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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 89591-96 August 13, 1990

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs.


THE HON. BONIFACIO SANZ MACEDA, Presiding Judge of Branch 12, Regional Trial Court of Antique,
and AVELINO T. JAVELLANA, respondents.

The Solicitor General for petitioner.

PADILLA, J.:

In the morning of 11 February 1986, the late ex-Governor of Antique, Evelio Javier, was gunned down in the
plaza of San Jose, Antique.

Immediately thereafter, the authorities conducted an investigation, and as a result thereof, a complaint
against John Paloy and Vicente Vegafria was filed with the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor.

During the preliminary investigation, private respondent Avelino T. Javellana appeared as counsel for John
Paloy and Vicente Vegafria, until Federico Carluto, Jr., executed an affidavit, 1 dated 16 June 1986, and
Evelyn Magare and Fritz Xavier their sworn statements, 2 dated 19 February 1986 and 7 March 1986,
respectively, implicating private respondent in the killing of the late Evelio Javier.

On 29 October 1986, the then Senior State Prosecutor Tirso D.C. Velasco, now RTC Judge of Quezon City,
filed with the RTC of Antique, six (6) separate informations, 3 all dated 13 October 1986, charging private
respondent Avelino T. Javellana together with John Paloy, Vicente Vegafria, Eduardo Iran alias "Boy
Muslim", alias "Muklo" Rudolfo Pacificador Alias "Ding", Arturo F. Pacificador and several John Does, with the
crime of murder, frustrated murder and for four (4) counts of attempted murder. 4

Meanwhile, on 23 September 1986 and 27 October 1986, Romeo Nagales and Jose Delumen executed their
respective sworn statements, admitting their participation in the kiling of Evelio Javier, and implicating other
persons in the commission of the crime.

On the basis of their sworn statements, the prosecution, through Senior State Prosecutor Aurelio C. Trampe,
amended the aforesaid informations by including therein the following persons as accused, namely: Ramon
Hortillano alias "Ramie", Henry Salaber alias "Henry", Eleazar Edemne alias "Toto", Arleen
Limoso alias "Arleen", Romeo Nagales alias "Reming", Rolando C. Bernardino alias Lando Jose De
Lumen alias "Marlon", Jose Delumen alias "Winfield", Oscar
Tianzon alias "Oca", alias "Nono", alias Akong alias "Nonoy", alias "Tatang" and alias "Dolfo". 6

On motion of Senior State Prosecutor Aurelio C. Trampe, the said criminal cases were consolidated in Branch
12 of the RTC of Antique, presided over by respondent Judge.

Of the nineteen (19) accused, only six (6) had been apprehended and/or surrendered, namely: John Paloy,
Vicente Vegafria Rolando Bernardino, Jesus Garcia y Amorsolo alias "Nono Picoy" Jose
Delumen alias "Winfield" and Romeo Nagales alias "Reming". All the others were at large, including herein
private respondent Avelino Javellana. 7 Hence, trial proceeded only as against the said six (6) accused.

On 9 May 1989, the prosecution moved to discharge the accused Jose Delumen and Romeo Nagales, claiming
that their testimonies were absolutely necessary against accused Rolando Bernardino as well as the other
accused, including private respondent who was then at-large.

On 11 May 1989, the court a quo granted the motion to discharge Romeo Nagales but denied it as regards
Jose Delumen, the latter having admitted a prior conviction for the crime of robbery.
However, despite the discharge of Rome Nagales, the prosecution rested its case without presenting him his
state witness and reserved its right to present him as a witness against the other accused who were then at-
large.

On 12 May 1989, private respondent was arrested by the Constabulary Security Group (CSG) in Parañaque,
Metro Manila. On 15 May 1989, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Iloilo Chapter, through its
President, Atty. J.T. Barrera, enterred its appearance as counsel for private respondent with a motion that the
IBP, Iloilo Chapter be allowed to as assume custody of the private respondent as his jailer and/or in the
alternative, to confine him at the Military Stockade at Camp Delgado and/or at the Iloilo Provincial Jail. 8

When private respondent was brought before the trial court on 7 June 1989, Atty. J.T. Barrera manifested
and moved that his motion of 15 May 1989 be heard. During the hearing, Assistant Provincial Prosecutor
John Turalba opposed the motion. The issue was heatedly argued by the prosecution and the defense.
Whereupon, private respondent pleaded that he be allowed to approach the bench together with all the
counsel, which respondent Judge reluctantly granted. Private respondent informed the court that there exists
a real and grave danger to his life if he were to be confined in the Antique Provincial Jail. He then narrated an
incident when he, as the then counsel for John Paloy and Vicente Vegafria prior to his inclusion as one of the
respondents, was refused the right to visit and confer with his clients by a drunk jail guard at the Antique
Provincial Jail; that the said guard was toying with his armalite rifle while standing at the gate of the
provincial jail and did not allow him to enter; that said guard aimed and pointed his armalite rifle twice at
him; and that because of his complaint, the guard was suspended but has long been back on duty of the
provincial jail. After hearing the narration, Assistant Provincial Prosecutor John Turalba withdrew his
objection. 9

Hence, on the same date, 7 June 1989, respondent Judge issued an order, 10 the pertinent part of which
reads:

. . . , without jurisdiction on the part of Prosecutor John Turalba, accused Javellana is hereby
ordered confined at PC, Stockade, Bugante Point San Jose, Antique in the custody of the
PC/INP Provincial Commander who is directed to take charge of the custody of said accused
and to bring him back to court whenever required.

On 2 August 1989, the Provincial Commander, Col. Teodulo Abayata wrote respondent Judge:

I am in receipt of instruction from CPC to turn over Atty. Avelino Javellana to the Provincial
Jail effective immediately and for me to give feedback NLT today 2 August 1989.

Since his custody under the Provincial Commander was through the order of that Honorable
Court, request that another order be issued for me to be able to comply (sic) the instructions
from my superior officers. 11

On the same date, 2 August 1989, respondent Judge issued an order 12 granting the request of Col. Abayata,
and ordered the private respondent to be confined as a detention prisoner at the Binirayan Rehabilitation
Center, San Jose, Antique, subject to the conditions set forth therein.

Upon receipt of the order on the same day, private respondent filed an urgent ex-parte motion for
reconsideration, 13alleging that the Binirayan Rehabilitation Center, aside from being a little bit far and
unsafe, has conditions which may not work well for his health; that he underwent retrograde operation less
than a year ago and up to the present he is still taking medication for maintenance; that he has a history of
heart treatment and very often he takes maintenance pills and he is confronted by his unstable blood
presure; that the location of the rehabilitation center and the absence of facilities there may cause adverse
effects on his health condition; and praying that he be confined in the Provincial Jail of Iloilo where he can be
nearer to better hospital facilities.

When the aforesaid motion for private respondent was called for hearing in the afternoon of 2 August 1989,
respondent Judge required the presence of Assistant Provincial Prosecutor John Turalba. The latter appeared
and reiterated the earlier objection of the Senior State Prosecutor to the confinement of private respondent in
any place other than the Provincial Jail of Antique.
After the hearing, respondent Judge issued an order, 14 reconsidering and setting aside the earlier order, and
directed that —

. . . the accused, should in the meantime, be committed to the Angel Salazar Memorial Hospital
and subjected to a physical check-up at the expense of the accused Javellana. The head of the
said hospital is directed to submit his report soonest on the physical condition of accused
Javellana.

Meantime, while the check-up is being undertaken, the Station Commander of San Jose,
Antique is directed to take custody and provide adequate security for accused Javellana in
order to prevent his escape and to continue such custody until further orders from the court. .
..

On 3 August 1989, the head of the hospital issued a certification on the result of the physical check-up
conducted on private respondent, thus:

As per order of your Honor, dated August 2, 1989, Atty. Avelino T. Javellana was examined by
Dr. Felipe Rosendo Muzones and his ECG examination showed that everything is within
normal limits. However, Dr. Muzones contends that the same is not the only determinant factor
as far as the condition of the heart is concerned. Hence, he recommends that blood chemistry
examination is necessary. We are sad to inform your Honor that we do not have necessary
chemicals for this type of examination at present. 15

In view of the aforesaid certification, the private respondent filed on the same day an Urgent Ex-Parte
Motion, 16praying that he be allowed further medical examination at the Iloilo Mission Hospital in Iloilo City
under at least two (2) police escorts. When the motion was called in open court in the afternoon, the private
respondent and the Assistant Provincial Prosecutor appeared, and both argued for and against the motion.
Thereafter, the respondent Judge issued an order, 17 the pertinent part of which reads, as follows:

It is the considered view of the Court that whether the blood chemistry examination is
necessary or not, the fact still remains that the examination conducted on the heart of movant
is incomplete and the court will not leave to chance the condition of the heart of movant who
stands charged of a serious crime in these cases. The Court believes that the best interest of
justice may be served should the accused be given time to be subjected to a more complete and
exhaustive physical examination particularly his heart condition, especially considering the
information given in open court by movant that his brother died at a tender age of thirty-three
(33) of coronary thrombosis and their family has a history of heart ailment and according to
specialist doctor, movant himself is prone to coronary thrombosis.

xxx xxx xxx

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the Station Commander of San Jose, Antique is
hereby directed to assign two (2) guards to whom custody of movant Javellana is entrusted by
the Court to escort the movant Avelino Javellana to Iloilo Mission Hospital, Iloilo City for a
complete medical check-up, particularly on the heart of Mr. Javellana. . . .

However, before private respondent and his two (2) police escorts could leave for Iloilo City, P/Col. Magsinpoc,
Station Commander of San Jose, Antique, verbally conveyed to respondent Judge an "unforseen emergency"
necessitating the "response of all personnel of his Command" and requesting authority to recall the police
escorts. In view thereof, respondent Judge was constrained to issue on the same day, 3 August 1989, another
order, 18granting the request of the Station Commander, and directed the Provincial Probation Officer of
Antique to take custody of private respondent and to escort him to Iloilo City for medical check-up and bring
him back to court not later than 8:30 A.M. on Monday, 7 August 1989. Thus, the Provincial Probation Officer
brought the private respondent to the Iloilo Mission Hospital and left him there for a 3-day medical check-up,
and thereafter brought him back to court at 8:30 o'clock in the morning of 7 August 1989.

When the cases were called in the morning of 7 August 1989, Attys. Amelia K. del Rosario, Arturo Alinio and
J.T. Barrera entered their appearance as counsel for private respondent, and argued that the custody of
private respondent be entrusted to the IBP, Iloilo Chapter, headed by Atty. J.T. Barrera. However, Senior State
Prosecutor Aurelio C. Trampe moved that the resolution of the incident be held in abeyance until the hearing,
in the afternoon.

On the other hand, Atty. Jose A. Alegario entered his appearance as counsel for the then recently arrested
accused Oscar Tianzon, who manifested that his client was ready for arraignment. Accordingly, the said
accused was arraigned. He pleaded "not guilty."

Thereafter, the respondent Judge issued an order, 19 terminating the custody of the Provincial Probation
Officer, and, in the meantime, gave the custody of private respondent to his lawyers, as officers of the court,
ordering the confinement of accused Oscar Tianzon with the Antique Provincial Jail Warden and setting the
continuation of the hearing to 8 August 1989.

After the hearing in the afternoon, the respondent Judge issued another order, 20 deputizing private
respondent's lawyers as deputies of the court and ordered the confinement of private respondent at the San
Jose residence of Atty. Deogracias del Rosario, who happened to be the Clerk of Court of the RTC of Antique.

On 8 August 1989, respondent Judge issued an order, 21 terminating the deputization of private respondent's
lawyers and ordered them to turn over the custody of private respondent to the Clerk of Court and Ex-
OficioProvincial Sheriff of the RTC of Antique, Atty. Deogracias del Rosario, directing the latter to hold and
detain private respondent in his residence at San Jose, Antique and not to allow him liberty to roam around
but to hold him as a detention prisoner thereat.

Meanwhile, on 21 June 1989, Atty. J.T. Barrera filed a motion for admission to bail on behalf of private
respondent. 22 On 4 July 1989, Senior State Prosecutor Aurelio Trampe filed his opposition 23 thereto, alleging
that private respondent was charged with the crime of murder, frustrated murder and attempted murders and
that the evidence of guilt is strong; hence, he is not entitled to bail as a matter of right.

On 26 June 1989, private respondent was arraigned, and thereafter, private respondent's petition for bail was
set for hearing on 7, 11 and 28 August 1989 to 1 September 1989, as agreed upon by the prosecution and the
defense. 24

On 7 August 1989, Senior State Prosecutor Aurelio C. Trampe filed a motion 25 dated 3 August 1989 to
discharge accused Oscar Tianzon to be utilized as a state witness, alleging that there is an absolute necessity
for his testimony against all the accused; that there is no other direct evidence available for the proper
prosecution of the offenses except the testimony of said accused, which can be substantially corroborated in
its material points by other evidence; that the accused Tianzon does not appear to be the most guilty among
the accused, as he acted merely as a lookout and did not actually participate in the assassination of the
deceased Evelio Javier, and that he has not been previously convicted of any offense involving moral
turpitude. The hearing of the motion was set on 9 August 1989 at 2:00 o'clock in the afternoon.

The scheduled hearing on the aforesaid motion of the prosecution was, however, cancelled and the hearing
thereof was reset to 23 August 1989.

At the hearing on 23 August 1989, the prosecution adduced its evidence in support of the motion; however,
respondent Judge deferred the resolution of the motion. Thereupon, the prosecution moved that the
presentation of its evidence in opposition to private respondent's petition for bail, which was set for hearing
on 28 August 1989 and 1 September 1989, be likewise deferred on the ground that accused Oscar Tianzon is
a material witness against private respondent and that his testimony is necessary for the purpose of
determining private respondent's qualification for bail, i.e., whether the evidence of guilt is strong.

On 28 August 1989, petitioner filed the instant petition for CERTIORARI, to annul and set aside the orders
dated 3, 7 and 8 August 1989, claiming that said orders were issued with grave abuse of discretion and
PROHIBITION to enjoin the respondent Judge from hearing private respondent's petition for bail until he has
resolved the motion to discharge accused Oscar Tianzon, and praying that a writ of preliminary injunction
and/or temporary restraining order be issued.

As prayed for, the Court issued on 31 August 1989 a temporary restraining order, 26 ordering the respondent
Judge to cease and desist from continuing the hearing on respondent-accused Avelino Javellana's petition for
bail until after the respondent Judge has resolved the motion to discharge Oscar Tianzon as state witness.
When private respondent's petition for bail was heard on 28 August 1989, respondent Judge was apprised of
the filing of the petition before this Court; hence, the hearing was reset to 1 September 1989.

At the afternoon hearing on 1 September 1989, the prosecution furnished respondent Judge and the defense,
copies of the restraining order issued by this Court. The respondent Judge, however, advised the parties that
the motion to discharge accused Oscar Tianzon has already been resolved in the morning and that copies of
the resolution would be available at any time then. 27 Thereafter, respondent Judge released the
resolution, 28 dated 1 September 1989, denying the prosecution's motion to discharge accused Oscar Tianzon
to be utilized as a state witness. He ruled, among others, as follows:

The court searched the records for evidence to corroborate the material points in the aforesaid
testimony of Tianzon against Javellana but found none to corroborate his statement pointing to
Javellana as the gun supplier and the plotter. Neither has the prosecution presented evidence
during the hearing to determine Tianzon's qualification tending to corroborate the implication
of Javellana nor did the prosecution indicate to the court where such corroboration can be
found by the court.

On the contrary, the court notes a clash of the statements of Tianzon in the question and
answer No. 45 of his affidavit with the testimonies of the previous witnesses for the prosecution
because question and answer No. 45 specifies the names of the passengers of the two (2)
nissan jeeps but the same does not mention either accused John Paloy or Vicente Vegafria as
one of the passengers of the same jeeps while the testimonies of previous witnesses for the
prosecution proclaim that they (Paloy and Vegafria) were among the passengers of the such
jeeps who alighted therefrom at the Plaza where the late Governor Evelio Javier was killed.

Not only that. The court finds no absolute necessity to date of Tianzon's testimony because the
court earlier on May 11, 1989 dis charged accused Romeo Nagales on motion of the Prosecutor
to be utilized as a state witness. But, instead of utilizing Nagales as a state witness, as
promised by the Prosecutor, the prosecution did not present him up to this writing but
proceeded to formally offer its evidence and thereafter rested its case.

What is more, when the prosecution asked for the discharge of state witness Nagales, it
assured the court that:

That in the instant cases, there is an absolute necessity for the testimonies of
accused Jose Delumen and Romeo Nagales as against accused Arturo
Pacificador, Rodolfo Pacificador, Avelino Javellana, Eduardo Iran, Ramon
Hortillano, Henry Salaver, Arlene Limoso, Rolando Bernardino, Oscar Tianzon,
Eleazar Edemne alias "Nono", Alias Akong and Alias Tatang, Alias Dolfo, as
shown in their sworn statements, copies hereto attached as Annexes "A" and "B"
and form part hereof;

That there is no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the
offenses committed by the accused named in tnghe next preceding paragraph
except the testimonies of said Delumen and Nagales which can be substantially
corroborated in its material points by other evidence.

But neither did the prosecutor use state witness Nagales against accused Rolando Bernardino
nor did the prosecution use his testimony against Jose Delumen and Jesus Garcia.
Consequently, there being no evidence against accused Delumen and Garcia, on motion of
their respective counsel, the cases against these two (2) accused were dismissed.

These situation disturbs, let alone alarms, the court in the conduct of the prosecution in these
cases. The failure of the prosecution to adduce any evidence against Delumen and Garcia
appears to lend credence to the charge of accused Javellana that the prosecution in these
cases has adopted a "scandalous dual theory of the prosecution."

Upon receipt of the resolution, the prosecution through Senior State Prosecutor Aurelio C. Trampe,
immediately filed a motion to inhibit 29 the respondent Judge, dated 24 August 1989, on the ground of
manifest partiality to private respondent, and set it for hearing on 16 October 1989. Thereupon, the
prosecution moved to defer the presentation of its evidence in opposition to private respondent's petition for
bail. Despite the opposition of the prosecution, the respondent Judge reset the hearing on 14, 15 September
1989 to 4, 5 and 6 October 1989.

Afterwards, the prosecution filed a motion for reconsideration 30 of the order of 1 September 1989 which
denied the prosecution's motion to discharge accused Oscar Tianzon.

On 4 September 1989, the Senior State Prosecutor also filed a motion to reset the hearings on 14, 15
September 1989 and 4, 5, 6 October 1989 on the petition for bail, on the grounds that the motion to inhibit
should first be resolved and also because of the pendency of the motion for reconsideration of the order of 1
September 1989.

At the hearing on 14 September 1989, only Assistant Provincial Prosecutor John Turalba appeared for the
prosecution. He manifested that he was appearing only to reiterate the Senior State Prosecutor's motion for
deferment of the scheduled hearings on private respondent's petition for bail. Private respondent opposed the
motion. The respondent Judge denied the motion, and directed the prosecution to present its evidence in
opposition to the private respondent's petition for bail. The Assistant Provincial Prosecutor moved for
reconsideration, claiming that his position is subservient to that of the Senior State Prosecutor who is the
duly designated principal prosecutor and as a matter of conviction, he cannot proceed with the trial as well as
with the subsequent trials which were covered by the motion of 4 September 1989, and that, moreover, to
proceed would render moot and academic the petition for certiorari before this Court. Respondent Judge
denied the motion for reconsideration, and, again, directed the prosecution to present its evidence. At this
juncture, the Assistant Provincial Prosecutor manifested that he was not participating in the proceedings and
begged to be allowed to leave the courtroom, which the respondent Judge refused.

Nevertheless, Assistant Provincial Prosecutor John Turalba walked out and, while walking towards the door,
respondent Judge ordered the Sheriff to arrest him. Thereafter, respondent Judge issued an order finding
Assistant Provincial Prosecutor John Turalba in contempt of court; declaring the prosecution to have waived
its right to present evidence in opposition to private respondent's petition for bail; and considering the said
petition for bail submitted for resolution. The respondent Judge imposed upon the Assistant Provincial
Prosecutor the penalty of ten (10) days imprisonment.

Hence, the petitioner filed with this Court a Supplemental Petition to annul and set aside the orders of 1
September 1989 as well as the order of 14 September 1989; and to inhibit respondent Judge from further
taking cognizance of Criminal Cases Nos. 3350 to 3355; and praying that a writ of preliminary mandatory
injunction be issued directing respondent Judge to promptly order the release of Assistant Provincial
Prosecutor John Turalba from custody on the cognizance of the Provincial Prosecutor.

As prayed for, the Court issued on 22 September 1989 a writ of preliminary mandatory
injunction. 34 However, when the respondent Judge received it on 26 September 1989, Assistant Provincial
Prosecutor John Turalba had already been released on 25 September 1989 having served his sentence.

Petitioner contends that the respondent Judge committed a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or
excess of jurisdiction in issuing the following orders, to wit:

(a) the order of 3 August 1989, placing custody of private respondent with the Antique Provincial Probation
Officer;

(b) the order of 7 August 1989, transferring the custody of private respondent to his own lawyers;

(c) the Order of 8 August 1989, entrusting the custody of private respondent with the Clerk of Court and ex-
oficioProvincial Sheriff, Deogracias del Rosario; and

(d) the Order of 1 September 1989, which denied the prosecution's motion to discharge Oscar Tianzon to be
utilized as a state witness.
Petitioner further contends that respondent Judge committed a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack
or excess of jurisdiction when he insisted on continuously hearing private respondent's petition for bail and in
ordering the arrest and commitment of Assistant Provincial Prosecutor John Turalba in the Provincial Jail.

It has been repeatedly held that there is grave abuse of discretion justifying the issuance of a writ
of certiorari where there is a capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of
jurisdiction; where the power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion, prejudice,
or personal hostility amounting to an evasion of positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty
enjoined, or to act at all in contemplation of law. 35

In claiming that respondent Judge committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing the orders of 3 August
1989, 7 August 1989 and 8 August 1989, petitioner argues that there was no compelling reason for the
respondent Judge to order, with undue haste, the medical "check up" of private respondent at the Iloilo
Mission Center notwithstanding the absence of any police escort or other law enforcer to ensure that private
respondent would not take flight as he had previously done; that while all the other accused were confined in
the Provincial Jail of Antique, the respondent Judge merely "entrusted" the custody of private respondent to
his lawyers, and then to the Clerk of Court of the RTC of Antique, who is the son of one of private
respondent's lawyers; and that respondent Judge has not advanced a valid and legal rationale for the
"accommodations" afforded private respondent who, in law, occupies no better position and no preferential
rights over those of his co-accused.

The respondent Judge, however, has, to our mind, sufficiently explained in the order of 7 August 1989 the
reasons behind the issuance of the aforesaid orders. He said:

The Court is aware of certain reasons why accused Javellana should not be placed in the
Provincial Jail. This was the subject of a discussion in open court before the Presiding Judge of
this court between the lawyers of Javellana and Javellana, himself and Asst. Provincial
Prosecutor John I-C. Turalba who, after hearing the particular reason given by Javellana
withdrew his opposition to the placing of Javellana other than in the Provincial Jail of Antique
and acceded that custody of Javellana be placed at the hands of the Provincial Commander of
Antique.

Recently, particulary on August 2, 1989 as well as on August 3, 1989, the court had difficulty
in securing the safety of accused Javellana. The court was left with no other choice but to
entrust his custody to the Provincial Probation Officer to escort him to Iloilo City for a medical
check-up. It is the perception of the court that there are movements going ground, by whom is
unknown yet to the court, to compel the incarceration of accused Javellana in the Provincial
Jail. The court abhors this situation and the court will not be intimidated by anyone. It is the
perception of this court that even its lawful orders have somehow been subverted. The court's
perception of the circumstances presently obtaining on the custody and place of detention of
Javellana is a hot agenda and of grave importance, particularly his safety and well being during
detention in order that the court can try him on the charges against him.

After serious deliberation, it is the considered view of the court that his detention be placed
somewhere else. The court hereby appoints Attys. Del Rosario, Barrera and Alinio as deputies
of the court and as such to take custody of accused Javellana meantime that the motion to fix
bail is going on and for them to bring the accused to court whenever his presence is needed.

As earlier noted, the court perceives a movement to compel detention of the accused in the
Provincial Jail of Antique. This disturbs the court. This even lends credence to the information
by Javellana that there is indeed danger to his life if he is placed in the Provincial Jail of
Antique. This perception of the court is premised on what appears to be a subversion of the
order of the court placing custody of accused Javellana with the Provincial Commander of
Antique. The court, however, allowed, on motion of the Provincial Commander, that Javellana
be transferred to the Binirayan Rehabilitation Center. But, on motion of Javellana for reasons
of health, as the same center is too far away and no adequate (sic) transport facilities at certain
time of the day and night are available to convey accused should an emergency occur, accused
was ordered confined at the Angel Salazar Memorial Hospital in San Jose, Antique for check-
up. Because of the incomplete results of the examination, order was issued for his complete
check-up in a hospital in Iloilo. The court ordered the Station Commander of San Jose, Antique
to provide police escorts and security to prevent escape of accused in conducting check-up.
Before the accused and his escorts could depart, on August 3, 1989 for Iloilo City, the INP
Station Commander of San Jose begged the Presiding Judge of this Court to allow him to recall
the security personnel he has assigned and ordered to conduct accused Javellana to Iloilo City.
It left the court with no choice and no enforcers. The court, however, had to be assured on the
physical condition of accused Javellana that he will be able to face trial against him.
Accordingly, the court ordered the Provincial Probation Officer, to whom the custody of accused
Javellana was entrusted, to escort the latter to Iloilo City for the medical check-up. The
Probation Officer earlier this morning manifested that there was opportunity for accused
Javellana to escape but despite such opportunity he came back to court today to face the trial
against him. This, to the mind of the court is to be considered in his favor.

The aforesaid movements directed to compel the court to place Javellana in the Provincial Jail,
is (sic) to the mind of the court, as (sic) indication that should (sic) be place there, something
may happen to him and this court will not allow that thing to happen. And as it is the
considered view of the court that justice maybe better served to deputize, as the lawyers of
accused Javellana have been deputized, as deputies of the court. As such they are now drawn
from the status of private individuals but are now the deputies of the court. In the matter of
facilities, accused Javellana is to be confined at the San Jose residence of Atty. Deogracias Del
Rosario, the son of Atty. Amelia del Rosario who happens to be the Clerk of Court of the
Regional Trial Court of Antique.

