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22.

SECOND DIVISION

A.C. No. 9186, April 11, 2018

ATTY. JUAN PAULO VILLONCO, Complainant, v. ATTY. ROMEO G. ROXAS, Respondent.

The present case stemmed from the complaint of Atty. Juan Paolo T. Villonco against respondent Atty. Romeo G. Roxas
for gross misconduct and for violating the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR).

The factual and procedural antecedents of the case are as follows:

Republic Real Estate Corporation (RREC), with complainant Atty. Juan Paolo T. Villonco as its president, hired respondent
Atty. Romeo G. Roxas as its counsel on a contingent basis in its case against the Republic of the Philippines with respect
to a reclaimed land which is now the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) complex. Subsequently, RREC was awarded
around P10,926,071.29 representing the sum spent in the reclamation of the CCP complex.

The case was later remanded to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasay City for the execution of the decision. RREC's
Board of Directors enjoined Atty. Roxas to defer the filing of the motion for the issuance of a Writ of Execution until
further instruction, but he still filed the same. Thereafter, the Republic filed a Petition for Certiorari against the Writ of
Execution eventually issued by the trial court. On February 27, 2009, the Court of Appeals (CA) issued an Order granting
said petition and declared the Writ of Execution null and void. Aggrieved, Atty. Roxas, without first securing RREC 's
consent and authority, filed a Motion for Reconsideration and a Motion for Inhibition with the CA.

Without being approved or authorized by the RREC's Board of Directors, he likewise filed a complaint for serious
misconduct against CA Justices Sesinando E. Villon, Andres B. Reyes, Jr. and Jose Catral Mendoza, and a petition assailing
the constitutionality of Presidential Decree No. 774, both on RREC's behalf. For his foregoing unauthorized acts, RREC's
Board requested Atty. Roxas to voluntarily withdraw as counsel for the corporation. When Atty. Roxas refused, RREC
terminated its retainer agreement with Atty. Roxas and engaged the services of another lawyer to replace him in the
representation of the company.

However, despite his termination, Atty. Roxas still appeared for RREC and continued to argue for the corporation in the
case. He also threatened to sue the members of the RREC Board unless they reinstated him as counsel. Thus, Atty.
Villonco was compelled to file the instant administrative complaint against Atty. Roxas.

For his part, Atty. Roxas denied the accusations and claimed that from August 1992 up to the time of the filing of the
complaint, or a period of twenty-one (21) years, his law firm had been competently rendering legal services for RREC.
Through those years, he singlehandedly advanced the necessary expenses to sustain and pursue the case. He claimed
that he could not be removed as counsel for RREC since they had a contract for a contingency fee coupled with interest.
He argued that his appearance before the CA was proper since his removal by the RREC Board was illegal and unfair.
Securing the Board's approval before he could file pleadings on RREC's behalf was unnecessary since he had been
explicitly given the blanket authority to exercise his sound discretion in the pursuit of the case. He pointed out that he
filed the administrative complaint against the CA Justices only to further RREC's case.

On May 17, 2013, the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) recommended the
penalty of censure: 1

Foregoing premises considered, the undersigned believes and so holds that the Respondent had violated Sec. 27 of Rule
138 of the Rules of Court and Canon 15 of the CPR. Accordingly, he recommends that he be meted with the penalty of
CENSURE with a warning that a repetition of the same would invite a stiffer penalty.
On September 27, 2014, the IBP Board of Governors issued Resolution No. XXI-2014-660,2 adopting the foregoing
recommendation but with modification, thus:

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby ADOPTED and APPROVED, with modification, the Report and
Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the above-entitled case, herein made part of this Resolution as Annex
"A ", and for Respondent's blatant violation of Section 27 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court and Canon 15 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, instead of Censure Atty. Romeo G. Roxas is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for
six (6) months.

The Court's Ruling

The Court finds no cogent reason to depart from the findings and recommendation of the IBP that Atty. Roxas must be
held administratively liable.

It is settled that the relationship between a lawyer and his client is one imbued with utmost trust and confidence. In this
regard, clients are led to expect that lawyers would be ever-mindful of their cause, and accordingly, exercise the required
degree of diligence in handling their affairs.3

Here, RREC's Board of Directors specifically instructed Atty. Roxas to postpone the filing of the motion for the issuance
of a Writ of Execution until further notice, but he defied the same and still filed the motion. He then filed a Motion for
Reconsideration and a Motion for Inhibition with the CA without first securing RREC's consent and authority. Again,
without being authorized, he likewise filed an administrative complaint against several CA Justices and a petition
assailing the constitutionality of Presidential Decree No. 774, both on RREC's behalf. Said unauthorized acts caused
RREC's Board to request Atty. Roxas to voluntarily withdraw as counsel for the corporation and to finally terminate its
retainer agreement with him when he refused. Even after he was terminated, Atty. Roxas still continued to appear and
argue for RREC. Worse, he also threatened to sue the members of the RREC Board unless they reinstated him as the
company's counsel.

In engaging the services of an attorney, the client reposes on him special powers of trust and confidence. Their
relationship is strictly personal and highly confidential and fiduciary. The relation is of such delicate, exacting, and
confidential nature that is required by necessity and public interest. Only by such confidentiality and protection will a
person be encouraged to repose his confidence in an attorney. Thus, the preservation and protection of that relation will
encourage a client to entrust his legal problems to an attorney, which is of paramount importance to the administration
of justice.4

In the instant case, Atty. Roxas's defiant attitude ultimately caused his client to lose its trust in him. He intentionally
denied his client's requests on how to proceed with the case and insisted on doing it his own way. He could not possibly
use the supposed blanket authority given to him as a valid justification, especially on non-procedural matters, as in the
case at bar, if he would be contradicting his client's trust and confidence in the process. Atty. Roxas clearly disregarded
the express commands of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR), specifically Canon 17.

Canon 17 of the CPR states:

CANON 17 - A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he shall be mindful of the trust and confidence
reposed in him.

The Court upholds the IBP's finding that Atty. Roxas was so principally moved by his desire to be compensated for the
advanced expenses of litigation and his professional fees that he proceeded with the filing of the motion for the issuance
of a Writ of Execution against the express advice of his client. Then he later filed the motion for inhibition and
administrative complaints against the CA Justices out of extreme exasperation and disappointment.

The Court has repeatedly emphasized that the practice of law is imbued with public interest and that a lawyer owes
substantial duties, not only to his client, but also to his brethren in the profession, to the courts, and to the public, and
takes part in the administration of justice, one of the most important functions of the State, as an officer of the court.
Accordingly, lawyers are bound to maintain, not only a high standard of legal proficiency, but also of morality, honesty,
integrity, and fair dealing.5

Atty. Roxas has fallen short of the high standard of morality, honesty, integrity, and fair dealing expected of him. Thus,
RREC's termination of his retainer is proper and justified. A client may absolutely discharge his lawyer at any time, with
or without cause, and without need of the lawyer's consent or the court's approval. He may, at any time, dismiss his
attorney or substitute another in his stead. Such right, however, is subject to the lawyer's right to be compensated. In the
discretion of the court, the attorney may intervene in the case to protect his rights and he shall have a lien upon all
judgments for the payment of money and executions issued in pursuance of such judgment, rendered in the case where
his services had been retained by the client, for the payment of his compensation.6

There can be no question that a lawyer is guilty of misconduct sufficient to justify his suspension or disbarment if he so
acts as to be unworthy of the trust and confidence involved in his official oath and is found to be wanting in that honesty
and integrity that must characterize the members of the Bar in the performance of their professional duties. Although a
six (6)-month suspension from the practice of law would suffice for violating Canon 17 of the CPR, the Court deems it
proper to increase the penalty of suspension in this case to one (1) year, as that would be more proportionate to the
offense charged and established.7 The Court notes that in 2007, Atty. Roxas was also found guilty of indirect contempt
and was fined the amount of P30,000.00 for insinuating that then Associate Justice Minita V. Chico-Nazario had decided
his cases on considerations other than the pure merits of the case, and called the Supreme Court a "dispenser of injustice."
The Court warned him that a repetition of a similar act will warrant a more severe penalty.8 Verily, for the constant display
of contumacious attitude on the part of Atty. Roxas, not only against his very own client, but likewise against the courts,
a more serious penalty is warranted.

WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Court SUSPENDS Atty. Romeo G. Roxas from the practice of law for
a period of one (1) year and WARNS him that a repetition of the same or similar offense shall be dealt with more severely.

Let copies of this Decision be included in the personal records of Atty. Romeo G. Roxas and entered in his file in the Office
of the Bar Confidant.

Let copies of this Decision be disseminated to all lower courts by the Office of the Court Administrator, as well as to the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines, for their information and guidance. SO ORDERED.

23.

A.C. No. 11326 (Formerly CBD Case No. 14-4305), June 27, 2018

PELAGIO VICENCIO SORONGON, JR., Complainant, v. ATTY. RAMON Y. GARGANTOS,1 SR., Respondent.

