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A.C. No. 11121, September 13, 2016 - DELIA LIM, Complainant, v. ATTY. AQUILINO MEJICA, Respondent.

EN BANC

A.C. No. 11121, September 13, 2016

DELIA LIM, Complainant, v. ATTY. AQUILINO MEJICA, Respondent.

DECISION

REYES, J.:

Before the Court is an administrative complaint1 for disbarment filed by complainant Delia Lim (Lim) charging respondent Atty. Aquilino Mejica (Atty.
Mejica) with violation of Rule 1.03 of Canon 1, Rule 12.02 of Canon 12 and Rule 7.03 of Canon 7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR).

The Facts

On July 16, 2008, Atty. Mejica filed a criminal action for grave oral defamation against Lim, then incumbent Vice Mayor of Oras, Eastern Samar, before
the Office of the Assistant Provincial Prosecutor (OAPP) of Oras, Eastern Samar, docketed as I.S. No. 08-90-0. He alleged that Lim uttered against him
the following slanderous words at the Session Hall of the Sangguniang Bayan of Oras: "HI AGUS BALDADO NAG KIHA KAN ATTY. AKI MEJICA HA IBP
UG YANA HI ATTY. MEJ[I]CA SUSPENDIDO HIT IYA KA ABOGADO SAKOP HIN UNOM KA BULAN, IPAN NUMAT NIYO" (Mr. Agus Baldado filed a case
against Atty. Mejica before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and now Atty. Mejica is suspended from practice of his profession as a lawyer for
a period of six (6) months, you relay this information). 2
chanrobleslaw

On February 19, 2009, acting Provincial Prosecutor Cornelio M. Umil II issued a Resolution 3dismissing the complaint of Atty. Mejica for lack of probable
cause. A Motion for Reconsideration4(MR) was filed, but the same was denied in a Resolution5 dated May 20, 2009.

However, while Atty. Mejica's MR was still pending before the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor (OPP), he filed on March 31, 2009, for the second
time, the same complaint6 before the Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of Oras, Eastern Samar, docketed as Criminal Case No. (0)2009-03.

On July 6, 2009, the MCTC issued an Order7 dismissing the complaint of Atty. Mejica on the ground that the same had already prescribed. An MR was
filed but the same was denied in an Order 8 dated September 14, 2009.

Consequently, Lim filed the instant case alleging that Atty. Mejica deliberately committed forum shopping when he filed the same complaint with the
same attachments with the MCTC during the pendency of his MR to the dismissal of his complaint before the OPP.9 chanroble slaw

On November 16, 2009, the Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) of the IBP issued an Order 10directing Atty. Mejica to submit his answer to Lim's
complaint within 15 days from receipt of the order.

In his Answer,11 Atty. Mejica argued that the filing of the case before the MCTC pending the resolution of his MR before the OPP was made in good
faith. He argued that he did not know that an oral defamation case may be filed directly with the MCTC. 12 chanroble slaw

According to Atty. Mejica, he consulted his friend, Atty. Emmanuel C. Apelado, a Public Attorney's Office lawyer, when he found out that the person
drafting the pleadings of Lim was the same person who was handling the case in the OPP. He alleged that he was advised, that an oral defamation
case is not subject to preliminary investigation and as such he could file the same directly with the MCTC. 13 chanrobleslaw

Also, he argued that since the criminal complaint was filed before the OAPP, its resolution for probable cause would not be a bar for the court's judicial
determination of probable cause considering that in case of oral defamation, preliminary investigation is not required. 14 chanrobleslaw

On August 31, 2010, the IBP-CBD issued a Notice15 directing the parties to appear for a mandatory conference. During the mandatory conference,
however, only Lim and her counsel appeared, while Atty. Mejica was absent. 16 chanrobleslaw

On January 10, 2011, the IBP-CBD issued an Order17 terminating the mandatory conference and directing both parties to submit their respective
position papers within a non-extendible period of 30 days upon receipt of the said order.