There may be truth to the Prosecutor's contention that there will be nothing to prevent the
other accused from following suit in asking that their custody likewise (sic) be transferred to
their respective lawyers.

But, such is only to request. The grant or denial thereof is a matter altogether different.

In the present incident it is the findings (sic) of the court that indeed the life of Javellana will be
imperilled if confined elsewhere other than the place above directed.

Considering the foregoing, the Court finds and so holds that respondent Judge did not commit grave abuse of
discretion, i.e., that he did not act "arbitrarily", "capriciously" or "despotically" amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction in issuing the questioned orders of 3, 7 and 8 August 1989.

Coming now to the 1 September 1989 order of respondent Judge, denying the prosecution's motion to
discharge accused Oscar Tianzon, the Court reiterates the rule that, for a writ of certiorari to issue, it must
not only be shown that the board, tribunal or officer acted without jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of
discretion, but also that there is no appeal or other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course
of law. 36 Thus, before filing a petition for certiorari in a higher court, the attention of the lower court should
generally be first called to its supposed error and its correction should be sought. The reason for the rule is
that issues which the lower courts are bound to decide should not summarily be taken from them and
submitted to an appellate court without first giving such lower courts the opportunity to dispose of the same
with due deliberation. 37 In other words, all available remedies in the lower court must first be exhausted
before filing a petition for certiorari in the higher courts.

In the case at bar, the petitioner had filed a motion for reconsideration of the order of 1 September 1989
which is still pending resolution by respondent Judge. A petition for certiorari may not be granted where there
is an appeal or other adequate remedy, like a motion for reconsideration, which is still pending in the court
below, 38 as in the present case.

The Court, however, holds that respondent Judge committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or
excess of jurisdiction when he insisted in continuously hearing private respondent's petition for bail and in
ordering the arrest and commitment of the Assistant Provincial Prosecutor.

It is well to recall that in the restraining order issued on 31 August 1989, this Court ordered the respondent
Judge to cease and desist from continuing the hearing on private respondent's petition for bail until after he
had resolved the motion for discharge of Oscar Tianzon as state witness. Although the aforesaid motion had
already been denied in the order of 1 September 1989, nevertheless, the prosecution had filed a motion to
reconsider the said order which is still pending resolution. Hence, the said motion has not yet been resolved
with finality. When respondent Judge, therefore, denied the prosecution's motion for deferment of the
scheduled hearings on private respondent's petition for bail and in proceeding to hear the said motion, by
ordering the prosecution to present its evidence — which precipitated the walk-out of the Assistant Provincial
Prosecutor and his consequent arrest and commitment to the Provincial Jail — he (respondent judge) was
acting in violation of the restraining order issued by this Court. Had the respondent Judge granted the
prosecution's motion for deferment, or at least, cancelled the hearings on 14 and 15 September 1989, and
instead, resolved the prosecution's motion for reconsideration of the order of 1 September 1989, this
unfortunate incident could have been avoided.

Although the matter of adjournment and postponement of trials is within the sound discretion of the court,
such discretion should always be predicated on the consideration that more than the mere convenience of the
courts or of the parties in the case, the ends of justice and fairness should be served thereby. 39 After all,
postponements and continuances are part and parcel of our procedural system of dispensing justice. 40

Besides, contempt of court presupposes a contumacious attitude, a flouting or arrogant belligerence, a


defiance of the court. And, while courts are inherently empowered to punish for contempt to the end that they
may enforce their authority, preserve their integrity, maintain their dignity, and insure the effectiveness of the
administration of justice, nevertheless, such power should be exercised on the preservative and not on the
vindictive principle, for the power to punish for contempt, being drastic and extraordinary in its nature,
should not be resorted to unless necessary in the interest of justice.

A perusal of the transcript of the hearing held on 14 September 1989 shows that Assistant Provincial
Prosecutor John Turalba had not made any statement that could be considered as "contumacious" or an
affront to the dignity of the court. And, while the act of Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Turalba of "walking
out" does not meet our approval — as he should have stayed after the respondent Judge had denied his
motion for permission to leave the courtroom — yet, the respondent Judge, in ordering the incarceration of
Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Turalba, acted beyond the permissible limits of his power to punish for
contempt.

And now to the question on whether or not respondent Judge should be disqualified from further hearing
Crim. Cases Nos. 3350-3355, Section 1, Rule 137 of the Rules of Court provides:

SECTION 1. Disqualification of judges.— No judge or judicial officer shall sit in any case in
which he, or his wife or child, is pecuniarily interested as heir, legatee, creditor or otherwise, or
in which he is related to either party within the sixth degree of consanguinity or affinity, or to
counsel within the fourth degree, computed according to the rules of the civil law, or in which
he has been executor, administrator, guardian, trustee or counsel, or in which he has presided
in any inferior court when his ruling or decision is the subject of review, without the written
consent of all parties in interest, signed by them and entered upon the records.

A judge, may in the exercise of his sound discretion, disqualify himself from sitting in a case,
for just or valid reasons other than those mentioned above.

In the case at bar, the reason relied upon for the inhibition or disqualification of respondent Judge, i.e.
manifest partiality to private respondent, is not based on any of the grounds enumerated in the first
paragraph of Section 1, Rule 137 which per se disqualifies a judge from sitting in a case, but on the second
paragraph thereof. The settled rule is that the judge is left to decide for himself whether he will desist, for just
or valid reasons, from sitting in a case. Respondent Judge has not as yet decided whether or not he will
inhibit himself from further hearing Criminal Cases Nos. 3350-3355 in the face of the prosecution's motion to
disqualify or inhibit him. It would be premature for the Court at this stage to rule on the matter.

WHEREFORE, the petition for certiorari is GRANTED insofar as the order of 14 September 1989 is concerned,
and the said order is hereby ANNULLED and SET ASIDE. Without costs.

SO ORDERED.
FIRST DIVISION
[A.M. No. P-99-1287. January 26, 2001]
OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR, complainant, vs. ATTY. MISAEL M. LADAGA,
Branch Clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court, Branch 133, Makati City, respondent.
RESOLUTION
KAPUNAN, J.:
In a Letter, dated August 31, 1998, respondent Atty. Misael M. Ladaga, Branch Clerk of Court of the
Regional Trial Court of Makati, Branch 133, requested the Court Administrator, Justice Alfredo L. Benipayo,
for authority to appear as pro bono counsel of his cousin, Narcisa Naldoza Ladaga, in Criminal Case No.
84885, entitled People vs. Narcisa Naldoza Ladaga for Falsification of Public Document pending before the
Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 40. [1] While respondents letter-request was pending action,
Lisa Payoyo Andres, the private complainant in Criminal Case No. 84885, sent a letter to the Court
Administrator, dated September 2, 1998, requesting for a certification with regard to respondents authority to
appear as counsel for the accused in the said criminal case.[2] On September 7, 1998, the Office of the Court
Administrator referred the matter to respondent for comment. [3]
In his Comment,[4] dated September 14, 1998, respondent admitted that he had appeared in Criminal
Case No. 84885 without prior authorization. He reasoned out that the factual circumstances surrounding the
criminal case compelled him to handle the defense of his cousin who did not have enough resources to hire
the services of a counsel de parte; while, on the other hand, private complainant was a member of a powerful
family who was out to get even with his cousin. Furthermore, he rationalized that his appearance in the
criminal case did not prejudice his office nor the interest of the public since he did not take advantage of his
position. In any case, his appearances in court were covered by leave application approved by the presiding
judge.
On December 8, 1998, the Court issued a resolution denying respondents request for authorization to
appear as counsel and directing the Office of the Court Administrator to file formal charges against him for
appearing in court without the required authorization from the Court.[5] On January 25, 1999, the Court
Administrator filed the instant administrative complaint against respondent for violating Sec. 7(b)(2) of
Republic Act No. 6713, otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials
and Employees, which provides:

Sec. 7. Prohibited Acts and Transactions. In addition to acts and omissions of public officials and employees
now prescribed in the Constitution and existing laws, the following shall constitute prohibited acts and
transactions of any public official and employee and are hereby declared to be unlawful:

xxx
(b) Outside employment and other activities related thereto.- Public officials and employees during
their incumbency shall not:
xxx

(2) Engage in the private practice of their profession unless authorized by the Constitution or law,
Provided, that such practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with their official functions;

In our Resolution, dated February 9, 1999, we required respondent to comment on the administrative
complaint.
In his Comment, respondent explained that he and Ms. Ladaga are close blood cousins who belong to a
powerless family from the impoverished town of Bacauag, Surigao del Norte. From childhood until he finished
his law degree, Ms. Ladaga had always supported and guided him while he looked up to her as a mentor and
an adviser. Because of their close relationship, Ms. Ladaga sought respondents help and advice when she was
charged in Criminal Case No. 84885 for falsification by the private complainant, Lisa Payoyo Andres, whose
only purpose in filing the said criminal case was to seek vengeance on her cousin. He explained that his
cousins discord with Ms. Andres started when the latters husband, SPO4 Pedro Andres, left the conjugal
home to cohabit with Ms. Ladaga. During the course of their illicit affair, SPO4 Andres and Ms. Ladaga begot
three (3) children. The birth certificate of their eldest child is the subject of the falsification charge against Ms.
Ladaga. Respondent stated that since he is the only lawyer in their family, he felt it to be his duty to accept
Ms. Ladagas plea to be her counsel since she did not have enough funds to pay for the services of a
lawyer. Respondent also pointed out that in his seven (7) years of untainted government service, initially with
the Commission on Human Rights and now with the judiciary, he had performed his duties with honesty and
integrity and that it was only in this particular case that he had been administratively charged for extending a
helping hand to a close relative by giving a free legal assistance for humanitarian purpose. He never took
advantage of his position as branch clerk of court since the questioned appearances were made in the
Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City and not in Makati where he is holding office. He stressed that during
the hearings of the criminal case, he was on leave as shown by his approved leave applications attached to his
comment.
In our Resolution, dated June 22, 1999, we noted respondents comment and referred the administrative
matter to the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Makati, Judge Josefina Guevarra-Salonga, for
investigation, report and recommendation.
In her Report, dated September 29, 1999, Judge Salonga made the following findings and
recommendation:

There is no question that Atty. Misael Ladaga appeared as counsel for and in behalf of his cousin, Narcisa
Naldoza Ladaga, an accused in Criminal Case No. 84-885 for Falsification of Public Documents before the
METC of Quezon City. It is also denied that the appearance of said respondent in said case was without the
previous permission of the Court.

An examination of the records shows that during the occasions that the respondent appeared as such counsel
before the METC of Quezon City, he was on official leave of absence. Moreover, his Presiding Judge, Judge
Napoleon Inoturan was aware of the case he was handling. That the respondent appeared as pro bono counsel
likewise cannot be denied. His cousin-client Narcisa Ladaga herself positively declared that the respondent
did not receive a single centavo from her. Helpless as she was and respondent being the only lawyer in the
family, he agreed to represent her out of his compassion and high regard for her.

It may not be amiss to point out, this is the first time that respondent ever handled a case for a member of his
family who is like a big sister to him. He appeared for free and for the purpose of settling the case
amicably. Furthermore, his Presiding Judge was aware of his appearance as counsel for his cousin. On top of
this, during all the years that he has been in government service, he has maintained his integrity and
independence.

RECOMMENDATION

In the light of the foregoing, it appearing that the respondent appeared as counsel for his cousin without first
securing permission from the court, and considering that this is his first time to do it coupled with the fact
that said appearance was not for a fee and was with the knowledge of his Presiding Judge, it is hereby
respectfully recommended that he be REPRIMANDED with a stern warning that any repetition of such act
would be dealt with more severely.[6]

We agree with the recommendation of the investigating judge.


Respondent is charged under Sec. 7(b)(2) of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public
Officials and Employees which prohibits civil servants from engaging in the private practice of their
profession. A similar prohibition is found under Sec. 35, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court which
disallows certain attorneys from engaging in the private practice of their profession. The said section reads:

SEC. 35. Certain attorneys not to practice.- No judge or other official or employee of the superior courts or of
the Office of the Solicitor General, shall engage in private practice as a member of the bar or give professional
advise to clients.

However, it should be clarified that private practice of a profession, specifically the law profession in this
case, which is prohibited, does not pertain to an isolated court appearance; rather, it contemplates a
succession of acts of the same nature habitually or customarily holding ones self to the public as a lawyer.
In the case of People vs. Villanueva,[7] we explained the meaning of the term private practice prohibited by
the said section, to wit:

We believe that the isolated appearance of City Attorney Fule did not constitute private practice, within the
meaning and contemplation of the Rules. Practice is more than an isolated appearance, for it consists in
frequent or customary action, a succession of acts of the same kind. In other words, it is frequent habitual
exercise (State vs. Cotner, 127, p. 1, 87 Kan. 864, 42 LRA, N.S. 768) Practice of law to fall within the
prohibition of statute has been interpreted as customarily or habitually holding ones self out to the public, as
a lawyer and demanding payment for such services (State vs. Bryan, 4 S.E. 522, 98 N.C. 644, 647). The
appearance as counsel on one occasion, is not conclusive as determinative of engagement in the private
practice of law. The following observation of the Solicitor General is noteworthy:

Essentially, the word private practice of law implies that one must have presented himself to be in the
active and continued practice of the legal profession and that his professional services are available to the
public for a compensation, as a source of his livelihood or in consideration of his said services.

For one thing, it has never been refuted that City Attorney Fule had been given permission by his immediate
superior, the Secretary of Justice, to represent the complainant in the case at bar, who is a relative. [8]

Based on the foregoing, it is evident that the isolated instances when respondent appeared as pro
bono counsel of his cousin in Criminal Case No. 84885 does not constitute the private practice of the law
profession contemplated by law.
Nonetheless, while respondents isolated court appearances did not amount to a private practice of law,
he failed to obtain a written permission therefor from the head of the Department, which is this Court as
required by Section 12, Rule XVIII of the Revised Civil Service Rules, thus:

Sec. 12. No officer or employee shall engage directly in any private business, vocation, or profession or be
connected with any commercial, credit, agricultural, or industrial undertaking without a written permission
from the head of the Department: Provided, that this prohibition will be absolute in the case of those
officers and employees whose duties and responsibilities require that their entire time be at the disposal of the
Government; Provided, further, that if an employee is granted permission to engage in outside activities, time
so devoted outside of office hours should be fixed by the agency to the end that it will not impair in any way
the efficiency of the officer or employee: and provided, finally, that no permission is necessary in the case of
investments, made by an officer or employee, which do not involve real or apparent conflict between his
private interests and public duties, or in any way influence him in the discharge of his duties, and he shall
not take part in the management of the enterprise or become an officer of the board of directors. [9]

Respondent entered his appearance and attended court proceedings on numerous occasions, i.e., May 4-
15, 1998, June 18, 1998, July 13, 1998 and August 5, 1998, as borne out by his own admission. It is true
that he filed leave applications corresponding to the dates he appeared in court. However, he failed to obtain a
prior permission from the head of the Department. The presiding judge of the court to which respondent is
assigned is not the head of the Department contemplated by law.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, respondent Atty. Misael M. Ladaga is hereby REPRIMANDED
with a stern warning that any repetition of such act would be dealt with more severely.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Puno, Pardo, and Ynares-Santiago, JJ., concur.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC

BAR MATTER No. 914 October 1, 1999


RE: APPLICATION FOR ADMISSION TO THE PHILIPPINE BAR,
vs. VICENTE D. CHING, applicant.

RESOLUTION

KAPUNAN, J.:
Can a legitimate child born under the 1935 Constitution of a Filipino mother and an alien father validly elect
Philippine citizenship fourteen (14) years after he has reached the age of majority? This is the question sought
to be resolved in the present case involving the application for admission to the Philippine Bar of Vicente D.
Ching.

The facts of this case are as follows:

Vicente D. Ching, the legitimate son of the spouses Tat Ching, a Chinese citizen, and Prescila A. Dulay, a
Filipino, was born in Francia West, Tubao, La Union on 11 April 1964. Since his birth, Ching has resided in
the Philippines.

On 17 July 1998, Ching, after having completed a Bachelor of Laws course at the St. Louis University in
Baguio City, filed an application to take the 1998 Bar Examinations. In a Resolution of this Court, dated 1
September 1998, he was allowed to take the Bar Examinations, subject to the condition that he must submit
to the Court proof of his Philippine citizenship.

In compliance with the above resolution, Ching submitted on 18 November 1998, the following documents:

1. Certification, dated 9 June 1986, issued by the Board of Accountancy of the Professional
Regulations Commission showing that Ching is a certified public accountant;

2. Voter Certification, dated 14 June 1997, issued by Elizabeth B. Cerezo, Election Officer of
the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in Tubao La Union showing that Ching is a
registered voter of the said place; and

3. Certification, dated 12 October 1998, also issued by Elizabeth B. Cerezo, showing that Ching
was elected as a member of the Sangguniang Bayan of Tubao, La Union during the 12 May
1992 synchronized elections.

On 5 April 1999, the results of the 1998 Bar Examinations were released and Ching was one of the successful
Bar examinees. The oath-taking of the successful Bar examinees was scheduled on 5 May 1999. However,
because of the questionable status of Ching's citizenship, he was not allowed to take his oath. Pursuant to the
resolution of this Court, dated 20 April 1999, he was required to submit further proof of his citizenship. In the
same resolution, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) was required to file a comment on Ching's petition
for admission to the bar and on the documents evidencing his Philippine citizenship.

The OSG filed its comment on 8 July 1999, stating that Ching, being the "legitimate child of a Chinese father
and a Filipino mother born under the 1935 Constitution was a Chinese citizen and continued to be so, unless
upon reaching the age of majority he elected Philippine citizenship" 1 in strict compliance with the provisions
of Commonwealth Act No. 625 entitled "An Act Providing for the Manner in which the Option to Elect
Philippine Citizenship shall be Declared by a Person Whose Mother is a Filipino Citizen." The OSG adds that
"(w)hat he acquired at best was only an inchoate Philippine citizenship which he could perfect by election
upon reaching the age of majority." 2 In this regard, the OSG clarifies that "two (2) conditions must concur in
order that the election of Philippine citizenship may be effective, namely: (a) the mother of the person making
the election must be a citizen of the Philippines; and (b) said election must be made upon reaching the age of
majority." 3 The OSG then explains the meaning of the phrase "upon reaching the age of majority:"

The clause "upon reaching the age of majority" has been construed to mean a reasonable time
after reaching the age of majority which had been interpreted by the Secretary of Justice to be
three (3) years (VELAYO, supra at p. 51 citing Op., Sec. of Justice No. 70, s. 1940, Feb. 27,
1940). Said period may be extended under certain circumstances, as when a (sic) person
concerned has always considered himself a Filipino (ibid., citing Op. Nos. 355 and 422, s. 1955;
3, 12, 46, 86 and 97, s. 1953). But in Cuenco, it was held that an election done after over seven
(7) years was not made within a reasonable time.

In conclusion, the OSG points out that Ching has not formally elected Philippine citizenship and, if ever he
does, it would already be beyond the "reasonable time" allowed by present jurisprudence. However, due to the
peculiar circumstances surrounding Ching's case, the OSG recommends the relaxation of the standing rule
on the construction of the phrase "reasonable period" and the allowance of Ching to elect Philippine
citizenship in accordance with C.A. No. 625 prior to taking his oath as a member of the Philippine Bar.

On 27 July 1999, Ching filed a Manifestation, attaching therewith his Affidavit of Election of Philippine
Citizenship and his Oath of Allegiance, both dated 15 July 1999. In his Manifestation, Ching states:

1. I have always considered myself as a Filipino;

2. I was registered as a Filipino and consistently declared myself as one in my school records
and other official documents;

3. I am practicing a profession (Certified Public Accountant) reserved for Filipino citizens;

4. I participated in electoral process[es] since the time I was eligible to vote;

5. I had served the people of Tubao, La Union as a member of the Sangguniang Bayan from
1992 to 1995;

6. I elected Philippine citizenship on July 15, 1999 in accordance with Commonwealth Act No.
625;

7. My election was expressed in a statement signed and sworn to by me before a notary public;

8. I accompanied my election of Philippine citizenship with the oath of allegiance to the


Constitution and the Government of the Philippines;

9. I filed my election of Philippine citizenship and my oath of allegiance to (sic) the Civil
Registrar of Tubao La Union, and

10. I paid the amount of TEN PESOS (Ps. 10.00) as filing fees.

Since Ching has already elected Philippine citizenship on 15 July 1999, the question raised is whether he has
elected Philippine citizenship within a "reasonable time." In the affirmative, whether his citizenship by election
retroacted to the time he took the bar examination.

When Ching was born in 1964, the governing charter was the 1935 Constitution. Under Article IV, Section
1(3) of the 1935 Constitution, the citizenship of a legitimate child born of a Filipino mother and an alien father
followed the citizenship of the father, unless, upon reaching the age of majority, the child elected Philippine
citizenship. 4 This right to elect Philippine citizenship was recognized in the 1973 Constitution when it
provided that "(t)hose who elect Philippine citizenship pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution of
nineteen hundred and thirty-five" are citizens of the Philippines. 5 Likewise, this recognition by the 1973
Constitution was carried over to the 1987 Constitution which states that "(t)hose born before January 17,
1973 of Filipino mothers, who elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority" are Philippine
citizens. 6 It should be noted, however, that the 1973 and 1987 Constitutional provisions on the election of
Philippine citizenship should not be understood as having a curative effect on any irregularity in the
acquisition of citizenship for those covered by the 1935 Constitution. 7 If the citizenship of a person was
subject to challenge under the old charter, it remains subject to challenge under the new charter even if the
judicial challenge had not been commenced before the effectivity of the new Constitution. 8

C.A. No. 625 which was enacted pursuant to Section 1(3), Article IV of the 1935 Constitution, prescribes the
procedure that should be followed in order to make a valid election of Philippine citizenship. Under Section 1
thereof, legitimate children born of Filipino mothers may elect Philippine citizenship by expressing such
intention "in a statement to be signed and sworn to by the party concerned before any officer authorized to
administer oaths, and shall be filed with the nearest civil registry. The said party shall accompany the
aforesaid statement with the oath of allegiance to the Constitution and the Government of the Philippines."

However, the 1935 Constitution and C.A. No. 625 did not prescribe a time period within which the election of
Philippine citizenship should be made. The 1935 Charter only provides that the election should be made
"upon reaching the age of majority." The age of majority then commenced upon reaching twenty-one (21)
years. 9 In the opinions of the Secretary of Justice on cases involving the validity of election of Philippine
citizenship, this dilemma was resolved by basing the time period on the decisions of this Court prior to the
effectivity of the 1935 Constitution. In these decisions, the proper period for electing Philippine citizenship
was, in turn, based on the pronouncements of the Department of State of the United States Government to
the effect that the election should be made within a "reasonable time" after attaining the age of
majority. 10 The phrase "reasonable time" has been interpreted to mean that the election should be made
within three (3) years from reaching the age of
majority. 11 However, we held in Cuenco vs. Secretary of Justice, 12 that the three (3) year period is not an
inflexible rule. We said:

It is true that this clause has been construed to mean a reasonable period after reaching the
age of majority, and that the Secretary of Justice has ruled that three (3) years is the
reasonable time to elect Philippine citizenship under the constitutional provision adverted to
above, which period may be extended under certain circumstances, as when the person
concerned has always considered himself a Filipino. 13

However, we cautioned in Cuenco that the extension of the option to elect Philippine citizenship is not
indefinite:

Regardless of the foregoing, petitioner was born on February 16, 1923. He became of age on
February 16, 1944. His election of citizenship was made on May 15, 1951, when he was over
twenty-eight (28) years of age, or over seven (7) years after he had reached the age of majority.
It is clear that said election has not been made "upon reaching the age of majority." 14

In the present case, Ching, having been born on 11 April 1964, was already thirty-five (35) years old when he
complied with the requirements of C.A. No. 625 on 15 June 1999, or over fourteen (14) years after he had
reached the age of majority. Based on the interpretation of the phrase "upon reaching the age of majority,"
Ching's election was clearly beyond, by any reasonable yardstick, the allowable period within which to
exercise the privilege. It should be stated, in this connection, that the special circumstances invoked by
Ching, i.e., his continuous and uninterrupted stay in the Philippines and his being a certified public
accountant, a registered voter and a former elected public official, cannot vest in him Philippine citizenship as
the law specifically lays down the requirements for acquisition of Philippine citizenship by election.

Definitely, the so-called special circumstances cannot constitute what Ching erroneously labels as informal
election of citizenship. Ching cannot find a refuge in the case of In re: Florencio Mallare, 15 the pertinent
portion of which reads:

And even assuming arguendo that Ana Mallare were (sic) legally married to an alien, Esteban's
exercise of the right of suffrage when he came of age, constitutes a positive act of election of
Philippine citizenship. It has been established that Esteban Mallare was a registered voter as of
April 14, 1928, and that as early as 1925 (when he was about 22 years old), Esteban was
already participating in the elections and campaigning for certain candidate[s]. These acts are
sufficient to show his preference for Philippine citizenship. 16

Ching's reliance on Mallare is misplaced. The facts and circumstances obtaining therein are very different
from those in the present case, thus, negating its applicability. First, Esteban Mallare was born before the
effectivity of the 1935 Constitution and the enactment of C.A. No. 625. Hence, the requirements and
procedures prescribed under the 1935 Constitution and C.A. No. 625 for electing Philippine citizenship would
not be applicable to him. Second, the ruling in Mallare was an obiter since, as correctly pointed out by the
OSG, it was not necessary for Esteban Mallare to elect Philippine citizenship because he was already a
Filipino, he being a natural child of a Filipino mother. In this regard, the Court stated:

Esteban Mallare, natural child of Ana Mallare, a Filipina, is therefore himself a Filipino, and no
other act would be necessary to confer on him all the rights and privileges attached to
Philippine citizenship (U.S. vs. Ong Tianse, 29 Phil. 332; Santos Co vs. Government of the
Philippine Islands, 42 Phil. 543, Serra vs. Republic, L-4223, May 12, 1952, Sy Quimsuan vs.
Republic, L-4693, Feb. 16, 1953; Pitallano vs. Republic, L-5111, June 28, 1954). Neither could
any act be taken on the erroneous belief that he is a non-filipino divest him of the citizenship
privileges to which he is rightfully entitled. 17

The ruling in Mallare was reiterated and further elaborated in Co vs. Electoral Tribunal of the House of
Representatives, 18where we held:

We have jurisprudence that defines "election" as both a formal and an informal process.