Before the Court is the Affidavit Complaint2 dated July 1, 2014 filed before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)
Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) by complainant Pelagio Vicencio Sorongon, Jr. (complainant) against herein
respondent Atty. Ramon Y. Gargantos, Sr. (respondent). The complainant, a retired businessman and resident of Davao
City, was charged, together with personnel of the Regional Health Office No. XI in Davao City, before the Sandiganbayan
for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, docketed as Crim. Case Nos. 24483, 24486, and 24488.3 The
complainant engaged respondent's legal services to represent him in the said cases.4

Antecedents

The complainant alleged that he gave respondent the amount of Two Hundred Thousand Pesos (P200,000.00) as full
payment of the latter's legal services, which, s allegedly agreed upon, would cover the acceptance fee, appearance fees,
and other fees until the resolution of the cases.5 The complainant also alleged that respondent did not give him a receipt
nor did they execute a formal memorandum of agreement (MOA).6 In addition, complainant narrated that they agreed
that if there would be court hearings outside of Quezon City, then complainant would provide respondent's plane ticket,
meals, and hotel accommodation.7 However, should the hearing be at the Sandiganbayan, they would just meet in the
court.8

On June 3, 2014, complainant called the respondent regarding the scheduled hearings on June 4 and 5, 2014 at the
Sandiganbayan.9 The respondent instructed the complainant to pick him up at his residence in Quezon City, otherwise
he would not attend the hearing.10 The complainant complied and they attended the hearing at the Sandiganbayan on
June 4, 2014.11 After the hearing and on their way to respondent's residence, he allegedly demanded "pocket money"
from the complainant since he would accompany his wife to the United States, otherwise, he would not appear in the
hearing the following day and he would no longer serve as complainant’s counsel.12

The next day, June 5, 2014, the complainant went again to the respondent's residence to pick him up for the
hearing.13 However, the respondent allegedly asked him in a harsh voice, "O ano? Dala ma ba yong hinihingi ko? Sinabi ka
na s[a]yo kahap[o]n kung di mo dala di ako sisipot sa hearing mo at layasan kita."14 When the complainant replied that he
did not have the money, the respondent allegedly shouted at him, "Babaliktarin kita. Sasabihin ko na di mo ako
binabayaran at ipakukulong kita. Di mo ako kilala. Umalis [kana] at baka ano pa ang mangyari s[a]yo. Pagdating mo
mamaya sa Sandiganbayan, sabihin at ikwento mo kung ano ang ginawa ko s[a]yo, hindi na ako sisipot ngayong araw at
magreresign na ako bilang abagado mo."15

The complainant alleged that he was traumatized by respondent's acts, and with teary eyes and a cordial voice, he
begged respondent not to abandon him.16 However, instead of listening to him, the respondent ordered him to
leave.17 He then politely replied, "[Sige] po Atty. Alis na po ako. Salamat po."18 During the hearing on that day, the
complainant narrated before the Sandiganbayan the acts of respondent, and informed the court that, being a jobless
senior citizen, he could not afford to hire a new lawyer to represent him.19 At 4:35 p.m. of the same day, respondent filed
a letter informing the Sandiganbayan of his withdrawal as the complainant's counsel.20 Thus, in the abovementioned
Affidavit Complaint, the complainant prayed for the refund of a portion of the amount paid to respondent in order that
he might be able to hire a new counsel.21

In an Order22 dated August 18, 2014, Dominic C.M. Solis, the Director for Bar Discipline (Director Solis), directed the
respondent to submit his Answer to the Affidavit Complaint pursuant to Bar Matter No. 1755 (Re: Rules of Procedure of
the Commission on Bar Discipline), as amended by A.M. No. 11-9-4-SC (Re: Efficient Use of Paper Rule).

In a handwritten letter23 dated November 6, 2014 addressed to Director Solis, the respondent, who stated therein that
he is already 82 years old, requested for a copy of the Affidavit Complaint in order to be able to prepare his Answer
thereof.

On January 9, 2015, IBP-CBD Commissioner Honesto A. Villamor (Commissioner Villamor) issued a Notice of Mandatory
Conference/Hearing24 to the parties, requiring them to attend the mandatory conference/hearing on March 26, 2015, and
to submit their respective briefs at least ten (10) days prior to the hearing.

In compliance therewith, the complainant filed his Mandatory Conference Brief25 dated March 13, 2015, wherein he
reiterated the allegations in his Affidavit Complaint, and expressed his unwillingness to enter into an amicable
settlement.26

In an Order27 dated March 26, 2015, Commissioner Villamor noted that only the complainant appeared for the mandatory
conference, coming all the way from Davao City. His Mandatory Conference Brief was also noted.28 Moreover, the Order
also noted that respondent failed to file his Answer, and thus, he was considered in default and to have waived his right
to be present in the mandatory conference.29 The parties were ordered to file their respective position papers with
supporting documentary exhibits and/or judicial affidavit/s of witness/es, if any, within fifteen (15) days from receipt of
the said Order.30 After the lapse of the period for submission of position papers, the case would then be deemed
submitted for report and recommendation.31
The complainant filed his Position Paper32 dated May 18, 2015, reiterating the allegations in his Affidavit Complaint and
Mandatory Conference Brief. Meanwhile, aside from the abovementioned handwritten letter dated November 6, 2014,
the respondent failed to file any pleadings, or to participate in the proceedings before the IBP-CBD.

Report and Recommendation of the CBD

In his Report and Recommendation33 (Report) dated May 29, 2015, Commissioner Villamor found respondent to have
violated the Lawyer's Oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR), particularly Canon 16, 34 Rule 16.01,35 and
thus, recommended that he be suspended from the practice of law for a period of one (1) year and that he should return
all documents and money in his possession over and above his lawful and reasonable attorney's fee with a warning that
a repetition of the same or similar offense shall be dealt with more severely.36

In his Report, Commissioner Villamor considered the amount of P50,000.00 as reasonable attorney's fee for the time
spent and the extent of the services rendered by respondent during the arraignment of the complainant's case, but
respondent was to return the remaining amount of P150,000.00 to the complainant.37

Moreover, Commissioner Villamor found that the respondent abandoned the complainant, and his withdrawal as counsel
was without good cause.38 He also noted that respondent failed, despite demand, to return the documents to the
complainant.39

Resolution of the Board of Governors of the IBP

On June 20, 2015, the IBP Board of Governors issued Resolution No. XXI-2015-581,40 adopting and approving the
above Report, but modified the same by ordering respondent to return the entire amount of Two Hundred Thousand
Pesos (P200,000.00) to the complainant.41

Court's Ruling

As found by Commissioner Villamor, the respondent allegedly failed to return, despite demand, the complainant's
documents after he withdrew as his counsel42 in violation of Canon 16, Rule 16.01 which provides that a lawyer shall
account for and hold in trust the money or property from the client. Moreover, despite respondent's legal services having
been allegedly paid in the amount of Two Hundred Thousand Pesos (P200,000.00), which, as allegedly agreed upon, was
to cover the acceptance fee, appearance fees, and other fees until the resolution of the cases, he allegedly abandoned
his client when the latter was not able to give him the "pocket money" he had demanded. This is a serious charge which
the respondent should have addressed and answered, as well as the other allegations, during the IBP proceedings.
However, after requesting for a copy of the Affidavit Complaint in order to be able to prepare his Answer, respondent
failed to participate in the IBP proceedings.

While we adopt the findings of Commissioner Villamor, we note that this is respondent's first offense, and we shall also
take into consideration his advanced age (i.e., he stated that he was already 82 years old in his abovementioned
handwritten letter dated November 6, 2014 addressed to Director Solis). We note that, in several cases,43 the Court, in
determining or tempering the penalty to be imposed, has considered mitigating factors, such as the respondent's
advanced age, health, humanitarian and equitable considerations, as well as whether the act complained of was
respondent's first infraction. In the present case, in view of the respondent's advanced age and the fact that this is his first
offense, respondent is hereby suspended from the practice of law for six (6) months and warned that a repetition of the
same or similar acts shall be dealt with more severely. Respondent should also return the legal fees paid to him by the
complainant in the amount of Two Hundred Thousand Pesos (P200,000.00), and the documents in respondent's
possession which pertain to the case of the complainant.

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Ramon Y. Gargantos, Sr., is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for six (6)
months effective immediately upon receipt of this Decision and warned that a repetition of the same or similar acts will
be dealt with more severely. Respondent Atty. Gargantos, Sr. is ordered to RETURN to complainant Pelagio Vicencio
Sorongon, Jr. the amount of Two Hundred Thousand Pesos (P200,000.00) within ninety (90) days from the receipt of this
Decision, including the documents in respondent's possession which pertain to the case of the complainant. Failure to
comply with the foregoing directive will warrant the imposition of a more severe penalty.

Let copies of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be appended to respondent's personal record
as attorney. Further, let copies of this Decision be furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of the
Court Administrator, which is directed to circulate them to all courts in the country for their information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.

24.

