated the same for his own use in violation of the
trust reposed in him by his client. Such act is a gross violation of general morality as well as of
professional ethics. It impairs public confidence in the legal profession and deserves punishment.
It is clear that Agtang failed to fulfill this duty. He received various amounts from Foster but he could not
account for all of them. Worse, he could not deny the authenticity of the receipts presented by Foster.
Rule 16.04, Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility states that “a lawyer shall not borrow
money from his client unless the client’s interests are fully protected by the nature of the case or by
independent advice. Neither shall a lawyer lend money to a client except, when in the interest of justice,
he has to advance necessary expenses in a legal matter he is handling for the client.”
In the first place, Agtang should have never borrowed from Foster, his client. Second, his refusal to pay
reflects his baseness. Deliberate failure to pay just debts constitutes gross misconduct, for which a
lawyer may be sanctioned with suspension from the practice of law. Lawyers are instruments for the
administration of justice and vanguards of our legal system. They are expected to maintain not only
legal proficiency, but also a high standard of morality, honesty, integrity and fair dealing so that the
people’s faith and confidence in the judicial system is ensured. They must, at all times, faithfully perform
their duties to society, to the bar, the courts and their clients, which include prompt payment of
financial obligations.
The acts of the Agtang constitute malpractice and gross misconduct in his office as attorney. His
incompetence and appalling indifference to his duty to his client, the courts and society render him unfit
to continue discharging the trust reposed in him as a member of the Bar.
SIDE ISSUE: May the Court order Agtang to return the money he borrowed from Foster?
No. The Court held that it cannot order the lawyer to return money to complainant if he or she acted in
a private capacity because its findings in administrative cases have no bearing on liabilities which have
no intrinsic link to the lawyer’s professional engagement. In disciplinary proceedings against lawyers, the
only issue is whether the officer of the court is still fit to be allowed to continue as a member of the Bar.
The only concern of the Court is the determination of respondent’s administrative liability. Its findings
have no material bearing on other judicial actions which the parties may choose against each other. To
rule otherwise would in effect deprive respondent of his right to appeal since administrative cases are
filed directly with the Court.
CHAMELYN A. AGOT vs. ATTY. LUIS P. RIVERA A.C. No. 8000, August 5, 2014

Facts:
Complainant alleged that she was invited as maid of honor in her best friend’s wedding on December 9,
2007 at the United States of America. To facilitate the issuance of her United States (US) visa,
complainant sought the services of respondent who represented himself as an immigration lawyer.
Thus, they entered into a Contract of Legal Services (Contract),2 whereby respondent undertook to
facilitate and secure the release of a US immigrant visa in complainant’s favor prior to the scheduled
wedding. In consideration therefor, complainant paid respondent the amount of P350,000.00 as
downpayment and undertook to pay the balance of P350,000.00 after the issuance of the US visa.3 The
parties likewise stipulated that should complainant’s visa application be denied for any reason other
than her absence on the day of the interview and/or for records of criminal conviction and/or any
court-issued hold departure order, respondent is obligated to return the said downpayment.4 However,
respondent failed to perform his undertaking within the agreed period. Worse, complainant was not
even scheduled for interview in the US Embassy. As the demand for refund of the downpayment was
not heeded, complainant filed a criminal complaint for estafa and the instant administrative complaint
against respondent.

The Investigating Commissioner found respondent guilty of engaging in deceitful conduct for: (a)
misrepresenting himself as an immigration lawyer; (b) failing to deliver the services he contracted; and
(c) being remiss in returning complainant’s downpayment of P350,000.00.

Issue: Whether or not respondent should be held administratively liable for violating the CPR.

Ruling: As officers of the court, lawyers are bound to maintain not only a high standard of legal
proficiency, but also of morality, honesty, integrity, and fair dealing.14 In this regard, Rule 1.01, Canon 1
of the CPR, provides:

CANON 1 – A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, OBEY THE LAWS OF THE LANDAND
PROMOTE RESPECT FOR LAW AND LEGAL PROCESSES.
Rule 1.01 – A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.

In the instant case, respondent misrepresented himself as an immigration lawyer, which resulted to
complainant seeking his assistance to facilitate the issuance of her US visa and paying him the amount of
P350,000.00 as downpayment for his legal services. In truth, however, respondent has no specialization
in immigration law but merely had a contact allegedly with Pineda, a purported US consul, who
supposedly processes US visa applications for him. However, respondent failed to prove Pineda’s
identity considering that the photographs and e-mails he submitted were all self-serving and thus, as
correctly observed by the Investigating Commissioner, bereft of any probative value and consequently
cannot be given any credence. Undoubtedly, respondent’s deception is not only unacceptable,
disgraceful, and dishonorable to the legal profession; it reveals a basic moral flaw that makes him unfit
to practice law.