In the case of In re: Florencio Mallare (59 SCRA 45 [1974]), the Court held that the exercise of
the right of suffrage and the participation in election exercises constitute a positive act of
election of Philippine citizenship. In the exact pronouncement of the Court, we held:

Esteban's exercise of the right of suffrage when he came of age constitutes a


positive act of Philippine citizenship. (p. 52: emphasis supplied)

The private respondent did more than merely exercise his right of suffrage. He has established his life here in
the Philippines.

For those in the peculiar situation of the respondent who cannot be excepted to have elected
Philippine citizenship as they were already citizens, we apply the In Re Mallare rule.

xxx xxx xxx

The filing of sworn statement or formal declaration is a requirement for those who still have to
elect citizenship. For those already Filipinos when the time to elect came up, there are acts of
deliberate choice which cannot be less binding. Entering a profession open only to Filipinos,
serving in public office where citizenship is a qualification, voting during election time, running
for public office, and other categorical acts of similar nature are themselves formal
manifestations for these persons.

An election of Philippine citizenship presupposes that the person electing is an alien. Or his
status is doubtful because he is a national of two countries. There is no doubt in this case
about Mr. Ong's being a Filipino when he turned twenty-one (21).

We repeat that any election of Philippine citizenship on the part of the private respondent
would not only have been superfluous but it would also have resulted in an absurdity. How can
a Filipino citizen elect Philippine citizenship? 19

The Court, like the OSG, is sympathetic with the plight of Ching. However, even if we consider the special
circumstances in the life of Ching like his having lived in the Philippines all his life and his consistent belief
that he is a Filipino, controlling statutes and jurisprudence constrain us to disagree with the recommendation
of the OSG. Consequently, we hold that Ching failed to validly elect Philippine citizenship. The span of
fourteen (14) years that lapsed from the time he reached the age of majority until he finally expressed his
intention to elect Philippine citizenship is clearly way beyond the contemplation of the requirement of electing
"upon reaching the age of majority." Moreover, Ching has offered no reason why he delayed his election of
Philippine citizenship. The prescribed procedure in electing Philippine citizenship is certainly not a tedious
and painstaking process. All that is required of the elector is to execute an affidavit of election of Philippine
citizenship and, thereafter, file the same with the nearest civil registry. Ching's unreasonable and unexplained
delay in making his election cannot be simply glossed over.

Philippine citizenship can never be treated like a commodity that can be claimed when needed and
suppressed when convenient. 20 One who is privileged to elect Philippine citizenship has only an inchoate
right to such citizenship. As such, he should avail of the right with fervor, enthusiasm and promptitude.
Sadly, in this case, Ching slept on his opportunity to elect Philippine citizenship and, as a result. this golden
privilege slipped away from his grasp.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Court Resolves to DENY Vicente D. Ching's application for admission to
the Philippine Bar. SO ORDERED.
B. M. No. 1154 June 8, 2004

IN THE MATTER OF THE DISQUALIFICATION OF BAR EXAMINEE HARON S. MELING IN THE 2002 BAR
EXAMINATIONS AND FOR DISCIPLINARY ACTION AS MEMBER OF THE PHILIPPINE SHARI’A BAR,
ATTY. FROILAN R. MELENDREZ, petitioner.

RESOLUTION

TINGA, J.:

The Court is here confronted with a Petition that seeks twin reliefs, one of which is ripe while the other has
been rendered moot by a supervening event.

The antecedents follow.

On October 14, 2002, Atty. Froilan R. Melendrez (Melendrez) filed with the Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC)
a Petition1 to disqualify Haron S. Meling (Meling) from taking the 2002 Bar Examinations and to impose on
him the appropriate disciplinary penalty as a member of the Philippine Shari’a Bar.

In the Petition, Melendrez alleges that Meling did not disclose in his Petition to take the 2002 Bar
Examinations that he has three (3) pending criminal cases before the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC),
Cotabato City, namely: Criminal Cases Noa. 15685 and 15686, both for Grave Oral Defamation, and Criminal
Case No. 15687 for Less Serious Physical Injuries.

The above-mentioned cases arose from an incident which occurred on May 21, 2001, when Meling allegedly
uttered defamatory words against Melendrez and his wife in front of media practitioners and other people.
Meling also purportedly attacked and hit the face of Melendrez’ wife causing the injuries to the latter.

Furthermore, Melendrez alleges that Meling has been using the title "Attorney" in his communications, as
Secretary to the Mayor of Cotabato City, despite the fact that he is not a member of the Bar. Attached to
the Petition is an indorsement letter which shows that Meling used the appellation and appears on its face to
have been received by the Sangguniang Panglungsod of Cotabato City on November 27, 2001.

Pursuant to this Court’s R E S O L U T I O N2 dated December 3, 2002, Meling filed his Answer with the OBC.

In his Answer, Meling explains that he did not disclose the criminal cases filed against him by Melendrez
because retired Judge Corocoy Moson, their former professor, advised him to settle his misunderstanding
with Melendrez. Believing in good faith that the case would be settled because the said Judge has moral
ascendancy over them, he being their former professor in the College of Law, Meling considered the three
cases that actually arose from a single incident and involving the same parties as "closed and terminated."
Moreover, Meling denies the charges and adds that the acts complained of do not involve moral turpitude.

As regards the use of the title "Attorney," Meling admits that some of his communications really contained the
word "Attorney" as they were, according to him, typed by the office clerk.

In its Report and Recommendation4 dated December 8, 2003, the OBC disposed of the charge of non-
disclosure against Meling in this wise:

The reasons of Meling in not disclosing the criminal cases filed against him in his petition to take the
Bar Examinations are ludicrous. He should have known that only the court of competent jurisdiction
can dismiss cases, not a retired judge nor a law professor. In fact, the cases filed against Meling are
still pending. Furthermore, granting arguendo that these cases were already dismissed, he is still
required to disclose the same for the Court to ascertain his good moral character. Petitions to take the
Bar Examinations are made under oath, and should not be taken lightly by an applicant.
The merit of the cases against Meling is not material in this case. What matters is his act of concealing them
which constitutes dishonesty.

In Bar Matter 1209, the Court stated, thus:

It has been held that good moral character is what a person really is, as distinguished from good
reputation or from the opinion generally entertained of him, the estimate in which he is held by the
public in the place where he is known. Moral character is not a subjective term but one which
corresponds to objective reality. The standard of personal and professional integrity is not satisfied by
such conduct as it merely enables a person to escape the penalty of criminal law. Good moral
character includes at least common honesty.

The non-disclosure of Meling of the criminal cases filed against him makes him also answerable under
Rule 7.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which states that "a lawyer shall be answerable
for knowingly making a false statement or suppressing a material fact in connection with his application
for admission to the bar."5

As regards Meling’s use of the title "Attorney", the OBC had this to say:

Anent the issue of the use of the appellation "Attorney" in his letters, the explanation of Meling is not
acceptable. Aware that he is not a member of the Bar, there was no valid reason why he signed as
"attorney" whoever may have typed the letters.

Although there is no showing that Meling is engaged in the practice of law, the fact is, he is signing his
communications as "Atty. Haron S. Meling" knowing fully well that he is not entitled thereto. As held
by the Court in Bar Matter 1209, the unauthorized use of the appellation "attorney" may render a
person liable for indirect contempt of court. 6

Consequently, the OBC recommended that Meling not be allowed to take the Lawyer’s Oath and sign the Roll
of Attorneys in the event that he passes the Bar Examinations. Further, it recommended that Meling’s
membership in the Shari’a Bar be suspended until further orders from the Court.7

We fully concur with the findings and recommendation of the OBC. Meling, however, did not pass the 2003
Bar Examinations. This renders the Petition, insofar as it seeks to prevent Meling from taking the Lawyer’s
Oath and signing the Roll of Attorneys, moot and academic.

On the other hand, the prayer in the same Petition for the Court to impose the appropriate sanctions upon
him as a member of the Shari’a Bar is ripe for resolution and has to be acted upon.

Practice of law, whether under the regular or the Shari’a Court, is not a matter of right but merely a privilege
bestowed upon individuals who are not only learned in the law but who are also known to possess good moral
character.8 The requirement of good moral character is not only a condition precedent to admission to the
practice of law, its continued possession is also essential for remaining in the practice of law.9

The standard form issued in connection with the application to take the 2002 Bar Examinations requires the
applicant to aver that he or she "has not been charged with any act or omission punishable by law, rule or
regulation before a fiscal, judge, officer or administrative body, or indicted for, or accused or convicted by any
court or tribunal of, any offense or crime involving moral turpitude; nor is there any pending case or charge
against him/her." Despite the declaration required by the form, Meling did not reveal that he has three
pending criminal cases. His deliberate silence constitutes concealment, done under oath at that.

The disclosure requirement is imposed by the Court to determine whether there is satisfactory evidence of
good moral character of the applicant.10 The nature of whatever cases are pending against the applicant
would aid the Court in determining whether he is endowed with the moral fitness demanded of a lawyer. By
concealing the existence of such cases, the applicant then flunks the test of fitness even if the cases are
ultimately proven to be unwarranted or insufficient to impugn or affect the good moral character of the
applicant.
Meling’s concealment of the fact that there are three (3) pending criminal cases against him speaks of his lack
of the requisite good moral character and results in the forfeiture of the privilege bestowed upon him as a
member of the Shari’a Bar.

Moreover, his use of the appellation "Attorney", knowing fully well that he is not entitled to its use, cannot go
unchecked. In Alawi v. Alauya,11 the Court had the occasion to discuss the impropriety of the use of the title
"Attorney" by members of the Shari’a Bar who are not likewise members of the Philippine Bar. The respondent
therein, an executive clerk of court of the 4th Judicial Shari’a District in Marawi City, used the title "Attorney"
in several correspondence in connection with the rescission of a contract entered into by him in his private
capacity. The Court declared that:

…persons who pass the Shari’a Bar are not full-fledged members of the Philippine Bar, hence, may
only practice law before Shari’a courts. While one who has been admitted to the Shari’a Bar, and one
who has been admitted to the Philippine Bar, may both be considered "counselors," in the sense that
they give counsel or advice in a professional capacity, only the latter is an "attorney." The title
"attorney" is reserved to those who, having obtained the necessary degree in the study of law and
successfully taken the Bar Examinations, have been admitted to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
and remain members thereof in good standing; and it is they only who are authorized to practice law
in this jurisdiction.12

The judiciary has no place for dishonest officers of the court, such as Meling in this case. The solemn task of
administering justice demands that those who are privileged to be part of service therein, from the highest
official to the lowliest employee, must not only be competent and dedicated, but likewise live and practice the
virtues of honesty and integrity. Anything short of this standard would diminish the public's faith in the
Judiciary and constitutes infidelity to the constitutional tenet that a public office is a public trust.

In Leda v. Tabang, supra, the respondent concealed the fact of his marriage in his application to take the Bar
examinations and made conflicting submissions before the Court. As a result, we found the respondent
grossly unfit and unworthy to continue in the practice of law and suspended him therefrom until further
orders from the Court.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is granted insofar as it seeks the imposition of appropriate sanctions upon Haron
S. Meling as a member of the Philippine Shari’a Bar. Accordingly, the membership of Haron S. Meling in the
Philippine Shari’a Bar is hereby SUSPENDED until further orders from the Court, the suspension to take
effect immediately. Insofar as the Petition seeks to prevent Haron S. Meling from taking the Lawyer’s Oath and
signing the Roll of Attorneys as a member of the Philippine Bar, the same is DISMISSED for having become
moot and academic.

Copies of this Decision shall be circulated to all the Shari’a Courts in the country for their information and
guidance.

SO ORDERED.

THIRD DIVISION

[A.M. SDC-97-2-P. February 24, 1997]


SOPHIA ALAWI, complainant, vs. ASHARY M. ALAUYA, Clerk of Court VI, Shari'a District Court,
Marawi City, respondent.

DECISION
NARVASA, C.J.:

Sophia Alawi was (and presumably still is) a sales representative (or coordinator) of E. B. Villarosa &
Partners Co., Ltd. of Davao City, a real estate and housing company. Ashari M. Alauya is the incumbent
executive clerk of court of the 4th Judicial Shari'a District in Marawi City. They were classmates, and used to
be friends.
It appears that through Alawi's agency, a contract was executed for the purchase on installments by
Alauya of one of the housing units belonging to the above mentioned firm (hereafter, simply Villarosa & Co.);
and in connection therewith, a housing loan was also granted to Alauya by the National Home Mortgage
Finance Corporation (NHMFC).
Not long afterwards, or more precisely on December 15, 1995, Alauya addressed a letter to the President
of Villarosa & Co. advising of the termination of his contract with the company. He wrote:

" ** I am formally and officially withdrawing from and notifying you of my intent to terminate the
Contract/Agreement entered into between me and your company, as represented by your Sales
Agent/Coordinator, SOPHIA ALAWI, of your company's branch office here in Cagayan de Oro City, on the
grounds that my consent was vitiated by gross misrepresentation, deceit, fraud, dishonesty and abuse of
confidence by the aforesaid sales agent which made said contract void ab initio. Said sales agent acting in bad
faith perpetrated such illegal and unauthorized acts which made said contract an Onerous Contract
prejudicial to my rights and interests."

He then proceeded to expound in considerable detail and quite acerbic language on the "grounds which could
evidence the bad faith, deceit, fraud, misrepresentation, dishonesty and abuse of confidence by the
unscrupulous sales agent ** ;" and closed with the plea that Villarosa & Co. "agree for the mutual rescission
of our contract, even as I inform you that I categorically state on record that I am terminating the contract
**. I hope I do not have to resort to any legal action before said onerous and manipulated contract against my
interest be annulled. I was actually fooled by your sales agent, hence the need to annul the controversial
contract."
Alauya sent a copy of the letter to the Vice-President of Villarosa & Co. at San Pedro, Gusa, Cagayan de
Oro City. The envelope containing it, and which actually went through the post, bore no stamps. Instead at
the right hand corner above the description of the addressee, the words, "Free Postage PD 26," had been
typed.
On the same date, December 15, 1995, Alauya also wrote to Mr. Fermin T. Arzaga, Vice-President, Credit
& Collection Group of the National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation (NHMFC) at Salcedo Village, Makati
City, repudiating as fraudulent and void his contract with Villarosa & Co.; and asking for cancellation of his
housing loan in connection therewith, which was payable from salary deductions at the rate of P4,338.00 a
month. Among other things, he said:

" ** (T)hrough this written notice, I am terminating, as I hereby annul, cancel, rescind and voided, the
'manipulated contract' entered into between me and the E.B. Villarosa & Partner Co., Ltd., as represented by
its sales agent/coordinator, SOPHIA ALAWI, who maliciously and fraudulently manipulated said contract and
unlawfully secured and pursued the housing loan without my authority and against my will. Thus, the
contract itself is deemed to be void ab initio in view of the attending circumstances, that my consent was
vitiated by misrepresentation, fraud, deceit, dishonesty, and abuse of confidence; and that there was no
meeting of the minds between me and the swindling sales agent who concealed the real facts from me."

And, as in his letter to Villarosa & Co., he narrated in some detail what he took to be the anomalous
actuations of Sophia Alawi.
Alauya wrote three other letters to Mr. Arzaga of the NHMFC, dated February 21, 1996, April 15, 1996,
and May 3, 1996, in all of which, for the same reasons already cited, he insisted on the cancellation of his
housing loan and discontinuance of deductions from his salary on account thereof. He also wrote on January
18, 1996 to Ms. Corazon M. Ordoez, Head of the Fiscal Management & Budget Office, and to the Chief,
Finance Division, both of this Court, to stop deductions from his salary in relation to the loan in question,
again asserting the anomalous manner by which he was allegedly duped into entering into the contracts by
"the scheming sales agent.
The upshot was that in May, 1996, the NHMFC wrote to the Supreme Court requesting it to stop
deductions on Alauya's UHLP loan "effective May 1996," and began negotiating with Villarosa & Co. "for the
buy-back of ** (Alauya's) mortgage, and ** the refund of ** (his) payments.
On learning of Alauya's letter to Villarosa & Co. of December 15, 1995, Sophia Alawi filed with this Court
a verified complaint dated January 25, 1996 -- to which she appended a copy of the letter, and of the above
mentioned envelope bearing the typewritten words, "Free Postage PD 26. In that complaint, she accused
Alauya of:

1. "Imputation of malicious and libelous charges with no solid grounds through manifest ignorance and
evident bad faith;"

2. "Causing undue injury to, and blemishing her honor and established reputation;"

3. "Unauthorized enjoyment of the privilege of free postage **;" and

4. Usurpation of the title of "attorney," which only regular members of the Philippine Bar may properly use.

She deplored Alauya's references to her as "unscrupulous, swindler, forger, manipulator, etc." without
"even a bit of evidence to cloth (sic) his allegations with the essence of truth," denouncing his imputations as
irresponsible, "all concoctions, lies, baseless and coupled with manifest ignorance and evident bad faith," and
asserting that all her dealings with Alauya had been regular and completely transparent. She closed with the
plea that Alauya "be dismissed from the service, or be appropriately disciplined (sic) ** "
The Court resolved to order Alauya to comment on the complaint. Conformably with established usage
that notices of resolutions emanate from the corresponding Office of the Clerk of Court, the notice of
resolution in this case was signed by Atty. Alfredo P. Marasigan, Assistant Division Clerk of Court.
Alauya first submitted a "Preliminary Comment"[3] in which he questioned the authority of Atty.
Marasigan to require an explanation of him, this power pertaining, according to him, not to "a mere Asst. Div.
Clerk of Court investigating an Executive Clerk of Court." but only to the District Judge, the Court
Administrator or the Chief Justice, and voiced the suspicion that the Resolution was the result of a "strong
link" between Ms. Alawi and Atty. Marasigan's office. He also averred that the complaint had no factual basis;
Alawi was envious of him for being not only "the Executive Clerk of court and ex-officio Provincial Sheriff and
District Registrar," but also "a scion of a Royal Family **." [4]
In a subsequent letter to Atty. Marasigan, but this time in much less aggressive, even obsequious tones,
Alauya requested the former to give him a copy of the complaint in order that he might comment thereon. He
stated that his acts as clerk of court were done in good faith and within the confines of the law; and that
Sophia Alawi as sales agent of Villarosa & Co. had, by falsifying his signature, fraudulently bound him to a
housing loan contract entailing monthly deductions of P4,333.10 from his salary.
And in his comment thereafter submitted under date of June 5, 1996, Alauya contended that it was he
who had suffered "undue injury, mental anguish, sleepless nights, wounded feelings and untold financial
suffering," considering that in six months, a total of P26,028.60 had been deducted from his salary. [7] He
declared that there was no basis for the complaint; in communicating with Villarosa & Co. he had merely
acted in defense of his rights. He denied any abuse of the franking privilege, saying that he gave P20.00 plus
transportation fare to a subordinate whom he entrusted with the mailing of certain letters; that the words:
"Free Postage PD 26," were typewritten on the envelope by some other person, an averment corroborated by
the affidavit of Absamen C. Domocao, Clerk IV (subscribed and sworn to before respondent himself, and
attached to the comment as Annex J);[8] and as far as he knew, his subordinate mailed the letters with the use
of the money he had given for postage, and if those letters were indeed mixed with the official mail of the
court, this had occurred inadvertently and because of an honest mistake. [9]
Alauya justified his use of the title, "attorney," by the assertion that it is "lexically synonymous" with
"Counsellors-at-law," a title to which Shari'a lawyers have a rightful claim, adding that he prefers the title of
"attorney" because "counsellor" is often mistaken for "councilor," "konsehal or the Maranao term "consial,"
connoting a local legislator beholden to the mayor. Withal, he does not consider himself a lawyer.
He pleads for the Court's compassion, alleging that what he did "is expected of any man unduly
prejudiced and injured." He claims he was manipulated into reposing his trust in Alawi, a classmate and
friend. He was induced to sign a blank contract on Alawi's assurance that she would show the completed
document to him later for correction, but she had since avoided him; despite "numerous letters and follow-
ups" he still does not know where the property -- subject of his supposed agreement with Alawi's principal,
Villarosa & Co. -- is situated; He says Alawi somehow got his GSIS policy from his wife, and although she
promised to return it the next day, she did not do so until after several months. He also claims that in
connection with his contract with Villarosa & Co., Alawi forged his signature on such pertinent documents as
those regarding the down payment, clearance, lay-out, receipt of the key of the house, salary deduction, none
of which he ever saw.[13]
Averring in fine that his acts in question were done without malice, Alauya prays for the dismissal of the
complaint for lack of merit, it consisting of "fallacious, malicious and baseless allegations," and complainant
Alawi having come to the Court with unclean hands, her complicity in the fraudulent housing loan being
apparent and demonstrable.
It may be mentioned that in contrast to his two (2) letters to Assistant Clerk of Court Marasigan (dated
April 19, 1996 and April 22, 1996), and his two (2) earlier letters both dated December 15, 1996 -- all of
which he signed as "Atty. Ashary M. Alauya" -- in his Comment of June 5, 1996, he does not use the title but
refers to himself as "DATU ASHARY M. ALAUYA."
The Court referred the case to the Office of the Court Administrator for evaluation, report and
recommendation.
The first accusation against Alauya is that in his aforesaid letters, he made "malicious and libelous
charges (against Alawi) with no solid grounds through manifest ignorance and evident bad faith," resulting in
"undue injury to (her) and blemishing her honor and established reputation." In those letters, Alauya had
written inter alia that:

1) Alawi obtained his consent to the contracts in question "by gross misrepresentation, deceit, fraud,
dishonesty and abuse of confidence;"

2) Alawi acted in bad faith and perpetrated ** illegal and unauthorized acts ** ** prejudicial to ** (his) rights
and interests;"

3) Alawi was an "unscrupulous (and "swindling") sales agent" who had fooled him by "deceit, fraud,
misrepresentation, dishonesty and abuse of confidence;" and

4) Alawi had maliciously and fraudulently manipulated the contract with Villarosa & Co., and unlawfully
secured and pursued the housing loan without ** (his) authority and against ** (his) will," and "concealed the
real facts **."

Alauya's defense essentially is that in making these statements, he was merely acting in defense of his
rights, and doing only what "is expected of any man unduly prejudiced and injured," who had suffered
"mental anguish, sleepless nights, wounded feelings and untold financial suffering," considering that in six
months, a total of P26,028.60 had been deducted from his salary. [15]
The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (RA
6713) inter alia enunciates the State policy of promoting a high standard of ethics and utmost responsibility
in the public service.[16] Section 4 of the Code commands that "(p)ublic officials and employees ** at all times
respect the rights of others, and ** refrain from doing acts contrary to law, good morals, good customs, public
policy, public order, public safety and public interest." [17] More than once has this Court emphasized that "the
conduct and behavior of every official and employee of an agency involved in the administration of justice,
from the presiding judge to the most junior clerk, should be circumscribed with the heavy burden of
responsibility. Their conduct must at all times be characterized by, among others, strict propriety and
decorum so as to earn and keep the respect of the public for the judiciary." [18]
Now, it does not appear to the Court consistent with good morals, good customs or public policy, or
respect for the rights of others, to couch denunciations of acts believed -- however sincerely -- to be deceitful,
fraudulent or malicious, in excessively intemperate. insulting or virulent language. Alauya is evidently
convinced that he has a right of action against Sophia Alawi. The law requires that he exercise that right with
propriety, without malice or vindictiveness, or undue harm to anyone; in a manner consistent with good
morals, good customs, public policy, public order, supra; or otherwise stated, that he "act with justice, give
everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith." ] Righteous indignation, or vindication of right cannot
justify resort to vituperative language, or downright name-calling. As a member of the Shari'a Bar and an
officer of a Court, Alawi is subject to a standard of conduct more stringent than for most other government
workers. As a man of the law, he may not use language which is abusive, offensive, scandalous, menacing, or
otherwise improper.[20] As a judicial employee, it is expected that he accord respect for the person and the
rights of others at all times, and that his every act and word should be characterized by prudence, restraint,
courtesy, dignity. His radical deviation from these salutary norms might perhaps be mitigated, but cannot be
excused, by his strongly held conviction that he had been grievously wronged.
As regards Alauya's use of the title of "Attorney," this Court has already had occasion to declare that
persons who pass the Shari'a Bar are not full-fledged members of the Philippine Bar, hence may only practice
law before Shari'a courts. While one who has been admitted to the Shari'a Bar, and one who has been
admitted to the Philippine Bar, may both be considered "counsellors," in the sense that they give counsel or
advice in a professional capacity, only the latter is an "attorney." The title of "attorney" is reserved to those
who, having obtained the necessary degree in the study of law and successfully taken the Bar Examinations,
have been admitted to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and remain members thereof in good standing;
and it is they only who are authorized to practice law in this jurisdiction.
Alauya says he does not wish to use the title, "counsellor" or "counsellor-at-law," because in his region,
there are pejorative connotations to the term, or it is confusingly similar to that given to local legislators. The
ratiocination, valid or not, is of no moment. His disinclination to use the title of "counsellor" does not warrant
his use of the title of attorney.
Finally, respecting Alauya's alleged unauthorized use of the franking privilege, the record contains no
evidence adequately establishing the accusation.
WHEREFORE, respondent Ashari M. Alauya is hereby REPRIMANDED for the use of excessively
intemperate, insulting or virulent language, i.e., language unbecoming a judicial officer, and for usurping the
title of attorney; and he is warned that any similar or other impropriety or misconduct in the future will be
dealt with more severely.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., Melo, Francisco, and Panganiban, JJ., concur.

A.C. No. 4838 July 29, 2003

EMILIO GRANDE, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. EVANGELINE DE SILVA, Respondent.

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

Complainant Emilio Grande was the private offended party in Criminal Cases Nos. 96-1346 to 96-1353, filed
with the Regional Trial Court of Marikina City, Branch 273, for Estafa and Violation of Batas Pambansa
Bilang 22, entitled "People of the Philippines, Plaintiff versus Sergio Natividad, Accused." During the
proceedings, respondent Atty. Evangeline de Silva, counsel for the accused, tendered to complainant Check
No. 0023638 in the amount of P144,768.00, drawn against her account with the Philippine National Bank, as
settlement of the civil aspect of the case against her client. Complainant refused to accept the check, but
respondent assured him that the same will be paid upon its presentment to her drawee bank. She manifested
that as a lawyer, she would not issue a check which is not sufficiently funded. Thus, respondent was
prevailed upon by complainant to accept the check. Consequently, he desisted from participating as a
complaining witness in the criminal case, which led to the dismissal of the same and the release of the
accused, Sergio Natividad.