Jerry M. Palencia vs. Pedro L. Linsangan

PER CURIAM:
Before us is a complaint[1] filed by Jerry M. Palencia (complainant) against Attorneys (Attys.) Pedro L. Linsangan, Gerard
M. Linsangan[2] and Glenda Linsangan-Binoya (respondents) for disciplinary action.
Complainant was an overseas Filipino worker seafarer who was seriously injured during work when he tell into the
elevator shaft of the vessel M/T "Panos G" flying a Cyprus flag.[3] After initial treatment in Singapore, complainant was
discharged and flown to the Philippines to continue his medical treatment and rehabilitation. While confined at the
Manila Doctors Hospital, one "Moises," and later Jesherel L. Millena (Jesherel), paralegals in respondents' law office,
approached complainant. They convinced him to engage the services of respondents' law office in order to file a suit
against his employers for indemnity.[4] After several visits from the paralegals and respondent Atty. Pedro Linsangan,
complainant executed (1) an Attorney-Client Contract,[5] and (2) a Special Power of Attorney,[6]where he engaged the
legal services of respondents and Gurbani & Co., a law firm based in Singapore, and agreed to pay attorney's fees of 35%
of any recovery or settlement obtained for both.
After execution of the contract, complainant, through the efforts of respondents, was paid by his employer the following
amounts: US$60,000.00 as indemnity and US$20,000.00 under their collective bargaining agreement. From these
amounts, respondents charged complainant attorney's fees of 35%.[7]
Respondents and Gurbani & Co. also filed a tort case against the owners of "Panos G" before the High Court of Singapore
(Singapore case). For this case, respondents engaged the services of Papadopoulos, Lycourgos & Co., a law firm based in
Cyprus, to draft a written opinion on the issues involving Cyprus law, among others.[8] They also engaged the services of
retired Justice Emilio Gancayco (Justice Gancayco) for his expert opinion regarding various issues raised by defendant's
lawyer and representatives.[9]
Thereafter, negotiations led to a settlement award in favor of complainant in the amount of US$95,000.00. Gurbani &
Co. remitted to respondents the amount of US$59,608.40.[10] From this amount, respondents deducted: (l) US$5,000.00
as payment to Justice Gancayco; (2) their attorney's fees equivalent to 35%; and (3) other expenses, leaving the net
amount of US$18,132.43 for complainant.[11]
Respondents tendered the amount of US$20,756.05 (representing the US$18,132.43) to complainant, which the latter
refused.[12] As complainant contested the amount comprised of the expenses and attorney's fees deducted, the following
civil actions ensued between complainant and respondents:
On September 12, 2005, respondents filed an action for preliminary mandatory injunction (Civil Case No. 05113475)
(1) before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila to compel complainant to receive the amount tendered.[13] This case
was dismissed by the RTC, and the dismissal was eventually upheld by this Court on July 7, 2008.[14]

On September 22, 2005, complainant filed with the RTC of Ligao City an action for accounting, remittance of
settlement amounts and damages (Civil Case No. 2401 or accounting case).[15] On June 16, 2011, the RTC ruled in
(2) favor of complainant and ordered respondents to make proper accounting, among others.[16] Although the RTC
upheld the stipulated attorney's fees as binding between the parties, it determined that the fees are lumped for both
respondents and Gurbani & Co.[17] On appeal, the CA affirmed the RTC's Decision but reduced the rate of attorney's
fees to 10%.[18] This Court affirmed the CA Decision in our Resolution dated February 20, 2013 in G.R. No. 205088.
An Entry of Judgment was issued on August 8, 2013.
On March 28, 2007, complainant also filed the subject letter-Complaint[19] with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)
Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD). He requested that an investigation be conducted and the corresponding disciplinary
action be imposed upon respondents for committing the following unethical acts: (1) refusing to remit the amount
collected in the Singapore case worth US$95,000.00, and in offering only US$20,756.05; (2) depositing complainant's
money into their own account; and (3) engaging in "ambulance chasing" by deploying their agents to convince
complainant to hire respondents' services while the former was still bedridden in the hospital.
In their answer,[20] respondents explained that complainant retained respondents and Gurbani & Co.'s services in 2004
for purposes of filing a claim against the ship owner, its agents and principals. This led to the filing of a claim before the
Singapore High Court. They averred that on April 29, 2005, Gurbani & Co. advised respondents of the settlement of the
claim in Singapore for US$95,000.00.[21] On June 20, 2005, respondents sent a letter to complainant informing him that
they already received the settlement amount and requested him to come to the former's office to get his net
share.[22] Complainant went to respondents' law office on June 28, 2005 where respondents tendered to the former his
net share of US$20,756.05.[23] However, complainant unjustly refused to accept the amount. Complainant also refused
their tender of payment in their letter dated August 3, 2005.[24] On September 12, 2005, respondents even filed a
"consignation case" (Civil Case No. 05113475) before the RTC of Manila.[25]
Respondents denied that they deposited the amount to their own account. They claimed that the amount of
US$20,756.05 has been placed for safekeeping in a vault located inside their office ever since.[26] On May 3, 2007, after
their receipt of the complaint and the IBP-CBD's Order dated April 3, 2007, they decided to deposit the money with Bank
of the Philippine Islands in an interest savings account, in trust for complainant.[27]
As to the allegations of ambulance chasing, respondents averred that they provide free legal advice to the public. It was
in the course of this public service when they met complainant.[28]
After proceedings, the IBP-CBD in its Report and Recommendation[29] ruled that respondents violated the canons of the
Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR): ( l) in soliciting legal business through their agents while complainant was in
the hospital; (2) in failing to account for, and deliver the funds and property of his client when due or upon demand; and
(3) in hiring the services of a foreign law firm and another lawyer without prior knowledge and consent of complainant of
the fees and expenses to be incurred.[30] The IBP-CBD found that all three respondents connived and thus recommended
that all respondents be suspended from the practice of law for a period of one year. It also directed respondents to comply
with the Decision in the accounting case (Civil Case No. 2401) in favor of complainant.[31]
The IBP Board of Governors adopted the Report and Recommendation.[32] After respondents' motion for
reconsideration[33] and complainant's opposition[34] thereto, the IBP Board of Governors modified the penalty and
increased respondents' suspension from the practice of law to two years with warning, and ordered respondents to return
the 5% of the amount assessed to complainant as attorney's fees.[35]
We adopt the findings of the IBP on the unethical conduct of respondents Attys. Pedro L. Linsangan and, Gerard M.
Linsangan. We, however, absolve respondent Atty. Glenda M. Linsangan-Binoya for lack of any evidence as to her
participation in the acts complained of.
I
The practice of law is a profession and not a business.[36] Lawyers are reminded to avoid at all times any act that would
tend to lessen the confidence of the public in the legal profession as a noble calling, including, among others, the manner
by which he makes known his legal services.
A lawyer in making known his legal services must do so in a dignified manner.[37] They are prohibited from soliciting cases
for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or brokers.[38] The CPR explicitly states that "[a] lawyer
shall not do or permit to be done any act designed primarily to solicit legal business."[39] Corollary to this duty is for lawyers
not to encourage any suit or proceeding for any corrupt motive or interest.[40] Thus, "ambulance chasing," or the
solicitation of almost any kind of business by an attorney, personally or through an agent, in order to gain employment,
is proscribed.[41]
Here, there is sufficient evidence to show that respondents violated these rules. No less than their former paralegal
Jesherel admitted that respondent Atty. Pedro Linsangan came with her and another paralegal named Moises, to Manila
Doctors Hospital several times to convince complainant to hire their services.[42] This is a far cry from respondents' claim
that they were merely providing free legal advice to the public. Moreover, while respondents deny Jesherel 's connection
with their law firm, this was sufficiently rebutted by complainant when he presented Jesherel's resignation letter as
received by respondents' firm.[43] In employing paralegals to encourage complainant to file a lawsuit against his
employers, respondents indirectly solicited legal business and encouraged the filing of suit. These constitute
malpractice[44] which calls for the exercise of the court's disciplinary powers and warrants serious sanctions.[45]
II
The relationship between a lawyer and his client is highly fiduciary.[46] This relationship holds a lawyer to a great degree
of fidelity and good faith especially in handling money or property of his clients.[47] Thus, Canon 16 and its rules remind a
lawyer to: (1) hold in trust all moneys and properties of his client that may come into his possession;[48] (2) deliver the
funds and property of his client when due or upon demand subject to his retaining lien; [49] and (3) account for all money
or property collected or received for or from his client.[50]
Money collected by a lawyer on a judgment rendered in favor of his client constitutes trust funds and must be
immediately paid over to the client.[51] As he holds such funds as agent or trustee, his failure to pay or deliver the same to
the client after demand constitutes conversion.[52] Thus, whenever a lawyer collects money as a result of a favorable
judgment, he must promptly report and account the money collected to his client.[53]
It is the lawyer's duty to give a prompt and accurate account to his client. Upon the collection or receipt of property or
funds for the benefit of the client, his duty is to notify the client promptly and, absent a contrary understanding, pay or
remit the same to the client, less only proper fees and disbursements, as soon as reasonably possible.[54] He is under
absolute duty to give his client a full, detailed, and accurate account of all money and property which has been received
and handled by him, and must justify all transactions and dealings concerning them.[55] And while he is in possession of
the client's funds, he should not commingle it with his private property or use it for his personal purposes without his
client's consent.[56]
Here, respondents claim that they promptly accounted for the total award of US$95,000.00, and after deducting their
fees, tendered the amount of US$20,756.05. Complainant, however, refused to accept the amount because he contested
both the expenses and the separate deduction of attorney's fees by respondents and Gurbani & Co.
We find that while respondents gave prompt notice to complainant of their receipt of money collected in the latter's
favor, they were amiss in their duties to give accurate accounting of the amounts due to complainant, and to return the
money due to client upon demand.
The Attorney-Client Contract between the parties states: "We/I hereby voluntarily agree and bind ourselves, our heirs
and assigns to pay Atty. Pedro L. Linsangan and his collaborating Singapore counsels, the sum equivalent to thirty-five
[35%] percent of any recovery or settlement obtained."[57] Clearly, the stipulated rate referred to the combined
professional fees of both respondents and their collaborating Singapore counsel, Gurbani & Co.[58] Nevertheless,
respondents proceeded to deduct separate fees on top of the amount already deducted by Gurbani & Co. Complainant
contested this deduction and refused to accept the amount being tendered by respondents. Since a claim for attorney's
fees may be asserted either in the very action in which the services of a lawyer had been rendered, or in a separate
action,[59] respondents, instead of forcibly deducting their share, should have moved for the judicial determination and
collection of their attorney's fees. The fact alone that a lawyer has a lien for his attorney's fees on money in his hands
collected for his client does not entitle him to unilaterally appropriate his client's money for himself.[60]
Worse, respondents allegedly kept the money inside the firm's vault for two years until they were made aware of the
disciplinary complaint against them before the IBP-CBD. However, as noted by the IBP-CBD in its Report and
Recommendation:
[T]he defense of respondents that they kept in their office vault the share of complainant as computed by them in the
amount of US$18,132.43, hence, they forgot the same and remembered it only when they received the Order of this
Commission for them to file an Answer to complainant's Complaint [which is more than 2 years] is rather highly incredible
considering that it involves a substantial amount, the series of communications between the parties, and the Civil cases
subsequently filed.[61] (Italics in the original.)
Even if we give credence to this explanation, it is improper for the lawyer to put his client's funds in his personal safe
deposit vault.[62]Funds belonging to the client should be deposited in a separate trust account in a bank or trust company
of good repute for safekeeping.[63]
It is apparent from the foregoing that respondents failed to handle their client's money with great degree of fidelity.
Respondents also showed their lack of good faith when they appropriated for themselves more than what is allowed
under their contract. They have demonstrated that the payment of their attorney's fees is more important than their
fiduciary and faithful duty of accounting and returning what is rightfully due to their client. More, they also failed to
observe proper safekeeping of their client's money. Respondents violated the trust reposed in them, and demonstrated
their lack of integrity and moral soundness.[64] Respondents' flagrant and malicious refusal to comply with the CPR
amounts to gross misconduct.[65] This warrants the imposition of disciplinary sanctions.[66]
III
The practice of law is a profession, a form of public trust, the performance of which is entrusted to those who are qualified
and who possess good moral character.[67] Thus, the violation of the lawyer's oath and/or breach of the ethics of the legal
profession embodied in the CPR may, depending on the exercise of sound judicial discretion based on the surrounding
facts, result in the suspension or disbarment of a member of the Bar.[68]
While we find respondents Attys. Pedro Linsangan and Gerard Linsangan to have violated Rule 1.03, Rule 2.03, Canon 3,
Canon 16, Rule 16.01, and Rule 16.03 of the CPR, the records do not support respondent Atty. Glenda Linsangan-Binoya's
participation in their unethical activities. Complainant himself admits that he only dealt with respondents Attys. Pedro
and Gerard Linsangan.[69] Thus, we hold that the case against Atty. Glenda Linsangan-Binoya be dismissed.
For his violation of the proscription on ambulance chasing, we have previously imposed the penalty of suspension of one
year.[70] We find no reason not to impose the same penalty here.
On the other hand, the penalty for violation of Canon 16 of the CPR usually ranges from suspension for six months, to
suspension for one year, or two years, and even disbarment depending on the amount involved and the severity of the
lawyer's misconduct.[71] In addition, the penalty for gross misconduct consisting in the failure or refusal, despite demand,
of a lawyer to account for and to return money or property belonging to a client has been suspension from the practice
of law for two years.[72] Complainant, who was impaired for life, was constrained to file this complaint and the action for
accounting because of his lawyers' lack of fidelity and good faith in handling the award he received. We recognize,
however, respondents' efforts in tendering payment, albeit of an improper amount, to complainant, as well as the fact
that this is their first offense. The imposition of a one year suspension is sufficient under the circumstances.[73]
This penalty of one year suspension for the second infraction is justified, and does not deserve a further reduction. The
fact that it is respondents' first administrative case cannot serve to mitigate the penalty. In Cerdan v.
Gomez,[74] respondent there was still suspended for a period of one year, after already taking into account that it was his
first offense. More, there are several decisions which support the imposition of the one year suspension for similar
violations.[75] In Viray v. Sanicas,[76] the court imposed a one year penalty for the same infraction even after exercising its
"compassionate judicial discretion."[77]
More importantly, respondents' acts do not merely constitute a violation of Canon 16 and its rules, but already amounts
to gross misconduct.[78] First, respondents breached the trust reposed in them when they betrayed the express language
of their Attorney-Client Contract that they are only entitled to a single 35% attorney's fees together with the Singapore
counsels. In the process, respondents have also unjustly retained for themselves the 35% of the settlement award
amounting to US$95,000.00—which is more or less US$33,250.00 or roughly around P1.5 million pocketed, and also
immensely disparaging to the US$20,756.05 they tendered to complainant. Second, their actions following complainant's
objection manifests their disregard of their fiduciary duties. For two years, respondents insisted on, and forcibly deducted
the amount when there are alternative avenues to determine the correct amount of attorney's fees. They instead treaded
to a path where they advanced their own interests ahead of their client's. Third, respondents also mishandled their client's
money when they did not exercise proper safekeeping over it; they failed to deposit it in a separate trust account in a
bank or trust company of good repute for safekeeping but co-mingled it with their own funds. Undoubtedly, the gravity
of these acts amounts to gross misconduct that warrants, at the very least, a suspension.[79]
For both violations, we adopt the recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors of the imposition of two-year
suspension for respondents Attys. Pedro L. Linsangan and Gerard M. Linsangan. We emphasize that this penalty of two
years of suspension corresponds to the compounded infractions of the violations of Rule 1.03, Rule 2.03, Canon 3, Canon
16, Rule 16.01, and Rule 16.03 of the CPR: (1) the penalty of suspension of one year is imposed for the violation of the
proscription on ambulance chasing; and (2) the penalty of one year suspension for gross misconduct consisting in the
failure or refusal, despite demand, of a lawyer to account for and return money or property belonging to a client.
To reiterate, there is no basis, and would even be unjust under the circumstances, to reduce the penalty imposed on
respondents. Quite the contrary, respondents should find themselves so fortunate that for all their exploits, including
their ambulance chasing, this Court would only impose a two-year suspension.
Finally, we note that this Court, in G.R. No. 205088, has already affirmed the CA's ruling as to the issue of how much
respondents can collect from complainant as attorney's fees. This judgment has long attained finality and, in fact,
appears to be set for execution. For this reason, we do not adopt the IBP Board of Governors' recommendation for
respondents to return to complainant 5% of the amount assessed. The principle of immutability of judgments behooves
us from making any further statements on this particular issue
WHEREFORE, we find respondents Attys. Pedro L. Linsangan and Gerard M. Linsangan GUILTY. Accordingly,
we SUSPENDrespondents Attys. Pedro Linsangan and Gerard Linsangan from the practice of law for TWO
YEARS effective upon finality of this Decision, with a WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar act in the future
will be dealt with more severely. The complaint against Atty. Glenda M. Linsangan-Binoya is DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.
25.