Recommendation and Resolutions of the IBP

On November 17, 2011, the IBP-CBD issued a Report and Recommendation 18 finding Atty. Mejica liable for violating Rule 12.02 of Canon 12 of the
CPR, and recommended that he be suspended for a period of six (6) months. Subsequently, the Report and Recommendation of the IBP-CBD was
adopted and approved by the IBP Board of Governors in a Resolution 19 dated June 20, 2013. The IBP Board of Governors, however, modified the
penalty by reducing the suspension to three (3) months.

On October 23, 2013, an MR20 was filed by Atty. Mejica but the same was denied by the IBP Board of Governors in a Resolution 21 dated September 27,
2014. The IBP Board of Governors, however, after considering this Court's previous sanctions imposed against Atty. Mejica, increased his suspension
to five (5) years.

The Issue

Essentially, the case directly poses to the Court the question of whether the instant disbarment complaint constitutes a sufficient basis to suspend
Atty. Mejica from the practice of law for five (5) years for violation of the CPR.

Ruling of the Court

There is no violation of the rule against non-forum shopping

"There is forum shopping whenever as a result of an adverse opinion in one forum, a party seeks a favorable opinion (other than by appeal
or certiorari) in another."22 "The test for determining forum shopping is whether in the two (or more) cases pending, there is an identity of parties,
rights or causes of action, and relief sought."23
chanrobleslaw
In Yu v. Lim,24 the Court discussed the requisites of forum shopping as follows: ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Forum shopping exists when the elements of litis pendentia are present or where a final judgment in one case will amount to res judicata in
another. Litis pendentia requires the concurrence of the following requisites: (1) identity of parties, or at least such parties as those representing the
same interests in both actions; (2) identity of rights asserted and reliefs prayed for, the reliefs being founded on the same facts; and (3) identity with
respect to the two preceding particulars in the two cases, such that any judgment that may be rendered in the pending case, regardless of which
party is successful, would amount to res judicata in the other case.25 (Citation omitted and italics in the original)
cralawred

In the present case, the Court finds that the second requisite of forum shopping does not exist since there is no identity of relief in I.S. No. 08-90-0
filed before the OAPP of Oras, Eastern Samar and in Criminal Case No. (0)2009-03 filed before the MCTC of the same place.

In I.S. No. 08-90-0, the complaint seeks for the finding by the prosecutor of probable cause against Lim for Grave Oral Defamation so that the latter
could be held for trial. Meanwhile, in Criminal Case No. (0)2009-03, the complaint seeks for the conviction of Lim.

In Co v. Lim, et al.,26 the Court, for the purpose of determining the existence of forum shopping, held that the determination made by the Secretary of
Justice on whether there is a prima facie case for the prosecution of the case is distinct from the judicial determination of the RTC that there is no
probable cause for the continued hearing of the criminal case. Moreover, the Court held that these are two distinct actions which should be
independently assailed. The former is pursuant to the powers and functions of the Department of Justice as provided for under the Revised
Administrative Code while the latter is in accord to the judicial powers conferred by Section 1, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution. 27
chanrobleslaw

Applying the foregoing, it is clear that in the present case, the exercise of the OPP of its investigative power to determine the existence of probable
cause to the complaint filed by Arty. Mejica is likewise different and distinct from the power of the court to hold Lim for trial for the offense charged.

Moreover, it is well settled that "[w]hat is pivotal in determining whether forum shopping exists or not is the vexation caused the courts and parties-
litigants by a party who asks different courts and/or administrative agencies to rule on the same or related cases and/or grant the same or
substantially the same reliefs, in the process creating the possibility of conflicting decisions being rendered by the different courts and/or
administrative agencies upon the same issues."28 In the present case, however, there is no sufficient evidence to prove that Atty. Mejica deliberately
filed the two complaints for such purpose. As aptly explained by him, the same was a result of a mere inadvertence and that the same was
immediately rectified upon coming to his knowledge.