When complainant deposited the check, the same was returned unpaid by the drawee bank for the reason:
"Account Closed." On June 19, 1997, complainant wrote a letter to respondent demanding that she pay the
face value of the check.1 However, his demand was ignored by respondent; hence, he instituted a criminal
complaint against her for Estafa and Violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22 with the Office of the City
Prosecutor of Marikina, which was docketed as I.S. No. 97-1036. On September 22, 1997, the Marikina City
Prosecutor filed the necessary information for violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22 against respondent Atty.
Evangeline de Silva.2

On November 10, 1997, complainant filed the instant administrative complaint for disbarment of respondent
for deceit and violation of the Lawyer’s Oath.3

In a Resolution dated February 2, 1998 sent to respondent’s given address at Carmelo Compound, Newton
Avenue, Mayamot, Antipolo City, she was required to comment on the complaint within ten (10) days from
notice.4 However, it was returned unserved with the notation "Moved". 5 The Assistant National Secretary of the
IBP submitted the latest address of respondent as 274 M.H. Del Pilar Street, Pasig City. 6

On June 20, 2001, another resolution requiring respondent to comment on the administrative complaint filed
against her was served at the aforesaid address. This was again returned unserved with the notation:
"Refused". Thus, the case was referred to the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) for investigation,
report and recommendation.7

In a Report dated December 6, 2001, Investigating Commissioner Florimond C. Rous found respondent guilty
of deceit, gross misconduct and violation of the Lawyer’s Oath. Thus, he recommended that respondent be
suspended from the practice of law for two (2) years.

On October 19, 2002, the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution No. XV-2002-554 which adopted the
recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for
two (2) years.

We fully agree with the findings and recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors.

The record shows that respondent prevailed upon complainant to accept her personal check by way of
settlement for the civil liability of her client, Sergio Natividad, with the assurance that the check will have
sufficient funds when presented for payment. In doing so, she deceived complainant into withdrawing his
complaint against her client in exchange for a check which she drew against a closed account.

It is clear that the breach of trust committed by respondent in issuing a bouncing check amounted to deceit
and constituted a violation of her oath, for which she should be accordingly penalized. 8 Such an act
constitutes gross misconduct and the penalties for such malfeasance is prescribed by Rule 138, Section 27of
the Rules of Court, to wit:

SEC. 27. Disbarment and suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court, grounds therefore. – A member of the
bar may be disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any deceit,
malpractice or other gross misconduct in such office, grossly immoral conduct or by reason of his conviction
of a crime involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which 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.

The nature of the office of an attorney requires that a lawyer shall be a person of good moral character. Since
this qualification is a condition precedent to a license to enter upon the practice of law, the maintenance
thereof is equally essential during the continuance of the practice and the exercise of the privilege. Gross
misconduct which puts the lawyer’s moral character in serious doubt may render her unfit to continue in the
practice of law.9
The loss of moral character of a lawyer for any reason whatsoever shall warrant her suspension or
disbarment,10because it is important that members of the legal brotherhood must conform to the highest
standards of morality.11Any wrongdoing which indicates moral unfitness for the profession, whether it be
professional or non-professional, justifies disciplinary action. Thus, a lawyer may be disciplined for evading
payment of a debt validly incurred. Such conduct is unbecoming and does not speak well of a member of the
bar, for a lawyer’s professional and personal conduct must at all times be kept beyond reproach and above
suspicion.12

Moreover, the attitude of respondent in deliberately refusing to accept the notices served on her betrays a
deplorably willful character or disposition which stains the nobility of the legal profession. 13 Her conduct not
only underscores her utter lack of respect for authority; it also brings to the fore a darker and more sinister
character flaw in her psyche which renders highly questionable her moral fitness to continue in the practice
of law: a defiance for law and order which is at the very core of her profession.

Such defiance is anathema to those who seek a career in the administration of justice because obedience to
the dictates of the law and justice is demanded of every lawyer. How else would respondent even endeavor to
serve justice and uphold the law when she disdains to follow even simple directives? Indeed, the first and
foremost command of the Code of Professional Responsibility could not be any clearer:

CANON 1. A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION OBEY THE LAWS OF THE LAND AND PROMOTE
RESPECT FOR LEGAL PROCESSES.

Needless to state, respondent’s persistent refusal to comply with lawful orders directed at her with not even
an explanation for doing so is contumacious conduct which merits no compassion. The duty of a lawyer is to
uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession at all times. She can only do this by faithfully
performing her duties to society, to the bar, to the courts and to her clients. 14 We can not tolerate any
misconduct that tends to besmirch the fair name of an honorable profession.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, respondent ATTY. EVANGELINE DE SILVA is SUSPENDED from the
practice of law for a period of Two (2) Years, effective upon receipt hereof. Let copies of this Decision be
entered in her 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.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

B.M. No. 712 March 19, 1997

RE: PETITION OF AL ARGOSINO TO TAKE THE LAWYERS OATH

RESOLUTION

PADILLA, J.:

Petitioner Al Caparros Argosino passed the bar examinations held in 1993. The Court however deferred his
oath-taking due to his previous conviction for Reckless Imprudence Resulting In Homicide.

The criminal case which resulted in petitioner's conviction, arose from the death of a neophyte during
fraternity initiation rites sometime in September 1991. Petitioner and seven (7) other accused initially entered
pleas of not guilty to homicide charges. The eight (8) accused later withdrew their initial pleas and upon re-
arraignment all pleaded guilty to reckless imprudence resulting in homicide.

On the basis of such pleas, the trial court rendered judgment dated 11 February 1993 imposing on each of
the accused a sentence of imprisonment of from two (2) years four (4) months :and one (1) day to four (4)
years.

On 18 June 1993, the trial court granted herein petitioner's application for probation.

On 11 April 1994, the trial court issued an order approving a report dated 6 April 1994 submitted by the
Probation Officer recommending petitioner's discharge from probation.

On 14 April 1994, petitioner filed before this Court a petition to be allowed to take the lawyer's oath based on
the order of his discharge from probation.

On 13 July 1995, the Court through then Senior Associate Justice Florentino P. Feliciano issued a resolution
requiring petitioner Al C. Argosino to submit to the Court evidence that he may now be regarded as complying
with the requirement of good moral character imposed upon those seeking admission to the bar.

In compliance with the above resolution, petitioner submitted no less than fifteen (15) certifications/letters
executed by among others two (2) senators, five (5) trial court judges, and six (6) members of religious orders.
Petitioner likewise submitted evidence that a scholarship foundation had been established in honor of Raul
Camaligan, the hazing victim, through joint efforts of the latter's family and the eight (8) accused in the
criminal case.

On 26 September 1995, the Court required Atty. Gilbert Camaligan, father of Raul, to comment on petitioner's
prayer to be allowed to take the lawyer's oath.

In his comment dated 4 December 1995, Atty. Camaligan states that:

a. He still believes that the infliction of severe physical injuries which led to the death of his son was
deliberate rather than accidental. The offense therefore was not only homicide but murder since the accused
took advantage of the neophyte's helplessness implying abuse of confidence, taking advantage of superior
strength and treachery.

b. He consented to the accused's plea of guilt to the lesser offense of reckless imprudence resulting in
homicide only out of pity for the mothers of the accused and a pregnant wife of one of the accused who went
to their house on Christmas day 1991 and Maundy Thursday 1992, literally on their knees, crying and
begging for forgiveness and compassion. They also told him that the father of one of the accused had died of a
heart attack upon learning of his son's involvement in the incident.

c. As a Christian, he has forgiven petitioner and his co-accused for the death of his son. However, as a loving
father who had lost a son whom he had hoped would succeed him in his law practice, he still feels the pain of
an untimely demise and the stigma of the gruesome manner of his death.

d. He is not in a position to say whether petitioner is now morally fit for admission to the bar. He therefore
submits the matter to the sound discretion of the Court.

The practice of law is a privilege granted only to those who possess the strict intellectual and moral
qualifications required of lawyers who are instruments in the effective and efficient administration of justice.
It is the sworn duty of this Court not only to "weed out" lawyers who have become a disgrace to the noble
profession of the law but, also of equal importance, to prevent "misfits" from taking the lawyer's oath, thereby
further tarnishing the public image of lawyers which in recent years has undoubtedly become less than
irreproachable.

The resolution of the issue before us required weighing and reweighing of the reasons for allowing or
disallowing petitioner's admission to the practice of law. The senseless beatings inflicted upon Raul
Camaligan constituted evident absence of that moral fitness required for admission to the bar since they were
totally irresponsible, irrelevant and uncalled for.

In the 13 July 1995 resolution in this case we stated:

. . . participation in the prolonged and mindless physical behavior, [which] makes impossible a
finding that the participant [herein petitioner] was then possessed of good moral character. 1

In the same resolution, however, we stated that the Court is prepared to consider de novo the question of
whether petitioner has purged himself of the obvious deficiency in moral character referred to above.

Before anything else, the Court understands and shares the sentiment of Atty. Gilbert Camaligan. The death
of one's child is, for a parent, a most traumatic experience. The suffering becomes even more pronounced and
profound in cases where the death is due to causes other than natural or accidental but due to the reckless
imprudence of third parties. The feeling then becomes a struggle between grief and anger directed at the
cause of death.

Atty. Camaligan's statement before the Court- manifesting his having forgiven the accused is no less than
praiseworthy and commendable. It is exceptional for a parent, given the circumstances in this case, to find
room for forgiveness.

However, Atty. Camaligan admits that he is still not in a position to state if petitioner is now morally fit to be a
lawyer.

After a very careful evaluation of this case, we resolve to allow petitioner Al Caparros Argosino to take the
lawyer's oath, sign the Roll of Attorneys and practice the legal profession with the following admonition:

In allowing Mr. Argosino to take the lawyer's oath, the Court recognizes that Mr. Argosino is not inherently of
bad moral fiber. On the contrary, the various certifications show that he is a devout Catholic with a genuine
concern for civic duties and public service.

The Court is persuaded that Mr. Argosino has exerted all efforts to atone for the death of Raul Camaligan. We
are prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, taking judicial notice of the general tendency of youth to be
rash, temerarious and uncalculating.

We stress to Mr. Argosino that the lawyer's oath is NOT a mere ceremony or formality for practicing law. Every
lawyer should at ALL TIMES weigh his actions according to the sworn promises he makes when taking the
lawyer's oath. If all lawyers conducted themselves strictly according to the lawyer's oath and the Code of
Professional Responsibility, the administration of justice will undoubtedly be faster, fairer and easier for
everyone concerned.

The Court sincerely hopes that Mr. Argosino will continue with the assistance he has been giving to his
community. As a lawyer he will now be in a better position to render legal and other services to the more
unfortunate members of society.

PREMISES CONSIDERED, petitioner Al Caparros Argosino is hereby ALLOWED to take the lawyer's oath on a
date to be set by the Court, to sign the Roll of Attorneys and, thereafter, to practice the legal profession.

SO ORDERED.
EN BANC

[A.C. No. 4148. July 30, 1998]

REMEDIOS RAMIREZ TAPUCAR, complainant, vs. ATTY. LAURO L. TAPUCAR, respondent.

DECISION
PER CURIAM:

In a letter-complaint dated November 22, 1993, complainant Remedios Ramirez Tapucar sought the
disbarment of her husband, Atty. Lauro L. Tapucar, on the ground of continuing grossly immoral conduct for
cohabiting with a certain Elena (Helen) Pea under scandalous circumstances.[1]
Prior to this complaint, respondent was already administratively charged four times for conduct
unbecoming an officer of the court. in Administrative Matter No. 1740, resolved on April 11, 1980,
respondent, at that time the Judge of Butuan City, was meted the penalty of six months suspension without
pay,[2] while in Administrative Matter Nos. 1720, 1911 and 2300-CFI, which were consolidated,[3] this Court
on January 31, 1981 ordered the separation from service of respondent. [4]
Now he faces disbarment.
The records reveal the following facts:
From the Report and Recommendation of the Commission on Bar Discipline, it appears that complainant
and respondent were married on October 29, 1953 at the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Quezon
City. They established their residence in Antipolo, Rizal, were eight of their eleven children were born. In 1962
respondent relocated his family to Dadiangas, Cotabato (Now General Santos City), where his last three
children were born and where he practiced his profession until his appointment as a CFI Judge in Butuan
City on January 30, 1976.
In August, 1976, shortly after being appointed as CFI Judge, respondent began cohabiting with a certain
Elena (Helen) Pea, in Nasipit, Agusan Del Norte. On December 28, 1977 Elena gave birth to their first child,
named Ofelia Sembrano Pea.
In view of this cohabitation, a certain Atty. Tranquilino Calo filed an administrative complaint against
respondent for immorality. After investigation, the penalty of suspension from office for a period of six months
without pay was meted by this Court upon respondent. [5]
Despite this penalty, respondent still continued to cohabit with Elena, giving rise to another charge of
immorality and other administrative cases, such as conduct unbecoming an officer of the court, and grossly
immoral conduct. These cases were consolidated and after investigation, this Court ordered his dismissal and
separation from the service
But his dismissal as a judge did not impel respondent to mend his ways. He continued living with Elena,
which resulted in the birth on September 20, 1989, of their second child named Laella Pea
Tapucar. Moreover, he completely abandoned complainant and his children by her.
Respondent later moved from Nasipit, Agusan del Norte back to Antipolo, Rizal, bringing along Elena and
their two children. And on March 5, 1992, respondent contracted marriage with Elena in a ceremony
solemnized by Metropolitan Trial Court Judge Isagani A. Geronimo of Antipolo, Rizal. This was done while the
respondents marriage to complainant subsists, as nothing on record shows the dissolution thereof.
Complainant, in the meanwhile, had migrated to United States of America upon her retirement from the
government service in 1990.However, her children, who remained in Antipolo, kept her posted of the misery
they allegedly suffered because of their fathers acts, including deception and intrigues against them. Thus,
despite having previously withdrawn a similar case which she filed in 1976, complainant was forced to file the
present petition for disbarment under the compulsion of the material impulse to shield and protect her
children from the despotic and cruel acts of their own father. Complainant secured the assistance of her
eldest daughter, Atty. Ma. Susana Tapucar-Baua, to represent her in this case.
Consistent with Section 20, Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court, the matter was referred to the Commission
on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for investigation, report and recommendation. After
conducting a thorough investigation, the Commission through Commissioner Victor C. Fernandez
recommended that respondent be disbarred, and his name be stricken off the roll of attorneys. Mainly, this
was premised on the ground that, notwithstanding sanctions previously imposed upon him by the Honorable
Supreme Court, respondent continued the illicit liaison with Elena.
In his report Commissioner Fernandez noted that, instead of contradicting the charges against him,
respondent displayed arrogance, and even made a mockery of the law and the Court, as when he said:

I have been ordered suspended by Supreme Court for two months without pay in 1980 for having a mistress,
the same girl Ms. Elena (Helen) Pea, now my wife. Being ordered separated in later administrative case
constitute double jeopardy. If now disbarred for marrying Ms. Elena Pea will constitute triple jeopardy. If thats
the law so be it.[8]

Based on said report, the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, passed on May 17,
1997, a Resolution adopting the Commissioners recommendation, as follows:

RESOLUTION NO. XII-97-97


Adm. Case No. 4148
Remedios Ramirez Tapucar vs. Atty. Lauro L. Tapucar

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby ADOPTED and APPROVED, the Report and
Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the above-titled case, herein made part of the
Resolution/Decision as Annex A; and, finding the recommendation therein to be fully supported by the
evidence on record and the applicable laws and rules, Respondent Atty. Lauro L. Tapucar is hereby
DISBARRED and that his name be stricken off the roll of attorneys.

We find the Report and Recommendation of Commissioner Fernandez, as approved and adopted by the
Board of Governors of IBP, more than sufficient to justify and support the foregoing Resolution, herein
considered as the recommendation to this Court by said Board pursuant to Rule 139-B, Sec. 12(b), of the
Rules of Court.* We are in agreement that respondents actuations merit the penalty of disbarment.
Well settled is the rule that good moral character is not only a condition precedent for admission to the
legal profession, but it must also remain intact in order to maintain ones good standing in that exclusive and
honored fraternity.[9] There is perhaps no profession after that of the sacred ministry in which a high-toned
morality is more imperative than that of law. [10] The Code of Professional Responsibility mandates that:

Rule 1.01. A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.

Rule 7.03 A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor
should he, whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal
profession.*

As this Court often reminds members of the Bar, they must live up to the standards and norms expected
of the legal profession, by upholding the ideals and tenets embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility
always. Lawyers must maintain a high standards of legal proficiency, as well as morality including honesty,
integrity and fair dealing. For they are at all times subject to the scrutinizing eye of public opinion and
community approbation. Needless to state, those whose conduct both public and private fails this scrutiny
would have to be disciplined and, after appropriate proceedings, penalized accordingly.
Moreover, it should be recalled that respondent here was once a member of the judiciary, a fact that
aggravates this professional infractions. For having occupied that place of honor in the Bench, he knew a
judges actuations ought to be free from any appearance of impropriety.[ For a judge is the visible
representation of the law, more importantly, of justice. Ordinary citizens consider him as a source of strength
that fortifies their will to obey the law. [12] Indeed, a judge should avoid the slightest infraction of the law in all
of his actuations, lest it be a demoralizing example to others. Surely, respondent could not have forgotten the
Code of Judicial Conduct entirely as to lose its moral imperatives.
Like a judge who is held to a high standard of integrity and ethical conduct, an attorney-at-law is also
invested with public trust. Judges and lawyers serve in the administration of justice. Admittedly, as officers of
the court, lawyers must ensure the faith and confidence of the public that justice is administered with dignity
and civility. A high degree or moral integrity is expected of a lawyer in the community where he resides. He
must maintain due regard for public decency in an orderly society.
A lawyer is expected at all times to uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession by faithfully
performing his duties to society, to the bar, to the courts and to his clients. Exacted from him, as a member of
the profession charged with the responsibility to stand as a shield in the defense of what is right, are such
positive qualities of decency, truthfulness and responsibility that have been compendiously described as
moral character. To achieve such end, every lawyer needs to strive at all times to honor and maintain the
dignity of his profession, and thus improve not only the public regard for the Bar but also the administration
of justice.
On these considerations, the Court may disbar or suspend a lawyer for misconduct, whether in his
professional or private capacity, which shows him to be wanting in moral character, in honesty, probity, and
good demeanor, thus proving unworthy to continue as an officer of the court.
The power to disbar, however, is one to be exercised with great caution, and only in a clear case of
misconduct which seriously affects the standing and character of the lawyer as an officer of the Court of and
member of the bar. For disbarment proceedings are intended to afford the parties thereto full opportunity to
vindicate their cause before disciplinary action is taken, to assure the general public that those who are
tasked with the duty of administering justice are competent, honorable, trustworthy men and women in
whom the Courts and the clients may repose full confidence.
In the case of Obusan vs. Obusan, Jr.,[19] a complaint for disbarment was filed against a member of the
bar by his wife. She was able to prove that he had abandoned his wife and their son; and that he had
adulterous relations with a married but separated woman. Respondent was not able to overcome the evidence
presented by his wife that he was guilty of grossly immoral conduct. In another case,[20] a lawyer was
disbarred when he abandoned his lawful wife and cohabited with another woman who had borne him a
child. The Court held that respondent failed to maintain the highest degree of morality expected and required
of a member of a bar.
In the present case, the record shows that despite previous sanctions imposed upon by this Court,
respondent continued his illicit liaison with a woman other than lawfully-wedded wife. The report of the
Commissioner assigned to investigate thoroughly the complaint found respondent far from contrite; on the
contrary, he exhibited a cavalier attitude, even arrogance; in the face of charges against him. The IBP Board of
Governors, tasked to determine whether he still merited the privileges extended to a member of the legal
profession, resolved the matter against him. For indeed, evidence of grossly immoral conduct abounds against
him and could not be explained away. Keeping a mistress, entering into another marriage while a prior one
still subsists, as well as abandoning and/or mistreating complainant and their children, show his disregard of
family obligations, morality and decency, the law and the lawyers oath. Such gross misbehavior over a long
period of time clearly shows a serious flaw in respondents character, his moral indifference to scandal in the
community, and his outright defiance of established norms. All these could not but put the legal profession in
disrepute and place the integrity of the administration of justice in peril, hence the need for strict but
appropriate disciplinary action.
IN VIEW THEREOF, respondent Atty. Lauro L. Tapucar is hereby DISBARRED. The Clerk of Court is
directed to strike out his name from the Roll of Attorneys.
SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


Supreme Court
Manila

EN BANC

MAELOTISEA S. GARRIDO, A.C. No. 6593


Complainant,
Present:
PUNO, C.J.,
CARPIO,
CORONA,
CARPIO MORALES,
VELASCO, JR.,
NACHURA,
- versus - LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,
BRION,
PERALTA,
BERSAMIN,
DEL CASTILLO,
*ABAD,

VILLARAMA, JR.,
PEREZ, and
ATTYS. ANGEL E. GARRIDO and * MENDOZA, JJ.

ROMANA P. VALENCIA, Promulgated:


Respondents. ______________

x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x
DECISION

PER CURIAM:

Maelotisea Sipin Garrido filed a complaint-affidavit and a supplemental affidavit for disbarment

against the respondents Atty. Angel E. Garrido (Atty. Garrido) and Atty. Romana P.Valencia (Atty. Valencia)
before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Committee on Discipline charging them with gross

immorality. The complaint-affidavit states:

1. That I am the legal wife of Atty. Angel E. Garrido by virtue of our marriage on June 23,
1962 at San Marcelino Church, Ermita, Manila which was solemnized by Msgr. Daniel
Cortes x x x

2. That our marriage blossomed into having us blessed with six (6) children, namely, Mat
Elizabeth, Arnel Angelito, Madeleine Eloiza, Arnel Angelo, Arnel Victorino and Madonna
Angeline, all surnamed Garrido;

3. xxxx

4. That on May, 1991, during my light moments with our children, one of my daughters,
Madeleine confided to me that sometime on the later part of 1987, an unknown caller
talked with her claiming that the former is a child of my husband. I ignored it and
dismissed it as a mere joke. But when May Elizabeth, also one of my daughters told me
that sometime on August 1990, she saw my husband strolling at the Robinsons
Department Store at Ermita, Manila together with a woman and a child who was later
identified as Atty. Ramona Paguida Valencia and Angeli Ramona Valencia Garrido,
respectively x x x

5. xxxx

6. That I did not stop from unearthing the truth until I was able to secure the Certificate of
Live Birth of the child, stating among others that the said child is their daughter and that
Atty. Angel Escobar Garrido and Atty. Romana Paguida Valencia were married at Hongkong
sometime on 1978.

7. That on June 1993, my husband left our conjugal home and joined Atty. Ramona
Paguida Valencia at their residence x x x

8. That since he left our conjugal home he failed and still failing to give us our needed
financial support to the prejudice of our children who stopped schooling because of
financial constraints.

xxxx

That I am also filing a disbarment proceedings against his mistress as alleged in the
same affidavit, Atty. Romana P. Valencia considering that out of their immoral acts I suffered
not only mental anguish but also besmirch reputation, wounded feelings and sleepless
nights; x x x

In his Counter-Affidavit, Atty. Garrido denied Maelotiseas charges and imputations. By way of defense,

he alleged that Maelotisea was not his legal wife, as he was already married to Constancia David (Constancia)

when he married Maelotisea. He claimed he married Maelotisea after he and Constancia parted ways. He

further alleged that Maelotisea knew all his escapades and understood his bad boy image before she married

him in 1962. As he and Maelotisea grew apart over the years due to financial problems, Atty. Garrido met

Atty. Valencia. He became close to Atty. Valencia to whom he confided his difficulties. Together, they resolved

his personal problems and his financial difficulties with his second family. Atty. Garrido denied that he failed
to give financial support to his children with Maelotisea, emphasizing that all his six (6) children were

educated in private schools; all graduated from college except for Arnel Victorino, who finished a special

secondary course Atty. Garrido alleged that Maelotisea had not been employed and had not practiced her

profession for the past ten (10) years.

Atty. Garrido emphasized that all his marriages were contracted before he became a member of the bar

on May 11, 1979, with the third marriage contracted after the death of Constancia on December 26, 1977.

Likewise, his children with Maelotisea were born before he became a lawyer.

In her Counter-Affidavit, Atty. Valencia denied that she was the mistress of Atty. Garrido. She

explained that Maelotisea was not the legal wife of Atty. Garrido since the marriage between them was void

from the beginning due to the then existing marriage of Atty. Garrido with Constancia. Atty. Valencia claimed

that Maelotisea knew of the romantic relationship between her and Atty. Garrido, as they (Maelotisea and

Atty. Valencia) met in 1978. Maelotisea kept silent about her relationship with Atty. Garrido and had

maintained this silence when she (Atty. Valencia) financially helped Atty. Garrido build a house for his second

family. Atty. Valencia alleged that Maelotisea was not a proper party to this suit because of her silence; she

kept silent when things were favorable and beneficial to her. Atty. Valencia also alleged that Maelotisea had

no cause of action against her.

In the course of the hearings, the parties filed the following motions before the IBP Commission on

Bar Discipline:

First, the respondents filed a Motion for Suspension of Proceeding in view of the criminal complaint for

concubinage Maelotisea filed against them, and the Petition for Declaration of Nullity (of marriage) Atty.

Garrido filed to nullify his marriage to Maelotisea. The IBP Commission on Bar Discipline denied this motion

for lack of merit.

Second, the respondents filed a Motion to Dismiss the complaints after the Regional Trial Court of

Quezon City declared the marriage between Atty. Garrido and Maelotisea an absolute nullity. Since Maelotisea

was never the legal wife of Atty. Garrido, the respondents argued that she had no personality to file her

complaints against them. The respondents also alleged that they had not committed any immoral act since

they married when Atty. Garrido was already a widower, and the acts complained of were committed before

his admission to the bar. The IBP Commission on Bar Discipline also denied this motion.
Third, Maelotisea filed a motion for the dismissal of the complaints she filed against the respondents,

arguing that she wanted to maintain friendly relations with Atty. Garrido, who is the father of her six (6)

children. The IBP Commission on Bar Discipline likewise denied this motion.