A.C. No. 10555, July 31, 2018

EVELYN T. GOOPIO, Complainant, v. ATTY. ARIEL D. MAGLALANG, Respondent.

This is a petition1 filed by respondent Atty. Ariel D. Maglalang (Atty. Maglalang) challenging the Resolution 2 dated
December 14, 2012 of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Board of Governors (IBP Board) which imposed upon
him the penalty of suspension from the practice of law for three years and ordered the restitution of P400,000.00 to
complainant Evelyn T. Goopio (Goopio).

The case originated from a disbarment complaint[3 filed by Goopio charging Atty. Maglalang with violation of Section 27,
Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, which provides:

Sec. 27. Attorneys removed or suspended by Supreme Court on what grounds. — A member of the bar may be removed 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 wilful disobedience of any lawful
order of a superior court, or for corruptly or wilfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority so to
do. The practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or brokers,
constitutes malpractice.

In her disbarment complaint, Goopio primarily alleged that sometime in 2005, in relation to her need to resolve property
concerns with respect to 12 parcels of land located in Sagay City, Negros Occidental, she engaged the services of Atty.
Maglalang to represent her either through a court action or through extra-judicial means. Having been employed in
Switzerland at the time, she allegedly likewise executed a General Power of Attorney 4 on June 18, 2006 in favor of Atty.
Maglalang, authorizing him to settle the controversy covering the properties with the developer, including the filing of a
petition for rescission of contract with damages.5
Goopio further alleged that Atty. Maglalang supposedly informed her that the petition for rescission was filed and
pending with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Bacolod City, and that as payment of the same, the latter requested and
received the total amount of P400,000.00 from her.6 Goopio similarly alleged that Atty. Maglalang presented an official
receipt7 covering the alleged deposit of the P400,000.00 with the court.8

Goopio further contended that Atty. Maglalang rendered legal services in connection with the petition, including but not
limited to, appearances at mediations and hearings, as well as the preparation of a reply between the months of
December 2006 and April 2007, in relation to which she was supposedly billed a total of P114,000.00, P84,000.00 of which
she paid in full.9

Goopio also claimed that she subsequently discovered that no such petition was filed nor was one pending before the
RTC or any tribunal,10 and that the purported inaction of Atty. Maglalang likewise resulted in the continued accrual of
interest payments as well as other charges on her properties.11

She alleged that Atty. Maglalang admitted to all these when he was confronted by Goopio's representative and niece,
Milogen Canoy (Canoy), which supposedly resulted in Goopio's revocation12 of the General Power of Attorney on May 17,
2007. Goopio finally alleged that through counsel, she made a formal demand13 upon Atty. Maglalang for restitution,
which went unheeded; hence, the disbarment complaint.14