Assuming, however, that there is identity of relief, the complaint pending before the OPP cannot be considered for purposes of determining if there
was forum shopping. The power of the prosecutor, pursuant to Section 3, Chapter 1, Title III, Book IV of the Administrative Code of 1987, is only
investigatory in character. It states: ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Section 3. Powers and Functions. To accomplish its mandate, the Department shall have the following powers and functions:

chanRoble svirtualLawlibrary xxxx

(2) Investigate the commission of crimes, prosecute offenders and administer the probation and
correction system.

xxxx
Clearly, the prosecutor's resolution does not constitute as a valid and final judgment because his duty, should he find probable cause to prosecute the
respondent, is to file the appropriate information before the proper court.
As to the institution of the criminal action, Section 1, Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure states: ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Section 1. Institution of criminal actions. Criminal actions shall be instituted as follows:


chanRoble svirtualLawlibrary

(a) For offenses where a preliminary investigation is required pursuant to Section 1 of Rule 112, by filing the complaint with the proper officer for the
purpose of conducting the requisite preliminary investigation.

(b) For all other offenses, by filing the complaint or information directly with the Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts, or the
complaint with the office of the prosecutor. In Manila and other chartered cities, the complaints shall be filed with the office of the prosecutor unless
otherwise provided in their charters.

The institution of the criminal action shall interrupt the running period of prescription of the offense charged unless otherwise provided in special laws.
Moreover, Section 1, Rule 112 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, when preliminary investigation shall be conducted, provides: ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Section 1. Preliminary investigation defined; when required. - Preliminary investigation is an inquiry or proceeding to determine whether there is
sufficient ground to engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed and the respondent is probably guilty thereof, and should be held
for trial.

Except as provided in Section 7 of this Rule, a preliminary investigation is required to be conducted before the filing of a complaint or information for
an offense where the penalty prescribed by law is at least four (4) years, two (2) months and one (1) day without regard to the fine.
In the present case, considering that the crime charged is Grave Oral Defamation which is punishable by arresto mayor in its maximum period
to prision correccional in its minimum period, the complaint should clearly be filed directly with the MCTC pursuant to above-quoted provisions. Thus,
the OPP of Oras, Eastern Samar did not acquire jurisdiction over the offense charged.

Atty. Mejica is liable for violation of Canon 10 of the CPR

Nonetheless, the Court finds that Atty; Mejica failed to exercise candor and courtesy to the court when he failed to inform the same of the pendency
of his MR before the OPP in connection with the same cause of action. Likewise, records show that he failed to withdraw his MR before the OPP despite
the subsequent filing of his complaint before the MCTC.

Although it is the MCTC that has jurisdiction over the complaint filed by Atty. Mejica, he made a mockery of the judicial process and further eroded
public confidence in lawyers when he ignored the proceedings he initiated in the OPP.

For these acts, the Court finds Atty. Mejica liable under Canon 10 of the CPR for violating the lawyer's duty to observe candor and fairness in his
dealings with the court. It states:
ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

CANON 10. A lawyer owes candor, fairness and good faith to the Court.
Clearly, Atty. Mejica committed an act of professional misconduct and thereby failed to live up to the exacting ethical standards imposed on members
of the Bar.

Proper penalty to be imposed against Atty. Mejica

As to the penalty, Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court provides: ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

SEC. 27. Disbarment or suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court; grounds therefore. - A member of the bar may be disbarred or suspended from
his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any deceit, malpractice, or other gross misconduct in such office, grossly immoral conduct, or by
reason of his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he is required to take before 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 the present case, the IBP found that this is not Atty. Mejica's first infraction. In Baldado v. Atty. Mejica,29 the Court suspended him for three (3)
months for his negligence in failing to protect the interest of his client. Also, in Caspe v. Mejica,30 he was suspended for two (2) years for his corrupt
motive in facilitating the filing of cases against the complainant therein, in violation of the CPR.

The Court, however, repeatedly held "[t]hat the supreme penalty of disbarment is meted out only in clear cases of misconduct that seriously affect the
standing and character of the lawyer as an officer of the court." 31 While the Court will not hesitate to remove an erring lawyer from the Bar, where the
evidence calls for it, the Court will also not disbar him where a lesser penalty will suffice to accomplish the desired end.

Also, it is well-settled that "[t]he appropriate penalty to be imposed on an errant attorney involves the exercise of sound judicial discretion based on
the facts of the case."32 chanroble slaw

Under the circumstances, considering that there was no bad faith or malice on the part of Atty. Mejica and that it was merely a result of his wrong
notion that the complaint for oral defamation is within the jurisdiction of the OPP, the Court finds it appropriate to impose upon him the penalty of
suspension from the practice of law for six (6) months. This serves the purpose of protecting the interest of the court, the legal profession and the
public.