On April 13, 2004, Investigating Commissioner Milagros V. San Juan (Investigating Commissioner San

Juan) submitted her Report and Recommendation for the respondents disbarment. The Commission on Bar

Discipline of the IBP Board of Governors (IBP Board of Governors) approved and adopted this recommendation

with modification under Resolution No. XVI-2004-375 dated July 30, 2004. This resolution in part states:

x x x finding the recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable
laws and rules, and considering that Atty. Garrido exhibited conduct which lacks the degree of
morality required as members of the bar, Atty. Angel E. Garrido is hereby DISBARRED for
gross immorality. However, the case against Atty. Romana P. Valencia is
hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit of the complaint.

Atty. Garrido moved to reconsider this resolution, but the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline denied his

motion under Resolution No. XVII-2007-038 dated January 18, 2007.

Atty. Garrido now seeks relief with this Court through the present petition for review. He submits that under

the circumstances, he did not commit any gross immorality that would warrant his disbarment. He also

argues that the offenses charged have prescribed under the IBP rules.

Additionally, Atty. Garrido pleads that he be allowed on humanitarian considerations to retain his

profession; he is already in the twilight of his life, and has kept his promise to lead an upright and

irreproachable life notwithstanding his situation.

In compliance with our Resolution dated August 25, 2009, Atty. Alicia A. Risos-Vidal (Atty. Risos-

Vidal), Director of the Commission on Bar Discipline, filed her Comment on the petition. She recommends a

modification of the penalty from disbarment to reprimand, advancing the view that disbarment is very harsh

considering that the 77-year old Atty. Garrido took responsibility for his acts and tried to mend his ways by

filing a petition for declaration of nullity of his bigamous marriage. Atty. Risos-Vidal also notes that no other

administrative case has ever been filed against Atty. Garrido.

THE COURTS RULING

After due consideration, we resolve to adopt the findings of the IBP Board of Governors against

Atty. Garrido, and to reject its recommendation with respect to Atty. Valencia.
General Considerations

Laws dealing with double jeopardy or with procedure such as the verification of pleadings and prejudicial
questions, or in this case, prescription of offenses or the filing of affidavits of desistance by the complainant
do not apply in the determination of a lawyers qualifications and fitness for membership in the Bar.[13] We
have so ruled in the past and we see no reason to depart from this ruling. [14] First, admission to the practice of
law is a component of the administration of justice and is a matter of public interest because it involves
service to the public.[15] The admission qualifications are also qualifications for the continued enjoyment of the
privilege to practice law. Second, lack of qualifications or the violation of the standards for the practice of law,
like criminal cases, is a matter of public concern that the State may inquire into through this Court. In this
sense, the complainant in a disbarment case is not a direct party whose interest in the outcome of the charge
is wholly his or her own;[16] effectively, his or her participation is that of a witness who brought the matter to
the attention of the Court.

As applied to the present case, the time that elapsed between the immoral acts charged and the filing
of the complaint is not material in considering the qualification of Atty. Garrido when he applied for
admission to the practice of law, and his continuing qualification to be a member of the legal professi
on. From this perspective, it is not important that the acts complained of were committed before Atty. Garrido
was admitted to the practice of law. As we explained in Zaguirre v. Castillo,[17] the possession of good moral
character is both a condition precedent and a continuing requirement to warrant admission to the bar and to
retain membership in the legal profession. Admission to the bar does not preclude a subsequent judicial
inquiry, upon proper complaint, into any question concerning the mental or moral fitness of the respondent
before he became a lawyer.Admission to the practice only creates the rebuttable presumption that the
applicant has all the qualifications to become a lawyer; this may be refuted by clear and convincing evidence
to the contrary even after admission to the Bar.

Parenthetically, Article VIII Section 5(5) of the Constitution recognizes the disciplinary authority of the
Court over the members of the Bar to be merely incidental to the Court's exclusive power to admit applicants
to the practice of law. Reinforcing the implementation of this constitutional authority is Section 27, Rule 138
of the Rules of Court which expressly states that a member of the bar may be disbarred or suspended from
his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for, among others, any deceit, grossly immoral conduct, or
violation of the oath that he is required to take before admission to the practice of law.
In light of the public service character of the practice of law and the nature of disbarment proceedings
as a public interest concern, Maelotiseas affidavit of desistance cannot have the effect of discontinuing or
abating the disbarment proceedings. As we have stated, Maelotisea is more of a witness than a complainant in
these proceedings. We note further that she filed her affidavits of withdrawal only after she had presented her
evidence; her evidence are now available for the Courts examination and consideration, and their merits are
not affected by her desistance. We cannot fail to note, too, that Mealotisea filed her affidavit of desistance, not
to disown or refute the evidence she had submitted, but solely becuase of compassion (and, impliedly, out of
concern for her personal financial interest in continuing friendly relations with Atty. Garrido).

Immoral conduct involves acts that are willful, flagrant, or shameless, and that show a moral
indifference to the opinion of the upright and respectable members of the community. Immoral conduct is
gross when it is so corrupt as to constitute a criminal act, or so unprincipled as to be reprehensible to a high
degree, or when committed under such scandalous or revolting circumstances as to shock the communitys
sense of decency. We make these distinctions as the supreme penalty of disbarment arising from conduct
requires grossly immoral, not simply immoral, conduct.

In several cases, we applied the above standard in considering lawyers who contracted an unlawful
second marriage or multiple marriages.

In Macarrubo v. Macarrubo,[23] the respondent lawyer entered into multiple marriages and

subsequently used legal remedies to sever them. We ruled that the respondents pattern of misconduct

undermined the institutions of marriage and family institutions that this society looks up to for the rearing of

our children, for the development of values essential to the survival and well-being of our communities, and

for the strengthening of our nation as a whole. In this light, no fate other than disbarment awaited the

wayward respondent.

In Villasanta v. Peralta,[24] the respondent lawyer married the complainant while his marriage with his

first wife was subsisting. We held that the respondents act of contracting the second marriage was contrary to

honesty, justice, decency and morality.The lack of good moral character required by the Rules of Court

disqualified the respondent from admission to the Bar.

Similar to Villasanta was the case of Conjuangco, Jr. v. Palma,[25] where the respondent secretly

contracted a second marriage with the daughter of his client in Hongkong. We found that the respondent

exhibited a deplorable lack of that degree of morality required of members of the Bar. In particular, he made a

mockery of marriage a sacred institution that demands respect and dignity. We also declared his act of

contracting a second marriage contrary to honesty, justice, decency and morality.

In this case, the undisputed facts gathered from the evidence and the admissions of Atty. Garrido
established a pattern of gross immoral conduct that warrants his disbarment. His conduct was not only
corrupt or unprincipled; it was reprehensible to the highest degree.

First, Atty. Garrido admitted that he left Constancia to pursue his law studies; thereafter and during
the marriage, he had romantic relationships with other women. He had the gall to represent to this Court that
the study of law was his reason for leaving his wife; marriage and the study of law are not mutually exclusive.

Second, he misrepresented himself to Maelotisea as a bachelor, when in truth he was already married
to Constancia.This was a misrepresentation given as an excuse to lure a woman into a prohibited
relationship.

Third, Atty. Garrido contracted his second marriage with Maelotisea notwithstanding the subsistence
of his first marriage. This was an open admission, not only of an illegal liaison, but of the commission of a
crime.
Fourth, Atty. Garrido engaged in an extra-marital affair with Atty. Valencia while his two marriages
were in place and without taking into consideration the moral and emotional implications of his actions on
the two women he took as wives and on his six (6) children by his second marriage.

Fifth, instead of making legal amends to validate his marriage with Maelotisea upon the death of
Constancia, Atty. Garrido married Atty. Valencia who bore him a daughter.

Sixth, Atty. Garrido misused his legal knowledge and convinced Atty. Valencia (who was not then a
lawyer) that he was free to marry, considering that his marriage with Maelotisea was not valid.

Seventh, as the evidence on record implies, Atty. Garrido married Atty. Valencia in Hongkong in an
apparent attempt to accord legitimacy to a union entered into while another marriage was in place.

Eighth, after admission to the practice of law, Atty. Garrido simultaneously cohabited and had sexual
relations with two (2) women who at one point were both his wedded wives. He also led a double life with two
(2) families for a period of more than ten (10) years.

Lastly, Atty. Garrido petitioned for the nullity of his marriage to Maelotisea. Contrary to the position
advanced by Atty. Alicia A. Risos-Vidal, this was not an act of facing up to his responsibility or an act of
mending his ways. This was an attempt, using his legal knowledge, to escape liability for his past actions by
having his second marriage declared void after the present complaint was filed against him.

By his actions, Garrido committed multiple violations relating to the legal profession, specifically, violations of
the bar admission rules, of his lawyers oath, and of the ethical rules of the profession.

He did not possess the good moral character required of a lawyer at the time of his admission to the
Bar.[27] As a lawyer, he violated his lawyers oath,[28] Section 20(a) of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, [29] and
Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, [30] all of which commonly require him to obey the laws of
the land. In marrying Maelotisea, he committed the crime of bigamy, as he entered this second marriage while
his first marriage with Constancia was subsisting. He openly admitted his bigamy when he filed his petition to
nullify his marriage to Maelotisea.

He violated ethical rules of the profession, specifically, Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility,
which commands that he shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct; Canon 7
of the same Code, which demands that [a]lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the
legal profession; Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides that, [a] lawyer shall
not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor should he, whether in
public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession.

As a lawyer, his community looked up to Atty. Garrido with the expectation and that he would set a good

example in promoting obedience to the Constitution and the laws. When he violated the law and distorted it to

cater to his own personal needs and selfish motives, he discredited the legal profession and created the public

impression that laws are mere tools of convenience that can be used, bended and abused to satisfy personal

whims and desires. In this case, he also used the law to free him from unwanted relationships.
The Court has often reminded the members of the bar to live up to the standards and norms expected

of the legal profession by upholding the ideals and principles embodied in the Code of Professional

Responsibility.[31] Lawyers are bound to maintain not only a high standard of legal proficiency, but also of

morality, including honesty, integrity and fair dealing. [32] Lawyers are at all times subject to the watchful

public eye and community approbation.[33] Needless to state, those whose conduct both public and private fail

this scrutiny have to be disciplined and, after appropriate proceedings, accordingly penalized.[34]

Atty. Valencia

We agree with the findings of Investigating Commissioner San Juan that Atty. Valencia should be

administratively liable under the circumstances for gross immorality:

x x x The contention of respondent that they were not yet lawyers in March 27, 1978 when they
got married shall not afford them exemption from sanctions, for good moral character is
required as a condition precedent to admission to the Bar. Likewise there is no distinction
whether the misconduct was committed in the lawyers professional capacity or in his private
life. Again, the claim that his marriage to complainant was void ab initio shall not relieve
respondents from responsibility x x x Although the second marriage of the respondent was
subsequently declared null and void the fact remains that respondents exhibited conduct
which lacks that degree of morality required of them as members of the Bar. [35]

Moral character is not a subjective term but one that corresponds to objective reality. To have good

moral character, a person must have the personal characteristics of being good. It is not enough that he or

she has a good reputation, i.e., the opinion generally entertained about a person or the estimate in which he

or she is held by the public in the place where she is known. The requirement of good moral character has

four general purposes, namely: (1) to protect the public; (2) to protect the public image of lawyers; (3) to

protect prospective clients; and (4) to protect errant lawyers from themselves. [38] Each purpose is as important

as the other.

Under the circumstances, we cannot overlook that prior to becoming a lawyer, Atty. Valencia already

knew that Atty. Garrido was a married man (either to Constancia or to Maelotisea), and that he already had a

family. As Atty. Garridos admitted confidante, she was under the moral duty to give him proper advice;

instead, she entered into a romantic relationship with him for about six (6) years during the subsistence of his

two marriages. In 1978, she married Atty. Garrido with the knowledge that he had an outstanding second

marriage. These circumstances, to our mind, support the conclusion that she lacked good moral character;

even without being a lawyer, a person possessed of high moral values, whose confidential advice was sought

by another with respect to the latters family problems, would not aggravate the situation by entering into a

romantic liaison with the person seeking advice, thereby effectively alienating the other persons feelings and

affection from his wife and family.


While Atty. Valencia contends that Atty. Garridos marriage with Maelotisea was null and void, the fact

remains that he took a man away from a woman who bore him six (6) children. Ordinary decency would have

required her to ward off Atty. Garridos advances, as he was a married man, in fact a twice-married man with

both marriages subsisting at that time; she should have said no to Atty. Garrido from the very start. Instead,

she continued her liaison with Atty. Garrido, driving him, upon the death of Constancia, away from

legitimizing his relationship with Maelotisea and their children. Worse than this, because of Atty. Valencias

presence and willingness, Atty. Garrido even left his second family and six children for a third marriage with

her. This scenario smacks of immorality even if viewed outside of the prism of law.

We are not unmindful of Atty. Valencias expressed belief that Atty. Garridos second marriage to

Maelotisea was invalid; hence, she felt free to marry Atty. Garrido. While this may be correct in the strict legal

sense and was later on confirmed by the declaration of the nullity of Atty. Garridos marriage to Maelotisea, we

do not believe at all in the honesty of this expressed belief.

The records show that Atty. Valencia consented to be married in Hongkong, not within the

country. Given that this marriage transpired before the declaration of the nullity of Atty. Garridos second

marriage, we can only call this Hongkong marriage a clandestine marriage, contrary to the Filipino tradition of

celebrating a marriage together with family. Despite Atty. Valencias claim that she agreed to marry Atty.

Garrido only after he showed her proof of his capacity to enter into a subsequent valid marriage, the celebration

of their marriage in Hongkong leads us to the opposite conclusion; they wanted to marry in Hongkong for the

added security of avoiding any charge of bigamy by entering into the subsequent marriage outside Philippine

jurisdiction. In this regard, we cannot help but note that Atty. Valencia afterwards opted to retain and use her

surname instead of using the surname of her husband. Atty. Valencia, too, did not appear to mind that her

husband did not live and cohabit with her under one roof, but with his second wife and the family of this

marriage. Apparently, Atty. Valencia did not mind at all sharing her husband with another woman. This, to

us, is a clear demonstration of Atty. Valencias perverse sense of moral values.

Measured against the definition of gross immorality, we find Atty. Valencias actions grossly immoral.

Her actions were so corrupt as to approximate a criminal act, for she married a man who, in all appearances,

was married to another and with whom he has a family. Her actions were also unprincipled and reprehensible

to a high degree; as the confidante of Atty. Garrido, she preyed on his vulnerability and engaged in a romantic

relationship with him during the subsistence of his two previous marriages. As already mentioned, Atty.

Valencias conduct could not but be scandalous and revolting to the point of shocking the communitys sense
of decency; while she professed to be the lawfully wedded wife, she helped the second family build a house

prior to her marriage to Atty. Garrido, and did not object to sharing her husband with the woman of his

second marriage.

We find that Atty. Valencia violated Canon 7 and Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility,

as her behavior demeaned the dignity of and discredited the legal profession. She simply failed in her duty as

a lawyer to adhere unwaveringly to the highest standards of morality. In Barrientos v. Daarol,[41] we held that

lawyers, as officers of the court, must not only be of good moral character but must also be seen to be of good

moral character and must lead lives in accordance with the highest moral standards of the community. Atty.

Valencia failed to live up to these standards before she was admitted to the bar and after she became a

member of the legal profession.

Conclusion

Membership in the Bar is a privilege burdened with conditions. As a privilege bestowed by law through
the Supreme Court, membership in the Bar can be withdrawn where circumstances concretely show the
lawyers lack of the essential qualifications required of lawyers. We resolve to withdraw this privilege from Atty.
Angel E. Garrido and Atty. Rowena P. Valencia for this reason.

In imposing the penalty of disbarment upon the respondents, we are aware that the power to disbar is
one to be exercised with great caution and only in clear cases of misconduct that seriously affects the
standing and character of the lawyer as a legal professional and as an officer of the Court.

We are convinced from the totality of the evidence on hand that the present case is one of them. The
records show the parties pattern of grave and immoral misconduct that demonstrates their lack of mental and
emotional fitness and moral character to qualify them for the responsibilities and duties imposed on lawyers
as professionals and as officers of the court.

While we are keenly aware of Atty. Garridos plea for compassion and his act of supporting his children
with Maelotisea after their separation, we cannot grant his plea. The extent of his demonstrated violations of
his oath, the Rules of Court and of the Code of Professional Responsibility overrides what under other
circumstances are commendable traits of character.

In like manner, Atty. Valencias behavior over a long period of time unequivocally demonstrates a basic
and serious flaw in her character, which we cannot simply brush aside without undermining the dignity of
the legal profession and without placing the integrity of the administration of justice into question. She was
not an on-looker victimized by the circumstances, but a willing and knowing full participant in a love triangle
whose incidents crossed into the illicit.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court resolves to:

(1) DISBAR Atty. Angel E. Garrido from the practice of law for gross immorality, violation of the
Lawyers Oath; and violation of Rule 1.01, Canon 7 and Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility; and
(2) DISBAR Atty. Romana P. Valencia from the practice of law for gross immorality, violation of Canon
7 and Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Let a copy of this Decision be attached to the personal records of Atty. Angel E. Garrido and Atty.
Romana P. Valencia in the Office of the Bar Confidant, and another copy furnished the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines.

The Clerk of Court is directed to strike out the names of Angel E. Garrido and Rowena P.
Valencia from the Roll of Attorneys.
SO ORDERED.

THIRD DIVISION

FERDINAND A. CRUZ, 332 Edang St., Pasay City, G.R. No. 154464

Petitioner,
Present:

- versus -
TINGA, J.,*
CHICO-NAZARIO,

JUDGE PRISCILLA MIJARES, Presiding Judge, Acting Chairperson,


Regional Trial Court, Branch 108, Pasay City,
Metro Manila, VELASCO, JR.,*

Public Respondent. NACHURA, and

REYES, JJ.

BENJAMIN MINA, JR., 332 Edang


St., Pasay City, Promulgated:
Private Respondent.

September 11, 2008

x------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

NACHURA, J.:

This is a Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition and Mandamus, with prayer for the issuance of a writ of
preliminary injunction under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. It was directly filed with this Court assailing the
Resolutions dated May 10, 2002[1] and July 31, 2002[2] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 108, Pasay
City, which denied the appearance of the plaintiff Ferdinand A. Cruz, herein petitioner, as party litigant, and
the refusal of the public respondent, Judge Priscilla Mijares, to voluntarily inhibit herself from trying the case.
No writ of preliminary injunction was issued by this Court.

The antecedents:

On March 5, 2002, Ferdinand A. Cruz (petitioner) sought permission to enter his appearance for and on his
behalf, before the RTC, Branch 108, Pasay City, as the plaintiff in Civil Case No. 01-0410, for Abatement of
Nuisance. Petitioner, a fourth year law student, anchors his claim on Section 34 of Rule 138 of the Rules of
Court that a non-lawyer may appear before any court and conduct his litigation personally.

During the pre-trial, Judge Priscilla Mijares required the petitioner to secure a written permission from
the Court Administrator before he could be allowed to appear as counsel for himself, a party-litigant. Atty.
Stanley Cabrera, counsel for Benjamin Mina, Jr., filed a Motion to Dismiss instead of a pre-trial brief to which
petitioner Cruz vehemently objected alleging that a Motion to Dismiss is not allowed after the Answer had
been filed. Judge Mijares then remarked, Hay naku, masama yung marunong pa sa Huwes. Ok? and
proceeded to hear the pending Motion to Dismiss and calendared the next hearing on May 2, 2002.
On March 6, 2002, petitioner Cruz filed a Manifestation and Motion to Inhibit, praying for the
voluntary inhibition of Judge Mijares. The Motion alleged that expected partiality on the part of the
respondent judge in the conduct of the trial could be inferred from the contumacious remarks of Judge
Mijares during the pre-trial. It asserts that the judge, in uttering an uncalled for remark, reflects a negative
frame of mind, which engenders the belief that justice will not be served.

In an Order dated April 19, 2002, Judge Mijares denied the motion for inhibition stating that throwing
tenuous allegations of partiality based on the said remark is not enough to warrant her voluntary inhibition,
considering that it was said even prior to the start of pre-trial. Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of
the said order.

On May 10, 2002, Judge Mijares denied the motion with finality. In the same Order, the trial court
held that for the failure of petitioner Cruz to submit the promised document and jurisprudence, and for his
failure to satisfy the requirements or conditions under Rule 138-A of the Rules of Court, his appearance was
denied.

In a motion for reconsideration, petitioner reiterated that the basis of his appearance was not Rule
138-A, but Section 34 of Rule 138. He contended that the two Rules were distinct and are applicable to
different circumstances, but the respondent judge denied the same, still invoking Rule 138-A, in an
Order dated July 31, 2002.

On August 16, 2002, the petitioner directly filed with this Court, the instant petition and assigns the
following errors:
THE RESPONDENT REGIONAL TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED AND ABUSED ITS
DISCRETION WHEN IT DENIED THE APPEARANCE OF THE PETITIONER, FOR AND IN THE
LATTERS BEHALF, IN CIVIL CASE NO. 01-0401 [sic] CONTRARY TO RULE 138, SECTION 34
OF THE RULES OF COURT, PROVIDING FOR THE APPEARANCE OF NON-LAWYERS AS A
PARTY LITIGANT;

II.

THE RESPONDENT COURT GRAVELY ERRED AND ABUSED ITS DISCRETION WHEN IT DID
NOT VOLUNTARILY INHIBIT DESPITE THE ADVENT OF JURISPRUDENCE [sic] THAT SUCH
AN INHIBITION IS PROPER TO PRESERVE THE PEOPLES FAITH AND CONFIDENCE TO THE
COURTS.

The core issues raised before the Court are: (1) whether the extraordinary writs of certiorari,
prohibition and mandamus under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Court may issue; and (2) whether the
respondent court acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it
denied the appearance of the petitioner as party litigant and when the judge refused to inhibit herself from
trying the case.

This Courts jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus and injunction is not
exclusive; it has concurrent jurisdiction with the RTCs and the Court of Appeals. This concurrence of
jurisdiction is not, however, to be taken as an absolute, unrestrained freedom to choose the court where the
application therefor will be directed. A becoming regard of the judicial hierarchy most certainly indicates that
petitions for the issuance of extraordinary writs against the RTCs should be filed with the Court of Appeals.
The hierarchy of courts is determinative of the appropriate forum for petitions for the extraordinary writs; and
only in exceptional cases and for compelling reasons, or if warranted by the nature of the issues reviewed,
may this Court take cognizance of petitions filed directly before it.

Considering, however, that this case involves the interpretation of Section 34, Rule 138 and Rule 138-
A of the Rules of Court, the Court takes cognizance of herein petition. Nonetheless, the petitioner is cautioned
not to continue his practice of filing directly before this Court petitions under Rule 65 when the issue raised
can be resolved with dispatch by the Court of Appeals. We will not tolerate litigants who make a mockery of
the judicial hierarchy as it necessarily delays more important concerns before us.

In resolving the second issue, a comparative reading of Rule 138, Section 34 and Rule 138-A is necessary.

Rule 138-A, or the Law Student Practice Rule, provides:


RULE 138-A

LAW STUDENT PRACTICE RULE

Section 1. Conditions for Student Practice. A law student who has successfully completed his
3rd year of the regular four-year prescribed law curriculum and is enrolled in a recognized
law school's clinical legal education program approved by the Supreme Court, may appear
without compensation in any civil, criminal or administrative case before any trial court,
tribunal, board or officer, to represent indigent clients accepted by the legal clinic of the law
school.

Sec. 2. Appearance. The appearance of the law student authorized by this rule, shall be under
the direct supervision and control of a member of the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines duly accredited by the law school. Any and all pleadings, motions, briefs,
memoranda or other papers to be filed, must be signed by the supervising attorney for and in
behalf of the legal clinic.

The respondent court held that the petitioner could not appear for himself and on his behalf because
of his failure to comply with Rule 138-A. In denying petitioners appearance, the court a quo tersely finds
refuge in the fact that, on December 18, 1986, this Court issued Circular No. 19, which eventually became
Rule 138-A, and the failure of Cruz to prove on record that he is enrolled in a recognized schools clinical legal
education program and is under supervision of an attorney duly accredited by the law school.

However, the petitioner insisted that the basis of his appearance was Section 34 of Rule 138, which provides:

Sec. 34. By whom litigation is conducted. - In the court of a justice of the peace, a party may
conduct his litigation in person, with the aid of an agent or friend appointed by him for that
purpose, or with the aid of an attorney. In any other court, a party may conduct his
litigation personally or by aid of an attorney, and his appearance must be either personal or
by a duly authorized member of the bar and is a rule distinct from Rule 138-A.
From the clear language of this provision of the Rules, it will have to be conceded that the contention
of the petitioner has merit. It recognizes the right of an individual to represent himself in any case to which he
is a party. The Rules state that a party may conduct his litigation personally or with the aid of an attorney,
and that his appearance must either be personal or by a duly authorized member of the Bar. The individual
litigant may personally do everything in the course of proceedings from commencement to the termination of
the litigation. Considering that a party personally conducting his litigation is restricted to the same rules of
evidence and procedure as those qualified to practice law, petitioner, not being a lawyer himself, runs the risk
of falling into the snares and hazards of his own ignorance. Therefore, Cruz as plaintiff, at his own instance,
can personally conduct the litigation of Civil Case No. 01-0410. He would then be acting not as a counsel or
lawyer, but as a party exercising his right to represent himself.

The trial court must have been misled by the fact that the petitioner is a law student and must,
therefore, be subject to the conditions of the Law Student Practice Rule. It erred in applying Rule 138-A, when
the basis of the petitioners claim is Section 34 of Rule 138. The former rule provides for conditions when a
law student may appear in courts, while the latter rule allows the appearance of a non-lawyer as a party
representing himself.

The conclusion of the trial court that Rule 138-A superseded Rule 138 by virtue of Circular No. 19 is
misplaced. The Court never intended to repeal Rule 138 when it released the guidelines for limited law
student practice. In fact, it was intended as an addendum to the instances when a non-lawyer may appear in
courts and was incorporated to the Rules of Court through Rule 138-A.

It may be relevant to recall that, in respect to the constitutional right of an accused to be heard by
himself and counsel, this Court has held that during the trial, the right to counsel cannot be waived.[ The
rationale for this ruling was articulated in People v. Holgado, where we declared that even the most intelligent
or educated man may have no skill in the science of law, particularly in the rules of procedure, and without
counsel, he may be convicted not because he is guilty but because he does not know how to establish his
innocence.

The case at bar involves a civil case, with the petitioner as plaintiff therein. The solicitous concern that
the Constitution accords the accused in a criminal prosecution obviously does not obtain in a civil case. Thus,
a party litigant in a civil case, who insists that he can, without a lawyers assistance, effectively undertake the
successful pursuit of his claim, may be given the chance to do so. In this case, petitioner alleges that he is a
law student and impliedly asserts that he has the competence to litigate the case himself. Evidently, he is
aware of the perils incident to this decision.