In his verified answer,15 Atty. Maglalang specifically denied Goopio's claims for being based on hearsay, untrue, and
without basis in fact. He submitted that contrary to Goopio's allegations, he had not met or known her in 2005 or 2006,
let alone provided legal services to her as her attorney-in-fact or counsel, or file any petition at her behest. He specifically
denied acceding to any General Power of Attorney issued in his favor, and likewise submitted that Goopio was not in the
Philippines when the document was purportedly executed. He further firmly denied receiving P400,000.00 from Goopio,
and issuing any receipts.16 He also added that he had not received any demand letter.17

Clarifying the capacity in which he knew Goopio, Atty. Maglalang explained that Ma. Cecilia Consuji (Consuji), Goopio's
sister and his client since 2006, introduced him to Goopio sometime in 2007, where an altercation ensued between
them.18

As special and affirmative defenses, Atty. Maglalang further countered that without his knowledge and participation,
Consuji surreptitiously used his name and reputation, and manipulated the supposed "engagement" of his services as
counsel for Goopio through the execution of a falsified General Power of Attorney. Atty. Maglalang likewise submitted
that Consuji collected huge sums of money from Goopio by furtively using his computerized letterhead and billing
statements. In support of the same, he alleged that in fact, Consuji's name appeared on the annexes, but there was no
mention of her in the actual disbarment complaint for purposes of isolating her from any liability.19

To bolster his affirmative defense that no lawyer-client relationship existed between him and Goopio, Atty. Maglalang
submitted that in fact, the Office of the City Prosecutor of Bacolod City had earlier dismissed two complaints filed by
Goopio against him for charges of falsification of public documents and estafa by false pretenses,20 alleging the same set
of facts as narrated in the present disbarment complaint. Atty. Maglalang submits that in a Resolution dated February
14, 2008, the City Prosecutor summarily dismissed the complaints for being hearsay.21

In a Report and Recommendation22 dated August 13, 2010, IBP Commissioner Victor C. Fernandez (Commissioner
Fernandez) found that a lawyer-client relationship existed between complainant Goopio and Atty. Maglalang. This was
found to be sufficiently proven by the documentary evidence submitted by Goopio. Commissioner Fernandez did not
give any credence to the specific denials of Atty. Maglalang. Moreover, the IBP held that the demand letter of Attys. Lily
Uy Valencia and Ma. Aleta C. Nuñez dated June 5, 2007 sufficiently established Atty. Maglalang's receipt of the amount
of P400,000.00. Commissioner Fernandez held that had Atty. Maglalang found the demand letter suspect and without
basis, he should have sent a reply denying the same.23

He recommended that Atty. Maglalang be found guilty of violating Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court and Canon
16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, suspended from the practice of law for two years, and ordered to return to
Goopio the amount of P400,000.00, under pains of disbarment.24
In a Resolution dated December 14, 2012, the IBP Board affirmed with modification the Report and Recommendation of
Commissioner Fernandez, to wit:

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and APPROVED, with modification, the
Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the above-entitled case, herein made part of this
Resolution as Annex "A", and finding the recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable
laws and rules, and considering respondent's violation of Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court and Canon 16 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility, Atty. Ariel D. Maglalang is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for three
(3) years and Ordered to Return to complainant the amount of Four Hundred Thousand (P400,000.00) Pesos within thirty
(30) days from receipt of notice with legal interest reckoned from the time the demand was made.25

Atty. Maglalang filed a motion for reconsideration26 of the IBP Board's Resolution. In said motion for reconsideration,
Atty. Maglalang prayed for full exoneration on the ground that he was also merely a victim of the manipulations made
by his former client, Consuji, further contending that if any fault could be attributed to him, it would only be his failure to
detect and discover Consuji's deceit until it was too late. The same motion was denied in a Resolution 27 dated March 22,
2014. Hence, this petition.

In his petition, Atty. Maglalang reiterated his defense of specific denial, and further claimed that his efforts to locate
Consuji to clarify the complaint were exerted in vain. He likewise additionally submitted that in demonstration of his
desire to have the case immediately resolved, and with no intentions of indirect admission of guilt, he agreed to pay
complainant the amount she was claiming at a rate of P50,000.00 per month.28

Atty. Maglalang's forthright actions to further the resolution of this case is noted. All claims and defenses considered,
however, we cannot rule to adopt the IBP Board's findings and recommendations.

The practice of law is a privilege burdened with conditions,29 and so delicately affected it is with public interest that both
the power and the duty are incumbent upon the State to carefully control and regulate it for the protection and promotion
of the public welfare.30

Adherence to rigid standards of mental fitness, maintenance of the highest degree of morality, faithful compliance with
the rules of the legal profession, and regular payment of membership fees to the IBP are the conditions required for
remaining a member of good standing of the bar and for enjoying the privilege to practice law. Beyond question, any
breach by a lawyer of any of these conditions makes him unworthy of the trust and confidence which the courts and
clients must repose in him, and renders him unfit to continue in the exercise of his professional privilege. 31 Both
disbarment and suspension demonstrably operationalize this intent to protect the courts and the public from members
of the bar who have become unfit and unworthy to be part of the esteemed and noble profession.32

However, in consideration of the gravity of the consequences of the disbarment or suspension of a member of the bar,
we have consistently held that a lawyer enjoys the presumption of innocence, and the burden of proof rests upon the
complainant to satisfactorily prove the allegations in his complaint through substantial evidence. 33 A complainant's
failure to dispense the same standard of proof requires no other conclusion than that which stays the hand of the Court
from meting out a disbarment or suspension order.

Under the facts and the evidence presented, we hold that complainant Goopio failed to discharge this burden of proof.

First. To prove their lawyer-client relationship, Goopio presented before the IBP photocopies of the General Power of
Attorney she allegedly issued in Atty. Maglalang's favor, as well as acknowledgement receipts issued by the latter for the
amounts he allegedly received. We note, however, that what were submitted into evidence were mere photocopies, in
violation of the Best Evidence Rule under Rule 130 of the Rules of Court. Sections 3 and 4 of Rule 130 provide:

Sec. 3. Original document must be produced; exceptions. — When the subject of inquiry is the contents of a document, no
evidence shall be admissible other than the original document itself, except in the following cases:

(a)
When the original has been lost or destroyed, or cannot be produced in court, without bad faith on the part of the offeror;
(b)
When the original is in the custody or under the control of the party against whom the evidence is offered, and the latter
fails to produce it after reasonable notice;
(c)
When the original consists of numerous accounts or other documents which cannot be examined in court without great
loss of time and the fact sought to be established from them is only the general result of the whole; and
(d)
When the original is a public record in the custody of a public officer or is recorded in a public office.

Sec. 4. Original of document. —

(a)
The original of a document is one the contents of which are the subject of inquiry.
(b)
When a document is in two or more copies executed at or about the same time, with identical contents, all such copies
are equally regarded as originals.
(c)
When an entry is repeated in the regular course of business, one being copied from another at or near the time of the
transaction, all the entries are likewise equally regarded as originals.
Although a disbarment proceeding may not be akin to a criminal prosecution, if the entire body of proof consists mainly
of the documentary evidence, and the content of which will prove either the falsity or veracity of the charge for
disbarment, then the documents themselves, as submitted into evidence, must comply with the Best Evidence Rule, save
for an established ground that would merit exception. Goopio failed to prove that the present case falls within any of the
exceptions that dispense with the requirement of presentation of an original of the documentary evidence being
presented, and hence, the general rule must apply.
The necessary import and rationale behind the requirement under the Best Evidence Rule is the avoidance of the dangers
of mistransmissions and inaccuracies of the content of the documents.34 This is squarely true in the present disbarment
complaint, with a main charge that turns on the very accuracy, completeness, and authenticity of the documents
submitted into evidence. It is therefore non-sequitur to surmise that this crucial preference for the original may be done
away with or applied liberally in this case merely by virtue of Atty. Maglalang's failure to appear during the second
mandatory conference. No such legal license was intended either by the Rules on Evidence or the rules of procedure
applicable to a disbarment case. No such effect, therefore, may be read into the factual circumstances of the present
complaint.

The Notice of Mandatory Conference itself stated that "[n]on-appearance at the mandatory conference shall be deemed
a waiver of the right to participate in the proceedings."35 At most, Atty. Maglalang's non-appearance during the
rescheduled mandatory conference dated March 12, 200936 merited the continuation of the proceedings ex
parte.37Nothing in the face of the notice provided that in case of Atty. Maglalang's non-appearance, a leniency in the
consideration of the evidence submitted would be in order.38 Nowhere in the subsequent Order of Commissioner
Soriano, which remarked on the non-appearance of Atty. Maglalang in the last mandatory conference, was there a
mention of any form of preclusion on the part of Goopio to further substantiate her documentary evidence.39 Atty.
Maglalang's waiver of his right to participate in the proceedings did not serve as a bar for Goopio to submit into evidence
the original copies of the documents upon which her accusations stood.