"Candor and fairness are demanded of every lawyer."33 It is a cardinal requirement for every practicing lawyer.34 "They are bound by their oath to
speak the truth and to conduct themselves according to the best of their knowledge and discretion, and with fidelity to the courts and their clients." 35 chanrobleslaw

As a final note, the Court emphasizes its reminder to all members of the bar in Belleza v. Atty. Macasa,36 wherein it states: ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Lawyers should always live up to the ethical standards of the legal profession as embodied in the [CPR]. Public confidence in law and in lawyers may
be eroded by the irresponsible and improper conduct of a member of the bar. Thus, every lawyer should act and comport himself in a manner that
would promote public confidence in the integrity of the legal profession. 37 (Citations omitted)
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Resolution No. XXI-2014-595 dated September 27, 2014 of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board of
Governors is hereby SET ASIDE.

The Court, however, finds Atty. Aquilino Mejica to have violated Canon 10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. He is hereby meted out the
penalty of SUSPENSION from the practice of law for SIX (6) MONTHS with WARNING that a similar offense by him will be dealt with more
severely.

Let copies of this Decision be entered in the personal record of Atty. Aquilino Mejica as a member of the Philippine Bar and furnished the Office of the
Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of the Court Administrator for circulation to all courts in the country.

SO ORDERED. chanRoble svirtualLawlibrary

Sereno, C.J., Carpio, Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-De Castro, Brion, Peralta, Del Castillo, Perez, Mendoza, Perlas-Bernabe, Leonen, Jardeleza, and Caguioa,
JJ., concur.
Bersamin, J., on official leave.
Endnotes:

January 26, 2016

A.C. No. 10753


(Formerly CBD Case No. 10-2703)

ATTY. PABLO B. FRANCISCO, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. ROMEO M. FLORES, Respondent.

RESOLUTION

LEONEN, J.:

Failure of counsel to act upon a client's case resulting in the prescription of available remedies is negligence in violation of Canon 18 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility. The general rule is that notice to counsel is notice to client. This rule remains until counsel notifies the
court that he or she is withdrawing his or her appearance, or client informs the court of change of counsel. Untruthful statements made in
pleadings filed before courts, to make it appear that the pleadings are filed on time, are contrary to a lawyer's duty of committing no
falsehood.

Atty. Pablo B. Francisco (Atty. Francisco) filed an administrative Complaint for violation of Canons 10 and 18 of the Code of Professional
1

Responsibility against Atty. Romeo M. Flores (Atty. Flores) before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, alleging dishonesty and negligence
on the part of Atty. Flores.

Atty. Francisco alleged that he filed a Complaint for forcible entry against Rainier Fineza and his mother, Teodora Fineza, (Finezas) before
the Municipal Trial Court of Binangonan, Rizal. The Finezas were represented by Atty. Flores.
2 3

The Municipal Trial Court ruled in favor of the Finezas. Atty. Francisco filed an appeal before the Regional Trial Court of Binangonan,
4

Rizal. However, the appeal was denied.


5 6

Atty. Francisco filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which was granted by the Regional Trial Court in an Order dated January 23, 2009. The
7 8

Finezas were then ordered to vacate the property and to pay rentals. 9
Atty. Flores filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the trial court's Order granting Atty. Francisco's Motion for Reconsideration. Atty.
10

Francisco filed an Opposition to the Motion for Reconsideration. In an Order dated March 26, 2009, Judge Dennis Patrick Z. Perez denied
11 12

the Motion for Reconsideration filed by Atty. Flores.