In addition, it was subsequently clarified in Bar Matter 730, that by virtue of Section 34, Rule 138, a
law student may appear as an agent or a friend of a party litigant, without need of the supervision of a lawyer,
before inferior courts. Here, we have a law student who, as party litigant, wishes to represent himself in
court. We should grant his wish.
Additionally, however, petitioner contends that the respondent judge committed manifest bias and
partiality by ruling that there is no valid ground for her voluntary inhibition despite her alleged negative
demeanor during the pre-trial when she said: Hay naku, masama yung marunong pa sa Huwes. Ok?
Petitioner avers that by denying his motion, the respondent judge already manifested conduct indicative of
arbitrariness and prejudice, causing petitioners and his co-plaintiffs loss of faith and confidence in the
respondents impartiality.

We do not agree.

It must be noted that because of this incident, the petitioner filed an administrative case against the
respondent for violation of the Canons of Judicial Ethics, which we dismissed for lack of merit on September
15, 2002. We now adopt the Courts findings of fact in the administrative case and rule that there was no
grave abuse of discretion on the part of Judge Mijares when she did not inhibit herself from the trial of the
case.

In a Motion for Inhibition, the movant must prove the ground for bias and prejudice by clear and
convincing evidence to disqualify a judge from participating in a particular trial as voluntary inhibition is
primarily a matter of conscience and addressed to the sound discretion of the judge. The decision on whether
she should inhibit herself must be based on her rational and logical assessment of the circumstances
prevailing in the case before her.[21] Absent clear and convincing proof of grave abuse of discretion on the part
of the judge, this Court will rule in favor of the presumption that official duty has been regularly performed.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is PARTIALLY GRANTED. The assailed Resolution and Order of the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 108, Pasay City are MODIFIED. Regional Trial Court, Branch 108, Pasay City
is DIRECTED to ADMIT the Entry of Appearance of petitioner in Civil Case No. 01-0410 as a party litigant.

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 109149. December 21, 1999]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. LEONCIO SANTOCILDES, JR. y SIGA-


AN, accused-appellant.

DECISION
QUISUMBING, J.:

Where an accused was not duly represented by a member of the Philippine Bar during trial, the judgment
should be set aside and the case remanded to the trial court for a new trial. A person who misrepresents
himself as a lawyer shall be held liable for indirect contempt of court.
Subject of the present appeal is the decision dated October 29, 1992, of the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo
City, Branch 33, convicting accused-appellant of the crime of rape, sentencing him to suffer the penalty
of reclusion perpetua, and ordering him to pay the offended party the amount of P50,000.00 and to pay the
costs.
The antecedent facts of the case are as follows:
On February 17, 1992, appellant was charged with the crime of rape[1] of a girl less than nine (9) years
old, committed on December 28, 1991, in the town of Barangay San Luis, San Joaquin, Iloilo.
Upon arraignment, appellant entered a plea of not guilty. Trial ensued and the prosecution presented as
its witnesses the victim, her mother, her six (6) year-old playmate, and the medico-legal officer who examined
the victim.
For the defense, appellant presented one German Toriales and himself. Appellant denied committing the
rape and claimed that he merely tried to stop the two girls, the victim and her playmate, from quarreling.
On October 29, 1992, the trial court rendered a decision[2] finding appellant guilty as charged. The
dispositive portion of the decision states:

WHEREFORE, the Court finds the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape and sentences
him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua together its accessory penalty. The accused is ordered to pay
the amount of P50,000.00 to the complainant and another amount for costs, without subsidiary penalty in
case of failure to pay the civil liability and the cost.

If qualified under Art. 29 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. 6127, as amended, and he has
agreed in writing to abide by the same rules imposed upon convicted prisoners, he shall be credited with the
full duration of his preventive imprisonment; otherwise, he shall only be credited with 4/5 of the same.

SO ORDERED.

Hence, appellant duly filed a Notice of Appeal. [3] In his brief,[4] appellant made the following assignment of
errors:

I. THE HONORABLE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN FINDING THAT THE ACCUSED IS
GUILTY OF RAPE INSPITE OF CONFLICTING TESTIMONIES OF THE PRIVATE COMPLAINANT AND HER
WITNESSES ON MATERIAL POINTS.

II. THAT THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT WAS DEPRIVED THOUGH NO FAULT OF HIS OWN TO BE DEFENDED
BY A PERSON AUTHORIZED TO PRACTICE LAW AMOUNTING TO DENIAL OF DUE PROCESS.

Considering the importance of the constitutional right to counsel, we shall now first resolve the issue of
proper representation by a member of the bar raised by appellant.
Appellant contends that he was represented during trial by a person named Gualberto C. Ompong, who
for all intents and purposes acted as his counsel and even conducted the direct examination and cross-
examinations of the witnesses. On appeal, however, appellant secured the services of a new lawyer, Atty.
Igmedio S. Prado, Jr., who discovered that Gualberto C. Ompong is actually not a member of the bar. Further
verification with the Office of the Bar Confidant confirmed this fact. [5] Appellant therefore argues that his
deprivation of the right to counsel should necessarily result in his acquittal of the crime charged.
The Office of the Solicitor General, on the other hand, maintains that notwithstanding the fact that
appellants counsel during trial was not a member of the bar, appellant was afforded due process since he has
been given an opportunity to be heard and the records reveal that said person presented the evidence for the
defense with the ability of a seasoned lawyer and in general handled the case of appellant in a professional
and skillful manner. However, the right of the accused to be heard by himself and his counsel, in our view,
goes much deeper than the question of ability or skill. It lies at the heart of our adversarial system of
justice. Where the interplay of basic rights of the individual may collide with the awesome forces of the state,
we need a professional learned in the law as well as ethically committed to defend the accused by all means
fair and reasonable.
On the matter of proper representation by a member of the bar, we had occasion to resolve a similar issue
in the case of Delgado v. Court of Appeals.[6]In Delgado, petitioner and two others were convicted by the trial
court of the crime of estafa thru falsification of public and/or official documents. One accused did not
appeal. Petitioner Delgado and her remaining co-accused appealed to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed
petitioners conviction but acquitted her co-accused. After entry of judgment, petitioner discovered that her
lawyer was not a member of the bar and moved to set aside the entry of judgment. The Court of Appeals
denied petitioners motion, hence, she filed a petition for certiorari with this Court. The Court set aside the
assailed judgment and remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial, explaining that -

This is so because an accused person is entitled to be represented by a member of the bar in a criminal case
filed against her before the Regional Trial Court.Unless she is represented by a lawyer, there is great danger
that any defense presented in her behalf will be inadequate considering the legal perquisites and skills needed
in the court proceedings. This would certainly be a denial of due process. [7]

Indeed, the right to counsel is of such primordial importance that even if an accused was represented by
three successive counsels from the Public Attorneys Office, the Court has ordered the remand of a rape case
when it found that accused was given mere perfunctory representation by aforesaid counsels such that
appellant was not properly and effectively accorded the right to counsel. In the recent en banc case of People
v. Bermas, G.R. No. 120420, April 21, 1999, the Court, speaking through Justice Vitug, admonished three (3)
PAO lawyers for failing to genuinely protect the interests of the accused and for having fallen much too short
of their responsibility as officers of the court and as members of the Bar. Verily, we can do no less where the
accused was not even duly represented by a certified member of the Philippine Bar, no matter how zealous his
representation might have been.
The presence and participation of counsel in criminal proceedings should never be taken lightly. [8] Even
the most intelligent or educated man may have no skill in the science of the law, particularly in the rules of
procedure, and, without counsel, he may be convicted not because he is guilty but because he does not know
how to establish his innocence.[9] The right of an accused to counsel is guaranteed to minimize the imbalance
in the adversarial system where the accused is pitted against the awesome prosecutory machinery of the
State.[10] Such a right proceeds from the fundamental principle of due process which basically means that a
person must be heard before being condemned. The due process requirement is a part of a persons basic
rights; it is not a mere formality that may be dispensed with or performed perfunctorily. [11]
The right to counsel of an accused is enshrined in no less than Article III, Sections 12 and 14 (2) of the
1987 Constitution. This constitutional mandate is reflected in Section 1 of Rule 115 of the 1985 Rules of
Criminal Procedure which declares the right of the accused at the trial to be present in person and by counsel
at every stage of the proceedings from the arraignment to the promulgation of judgment. In turn, Section 5 of
Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution vests the power to promulgate rules concerning the admission to the
practice of law to the Supreme Court. Section 1 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court explicitly states who are
entitled to practice law in the Philippines, and Section 2 thereof clearly provides for the requirements for all
applicants for admission to the bar. Jurisprudence has also held that the right to practice law is not a natural
or constitutional right but is in the nature of a privilege or franchise. It is limited to persons of good moral
character with special qualifications duly ascertained and certified. The right does not only presuppose in its
possessor integrity, legal standing and attainment, but also the exercise of a special privilege, highly personal
and partaking of the nature of a public trust.[12]Indeed, so strict is the regulation of the practice of law that
in Beltran, Jr. v. Abad,[13] a Bar candidate who has already successfully hurdled the Bar examinations but has
not yet taken his oath and signed the roll of attorneys, and who was caught in the unauthorized practice of
law was held in contempt of court. Under Section 3 (e) of Rule 71 of the Rules of Court, a person who
undertakes the unauthorized practice of law is liable for indirect contempt of court for assuming to be an
attorney and acting as such without authority.
WHEREFORE, the assailed judgment is SET ASIDE, and the case is hereby REMANDED to the trial court
for new trial.
With respect to the unauthorized practice of law by the person named Gualberto C. Ompong in
connection with this case, the local Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines of Iloilo City is DIRECTED
to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation regarding this matter and to report its recommendations to
the Court within ninety (90) days from notice of this order. Let all concerned parties, including the Office of
the Bar Confidant, be each furnished a copy of this Decision for their appropriate action.
No pronouncement as to costs.SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC

G.R. No. L-23959 November 29, 1971


PHILIPPINE ASSOCIATION OF FREE LABOR UNIONS (PAFLU), ENRIQUE ENTILA & VICTORIANO
TENAZAS petitioners,
vs. BINALBAGAN ISABELA SUGAR COMPANY, COURT OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS, & QUINTIN
MUNING respondents.
Cipriano Cid & Associates for petitioners.
Ceferino Magat and Manuel C. Gonzales for respondent Quintin Muning.

REYES, J.B.L., J.:

May a non-lawyer recover attorney's fees for legal services rendered? This is the issue presented in this
petition for review of an order, dated 12 May 1964, and the en banc resolution, dated 8 December 1964, of the
Court of Industrial Relations, in its Case No. 72-ULP-Iloilo, granting respondent Quintin Muning a non-
lawyer, attorney's fees for professional services in the said case.

The above-named petitioners were complainants in Case No. 72-ULP-Iloilo entitled, "PAFLU et al. vs.
Binalbagan Isabela Sugar Co., et al." After trial, the Court of Industrial Relations rendered a decision, on 29
March 1961, ordering the reinstatement with backwages of complainants Enrique Entila and Victorino
Tenazas. Said decision became final. On 18 October 1963, Cipriano Cid & Associates, counsel of record for
the winning complainants, filed a notice of attorney's lien equivalent to 30% of the total backwages. On 22
November 1963, Atty. Atanacio Pacis also filed a similar notice for a reasonable amount. Complainants Entila
and Tenazas on 3 December 1963, filed a manifestation indicating their non-objection to an award of
attorney's fees for 25% of their backwages, and, on the same day, Quentin Muning filed a "Petition for the
Award of Services Rendered" equivalent to 20% of the backwages. Munings petition was opposed by Cipriano
Cid & Associates the ground that he is not a lawyer.

The records of Case No. 72-ULP-Iloilo show that the charge was filed by Cipriano Cid & Associates through
Atty. Atanacio Pacis. All the hearings were held in Bacolod City and appearances made in behalf of the
complainants were at first by Attorney Pacis and subsequently by respondent Quintin Muning.

On 12 May 1964, the Court of Industrial Relations awarded 25% of the backwages as compensation for
professional services rendered in the case, apportioned as follows:

Attys. Cipriano Cid & Associates ............................................. 10%

Quintin Muning ......................................................................... 10%

Atty. Atanacio Pacis ................................................................. 5%

The award of 10% to Quintin Muning who is not a lawyer according to the order, is sought to be voided in the
present petition.

Respondent Muning moved in this Court to dismiss the present petition on the ground of late filing but his
motion was overruled on 20 January 1965. 1 He asked for reconsideration, but, considering that the motion
contained averments that go into the merits of the case, this Court admitted and considered the motion for
reconsideration for all purposes as respondent's answer to the petitioner for review. 2 The case was considered
submitted for decision without respondent's brief.3
Applicable to the issue at hand is the principle enunciated in Amalgamated Laborers' Association, et al. vs.
Court of Industrial Relations, et al., L-23467, 27 March 1968, 4 that an agreement providing for the division of
attorney's fees, whereby a non-lawyer union president is allowed to share in said fees with lawyers, is
condemned by Canon 34 of Legal Ethics and is immoral and cannot be justified. An award by a court of
attorney's fees is no less immoral in the absence of a contract, as in the present case.

The provision in Section 5(b) of Republic Act No. 875 that —

In the proceeding before the Court or Hearing Examiner thereof, the parties shall not be
required to be represented by legal counsel ...

is no justification for a ruling, that the person representing the party-litigant in the Court of Industrial
Relations, even if he is not a lawyer, is entitled to attorney's fees: for the same section adds that —

it shall be the duty and obligation of the Court or Hearing Officer to examine and cross
examine witnesses on behalf of the parties and to assist in the orderly presentation of evidence.

thus making it clear that the representation should be exclusively entrusted to duly qualified members of the
bar.

The permission for a non-member of the bar to represent or appear or defend in the said court on behalf of a
party-litigant does not by itself entitle the representative to compensation for such representation. For Section
24, Rule 138, of the Rules of Court, providing —

Sec. 24. Compensation of attorney's agreement as to fees. — An attorney shall be entitled to


have and recover from his client no more than a reasonable compensation for his services, ...

imports the existence of an attorney-client relationship as a condition to the recovery of attorney's fees. Such
a relationship cannot exist unless the client's representative in court be a lawyer. Since respondent Muning is
not one, he cannot establish an attorney-client relationship with Enrique Entila and Victorino Tenezas or with
PAFLU, and he cannot, therefore, recover attorney's fees. Certainly public policy demands that legal work in
representation of parties litigant should be entrusted only to those possessing tested qualifications and who
are sworn, to observe the rules and the ethics of the profession, as well as being subject to judicial
disciplinary control for the protection of courts, clients and the public.

On the present issue, the rule in American jurisdictions is persuasive. There, it is stated:

But in practically all jurisdictions statutes have now been enacted prohibiting persons not
licensed or admitted to the bar from practising law, and under statutes of this kind, the great
weight of authority is to the effect that compensation for legal services cannot be recovered by
one who has not been admitted to practice before the court or in the jurisdiction the services
were rendered. 5

No one is entitled to recover compensation for services as an attorney at law unless he has
been duly admitted to practice ... and is an attorney in good standing at the time. 6

The reasons are that the ethics of the legal profession should not be violated; 7 that acting as an attorney with
authority constitutes contempt of court, which is punishable by fine or imprisonment or both, 8 and the law
will not assist a person to reap the fruits or benefit of an act or an act done in violation of law;9 and that if
were to be allowed to non-lawyers, it would leave the public in hopeless confusion as to whom to consult in
case of necessity and also leave the bar in a chaotic condition, aside from the fact that non-lawyers are not
amenable to disciplinary measures. 10

And the general rule above-stated (referring to non-recovery of attorney's fees by non-lawyers)
cannot be circumvented when the services were purely legal, by seeking to recover as an
"agent" and not as an attorney. 11
The weight of the reasons heretofore stated why a non-lawyer may not be awarded attorney's fees should
suffice to refute the possible argument that appearances by non-lawyers before the Court of Industrial
Relations should be excepted on the ground that said court is a court of special jurisdiction; such special
jurisdiction does not weigh the aforesaid reasons and cannot justify an exception.

The other issue in this case is whether or not a union may appeal an award of attorney's fees which are
deductible from the backpay of some of its members. This issue arose because it was the union PAFLU, alone,
that moved for an extension of time to file the present petition for review; union members Entila and Tenazas
did not ask for extension but they were included as petitioners in the present petition that was subsequently
filed, it being contended that, as to them (Entila and Tenazas), their inclusion in the petition as co-petitioners
was belated.

We hold that a union or legitimate labor organization may appeal an award of attorney's fees which are
deductible from the backpay of its members because such union or labor organization is permitted to
institute an action in the industrial court, 12 on behalf of its members; and the union was organized "for the
promotion of the emloyees' moral, social and economic well-being"; 13 hence, if an award is disadvantageous
to its members, the union may prosecute an appeal as an aggrieved party, under Section 6, Republic Act 875,
which provides:

Sec. 6. Unfair Labor Practice cases — Appeals. — Any person aggrieved by any order of the
Court may appeal to the Supreme Court of the Philippines ...,

since more often than not the individual unionist is not in a position to bear the financial burden of
litigations.

Petitioners allege that respondent Muning is engaged in the habitual practice of law before the Court of
Industrial Relations, and many of them like him who are not licensed to practice, registering their
appearances as "representatives" and appearing daily before the said court. If true, this is a serious situation
demanding corrective action that respondent court should actively pursue and enforce by positive action to
that purpose. But since this matter was not brought in issue before the court a quo, it may not be taken up in
the present case. Petitioners, however, may file proper action against the persons alleged to be illegally
engaged in the practice of law.

WHEREFORE, the orders under review are hereby set aside insofar as they awarded 10% of the backwages as
attorney's fees for respondent Quintin Muning. Said orders are affirmed in all other respects. Costs against
respondent Muning.

January 17, 2018

G.R. No. 111474 August 22, 1994

FIVE J TAXI and/or JUAN S. ARMAMENTO, petitioners,


vs. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION, DOMINGO MALDIGAN and GILBERTO
SABSALON, respondents.

Edgardo G. Fernandez for petitioners.

R E SO L U T I O N

REGALADO, J.:

Petitioners Five J Taxi and/or Juan S. Armamento filed this special civil action for certiorari to annul the
decision 1 of respondent National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) ordering petitioners to pay private
respondents Domingo Maldigan and Gilberto Sabsalon their accumulated deposits and car wash payments,
plus interest thereon at the legal rate from the date of promulgation of judgment to the date of actual
payment, and 10% of the total amount as and for attorney's fees.
We have given due course to this petition for, while to the cynical the de minimis amounts involved should not
impose upon the valuable time of this Court, we find therein a need to clarify some issues the resolution of
which are important to small wage earners such as taxicab drivers. As we have heretofore repeatedly
demonstrated, this Court does not exist only for the rich or the powerful, with their reputed monumental
cases of national impact. It is also the Court of the poor or the underprivileged, with the actual quotidian
problems that beset their individual lives.

Private respondents Domingo Maldigan and Gilberto Sabsalon were hired by the petitioners as taxi
drivers 2 and, as such, they worked for 4 days weekly on a 24-hour shifting schedule. Aside from the daily
"boundary" of P700.00 for air-conditioned taxi or P450.00 for non-air-conditioned taxi, they were also
required to pay P20.00 for car washing, and to further make a P15.00 deposit to answer for any deficiency in
their "boundary," for every actual working day.

In less than 4 months after Maldigan was hired as an extra driver by the petitioners, he already failed to
report for work for unknown reasons. Later, petitioners learned that he was working for "Mine of Gold" Taxi
Company. With respect to Sabsalon, while driving a taxicab of petitioners on September 6, 1983, he was held
up by his armed passenger who took all his money and thereafter stabbed him. He was hospitalized and after
his discharge, he went to his home province to recuperate.

In January, 1987, Sabsalon was re-admitted by petitioners as a taxi driver under the same terms and
conditions as when he was first employed, but his working schedule was made on an "alternative basis," that
is, he drove only every other day. However, on several occasions, he failed to report for work during his
schedule.

On September 22, 1991, Sabsalon failed to remit his "boundary" of P700.00 for the previous day. Also, he
abandoned his taxicab in Makati without fuel refill worth P300.00. Despite repeated requests of petitioners for
him to report for work, he adamantly refused. Afterwards it was revealed that he was driving a taxi for
"Bulaklak Company."

Sometime in 1989, Maldigan requested petitioners for the reimbursement of his daily cash deposits for 2
years, but herein petitioners told him that not a single centavo was left of his deposits as these were not even
enough to cover the amount spent for the repairs of the taxi he was driving. This was allegedly the practice
adopted by petitioners to recoup the expenses incurred in the repair of their taxicab units. When Maldigan
insisted on the refund of his deposit, petitioners terminated his services. Sabsalon, on his part, claimed that
his termination from employment was effected when he refused to pay for the washing of his taxi seat covers.

On November 27, 1991, private respondents filed a complaint with the Manila Arbitration Office of the
National Labor Relations Commission charging petitioners with illegal dismissal and illegal deductions. That
complaint was dismissed, the labor arbiter holding that it took private respondents two years to file the same
and such unreasonable delay was not consistent with the natural reaction of a person who claimed to be
unjustly treated, hence the filing of the case could be interpreted as a mere afterthought.

Respondent NLRC concurred in said findings, with the observation that private respondents failed to
controvert the evidence showing that Maldigan was employed by "Mine of Gold" Taxi Company from February
10, 1987 to December 10, 1990; that Sabsalon abandoned his taxicab on September 1, 1990; and that they
voluntarily left their jobs for similar employment with other taxi operators. It, accordingly, affirmed the ruling
of the labor arbiter that private respondents' services were not illegally terminated. It, however, modified the
decision of the labor arbiter by ordering petitioners to pay private respondents the awards stated at the
beginning of this resolution.

Petitioners' motion for reconsideration having been denied by the NLRC, this petition is now before us
imputing grave abuse of discretion on the part of said public respondent.

This Court has repeatedly declared that the factual findings of quasi-judicial agencies like the NLRC, which
have acquired expertise because their jurisdiction is confined to specific matters, are generally accorded not
only respect but, at times, finality if such findings are supported by substantial evidence. 3 Where, however,
such conclusions are not supported by the evidence, they must be struck down for being whimsical and
capricious and, therefore, arrived at with grave abuse of discretion. 4
Respondent NLRC held that the P15.00 daily deposits made by respondents to defray any shortage in their
"boundary" is covered by the general prohibition in Article 114 of the Labor Code against requiring employees
to make deposits, and that there is no showing that the Secretary of Labor has recognized the same as a
"practice" in the taxi industry. Consequently, the deposits made were illegal and the respondents must be
refunded therefor.

Article 114 of the Labor Code provides as follows:

Art. 114. Deposits for loss or damage. — No employer shall require his worker to make deposits
from which deductions shall be made for the reimbursement of loss of or damage to tools,
materials, or equipment supplied by the employer, except when the employer is engaged in
such trades, occupations or business where the practice of making deposits is a recognized
one, or is necessary or desirable as determined by the Secretary of Labor in appropriate rules
and regulations.

It can be deduced therefrom that the said article provides the rule on deposits for loss or damage to tools,
materials or equipments supplied by the employer. Clearly, the same does not apply to or permit deposits to
defray any deficiency which the taxi driver may incur in the remittance of his "boundary." Also, when private
respondents stopped working for petitioners, the alleged purpose for which petitioners required such
unauthorized deposits no longer existed. In other case, any balance due to private respondents after proper
accounting must be returned to them with legal interest.

However, the unrebutted evidence with regard to the claim of Sabsalon is as follows:

YEAR DEPOSITS SHORTAGES VALES

1987 P 1,403.00 P 567.00 P 1,000.00

1988 720.00 760.00 200.00

1989 686.00 130.00 1,500.00

1990 605.00 570.00

1991 165.00 2,300.00

———— ———— ————

P 3,579.00 P 4,327.00 P 2,700.00

The foregoing accounting shows that from 1987-1991, Sabsalon was able to withdraw his deposits
through vales or he incurred shortages, such that he is even indebted to petitioners in the amount of
P3,448.00. With respect to Maldigan's deposits, nothing was mentioned questioning the same even in the
present petition. We accordingly agree with the recommendation of the Solicitor General that since the
evidence shows that he had not withdrawn the same, he should be reimbursed the amount of his
accumulated cash deposits. 5

On the matter of the car wash payments, the labor arbiter had this to say in his decision: "Anent the issue of
illegal deductions, there is no dispute that as a matter of practice in the taxi industry, after a tour of duty, it
is incumbent upon the driver to restore the unit he has driven to the same clean condition when he took it
out, and as claimed by the respondents (petitioners in the present case), complainant(s) (private respondents
herein) were made to shoulder the expenses for washing, the amount doled out was paid directly to the
person who washed the unit, thus we find nothing illegal in this practice, much more (sic) to consider the
amount paid by the driver as illegal deduction in the context of the law." 6 (Words in parentheses added.)

Consequently, private respondents are not entitled to the refund of the P20.00 car wash payments they made.
It will be noted that there was nothing to prevent private respondents from cleaning the taxi units themselves,
if they wanted to save their P20.00. Also, as the Solicitor General correctly noted, car washing after a tour of
duty is a practice in the taxi industry, and is, in fact, dictated by fair play.

On the last issue of attorney's fees or service fees for private respondents' authorized representative, Article
222 of the Labor Code, as amended by Section 3 of Presidential Decree No. 1691, states that non-lawyers may
appear before the NLRC or any labor arbiter only (1) if they represent themselves, or (2) if they represent their
organization or the members thereof. While it may be true that Guillermo H. Pulia was the authorized
representative of private respondents, he was a non-lawyer who did not fall in either of the foregoing
categories. Hence, by clear mandate of the law, he is not entitled to attorney's fees.

Furthermore, the statutory rule that an attorney shall be entitled to have and recover from his client a
reasonable compensation for his services 7 necessarily imports the existence of an attorney-client relationship
as a condition for the recovery of attorney's fees, and such relationship cannot exist unless the client's
representative is a lawyer. 8

WHEREFORE, the questioned judgment of respondent National Labor Relations Commission is hereby
MODIFIED by deleting the awards for reimbursement of car wash expenses and attorney's fees and directing
said public respondent to order and effect the computation and payment by petitioners of the refund for
private respondent Domingo Maldigan's deposits, plus legal interest thereon from the date of finality of this
resolution up to the date of actual payment thereof.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 126625 September 18, 1997

KANLAON CONSTRUCTION ENTERPRISES CO., INC., petitioner, vs.


NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION, 5TH DIVISION, and BENJAMIN RELUYA, JR., EDGARDO
GENAYAS, ERNESTO CANETE, PROTACIO ROSALES, NESTOR BENOYA, RODOLFO GONGOB, DARIO
BINOYA, BENJAMIN BASMAYOR, ABELARDO SACURA, FLORENCIO SACURA, ISABELO MIRA, NEMESIO
LACAR, JOSEPH CABIGKIS, RODRIGO CILLON, VIRGILIO QUIZON, GUARINO EVANGELISTA,
ALEJANDRO GATA, BENEDICTO CALAGO, NILO GATA, DIONISIO PERMACIO, JUANITO SALUD, ADOR
RIMPO, FELIPE ORAEZ, JULIETO TEJADA, TEOTIMO LACIO, ONOFRE QUIZON, RUDY ALVAREZ,
CRESENCIO FLORES, ALFREDO PERMACIO, CRESENCIO ALVIAR, HERNANI SURILLA, DIOSDADO
SOLON, CENON ALBURO, ZACARIAS ORTIZ, EUSEBIO BUSTILLO, GREGORIO BAGO, JERRY VARGAS,
EDUARDO BUENO, PASCUAL HUDAYA, ROGELIO NIETES, and REYNALDO NIETES, respondents.

PUNO, J.:

In this petition for certiorari, petitioner Kanlaon Construction Enterprises Co., Inc. seeks to annul the decision
of respondent National Labor Relations Commission, Fifth Division and remand the cases to the Arbitration
Branch for a retrial on the merits.

Petitioner is a domestic corporation engaged in the construction business nationwide with principal office at
No. 11 Yakan St., La Vista Subdivision, Quezon City. In 1988, petitioner was contracted by the National Steel
Corporation to construct residential houses for its plant employees in Steeltown, Sta. Elena, Iligan City.
Private respondents were hired by petitioner as laborers in the project and worked under the supervision of
Engineers Paulino Estacio and Mario Dulatre. In 1989, the project neared its completion and petitioner
started terminating the services of private respondents and its other employees.

In 1990, private respondents filed separate complaints against petitioner before Sub-Regional Arbitration
Branch XII, Iligan City. Numbering forty-one (41) in all, they claimed that petitioner paid them wages below
the minimum and sought payment of their salary differentials and thirteenth-month pay. Engineers Estacio
and Dulatre were named co-respondents.
Some of the cases were assigned to Labor Arbiter Guardson A. Siao while the others were assigned to Labor
Arbiter Nicodemus G. Palangan. Summonses and notices of preliminary conference were issued and served on
the two engineers and petitioner through Engineer Estacio. The preliminary conferences before the labor
arbiters were attended by Engineers Estacio and Dulatre and private respondents. At the conference of June
11, 1990 before Arbiter Siao, Engineer Estacio admitted petitioner's liability to private respondents and
agreed to pay their wage differentials and thirteenth-month pay on June 19, 1990. As a result of this
agreement, Engineer Estacio allegedly waived petitioner's right to file its position paper. 1 Private respondents
declared that they, too, were dispensing with their position papers and were adopting their complaints as
their position paper.2

On June 19, 1990, Engineer Estacio appeared but requested for another week to settle the claims. Labor
Arbiter Siao denied this request. On June 21, 1990, Arbiter Siao issued an order granting the complaint and
directing petitioner to pay private respondents' claims. Arbiter Siao held:

xxx xxx xxx

Considering the length of time that has elapsed since these cases were filed, and what the
complainants might think as to how this branch operates and/or conducts its proceedings as they are
now restless, this Arbiter has no other alternative or recourse but to order the respondent to pay the
claims of the complainants, subject of course to the computation of the Fiscal Examiner II of this
Branch pursuant to the oral manifestation of respondent. The Supreme Court ruled: "Contracts
though orally made are binding on the parties." (Lao Sok v. Sabaysabay, 138 SCRA 134).

Similarly, this Branch would present in passing that "a court cannot decide a case without facts either
admitted or agreed upon by the parties or proved by evidence." (Yu Chin Piao v. Lim Tuaco, 33 Phil.
92; Benedicto v. Yulo, 26 Phil. 160)

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the respondent is hereby ordered to pay the individual claims of
the above-named complainants representing their wage differentials within ten (10) days from receipt
of this order.

The Fiscal Examiner II of this Branch is likewise hereby ordered to compute the individual claims of
the herein complainants.

SO ORDERED.3

On June 29, 1990, Arbiter Palangan issued a similar order, thus:

When the above-entitled cases were called for hearing on June 19, 1990 at 10:00 a.m. respondent
thru their representative manifested that they were willing to pay the claims of the complainants and
promised to pay the same on June 28, 1990 at 10:30 a.m.

However, when these cases were called purposely to materialize the promise of the respondent, the
latter failed to appear without any valid reason.

Considering therefore that the respondent has already admitted the claims of the complainants, we
believe that the issues raised herein have become moot and academic.

WHEREFORE premises considered, the above-entitled cases are hereby ordered Closed and
Terminated, however, the respondent is hereby ordered to pay the complainants their differential pay
and 13th-month pay within a period of ten (10) days from receipt hereof based on the employment
record on file with the respondent.

SO ORDERED.4

Petitioner appealed to respondent National Labor Relations Commission. It alleged that it was denied due
process and that Engineers Estacio and Dulatre had no authority to represent and bind petitioner.
Petitioner's appeal was filed by one Atty. Arthur Abundiente.
In a decision dated April 27, 1992, respondent Commission affirmed the orders of the Arbiters.

Petitioner interposed this petition alleging that the decision of respondent Commission was rendered without
jurisdiction and in grave abuse of discretion. Petitioner claims that:

THE QUESTIONED DECISION RENDERED BY THE HONORABLE COMMISSION IS A NULLITY, IT


HAVING BEEN ISSUED WITHOUT JURISDICTION;

II

PUBLIC RESPONDENT NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION GRAVELY ABUSED ITS


DISCRETION IN ARBITRARILY, CAPRICIOUSLY AND WHIMSICALLY MAKING THE FOLLOWING
CONCLUSIONS BASED NOT ON FACTS AND BUT ON SPECULATION, SURMISE AND EVIDENCE
CONJECTURE:

A. Petitioner was deprived of the constitutional right to due process of law when it was
adjudged by the NLRC liable without trial on the merits and without its knowledge;

B. The NLRC erroneously, patently and unreasonably interpreted the principle that the
NLRC and its Arbitration Branch are not strictly bound by the rules of evidence;

C. There is no legal nor actual basis in the NLRC's ruling that petitioner is already in
estoppel to disclaim the authority of its alleged representatives.

D. The NLRC committed manifest error in relying merely on private, respondents'


unsubstantiated complaints to hold petitioner liable for damages. 5

In brief, petitioner alleges that the decisions of the labor arbiters and respondent Commission are void for the
following reasons: (1) there was no valid service of summons; (2) Engineers Estacio and Dulatre and Atty.
Abundiente had no authority to appear and represent petitioner at the hearings before the arbiters and on
appeal to respondent Commission; (3) the decisions of the arbiters and respondent Commission are based on
unsubstantiated and self-serving evidence and were rendered in violation of petitioner's right to due process.

Service of summons in cases filed before the labor arbiters is governed by Sections 4 and 5 of Rule IV of the
New Rules of Procedure of the NLRC. They provide:

Sec. 4. Service of Notices and Resolutions. — (a) Notices or summons and copies of orders, resolutions
or decisions shall be served on the parties to the case personally by the bailiff or duly authorized
public officer within three (3) days from receipt thereof or by registered mail; Provided that where a
party is represented by counsel or authorized representative, service shall be made on such counsel or
authorized representative;provided further that in cases of decision and final awards, copies thereof
shall be served on both the parties and their counsel; provided finally, that in case where the parties
are so numerous, service shall be made on counsel and upon such number of complainants as may be
practicable, which shall be considered substantial compliance with Article 224 (a) of the Labor Code,
as amended.

xxx xxx xxx

Sec. 5. Proof and completeness of service. — The return is prima facie proof of the facts indicated
therein. Service by registered mail is complete upon receipt by the addressee or his agent. . . .

Under the NLRC Rules of Procedure, summons on the respondent shall be served personally or by registered
mail on the party himself. If the party is represented by counsel or any other authorized representative or
agent, summons shall be served on such person.
It has been established that petitioner is a private domestic corporation with principal address in Quezon
City. The complaints against petitioner were filed in Iligan City and summonses therefor served on Engineer
Estacio in Iligan City. The question now is whether Engineer Estacio was an agent and authorized
representative of petitioner.

To determine the scope or meaning of the term "authorized representative" or "agent" of parties on whom
summons may be served, the provisions of the Revised Rules of Court may be resorted to.6

Under the Revised Rules of Court,7 service upon a private domestic corporation or partnership must be made
upon its officers, such as the president, manager, secretary, cashier, agent, or any of its directors. These
persons are deemed so integrated with the corporation that they know their responsibilities and immediately
discern what to do with any legal papers served on them. 8

In the case at bar, Engineer Estacio, assisted by Engineer Dulatre, managed and supervised the construction
project.9 According to the Solicitor General and private respondents, Engineer Estacio attended to the project
in Iligan City and supervised the work of the employees thereat. As manager, he had sufficient responsibility
and discretion to realize the importance of the legal papers served on him and to relay the same to the
president or other responsible officer of petitioner. Summons for petitioner was therefore validly served on
him.

Engineer Estacio's appearance before the labor arbiters and his promise to settle the claims of private
respondents is another matter.

The general rule is that only lawyers are allowed to appear before the labor arbiter and respondent
Commission in cases before them. The Labor Code and the New Rules of Procedure of the NLRC, nonetheless,
lists three (3) exceptions to the rule, viz:

Sec. 6. Appearances. — . . . .

A non-lawyer may appear before the Commission or any Labor Arbiter only if:

(a) he represents himself as party to the case;

(b) he represents the organization or its members, provided that he shall be made to present written
proof that he is properly authorized; or

(c) he is a duly-accredited member of any legal aid office duly recognized by the Department of Justice
or the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in cases referred thereto by the latter. . . .10

A non-lawyer may appear before the labor arbiters and the NLRC only if: (a) he represents himself as a party
to the case; (b) he represents an organization or its members, with written authorization from them: or (c) he
is a duly-accredited member of any legal aid office duly recognized by the Department of Justice or the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines in cases referred to by the latter.11

Engineers Estacio and Dulatre were not lawyers. Neither were they duly-accredited members of a legal aid
office. Their appearance before the labor arbiters in their capacity as parties to the cases was authorized
under the first exception to the rule. However, their appearance on behalf of petitioner required written proof
of authorization. It was incumbent upon the arbiters to ascertain this authority especially since both
engineers were named co-respondents in the cases before the arbiters. Absent this authority, whatever
statements and declarations Engineer Estacio made before the arbiters could not bind petitioner.

The appearance of Atty. Arthur Abundiente in the cases appealed to respondent Commission did not cure
Engineer Estacio's representation. Atty. Abundiente, in the first place, had no authority to appear before the
respondent Commission. The appellants' brief he filed was verified by him, not by petitioner.12 Moreover,
respondent Commission did not delve into the merits of Atty. Abundiente's appeal and determine whether
Engineer Estacio was duly authorized to make such promise. It dismissed the appeal on the ground that
notices were served on petitioner and that the latter was estopped from denying its promise to pay.
Nevertheless, even assuming that Engineer Estacio and Atty. Abundiente were authorized to appear as
representatives of petitioner, they could bind the latter only in procedural matters before the arbiters and
respondent Commission. Petitioner's liability arose from Engineer Estacio's alleged promise to pay. A promise
to pay amounts to an offer to compromise and requires a special power of attorney or the express consent of
petitioner. The authority to compromise cannot be lightly presumed and should be duly established by
evidence.13 This is explicit from Section 7 of Rule III of the NLRC Rules of Procedure, viz:

Sec. 7. Authority to bind party. — Attorneys and other representatives of parties shall have authority to
bind their clients in all matters of procedure; but they cannot, without a special power of attorney or
express consent, enter into a compromise agreement with the opposing party in full or partial
discharge of a client's claim.

The promise to pay allegedly made by Engineer Estacio was made at the preliminary conference and
constituted an offer to settle the case amicably. The promise to pay could not be presumed to be a single
unilateral act, contrary to the claim of the Solicitor General. 14 A defendant's promise to pay and settle the
plaintiff's claims ordinarily requires a reciprocal obligation from the plaintiff to withdraw the complaint and
discharge the defendant from liability.15 In effect, the offer to pay was an offer to compromise the cases.

In civil cases, an offer to compromise is not an admission of any liability, and is not admissible in evidence
against the offeror.16 If this rule were otherwise, no attempt to settle litigation could safely be
made.17 Settlement of disputes by way of compromise is an accepted and desirable practice in courts of law
and administrative tribunals.18 In fact, the Labor Code mandates the labor arbiter to exert all efforts to enable
the parties to arrive at an amicable settlement of the dispute within his jurisdiction on or before the first
hearing.19

Clearly, respondent Commission gravely abused its discretion in affirming the decisions of the labor arbiters
which were not only based on unauthorized representations, but were also made in violation of petitioner's
right to due process.

Section 3 of Rule V of the NLRC Rules of Procedure provides:

Sec. 3. Submission of Position Papers/Memorandum. — Should the parties fail to agree upon an
amicable settlement, in whole or in part, during the conferences, the Labor Arbiter shall issue an order
stating therein the matters taken up and agreed upon during the conferences and directing the parties
to simultaneously file their respective verified position papers

xxx xxx xxx

After petitioner's alleged representative failed to pay the workers' claims as promised, Labor Arbiters Siao and
Palangan did not order the parties to file their respective position papers. The arbiters forthwith rendered a
decision on the merits without at least requiring private respondents to substantiate their complaints. The
parties may have earlier waived their right to file position papers but petitioner's waiver was made by
Engineer Estacio on the premise that petitioner shall have paid and settled the claims of private respondents
at the scheduled conference. Since petitioner reneged on its "promise," there was a failure to settle the case
amicably. This should have prompted the arbiters to order the parties to file their position papers.

Article 221 of the Labor Code mandates that in cases before labor arbiters and respondent Commission, they
"shall use every and all reasonable means to ascertain the facts in each case speedily and objectively and
without regard to technicalities of law or procedure, all in the interest of due process." The rule that
respondent Commission and the Labor Arbiters are not bound by technical rules of evidence and procedure
should not be interpreted so as to dispense with the fundamental and essential right of due process.20 And
this right is satisfied, at the very least, 'when the parties are given the opportunity to submit position
papers.21 Labor Arbiters Siao and Palangan erred in dispensing with this requirement.

Indeed, the labor arbiters and the NLRC must not, at the expense of due process, be the first to arbitrarily
disregard specific provisions of the Rules which are precisely intended to assist the parties in obtaining the
just, expeditious and inexpensive settlement of labor disputes. 22
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition for certiorari is granted. The decision of the National Labor Relations
Commission, Fifth Division, is annulled and set aside and the case is remanded to the Regional Arbitration
Branch, Iligan City for further proceedings.

SO ORDERED.

Regalado and Torres, Jr., JJ., concur.

Mendoza, J., is on leave.

REY J. VARGAS AND EDUARDO A. A.C. No. 8096


PANES, JR.,

Complainants,- versus -ATTY. MICHAEL A.


IGNES, ATTY. LEONARD BUENTIPO
MANN, ATTY. RODOLFO U. VIAJAR, JR.,
AND ATTY. JOHN RANGAL D. NADUA,
Respondents.

RESOLUTION

VILLARAMA, JR., J.:

Before the Court is a petition for review of Resolution No. XVIII-2008-335[1] passed on July 17, 2008 by the
Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in CBD Case No. 07-1953. The IBP Board of
Governors dismissed the disbarment case filed by the complainants against the respondents.

The facts and proceedings antecedent to this case are as follows:

Koronadal Water District (KWD), a government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC), hired respondent Atty.
Michael A. Ignes as private legal counsel for one (1) year effective April 17, 2006.[2] The Office of the Government
Corporate Counsel (OGCC) and the Commission on Audit (COA) gave their consent to the employment of Atty.
Ignes.[3] However, controversy later erupted when two (2) different groups, herein referred to as the Dela Pea
board and Yaphockun board, laid claim as the legitimate Board of Directors of KWD.

On December 28, 2006, the members of the Dela Pea board filed Civil Case No. 1793 [4] for Injunction and
Damages, seeking to annul the appointment of two (2) directors, Joselito T. Reyes and Carlito Y. Uy, who will
allegedly connive with Director Allan D. Yaphockun whose hostility to the present Board of Directors, the Dela
Pea board, is supposedly of public knowledge.

On January 18, 2007, the Dela Pea board also adopted Resolution No. 009 [5] appointing respondents Atty.
Rodolfo U. Viajar, Jr. and Atty. Leonard Buentipo Mann as private collaborating counsels for all cases of KWD
and its Board of Directors, under the direct supervision and control of Atty. Ignes.

Subsequently, on February 9, 2007, Attys. Ignes, Viajar, Jr. and Mann filed SCA Case No. 50-24 for Indirect
Contempt of Court[6] entitled Koronadal Water District (KWD), represented herein by its General Manager,
Eleanor Pimentel-Gomba v. Efren V. Cabucay, et al. On February 19, 2007, they also filed Civil Case No. 1799
for Injunction and Damages[7] entitled Koronadal Water District (KWD), represented herein by its General
Manager, & Eleanor Pimentel-Gomba v. Rey J. Vargas. On March 9, 2007, KWD and Eleanor Pimentel-Gomba
filed a supplemental complaint[8] in Civil Case No. 1799.

Meanwhile, in Contract Review No. 079[9] dated February 16, 2007, the OGCC had approved the retainership
contract of Atty. Benjamin B. Cuanan as new legal counsel of KWD and stated that the retainership contract of
Atty. Ignes had expired on January 14, 2007.

In its letter[10] dated March 2, 2007, the OGCC also addressed Eleanor P. Gombas insistence that the
retainership contract of Atty. Ignes will expire on April 17, 2007. The OGCC stated that as stipulated, the KWD
or OGCC may terminate the contract anytime without need of judicial action; that OGCCs grant of authority to
private counsels is a privilege withdrawable under justifiable circumstances; and that the termination of Atty.
Igness contract was justified by the fact that the Local Water Utilities Administration had confirmed the
Yaphockun board as the new Board of Directors of KWD and that said board had terminated Atty. Igness
services and requested to hire another counsel.

Alleging that respondents acted as counsel for KWD without legal authority, complainants filed a disbarment
complaint[11] against the respondents before the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD), docketed as CBD Case
No. 07-1953. Complainants alleged that respondents filed SCA Case No. 50-24 and Civil Case No. 1799 as
counsels of KWD without legal authority. They likewise stated in their position paper[12] that Atty. Ignes
continued representing KWD even after the OGCC had confirmed the expiration of Atty. Igness contract in its
April 4, 2007 manifestation/motion[13] in Civil Case No. 1796-25 entitled Koronadal Water District (KWD),
represented herein by its General Manager, Eleanor Pimentel Gomba v. Supreme Investigative and Security
Agency, represented by its Manager Efren Y. Cabucay.

In his defense,[14] Atty. Mann stated that he and his fellow respondents can validly represent KWD until April
17, 2007 since Atty. Ignes was not notified of his contracts pre-termination. Atty. Mann also stated that he
stopped representing KWD after April 17, 2007 in deference to the OGCCs stand. Attys. Ignes, Viajar, Jr. and
Nadua echoed Atty. Manns defense.[15]

On March 10, 2008, complainants filed a manifestation before the IBP with the following attachments: (1) the
transcript of stenographic notes taken on January 28, 2008 in Civil Case No. 1799, and (2) the notice of appeal
dated February 28, 2008 of the January 7, 2008 Order dismissing Civil Case No. 1799. Aforesaid transcript
showed that Atty. Ignes appeared as counsel of KWD and Ms. Gomba. He also signed the notice of appeal.

In his report and recommendation, the Investigating Commissioner recommended that the charge against Atty.
Ignes be dismissed for lack of merit. The Investigating Commissioner held that Atty. Ignes had valid authority as
counsel of KWD for one (1) year, from April 2006 to April 2007, and he was unaware of the pre-termination of
his contract when he filed pleadings in SCA Case No. 50-24 and Civil Case No. 1799 in February and March
2007.

As to Attys. Viajar, Jr., Mann and Nadua, the Investigating Commissioner recommended that they be
fined P5,000 each for appearing as attorneys for a party without authority to do so, per Santayana v.
Alampay. The Investigating Commissioner found that they failed to secure the conformity of the OGCC and COA
to their engagement as collaborating counsels for KWD.

As aforesaid, the IBP Board of Governors reversed the recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner and
dismissed the case for lack of merit.

Hence, the present petition.

Complainants contend that the IBP Board of Governors erred in dismissing the case because respondents had
no authority from the OGCC to file the complaints and appear as counsels of KWD in Civil Case No. 1799, SCA
Case No. 50-24 and Civil Case No. 1796-25.Complainants point out that the retainership contract of Atty. Ignes
had expired on January 14, 2007; that the Notice of Appeal filed by Atty. Ignes, et al. in Civil Case No. 1799
was denied per Order dated April 8, 2008 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) for being filed by one not duly
authorized by law; and that the authority of Attys. Viajar, Jr. and Mann as collaborating counsels is infirm since
Resolution No. 009 of the Dela Pea board lacks the conformity of the OGCC. As a consequence, according to
complainants, respondents are liable for willfully appearing as attorneys for a party to a case without authority
to do so.

In his comment, Atty. Ignes admits that their authority to represent KWD had expired on April 17, 2007, but he
and his fellow respondents stopped representing KWD after that date. He submits that they are not guilty of
appearing as counsels without authority. In their comment, Attys. Viajar, Jr. and Nadua propound similar
arguments. They also say that their fees were paid from private funds of the members of the Dela Pea board
and KWD personnel who might need legal representation, not from the public coffers of KWD. In his own
comment, Atty. Mann submits similar arguments.

After a careful study of the case and the parties submissions, we find respondents administratively liable.

At the outset, we note that the parties do not dispute the need for OGCC and COA conformity if a GOCC hires
private lawyers. Nonetheless, we shall briefly recall the legal basis of this rule. Under Section 10, Chapter 3,
Title III, Book IV of the Administrative Code of 1987, it is the OGCC which shall act as the principal law office of
all GOCCs. And Section 3 of Memorandum Circular No. 9,[19] issued by President Estrada on August 27, 1998,
enjoins GOCCs to refrain from hiring private lawyers or law firms to handle their cases and legal matters. But
the same Section 3 provides that in exceptional cases, the written conformity and acquiescence of the Solicitor
General or the Government Corporate Counsel, as the case may be, and the written concurrence of the COA
shall first be secured before the hiring or employment of a private lawyer or law firm. In Phividec Industrial
Authority v. Capitol Steel Corporation,[20] we listed three (3) indispensable conditions before a GOCC can hire a
private lawyer: (1) private counsel can only be hired in exceptional cases; (2) the GOCC must first secure the
written conformity and acquiescence of the Solicitor General or the Government Corporate Counsel, as the case
may be; and (3) the written concurrence of the COA must also be secured.

In the case of respondents, do they have valid authority to appear as counsels of KWD?

We find that Attys. Nadua, Viajar, Jr. and Mann had no valid authority to appear as collaborating counsels of
KWD in SCA Case No. 50-24 and Civil Case No. 1799. Nothing in the records shows that Atty. Nadua was
engaged by KWD as collaborating counsel. While the 4thWhereas Clause of Resolution No. 009 partly states that
he and Atty. Ignes presently stand as KWD legal counsels, there is no proof that the OGCC and COA approved
Atty. Naduas engagement as legal counsel or collaborating counsel. Insofar as Attys. Viajar, Jr. and Mann are
concerned, their appointment as collaborating counsels of KWD under Resolution No. 009 has no approval from
the OGCC and COA.

Attys. Nadua, Viajar, Jr. and Mann are in the same situation as the private counsel of Phividec Industrial
Authority in Phividec. In that case, we also ruled that said private counsel of Phividec Industrial Authority, a
GOCC, had no authority to file the expropriation case in Phividecs behalf considering that the requirements set
by Memorandum Circular No. 9 were not complied with.[21] Thus, Resolution No. 009 did not grant authority to
Attys. Nadua, Viajar, Jr. and Mann to act as collaborating counsels of KWD. That Atty. Ignes was not notified of
the pre-termination of his own retainership contract cannot validate an inexistent authority of Attys. Nadua,
Viajar, Jr. and Mann as collaborating counsels.

In the case of Atty. Ignes, he also appeared as counsel of KWD without authority, after his authority as its
counsel had expired. True, the OGCC and COA approved his retainership contract for one (1) year effective April
17, 2006. But even if we assume as true that he was not notified of the pre-termination of his contract, the
records still disprove his claim that he stopped representing KWD after April 17, 2007.

Atty. Ignes offered no rebuttal to the verified manifestation of complainants filed with the IBP on March 10,
2008. Attached therein was the transcript of stenographic notes[22] in Civil Case No. 1799 taken on January 28,
2008 when Atty. Ignes argued the extremely urgent motion for the immediate return of the facilities of the
KWD to the KWD Arellano Office. The RTC was compelled to ask him why he seeks the return of KWD properties
if he filed the motion as counsel of Ms. Gomba. When the RTC noted that KWD does not appear to be a party to
the motion, Atty. Ignes said that KWD is represented by Ms. Gomba per the caption of the case. Atty. Ignes also
manifested that they will file a motion for reconsideration of the orders dismissing Civil Case No. 1799 and Civil
Case No. 1793. The RTC ruled that it will not accept any motion for reconsideration in behalf of KWD unless he
is authorized by the OGCC, but Atty. Ignes later filed a notice of appeal[23] dated February 28, 2008, in Civil
Case No. 1799. As the notice of appeal signed by Atty. Ignes was filed by one (1) not duly authorized by law,
the RTC, in its Order[24] dated April 8, 2008, denied due course to said notice of appeal.
As we see it, Atty. Ignes portrayed that his appearance on January 28, 2008 was merely as counsel of Ms.
Gomba. He indicted himself, however, when he said that Ms. Gomba represents KWD per the case title. In fact,
the extremely urgent motion sought the return of the facilities of KWD to its Arellano Office. Clearly, Atty. Ignes
filed and argued a motion with the interest of KWD in mind. The notice of appeal in Civil Case No. 1799 further
validates that Atty. Ignes still appeared as counsel of KWD after his authority as counsel had expired.This fact
was not lost on the RTC in denying due course to the notice of appeal.