Furthermore, consistent with Section 5, Rule V of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission on Bar Discipline of the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines,40 Atty. Maglalang's non-appearance at the mandatory conference was deemed a
waiver of his right to participate in the proceedings, and his absence only rightly ushered the ex parte presentation of
Goopio's evidence. The latter's belated feigning of possession and willingness to present the original copies of the
documents were betrayed by the fact that even when she was ordered by the investigating commissioner to produce the
original of her documentary evidence, and absent any bar in the applicable Rules for presentation of the same, she still
failed to bring forth said originals.
To be sure, it is grave error to interpret that Atty. Maglalang's absence at the second mandatory conference effectively
jeopardized Goopio's opportunity to substantiate her charge through submission of proper evidence, including the
production of the original General Power of Attorney, acknowledgment receipts, and the billing statements. Viewed in
another way, this line of reasoning would mean that Atty. Maglalang's non-appearance worked to excuse Goopio's
obligation to substantiate her claim. This simply cannot be countenanced. Goopio's duty to substantiate her charge was
separate and distinct from Atty. Maglalang's interests, and therefore, the latter's waiver would not, as in fact it did not,
affect the rights and burden of proof of the former.

In fact, the transcript of the initial mandatory conference recorded the Commissioner's pointed instruction that Goopio
and counsel have the concomitant obligation to produce the originals of the exhaustive list of documents they wish to
have marked as exhibits.41 The records positively adduce that the duty to produce the originals was specifically imposed
on the party seeking to submit the same in evidence; there was no such bar on the part of Goopio to furnish the
Commission with the originals of their documentary evidence submissions even after Atty. Maglalang's non-appearance
and waiver.

It is additionally worth noting that during the mandatory conference, counsel of Goopio signified that they did not in fact
have the original copies of the pertinent documents they were seeking to submit into evidence. In the preliminary
conference brief submitted by Goopio, she further annotated in the discussion of the documents she wished to present
that "[o]riginal copies of the foregoing documents will be presented for comparison with the photocopies during the
preliminary conference."42 Despite such statement of undertaking, however, and borne of no other's undoing, Goopio
was never able to present the originals of either the General Power of Attorney or the acknowledgement receipts, the
authenticity of which lie at the crux of the present controversy.

In our ruling in Concepcion v. Fandiño, Jr.,43 a disbarment case which involved as documentary evidence mere photocopies
of the notarized documents upon which the main allegation stood, we aptly reiterated how even in disbarment
proceedings which are sui generis in nature, the Best Evidence Rule still applies, and submission of mere photocopies of
documentary evidence is unavailing for their dearth of probative weight.

In Concepcion, the basis for the complaint for disbarment was the allegation that the lawyer therein notarized documents
without authority. Similarly involving a disbarment proceeding that centered on the authenticity of the purported
documents as proof of the violative act alleged, what we said therein is most apt and acutely instructive for the case at
bar, to wit:

A study of the document on which the complaint is anchored shows that the photocopy is not a certified true copy neither
was it testified on by any witness who is in a position to establish the authenticity of the document. Neither was the
source of the document shown for the participation of the complainant in its execution. x x x This fact gives rise to the
query, where did these documents come from, considering also the fact that respondent vehemently denied having
anything to do with it. It is worthy to note that the parties who allegedly executed said Deed of Sale are silent regarding
the incident.

xxxx

x x x We have scrutinized the records of this case, but we have failed to find a single evidence which is an original
copy. All documents on record submitted by complainant are indeed mere photocopies. In fact, respondent has
consistently objected to the admission in evidence of said documents on this ground. We cannot, thus, find any
compelling reason to set aside the investigating commissioner's findings on this point. It is well-settled that in
disbarment proceedings, the burden of proof rests upon complainant. x x x

xxxx

The general rule is that photocopies of documents are inadmissible. As held in Intestate Estate of the Late Don Mariano
San Pedro y Esteban v. Court of Appeals,44 such document has no probative value and is inadmissible in
evidence.45 (Emphasis supplied; citations omitted.)
In both Concepcion and the case at bar, the allegations at the core of the disbarment complaints both involve alleged
violations, the truth or falsity of which relies on a determination of the authenticity of the documents that serve as the
paper trail of said punishable acts.
In Concepcion, the basis for the disbarment depended on whether or not the lawyer therein did, in fact, notarize the 145
documents without authority,46 which, if proven, would have merited the punishment prayed for. Similarly, in the case
at bar, the grounds for the disbarment of Atty. Maglalang centered chiefly on the truth and genuineness of the General
Power of Attorney which he supposedly signed in acceptance of the agency, and the acknowledgment receipts which he
purportedly issued as proof of receipt of payment in consideration of the lawyer-client relationship, for proving the
authenticity of said documents would have unequivocally given birth to the concomitant duty and obligation on the part
of Atty. Maglalang to file the petition on behalf of Goopio, and undertake all necessary measures to pursue the latter's
interests. Both cases are further comparable in that both sets of photocopies of documents offered into evidence have
been impugned by the lawyers therein for being false, without basis in fact, and deployed for purposes of malice and
retaliation, which in effect similarly placed the motives of the complainants within the ambit of suspicion. Finally, in
both Concepcion and the case at bar, the complainants therein failed to submit the original of their documentary
evidence, even though the same would have clearly redounded to the serving of their interests in the case, and despite
having no bar or prohibition from doing the same.

In both cases, the documentary evidence was the causal link that would chain the lawyers therein to the violations alleged
against them, and in the same manner, both central documentary evidence were gossamer thin, and have collapsed
under the probative weight that preponderance of evidence requires.

Long-standing is the rule that punitive charges standing on the truth or falsity of a purported document require no less
than the original of said records. Thus, the court shall not receive any evidence that is merely substitutionary in its nature,
such as photocopies, as long as the original evidence can be had. In the absence of a clear showing that the original writing
has been lost or destroyed or cannot be produced in court, the photocopy submitted, in lieu thereof, must be disregarded,
being unworthy of any probative value and being an inadmissible piece of evidence.47

We are not unaware that disciplinary proceedings against lawyers are sui generis; they involve investigations by the Court
into the conduct of one of its officers, not the trial of an action or a suit.48Being neither criminal nor civil in nature, these
are not intended to inflict penal or civil sanctions, but only to answer the main question, that is whether respondent is
still fit to continue to be an officer of the court in the dispensation of justice. 49 In the present case, this main question is
answerable by a determination of whether the documents Goopio presented have probative value to support her charge.

The irreversible effects of imposed penalties from the same must stand on sufficiently established proof through
substantial evidence. Such quantum of proof is a burden that must be discharged by the complainant, in order for the
Court to exercise its disciplinary powers.50 In the present case, substantial evidence was not established when Goopio
failed to comply with the Best Evidence Rule, and such failure is fatal to her cause. Such non-compliance cannot also be
perfunctorily excused or retrospectively cured through a fault or failure of the contending party to the complaint, as the
full weight of the burden of proof of her accusation descends on those very documents. Having submitted into evidence
documents that do not bear probative weight by virtue of them being mere photocopies, she has inevitably failed to
discharge the burden of proof which lies with her.

This principle further finds acute importance in cases where, as in the one at bar, the complainant's motives in instituting
the disbarment charge are not beyond suspicion,51 considering Atty. Maglalang's contention that his signature in the
General Power of Attorney was forged.

Neither will Atty. Maglalang's offer to restitute to Goopio the monetary award pending finality of the decision be deemed
as his indirect admission of guilt. After receiving notice of the IBP Board's Resolution suspending him from the practice
of law for three years and ordering the return of the P400,000.00 he allegedly received from Goopio, Atty. Maglalang
filed a motion for reconsideration which mentioned his honest desire to have the instant case resolved at the soonest
possible time:52
3. That with all due respect to the findings and recommendation of the Board of Governors, Respondent would like to
seek for reconsideration and ask for lesser penalty if not total exoneration from the sanction imposed on the ground that
he is also a victim of the manipulations made by his former client, Ma. Cecilia Consuji who happens to be the sister of
complainant, Evelyn Goopio;

xxxx

6. That Respondent is left with no other option but to face the accusation and if there is any fault that can be
attributed to him, it is his supposed failure to discover the manipulations of his former client before the matter
became worse;
7. That for lack of material time to produce necessary evidence on the validity of the Alleged General Power of Attorney,
Respondent is asking for a reconsideration for a lesser sanction of stern warning or reprimand and despite the non-finality
of the subject Resolution because of the filing of the instant Motion for Reconsideration, the undersigned counsel will
make arrangements with counsel for complainant how he will be able to restitute the money award as soon as possible x
x x as a show of his honest desire to have the instant case resolved and as a tough learning experience to always
cherish his privilege to practice law.53 (Emphasis supplied.)
An examination of Atty. Maglalang's offer to restitute would clearly show that there was no admission of the acts
being imputed against him. His offer was made "as a show of his honest desire" to have the case resolved
immediately, and his admission, if any, was limited to his failure to immediately discover the manipulations of
complainant's sister. If anything, his earnest desire to restitute to Goopio the amount of the monetary award only
reasonably betrayed his considerateness towards someone who was similarly deceived by Consuji, as well as his need to
protect his reputation, which may be tarnished if the proceedings were to be protracted. It would be unjust to fault Atty.
Maglalang's efforts to protect his reputation, especially in light of the verity that the success of a lawyer in his profession
depends almost entirely on his reputation, and anything which will harm his good name is to be deplored. 54

Moreover, as expressed in Section 27, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court, an offer of compromise in the context of civil cases
may not be taken as an admission of any liability. Demonstrably, this Court articulated the ratio behind the inadmissibility
of similar offers for compromise in Pentagon Steel Corporation v. Court of Appeals,55 where we reasoned that since the
law favors the settlement of controversies out of court, a person is entitled to "buy his or her peace" without danger of
being prejudiced in case his or her efforts fail.56 Conversely, if every offer to buy peace could be used as evidence against
a person who presents it, many settlements would be prevented, and unnecessary litigation would result since no prudent
person would dare offer or entertain a compromise if his or her compromise position could be exploited as a confession
of weakness57 or an indirect admission of guilt.