The registry return receipt shows that Atty. Flores received a copy of the Regional Trial Court's Order denying the Motion for
Reconsideration on April 3, 2009, while the Finezas received their copy of the Order on April 7, 2009. 13

On April 7, 2009, Atty. Francisco filed an Ex-Parte Motion to Remand Records of the case to the Municipal Trial Court for Execution of
Judgment. He alleges that a copy of the Ex-Parte Motion was served on Atty. Flores through registered mail. 14

On May 20, 2009, Analiza P. Santos, Officer-in-Charge of Branch 67, Regional Trial Court of Binangonan, Rizal, issued a
Certification stating that:
15

This is to certify that the Order of this Court dated January 23, 2009 relative to the above-entitled case [referring to Pablo B. Francisco v.
Rainier Fineza and Teddy Fineza] has never been amended, appealed or modified; hence, this Order is now considered final and
executory.16

Atty. Francisco filed a Motion for Issuance of Writ of Execution on June 3, 2009. Atty. Francisco alleges that a copy of the Motion was
17

personally served on Atty. Flores on the same day. 18

Atty. Francisco also alleges that hearings on the Motion for Issuance of Writ of Execution were scheduled on June 17 and 24, 2009, which
were attended by Atty. Flores and the Finezas. Atty. Francisco's Motion was granted on June 30, 2009, and a writ of execution was issued. 19

On July 8, 2009, the Finezas filed a Petition for Relief from Judgment with application for temporary restraining order and injunction. They
20

also attached a Joint Affidavit of Merit to the Petition. The Petition was signed by the Finezas and not by Atty. Flores. Atty. Francisco
21 22

claims that the Petition, while not signed by counsel, "was ostensibly prepared by respondent Atty. Romeo M. Flores[.]" The Petition for
23

Relief from Judgment was docketed as SCA 09-015. 24

The allegations in the Petition for Relief from Judgment stated:

3. Defendants did not receive a copy or have no knowledge of the Order dated 26 March 2009 denying their motion for
reconsideration, hence, was not able to hire the services of other lawyer to seek relief from the adverse consequences of the said
Order;
4. It was only on June 29, 2009 that defendants through their lawyer came to know of the Order dated March 26, 2009[,] denying
their "Motion for Reconsideration" of the decision/Order dated January 15, 2009 reversing the Order of Dismissal by the Municipal
Trial Court, Branch 2, Binangonan, Rizal;

5. This petition is being filed within sixty days after the petitioners obtained knowledge on June 29, 2009 of the Order/decision dated
March 26, 2009 denying the motion for reconsideration and not more than six (6) months after judgment was entered on May 20,
2009[.] (Emphasis supplied)
25

Atty. Francisco filed a Motion to Dismiss on July 13, 2009, alleging that the Petition for Relief from Judgment was filed out of time. He also
26

alleged that:

2. The petition was filed in SCA No. 09-015, not in SCA No. 08-018 of the same Regional Trial Court, in violation of Section 1, Rule
38 of the Rules of Court;

....

4. It can not be that petitioners came to know through their lawyer of the Order, dated March 26, 2009 only on June 29, 2009. That
allegation is a travesty of facts because on June 3, 2009, respondent [referring to Atty. Francisco] filed his motion for issuance of
writ of execution of the RTC decision with the Municipal Trial Court of Binangonan and furnished a copy of said motion to
petitioners' counsel [referring to Atty. Flores] on the same day of June 3, 2009. Said motion was heard on June 17, 2009, with Atty.
Romeo M. Flores in attendance and manifesting before the court that petitioners have vacated the parcel of land in question[.] 27

Atty. Flores entered his appearance in SCA Case No. 09-015 on August 20, 2009. Atty. Francisco claims that Atty. Flores knew about the
untruthful allegations and frivolous character of the Petition for Relief from Judgment, yet he sought to pursue the Petition through the filing
of a Motion to Admit Supplemental Pleading. 28

The Petition for Relief from Judgment was dismissed by the Regional Trial Court in an Order dated August 28, 2009.
29

On February 8, 2010, the Finezas were evicted. Their "personal properties were levied upon, then sold on execution to settle their
30

judgment debt[. ]" 31

Atty. Francisco alleges that Atty. Flores thereafter "induced Rainier Fineza and Teodora Fineza to file a complaint against [Atty. Francisco]
[before] the Supreme Court[.]" The case was docketed as Administrative Case No. 8563.
32 33
Atty. Francisco contends that Atty. Flores was negligent when he "did not make himself available" during that period when his clients could
34

still question the trial court's denial of the Motion for Reconsideration by filing a Petition for Review before the Court of Appeals. 35