Now did respondents willfully appear as counsels of KWD without authority?

The following circumstances convince us that, indeed, respondents willfully and deliberately appeared as
counsels of KWD without authority. One, respondents have admitted the existence of Memorandum Circular No.
9 and professed that they are aware of our ruling in Phividec.[25] Thus, we entertain no doubt that they have full
grasp of our ruling therein that there are indispensable conditions before a GOCC can hire private counsel and
that for non-compliance with the requirements set by Memorandum Circular No. 9, the private counsel would
have no authority to file a case in behalf of a GOCC. Still, respondents acted as counsels of KWD without
complying with what the rule requires. They signed pleadings as counsels of KWD. They presented themselves
voluntarily, on their own volition, as counsels of KWD even if they had no valid authority to do so.

Two, despite the question on respondents authority as counsels of KWD which question was actually raised
earlier in Civil Case No. 1799 by virtue of an urgent motion to disqualify KWDs counsels [26] dated February 21,
2007 and during the hearing on February 23, 2007[27]respondents still filed the supplemental complaint in the
case on March 9, 2007. And despite the pendency of this case before the IBP, Atty. Ignes had to be reminded by
the RTC that he needs OGCC authority to file an intended motion for reconsideration in behalf of KWD.

With the grain of evidence before us, we do not believe that respondents are innocent of the charge even if they
insist that the professional fees of Attys. Nadua, Viajar, Jr. and Mann, as collaborating counsels, were paid not
from the public coffers of KWD. To be sure, the facts were clear that they appeared as counsels of KWD without
authority, and not merely as counsels of the members of the Dela Pea board and KWD personnel in their private
suits.

Consequently, for respondents willful appearance as counsels of KWD without authority to do so, there is a valid
ground to impose disciplinary action against them. Under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, a member
of the bar may be disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any deceit,
malpractice, or other gross misconduct in such office, grossly immoral conduct, or by reason of his conviction of a
crime involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he is required to take before admission to
practice, or for a willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court, or for corruptly or willfully
appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority to do so.

Disbarment, however, is the most severe form of disciplinary sanction, and, as such, the power to disbar must
always be exercised with great caution, and should be imposed only for the most imperative reasons and in
clear cases of misconduct affecting the standing and moral character of the lawyer as an officer of the court and
member of the bar. Accordingly, disbarment should not be decreed where any punishment less severe such as a
reprimand, suspension or fine, would accomplish the end desired.[28] In Santayana,[29] we imposed a fine
of P5,000 on the respondent for willfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority to do
so. The respondent therein also appeared as private counsel of the National Electrification Administration, a
GOCC, without any approval from the OGCC and COA.

Conformably with Santayana, we impose a fine of P5,000 on each respondent.

On another matter, we note that respondents stopped short of fully narrating what had happened after the RTC
issued four (4) orders on March 24, 2007 and on April 13, 2007 in Civil Case No. 1799.[30] As willingly revealed
by complainants, all four (4) orders were nullified by the Court of Appeals. [31] We are compelled to issue a
reminder that our Code of Professional Responsibility requires lawyers, like respondents, to always show
candor and good faith to the courts.[32]

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

Let a copy of this Resolution be attached to respondents personal records in the Office of the Bar Confidant.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 176530 June 16, 2009

SPOUSES CONSTANTE AGBULOS AND ZENAIDA PADILLA AGBULOS, Petitioners, vs.


NICASIO GUTIERREZ, JOSEFA GUTIERREZ and ELENA G. GARCIA, Respondents.

RESOLUTION

NACHURA, J.:

This petition for review on certiorari seeks the review of the Decision 1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) dated
February 6, 2007 in CA–G.R. CV No. 83994 which set aside the dismissal of a complaint for declaration of
nullity of contract, cancellation of title, reconveyance and damages.

The case stems from the following antecedents:

On October 16, 1997, respondents, Dr. Nicasio G. Gutierrez, Josefa Gutierrez de Mendoza and Elena G.
Garcia, through their counsel, Atty. Adriano B. Magbitang, filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Gapan,
Nueva Ecija, a complaint against petitioners, spouses Constante Agbulos and Zenaida Padilla Agbulos, for
declaration of nullity of contract, cancellation of title, reconveyance and damages. The complaint alleged that
respondents inherited from their father, Maximo Gutierrez, an eight-hectare parcel of land located in Callos,
Penaranda, Nueva Ecija, covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. NT-123790 in the name of Maximo
Gutierrez. Through fraud and deceit, petitioners succeeded in making it appear that Maximo Gutierrez
executed a Deed of Sale on July 21, 1978 when, in truth, he died on April 25, 1977. As a result, TCT No. NT-
123790 was cancelled and a new one, TCT No. NT-188664, was issued in the name of petitioners. Based on
the notation at the back of the certificate of title, portions of the property were brought under the
Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and awarded to Lorna Padilla, Elenita Nuega and Suzette
Nuega who were issued Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs).

In their defense, petitioners averred that respondents were not the real parties in interest, that the Deed of
Sale was regularly executed before a notary public, that they were possessors in good faith, and that the
action had prescribed.

On the day set for the presentation of the respondents’ (plaintiffs’) evidence, petitioners filed a Motion to
Dismiss, assailing the jurisdiction of the RTC over the subject matter of the case. Petitioners contended that
the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB), not the RTC, had jurisdiction since the
subject land was covered by the CARP, and CLOAs had been awarded to tenants. Respondents opposed the
motion, arguing that the motion had been filed beyond the period for filing an Answer, that the RTC had
jurisdiction over the case based on the allegations in the complaint, and that the DARAB had no jurisdiction
since the parties had no tenancy relationship.

In an Order2 dated October 24, 2002, the RTC granted the petitioners’ motion and dismissed the complaint
for lack of jurisdiction. The RTC held that the DARAB had jurisdiction, since the subject property was under
the CARP, some portions of it were covered by registered CLOAs, and there was prima facie showing of
tenancy. 3

Respondents filed a motion for reconsideration. On November 13, 2003, the RTC denied the motion.4

Atty. Magbitang filed a Notice of Appeal 5 with the RTC, which gave due course to the same. 6 The records
reveal that on December 15, 2003, respondent Elena G. Garcia wrote a letter to Judge Arturo M. Bernardo,
Acting Judge of RTC Gapan, Branch 87, stating that they were surprised to receive a communication from the
court informing them that their notice of appeal was ready for disposition. She also stated in the letter that
there was no formal agreement with Atty. Magbitang as to whether they would pursue an appeal with the CA,
because one of the plaintiffs was still in America. 7

On February 6, 2007, the CA rendered a Decision in favor of respondents. The dispositive portion of the
decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appeal is hereby GRANTED and the assailed Order dated October 24,
2002 issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Gapan, Nueva Ecija, Branch 87, is REVERSED and SET
ASIDE. Accordingly, the subject complaint is reinstated and the records of the case is (sic) hereby remanded
to the RTC for further proceedings.1avvphi1

SO ORDERED.8

The CA concluded that the dispute between the parties was purely civil, not agrarian, in nature. According to
the CA, the allegations in the complaint revealed that the principal relief sought was the nullification of the
purported deed of sale and reconveyance of the subject property. It also noted that there was no tenurial,
leasehold, or any other agrarian relations between the parties.

Thus, this petition, raising the following issues for the resolution of this Court:

1. Whether or not the CA erred in not dismissing the appeal despite the undisputed fact that Atty.
Magbitang filed the notice of appeal without respondents’ knowledge and consent;

2. Whether or not the CA erred in giving due course to the appeal despite the fact that Atty.
Magbitang’s appellants’ brief failed to comply with the mandatory requirements of Section 13, Rule 44
of the Rules of Court regarding the contents of an appellants’ brief; and

3. Whether or not the CA erred in ruling that the RTC (Regional Trial Court), not the DARAB
(Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board) or the PARAD/RARAD (Provincial/Regional
Agrarian Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator), has jurisdiction over respondents’ complaint. 9

The CA did not err in giving due course to the appeal, on both procedural and substantive grounds.

A lawyer who represents a client before the trial court is presumed to represent such client before the
appellate court. Section 22 of Rule 138 creates this presumption, thus:

SEC. 22. Attorney who appears in lower court presumed to represent client on appeal. — An attorney who
appears de parte in a case before a lower court shall be presumed to continue representing his client on
appeal, unless he files a formal petition withdrawing his appearance in the appellate court.

A reading of respondent Elena Garcia’s letter to the RTC would show that she did not actually withdraw Atty.
Magbitang’s authority to represent respondents in the case. The letter merely stated that there was, as yet, no
agreement that they would pursue an appeal.

In any case, an unauthorized appearance of an attorney may be ratified by the client either expressly or
impliedly. Ratification retroacts to the date of the lawyer’s first appearance and validates the action taken by
him.10 Implied ratification may take various forms, such as by silence or acquiescence, or by acceptance and
retention of benefits flowing therefrom.11 Respondents’ silence or lack of remonstration when the case was
finally elevated to the CA means that they have acquiesced to the filing of the appeal.

Moreover, a lawyer is mandated to "serve his client with competence and diligence." 12 Consequently, a lawyer
is entreated not to neglect a legal matter entrusted to him; otherwise, his negligence in connection therewith
shall render him liable.13 In light of such mandate, Atty. Magbitang’s act of filing the notice of appeal without
waiting for her clients to direct him to do so was understandable, if not commendable.

The CA was likewise correct in holding that the case is within the jurisdiction of the RTC, not the DARAB.
For the DARAB to have jurisdiction over a case, there must be a tenancy relationship between the parties. It
is, therefore, essential to establish all the indispensable elements of a tenancy relationship, to wit: (1) that the
parties are the landowner and the tenant or agricultural lessee; (2) that the subject matter of the relationship
is an agricultural land; (3) that there is consent between the parties to the relationship; (4) that the purpose of
the relationship is to bring about agricultural production; (5) that there is personal cultivation on the part of
the tenant or agricultural lessee; and (6) that the harvest is shared between the landowner and the tenant or
agricultural lessee.14

Basic is the rule that jurisdiction is determined by the allegations in the complaint. 15 Respondents’ complaint
did not contain any allegation that would, even in the slightest, imply that there was a tenancy relation
between them and the petitioners. We are in full agreement with the following findings of the CA on this point:

x x x A reading of the material averments of the complaint reveals that the principal relief sought by plaintiffs-
appellants is for the nullification of the supposedly forged deed of sale which resulted in the issuance of TCT
No. NT-188664 covering their 8-hectare property as well as its reconveyance, and not for the cancellation of
CLOAs as claimed by defendants-appellees. Moreover, the parties herein have no tenurial, leasehold, or any
other agrarian relations whatsoever that could have brought this controversy under the ambit of the agrarian
reform laws. Neither were the CLOA awardees impleaded as parties in this case nor the latter’s entitlement
thereto questioned. Hence, contrary to the findings of the RTC, the herein dispute is purely civil and not
agrarian in nature falling within the exclusive jurisdiction of the trial courts.

On the alleged deficiency of the appellants’ brief filed before the CA by the respondents, suffice it to state that
the requirements in Section 13, Rule 44 are intended to aid the appellate court in arriving at a just and
proper resolution of the case. Obviously, the CA found the appellants’ brief sufficient in form and substance
as the appellate court was able to arrive at a just decision. We have repeatedly held that technical and
procedural rules are intended to help secure, not to suppress, substantial justice. A deviation from a rigid
enforcement of the rules may, thus, be allowed in order to attain this prime objective for, after all, the
dispensation of justice is the core reason for the existence of courts.16

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DENIED. The Court of Appeals’ Decision dated February 6,
2007 is AFFIRMED.

G.R. No. 82760 August 30, 1990

FELIMON MANANGAN, petitioner, vs.


COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE OF NUEVA VIZCAYA, BRANCH 28, respondent.

MELENCIO-HERRERA, J.:

For abuse of Court processes, hopping from one forum to another, filing a labyrinth of cases and pleadings,
thwarting the smooth prosecution of Criminal Case No. 639 against him for no less than twelve (12) years,
and for masquerading as Filemon Manangan when his real name is Andres Culanag, petitioner has brought
upon himself the severest censure and a punishment for contempt. The Petition for Certiorari he has filed
likewise calls for dismissal.

The Petition, Amended Petition, and Second Amended Petition seek the annulment of the entire proceedings
in Criminal Case No. 639 of respondent Court, including the Alias Warrant of Arrest issued by it, dated 19
July 1979, "for being stale/functus officio." It is claimed, inter alia, that respondent Court committed grave
abuse of discretion in making it appear that petitioner was duly tried and convicted when the contrary was
true, and that the Alias Warrant of Arrest was irregularly issued because respondent Court had already
accepted a property bond.

In the Amended Petition, petitioner further alleges that respondent Court had irregularly assumed jurisdiction
as it is the Sandiganbayan that has exclusive original jurisdiction over the case considering that he was Legal
Officer I of the Bureau of Lands, Region II, and that he had supposedly committed the offense in relation to
that office.

Piecing together the facts from the hodgepodge of quotations from the Decisions in the different cases filed by
petitioner, we recite the relevant ones below.
On 7 November 1977, petitioner, representing himself as a lawyer, was appointed Legal Officer I of the Bureau
of Lands in Region II (p. 98, Rollo).

On 30 June 1978, Criminal Case No. 639 entitled "People v. Filemon Manangan alias Andres Culanag" (Annex
D, Petition, Rollo, UDK 3906, p. 20) was filed before the then Court of First Instance of Nueva Vizcaya, First
Judicial District, Bayombong, charging petitioner with "Execution of Deeds by Intimidation" under Article 298
of the Revised Penal Code (the Criminal Case, for short). Apparently, the Director of Lands had given his
imprimatur to the charge.

On the same date, an Order of Arrest was issued by then Judge Gabriel Dunuan of respondent Court (Rollo,
UDK 3906, p. 21).

On 18 April 1979, petitioner filed before this Court a Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition and mandamus with
Writ of Preliminary Injunction entitled "Filemon de Asis Manangan v. Court of First Instance, et al.," in UDK No.
3906, assailing the jurisdiction of respondent Court to try the criminal case and seeking to stay the Order of
Arrest of 30 June 1978. The petition was dismissed on 7 May 1979 for non-payment of legal fees (p. 99, Rollo).

On 10 and 18 July 1978, the dates set for preliminary investigation, petitioner did not show up and, in fact,
disappeared for about a year.

On 31 July 1978, a Second Amended Information was filed (Comment, Solicitor General, p. 61, Rollo), this
time Identifying the accused as "Andres Culanag (alias Andres M. Culanag, Filemon Manangan Atty. Filemon
A. Manangan and Atty. Ross V. Pangilinan)."

On 8 July 1979, petitioner surfaced and, through counsel, posted a bailbond with the Municipal Circuit Court
of San Miguel, Zamboanga del Sur (Resolution of the RTC, Nueva Vizcaya, 25 March 1983, Annex B, Petition,
p. 2).

On 19 July 1979, an Alias Warrant of Arrest was by Judge Gabriel Dunuan. It is this Alias Warrant that is
challenged herein.

On 12 September 1979, petitioner filed an ex-parte Motion to Dismiss the Criminal Case, which was denied
by respondent Court (see CA-G.R. No. 11588-SP, p. 2).

Petitioner then resorted to a Petition for Certiorari and Mandamus before the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No.
11588-SP entitled "Filemon Manangan v. Director of Lands and CFI of Nueva Vizcaya." The Petition sought to
(1) nullify the decision of the Director of Lands, dated 27 March 1980, finding petitioner guilty of extortion,
impersonation and abandonment of office and ordering his dismissal from the service; and (2) "require
respondent CFI of Nueva Ecija to dismiss Criminal Case No. 639 pending in its Court." In a Decision,
promulgated on 27 February 1981, the Appellate Court dismissed the Petition for "absolute lack of legal and
factual basis" and holding, among others, that "the non-withdrawal of the Information for execution of deeds
by intimidation . . . is not covered by mandamus" (hereinafter, the German Decision). 1

On 30 October 1981, before respondent Court, a Motion for Reconsideration was filed by petitioner, ostensibly
through counsel, Atty. Benjamin Facun, asking that the Criminal Case be dismissed on the ground that the
accused had already died on 29 September 1971 such that respondent Court had not acquired jurisdiction
over his person. The Motion was denied.

On 22 February 1982, erroneously construing the German Decision as a final judgment of conviction,
respondent Court reset the promulgation to 19 April 1982 and ordered the bondsmen to produce the body of
the accused on said date (Annex A, Petition). Realizing the mistake, on 9 July 1982, respondent Court vacated
said order and ruled that "the warrant of arrest issued by this Court through Judge Gabriel Dunuan on 19
July 1979, shall remain in full force and effect" (Annex F, Petition).

On 25 June 1982, petitioner again resorted to the Court of Appeals in another Petition for Certiorari (CA-G.R.
No. SP-14428) filed by one Atty. Benjamin Facun as counsel for petitioner, this time praying for the
annulment of the proceedings in the Criminal Case "on the ground that the accused was already dead when
the decision finding him guilty of the crime . . . was rendered." The pleading alleged "that petitioner is of age,
Filipino, deceased, but has come to this Honorable Court through counsel. . . ." In a Decision promulgated on
29 November 1982, Certiorariwas denied for being devoid of merit inasmuch as "there is nothing on record to
show that such dismissal had been sought before the decision was rendered" (briefly, the Kapunan
Decision). 2 (Actually, no judgment has been rendered by respondent Court).

Unfazed by the adverse Kapunan Decision, the supposed heirs of the accused, on 10 February 1983, filed a
Manifestation before respondent Court asking for the dismissal and termination of the Criminal Case on the
same ground that the accused had allegedly died.

On 25 March 1983, Judge Quirino A. Catral of respondent Court refused to declare the case closed and
terminated inasmuch as the accused was alive on 8 July 1979 when he posted his bailbond (citing the
Kapunan Decision) and reiterated that the "alias warrant issued by the Court on July 19, 1979 which up to
the present has not yet been served upon the accused as in full force and effect."

For the third time, the case was elevated to the then Intermediate Appellate Court in AC-G.R. No. SP-00707,
entitled "Heirs of the Deceased Filemon Manangan v. Hon. Quirino A. Catral, etc." The Petition sought to annul
the Order of Judge Catral of 25 March 1983 denying the closure and termination of the Criminal Case.

On 28 May 1983, the then IAC, after quoting at length from the Kapunan Decision and the Catral Order,
dismissed the Petition (hereinafter, the Aquino Decision) 3 holding, inter alia, that "whether or not its denial of
the motion to dismiss that case constitutes a grave abuse of discretion, was already passed upon by this
Court in CA-G.R. No. SP-14428 (Kapunan Decision), hence, it is res adjudicata. It may not be litigated anew,
no matter what form the action for that purpose may take."

On 28 June 1984, before the respondent Court, petitioner-accused filed an Omnibus Motion with Motion for
New Trial, which was denied for lack of merit in the Order of 19 November 1984. In the same Order,
respondent Court ordered the case archived until such time that the accused is brought to the Court.

On 19 June 1986, counsel for petitioner-accused filed a Motion to Quash on the grounds that: "(1) the court
trying the case has no jurisdiction over the offense charged or the person of the accused; and (2) the accused
has been previously convicted or in jeopardy of being convicted of the offense charged."

It was at that stage of the case below, without awaiting disposition on the Motion to Quash, that the present
Petition was instituted.

The obvious conclusion from the recital of facts given is that the Petition is without merit. Petitioner-accused
had a pending Motion to Quash before respondent Court and should have awaited resolution thereon. He had
a plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law and resort to this Petition is decidedly
premature.

Contrary to petitioner's pretensions, the Alias Warrant of Arrest is valid. Petitioner had evaded arrest by
disappearing from the jurisdiction of respondent Court. Neither is there any indication in the records that the
property bond, filed by petitioner-accused in the Municipal Circuit Court of San Miguel, Zamboanga del Sur,
had been accepted by respondent Court and petitioner discharged on the basis thereof. The Alias Warrant is
not "stale or functus officio," as alleged. Unlike a warrant, which is valid for only ten (10) days from date (Rule
126, Sec. 9), a Warrant of Arrest remains valid until arrest is effected or the Warrant lifted. Respondent Court,
therefore, cannot be faulted with grave abuse of discretion for holding that said Warrant is in full force and
effect.

Although there may have been some initial confusion on the part of respondent Court arising from the
Kapunan Decision, that was timely rectified. In the final analysis, respondent Court has not made it appear
that petitioner-accused has already been arraigned and tried, let alone convicted. No jeopardy has attached,
as alleged. Again, therefore, no grave abuse of discretion can be attributed to respondent Court.

Petitioner's argument in his Amended Petition and Second Amended Petition that it is the Sandiganbayan that
has exclusive jurisdiction over the Criminal Case neither holds water considering that not only is he ineligible
for the position of Legal Officer I in the Bureau of Lands, Region II, for not being a lawyer, but also because he
was dismissed from the service on 27 March 1980 by the Director of Lands, who found him, with the approval
of the Minister of Natural Resources, guilty of extortion, impersonation and abandonment of office CA-G.R.
No. 11588-SP, p. 2).
The foregoing conclusions could dispose of the case.

However, on 8 June 1989, the Solicitor General filed a "Manifestation/Motion to Strike Out" the present
petition for being fictitious and that by reason thereof petitioner should be cited for contempt of Court. The
Solicitor General has also prayed that he be excused from filing a Comment on petitioner's Second Amended
Petition, which we resolve to grant.

The Solicitor General maintains that a re-examination of the records in the Criminal shows that:

a. Filemon A. Manangan is only an alias of Andres M. Culanag, the person charged in Criminal
Case No. 639;

b. Filemon A. Manangan was a lawyer from San Marcelino, Zambales, who died on September
29, 1971 in the vicinity of his residence where he and his driver died on the spot; and

c. [Andres M. Culanag] knew the real Filemon Manangan and knowing about the latter's death,
assumed the name, qualifications and other personal circumstances of Filemon Manangan. By
means thereof, he was able to pass himself off as a lawyer and to actually practice law, using
even the Certificate of Admission to the Philippine Bar of Filemon Manangan which states that
he was admitted to the Bar on March 6, 1964. By this guise, [Andres M. Culanag] succeeded in
obtaining a position as legal Officer I in the Bureau of Lands.

In opposition, petitioner maintains that he is not a fictitious person, having been born out of the lawful
wedlock of Segundino Manangan and Felipa Asis; and that assuming that there is sufficient basis to charge
him for contempt, it will no longer prosper on the ground of prescription.

Petitioner's posturings are completely bereft of basis. As the Solicitor General had also disclosed in the
German Decision, petitioner [Andres Culanag] had, on 23 February 1977, filed Sp. Procs. No. 23 with the
Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija, San Jose City Branch, for the change of his name from Andres
Culanag to Filemon Manangan. In that petition, he claimed that his real name is Andres Culanag; that his
entire school records carry his name as Filemon Manangan: and that he is the same person as Andres
Culanag, the latter being his real name. The imprisonment was carried to the extreme when, in petitioner's
Manifestation, dated 10 February 1983, before respondent Court, his supposed heirs alleged that accused
had died before the filing of the Information on 29 September 1971, the exact date of death of the real Filemon
Manangan. More, petitioner also masquerades under the name of Atty. Benjamin M. Facun in the several
pleadings filed in connection with the Criminal Case.

In the German Decision, it was additionally pointed out that petitioner had also committed imprisonation
when, representing himself as Atty. Ross V. Pangilinan, he filed a petition with this Court praying that his
right to practice law be affirmed (Misc. Bar-I and Misc. Bar-2). In those cases, we ruled that petitioner
Filemon Manangan is "really Andres Culanag, an impostor;" dismissed the petitions; and directed Andres
Culanag to show cause why he should not be punished for contempt for filing the two false petitions (In re:
Andres Culanag, September 30, 1971, 41 SCRA 26). He explained that "he thought this Court would not
discover that he is a poseur, for which reason he apologizes to the Court promising that he would not commit
the same act if he is excused and given another chance." On 12 November 1971, after finding his explanation
unsatisfactory, we adjudged him guilty of indirect contempt of Court under Rule 71, Section 3(e) of the Rules
of Court 4 and sentenced him to suffer imprisonment for six (6) months.

Parenthetically, we also take judicial notice of Bar Matter No. 190, entitled "In Re Andres Culanag alias Atty.
Ross V. Pangilinan" and Bar Matter No. 206, entitled "Eriberto H. Decena vs. Andres Culanag" wherein, on 9
October 1984, this Court Resolved "to direct that petitioner be subjected to mental examination by a doctor
from the National Mental Hospital" after noting that petitioner was suffering from some kind of mental
alienation. This mitigates somewhat petitioner's present liability for contempt.

It is the height of chicanery, indeed, that despite the foregoing antecedents, petitioner still has the gall to
claim that he is, in truth and in fact, Filemon Manangan. The evidence on hand, without need for more, and
with petitioner having been sufficiently heard, amply establishes that petitioner Filemon Manangan, is an
impostor. He is guilty of continued fraudulent misrepresentation and highly improper conduct tending
directly to impede, obstruct, degrade, and make a mockery of the administration of justice (Rule 71, Sec. 3
[d]).

While it may be that some pronouncements in the pertinent decisions allude to Filemon Manangan and that
Andres Culanag is just an alias of Filemon Manangan, those statements actually refer to the person of Andres
Culanag and not to the real Filemon Manangan, long since dead.

The action for contempt has not prescribed since it is apparent that the contumacious acts continue to this
day.

WHEREFORE, (1) the Petition, Amended Petition, and the Second Amended Petition are hereby dismissed for
utter lack of merit; (2) petitioner is adjudged in contempt of Court, severely censured, and sentenced to suffer
three (3) months imprisonment, the same to be served at the Provincial Jail of Nueva Vizcaya to ensure his
appearance during the trial of the subject criminal case; (3) respondent Court is hereby directed to retrieve
Criminal Case No. 639 from its archives and to proceed to its determination with deliberate dispatch; (4) all
Courts are directed not to recognize any person representing himself as Filemon Manangan, Atty. Filemon
Manangan, or Atty. Benjamin M. Facun; and (5) petitioner's real name is declared to be Andres Culanag.

Treble costs against petitioner.