In legal contemplation in the context of a disbarment proceeding, any offer or attempt at a compromise by the parties is
not only inadmissible as evidence to prove guilt on the part of the offeror, but is in fact wholly extraneous to the
proceeding, which resides solely within the province of the Court's disciplinary power. Any offer for compromise, being
completely immaterial to the outcome of the disbarment complaint, may not hold sway for or impute guilt on any of the
parties involved therein.

Seen in a similar light, Atty. Maglalang's prayer for the modification of penalty and reduction of the same may not be
interpreted as an admission of guilt. At most, in the context in which it was implored, this may be reasonably read not as
a remorseful admission but a plea for compassion—a reaction that is in all respects understandable, familiar to the
common human experience, and consistent with his narration that he was likewise a victim of fraudulent representations
of Goopio's sister. Furthermore, this prayer for a kinder regard cannot by any course limit the Court's independent
disciplinary reach and consideration of the facts and merits of this case as has been presented before it.

This degree of autonomy is in no small measure due to the fact that administrative proceedings are imbued with public
interest, public office being a public trust, and the need to maintain the faith and confidence of the people in the
government, its agencies, and its instrumentalities demands that proceedings in such cases enjoy such level of
independence.58 As we maintained in Reyes-Domingo v. Branch Clerk of Court,59 the Court cannot be bound by any
settlement or other unilateral acts by the parties in a matter that involves its disciplinary authority; otherwise, our
disciplinary power may be put for naught.

In the case at bar, the fact that Atty. Maglalang offered to restitute to Goopio the money award in no way precludes the
Court from weighing in on the very merits of the case, and gauging them against the quantum of evidence required. No
less than the public interest in disbarment proceedings necessitates such independent, impartial, and inclusive
contemplation of the totality of evidence presented by the parties. Regrettably for the complainant in this case, her
failure to comply with the elementary Best Evidence Rule caused her probative submissions to be weighed and found
severely wanting.

As has been avowed by the Court, while we will not hesitate to mete out the appropriate disciplinary punishment upon
lawyers who fail to live up to their sworn duties, we will, on the other hand, protect them from accusations that have
failed the crucible of proof.60

Accordingly, all premises considered, we cannot find Atty. Maglalang guilty of violating Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules
of Court as the case levelled against him by Goopio does not have any evidentiary leg to stand on. The latter's allegations
of misrepresentation and deceit have not been substantiated as required by the applicable probative quantum, and her
failure to present the best evidence to prove the authenticity of the subject documents places said documents well within
the ambit of doubt, on the basis of which no punitive finding may be found. The General Power of Attorney allegedly
issued in favor of Atty. Maglalang, and the acknowledgment receipts purportedly issued by the latter as proof of payment
for his legal services are the documents which constitute the bedrock of the disbarment complaint. Goopio's failure to
substantiate their authenticity with proof exposes the claims as those that stand on shifting sand. Her documentary
evidence lacked the required probative weight, and her unproven narrative cannot be held to sustain a finding of
suspension or disbarment against Atty. Maglalang. Hence, the dismissal of the disbarment complaint is in order, without
prejudice to other remedies that Goopio may avail of for any monetary restitution due her, as the courts may deem
proper.

However, we find that by his own recognition, Atty. Maglalang's "failure to discover the manipulations of his former client
before the matter became worse"61 is material negligence, for which the penalty of reprimand,62 under the circumstances
of the case at bar, may be consequently warranted.63 Veritably, a lawyer must at all times exercise care and diligence in
conducting the affairs of his practice, including the observation of reasonable due vigilance in ensuring that, to the best
of his knowledge, his documents and other implements are not used to further duplicitous and fraudulent activities.

WHEREFORE, Atty. Ariel D. Maglalang is hereby REPRIMANDED, but the disbarment complaint against him is
nevertheless DISMISSED for lack of merit. Let a copy of this decision be attached to his records.
SO ORDERED.

26.

EN BANC

A.C. No. 10992, June 19, 2018

RODOLFO M. YUMANG, CYNTHIA V. YUMANG AND ARLENE TABULA, Complainants, v. ATTY. EDWIN M.
ALAESTANTE, Respondent.

A.C. No. 10993, , June 19, 2018

BERLIN V. GABERTAN AND HIGINO GABERTAN, Complainants, v. ATTY. EDWIN M. ALAESTANTE, Respondent.

Subject of the present Decision are two administrative cases for disbarment, separately filed against Atty. Edwin M.
Alaestante (respondent lawyer) by complainants Rodolfo M. Yumang (Rodolfo), Cynthia V. Yumang (Cynthia), and
Arlene Tabula (Arlene), in A.C. No. 10992, and Berlin V. Gabertan (Berlin), and Higino Gabertan (Higino), in A.C. No.
10993, (collectively, complainants). Complainants charged respondent lawyer with violating the Code of Professional
Responsibility; gross ignorance of the law; grave misconduct; grave abuse of authority; gross dishonesty; malpractice;
and infidelity to the client.1

Facts

On January 3, 2012, respondent lawyer wrote then Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila De Lima (Secretary De
Lima) a letter,2viz.:

Dear Secretary De Lima:


May I respectfully request from your Honorable Office for the conduct of preliminary investigation and/or Prosecution of
respondent Cynthia V. Yumang, et al., for the crimes of syndicated Estafa, Qualified Theft and Grave Threats.

Though mindful that venue/jurisdiction of the alleged crimes is primarily vested with your Public Prosecutor at Marikina
City, we earnestly seek your good favor, and instead take a direct action on our case since respondent Cynthia V. Yumang
is a savvy businesswoman and possesses material wealth and tremendous political clout and influence at Marikina City,
and Complainants have [a] well[-]grounded belief that they could not obtain justice in [the] said venue. Complainants
have already suffered injustice when they [first] lodged their complaint before the local police but they were instead given
[a] run-around and advised for the 9th time to go back and forth to the Marikina Police Headquarters.

Compounding complainant[']s predicament, they are Engineers/Contractors based at Balanga City[,] Bataan and have
no means and method[s] to steal-mate [sic] respondents influence and political clout at Marikina City, except via the
direct intervention of your office.3
On even date, respondent lawyer's clients, Ernesto S. Mallari (Ernesto) and Danilo A. Rustia, Jr. (Danilo), executed a Joint
Complaint Affidavit against herein complainants for syndicated estafa, qualified theft and grave threats cases.4

Claiming that respondent lawyer's January 3, 2012 letter contained scurrilous statements intended to malign and
besmirch Cynthia's reputation and business standing, Cynthia and her husband, the complainant Rodolfo, filed a libel
complaint against respondent lawyer, Ernesto, and Danilo before the Pasig City Prosecutor's Office (libel case).5

In their counter-affidavit, Ernesto and Danilo denied any knowledge of, or participation in, the writing of the said letter.6

On the other hand, respondent lawyer admitted that he was the author of the letter.7 He denied, however, that the letter
was libelous or defamatory, and insisted that the same was privileged communication. He claimed that he wrote the
letter to protect and advance the interests of Ernesto and Danilo.8

In a Resolution9 dated October 5, 2015, the Office of the City Prosecutor of Pasig found probable cause to indict
respondent lawyer, as well as Ernesto, and Danilo, for the crime of libel.

In the meantime, in a Resolution10 dated November 28, 2012, the DOJ dismissed for lack of merit, the complaint for
syndicated estafa, qualified theft, and grave threats filed by Ernesto and Danilo against herein complainants.

Based on the foregoing, herein complainants filed on March 7, 2013, two separate disbarment complaints against
respondent lawyer before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).

In their Joint Affidavit of Complaint/Petition for Disbarment,11 complainants Rodolfo, Cynthia, and Arlene averred that
respondent lawyer violated his Oath of Office and the Code of Professional Responsibility, when he prepared, wrote,
signed, and published the malicious and libelous January 3, 2012 letter.

For their part, complainants Berlin and Higino declared in their Sinumpaang Salaysay12 that they were the respondents
in the alleged syndicated estafa, grave threats and qualified theft cases alongside their relatives, Cynthia and Arlene.
They claimed that they had previously engaged respondent lawyer's legal services in other cases; that since they knew
respondent lawyer, they approached him regarding his letter dated January 3, 2012, but respondent lawyer told them
not to worry about the cases mentioned in the said letter, and promised to draft the appropriate pleadings for their
defense; that indeed respondent lawyer drafted their Counter-Affidavit and their Rejoinder by way of defense; and that
in payment for his professional legal services, they issued respondent lawyer a Bank of Commerce check in the amount
of P50,000.00.

Higino stressed that respondent lawyer's act of preparing their responsive pleadings in the syndicated estafa, grave
threats and qualified theft cases was violative of the proscription against lawyers representing conflicting interests since
he was the very same lawyer who initiated and/or drafted the complaint in these cases against them; and that as a
consequence thereof, he (Berlin) moved to discharge respondent lawyer as counsel in another case. 13

In his Answer,14 respondent lawyer admitted that he was the author of the January 3, 2012 letter to then DOJ Secretary
De Lima; but he insisted that the letter was privileged because it was written in response to a moral or legal duty, he being
the lawyer for his clients in the cases mentioned in the letter. He denied that he was the defense counsel for Berlin and
Higino in the syndicated estafa, grave threats and qualified theft cases, and averred that the P50,000.00 check that was
issued in his favor by Berlin and Higino was just a "petty portion" of the P1.1 million that he previously entrusted to Berlin
and Higino relative to a case that he lawyered for them.

Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner:

In a Report and Recommendation15 dated September 10, 2013, the Investigating Commissioner16recommended
respondent lawyer's suspension from the practice of law for six months, in connection with the disbarment case filed by
Cynthia, Rodolfo, and Arlene; and suspension from the practice of law for one year, in regard to the disbarment case filed
by Berlin and Higino.

The Investigating Commissioner ratiocinated that -


It is admitted that Respondent authored a letter addressed to the Secretary of DOJ on January 03, 2012 and the matter
was investigated by the DOJ but the same was dismissed for lack of merit. x x x
That prior to January 03, 2012 x x x filing of the charges with the DOJ, against herein Complainants, Berlin and Higino
Gabertan engaged the services of Respondent as their counsel in several cases since April 2011 to August 31, 2012.

That Respondent received the amount of P50,000.00 from Berlin and Higino Gabertan thru Bank of Commerce check No.
0000008 dated June 11, 2012 and personally encashed by the Respondent (Exh. H). x x x
That because of that letter filed with the DOJ by Respondent and [which] was [later] dismissed, complainants filed a libel
case with the RTC, Pasig City Branch 157 (Exh. D).
That the letter filed by Respondent with the DOJ [was] correctly ruled by the Office of the City Prosecutor of Pasig City,
as not privileged communication as it [was] not made in the course of judicial proceedings. (Exh. C).
That Respondent acted as defense counsel for Berlin and Higino Gabertan whom he charged together with the other
complainants with the DOJ (Exh. L).
Clearly, Respondent violated the prohibition that [a] lawyer should not represent new clients whose interest oppose
those of a former client in any manner, whether or not they are parties in the same action or totally unrelated cases. (In
Re Dela Rosa, 27 Phil. 258. Lim et al. vs. Villorosa A.C. 5303 June 15, 2006).
It is enough that the counsel of one party had a hand in the preparation of the pleading of the other party, claiming
adverse and conflicting interest with that of his original client. (Artezuela vs. Madferazo, A.C. No. 4354 April 22, 2002).
Respondent violated his Lawyer's Oath when he sent unsealed malicious and libelous letter against herein Complainants
without any effort to ascertain the truth thus constituted gross evident bad faith for which act he is liable in CBD Case
No. 13-3767 while for acting as counsel for the complainant in the case before the DOJ and [at] the same time preparing
the counter affidavit of Berlin and Higino Gabertan who were Respondents] in the DOJ case he filed against herein
complainants, thus he is also liable under CBD Case No. 13-3767.
It was found out also [that] the Respondent was the defense counsel of Berlin Gabertan whom he charged before the
DOJ in an ongoing civil case at San Mateo, Rizal RTC Branch 76 but claimed that he was just acting as counsel pro-bono.

Complainants having presented sufficient evidence thus proving their case by clear preponderance of evidenced it is
hereby recommended that Respondent be meted the appropriate penalty for the violation he committed.17
Report and Recommendation of the IBP-Board of Governors (BOG):

Finding the Report and Recommendation supported by law and the evidence, the IBP-BOG adopted and accepted the
Investigating Commissioner's recommendation, but with modification as regards the recommended penalty in that
respondent lawyer be suspended from the practice of law for one year in the complaint filed by Cynthia, Rodolfo, and
Arlene; and for two years, in the case filed by Berlin and Higino,18 said penalties to be served successively.

Ruling

These administrative cases bear some factual resemblance to Pacana, Jr. v. Atty. Pascual-Lopez.19 In Pacana, Jr., the
lawyer denied any lawyer-client relationship with the complainant, saying that no formal agreement had been entered
to that effect; also, the therein counsel questioned the admissibility of an electronic mail he sent to therein complainant.
In said case, the lawyer likewise assured the complainant that there was nothing to worry about when the latter expressed
doubts over the propriety of the lawyer's representing conflicting interests. We therein rejected the erring lawyer's
defenses, thus:
Respondent also tries to disprove the existence of such relationship by arguing that no written contract for the
engagement of her services was ever forged between her and complainant. This argument all the more reveals
respondent's patent ignorance of fundamental laws on contracts and of basic ethical standards expected from an
advocate of justice. The IBP was correct when it said:
The absence of a written contract will not preclude the finding that there was a professional relationship between the
parties. Documentary formalism is not an essential element in the employment of an attorney; the contract may be
express or implied. To establish the relation, it is sufficient that the advice and assistance of an attorney is sought and
received in any matter pertinent to his profession.
Given the situation, the most decent and ethical tiling which respondent should have done was either to advise
complainant to engage the services of another lawyer since she was already representing the opposing parties, or to
desist from acting as representative of Multitel investors and stand as counsel for complainant. She cannot be permitted
to do both because that would amount to double-dealing and violate our ethical rules on conflict of interest.20 (Emphasis
in the original)
What is more, administrative cases are sui generis.21 This Court, acting as the legal profession's sole disciplinary body, is
not strictly bound by the technical rules of procedure and evidence.22 Indeed, hewing strictly to technical rules of
procedure and evidence could at times thwart this Court's efforts to rid the legal profession of unscrupulous individuals
who use their very knowledge of the law to perpetrate fraud or commit transgressions to the detriment of their clients,
who purposefully have sought their legal opinion and assistance in the hopes of attaining justice.

Here, even disregarding the electronic mail sent by respondent lawyer, we are satisfied that other incontrovertible
evidence supports the allegation that a lawyer-client relationship did exist, or had been established, between respondent
lawyer on the one hand, and Berlin and Higino on the other. For one thing, it was remarkable that respondent lawyer
never refuted or denied Berlin's claim that he (Atty. Alaestante) represented him in a civil case pending before the
Regional Trial Court of San Mateo, Rizal (RTC-Rizal). As against a Motion to Discharge Counsel duly filed with the RTC-
Rizal, respondent lawyer's bare denial of the existence of a lawyer-client relationship is of no avail.23 Caught in a web of
lies, Atty. Alaestante even contradicted himself when he stated that "[a]fter having been convinced of the personalities
of Berlin and Higino Gabeitan in relation to counsel'[s] pro bono handling of the case in RTC San Mateo, as well as the
smell of estafa having been committed by Berlin Gabeitan against the plaintiff thereof, counsel decided not to pursue
defending defendant Gabertan."24 That is the problem with fibs, falsehoods, dissemblances, prevarications, and half-
truths. They not only collide with the truth, they also collide with each other.
More than these, guided by the tenor of a Memorandum of Agreement25 (MOA) constituted between or amongst, Berlin,
respondent lawyer, and two other persons, it can hardly be doubted that Berlin and respondent lawyer had a close
relationship with the parties therein, and that he offered his legal expertise to the said parties. This is evident from the
language of the MOA where Berlin and respondent lawyer were collectively referred to as the "second parties" who were
able to secure "a favorable decision dated August 26, 2011 from the Honorable Metropolitan Trial Court of Manila[,]
Branch 26" and were hired "to recover actual and physical possession over" a parcel of land.26

It is almost a cliche to say that a lawyer is forbidden "from representing conflicting interests except by written consent of
all concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts. Such prohibition is founded on principles of public policy and good
taste as the nature of the lawyer-client relations is one of trust and confidence of the highest degree. Lawyers are
expected not only to keep inviolate the client's confidence, but also to avoid the appearance of [impropriety] and double-
dealing for only then can litigants be encouraged to entrust their secrets to their lawyers, which is of paramount
importance in the administration of justice.27

The alleged "non-payment of professional [fees, even if true, would] not exculpate respondent [lawyer] from liability.
[The a]bsence of monetary consideration does not exempt lawyers from complying with the prohibition against pursuing
cases with conflicting interests. The prohibition attaches from the moment the attorney-client relationship is established
and extends even beyond the duration of the professional relationship."28

The sending of the unsealed scurrilous letter by respondent lawyer to DOJ Secretary De Lima, was a violation of Rule 8.01
of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which stipulates that "[a] lawyer shall not, in his professional dealings, use
language which is abusive, offensive or otherwise improper." In that letter, not only did respondent lawyer employ
intemperate or unbridled language, he was also guilty of corner-cutting unprofessionally. His act of directly asking the
Secretary of Justice to intervene immediately in the syndicated estafa, grave threats and qualified theft cases showed his
propensity for utterly disregarding the rules of procedure which had been formulated precisely to regulate and govern
legal and judicial processes properly.

Under the circumstances, we find the penalty of suspension for six (6) months from the practice of law, in connection
with A.C. No. 10992, and suspension for one (1) year from the practice of law, in connection with A.C. No. 10993, as
recommended by the Investigating Commissioner, proper and commensurate.

ACCORDINGLY, this Court resolves to SUSPEND Atty. Edwin M. Alaestante from the practice of law for six (6) months
in A.C. No. 10992 and for one (1) year in A.C. No. 10993, reckoned from his receipt of this Decision, said penalties to be
sewed in succession, with a WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar offense will warrant a more severe penalty.

Let copies of this Decision be furnished all courts, the Office of the Bar Confidant, and the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines for their information and guidance. The Office of the Bar Confidant is also DIRECTEDto append a copy of this
Decision to respondent's record as a member of the Bar.

SO ORDERED.