Atty. Francisco prays that Atty. Flores "be found guilty of violation of Canons 10 and 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and be
meted the corresponding penalty. " 36

On the other hand, Atty. Flores alleges that he was on vacation from February 9, 2009 until May 2009. The copy of the trial court's Order
37

sent to the Finezas was received by Glen Fineza on April 7, 2009, but allegedly, Glen Fineza did not inform Teodora Fineza and Rainier
Fineza that he received the trial court's Order. Atty. Flores claims that he only learned about the Order denying the Motion for
38

Reconsideration when he received a copy of Atty. Francisco's Motion for Issuance of a Writ ofExecution. 39

Regarding the Finezas' Petition for Relief from Judgment, Atty. Flores alleges that he only assisted in the filing of the Petition. He could not
40

act as counsel because he had "no personal knowledge as to when the [Finezas] learned ... of the denial of the Motion for Reconsideration.
"
41

Atty. Flores also argues that he did not violate Canon 18 because in another case, docketed as Civil Case 384-B for Quieting of Title with
Prayer for Restraining Order/Injunction, which also involved Atty. Francisco and the Finezas, he was able to prevent the demolition of the
42

Finezas' family home. 43

In the Report and Recommendation of the Commission on Bar Discipline dated April 15, 2011, the Commission found that the allegations
44

in the Petition for Relief from Judgment were "false and frivolous" because when the Petition for Relief from Judgment was filed, more than
45

60 days elapsed from the time that Atty. Flores and the Finezas had received copies of the trial court's Order. Atty. Flores received a copy
46

of the trial court's Order dated March 26, 2009, on April 3, 2009, while the Finezas received their copy on April 7, 2009. Glen Fineza, who
47

acknowledged receipt of the trial court's Order, is the son of Teodora Fineza and the brother of Rainier Fineza. When the Petition for Relief
48

from Judgment was filed on July 8, 2009, it was beyond the 60-day period. 49

The Commission on Bar Discipline recommended that Atty. Flores be found guilty of violating Rules 10.01 and 10.03 of Canon 10, and that
the penalty of suspension from the practice of law for three (3) months "with stem warning that a repetition of the same offense shall be
dealt with more severely" be imposed. No pronouncement was made on the issue of whether Atty. Flores violated Canon 18.
50 51

The Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines adopted and approved the Report and Recommendation of the
Commission on Bar Discipline in a Resolution dated June 20, 2013. However, the Board of Governors Resolution is also silent on the
52

issue of whether Atty. Flores violated Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
Atty. Flores filed an Ex-Parte Motion to Admit Motion for Reconsideration and a Motion for Reconsideration, arguing that he was on
53 54

vacation from February 11, 2009 up to "June_, 2009[.]" During that period, his staff received the trial court's Order dated March 26,
55

2009 on April 3, 2009. Hence, Atty. Francisco's allegation that he received the trial court's Order on April 31, 2009 is not true. In addition,
56 57 58

Glen Fineza did not give a copy of the trial court's Order to Rainier Fineza or Teodora Fineza. Further, the charge of perjury against him,
59

Atty. Flores, was dismissed by the prosecutor. Atty. Flores also argues that he properly observed the rules of procedure in the forcible
60

entry case, thus, he should not be found guilty of violating Canon 10.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. 61

Atty. Flores reiterated that this administrative Complaint originated from a civil case filed before the Regional Trial Court of Binangonan,
Rizal, involving Atty. Francisco and the Finezas. While the Finezas lost their property in that case, he, as counsel of the Finezas, was able
62

to prevent Atty. Francisco "from implementing the demolition of the Fineza's family home." 63

The Board of Governors, through Dominic C.M. Solis, Director for Bar Discipline, required Atty. Francisco to submit a Comment on Atty.
Flores' Motion for Reconsideration. 64

Atty. Francisco reiterated in his Comment that the Finezas knew about the trial court's dismissal of their Motion for Reconsideration
65

because they received a copy of the trial court's Order on April 7, 2009. Also, Atty. Flores received a copy of the same Order on April 3,
66

2009 and not April 31, 2009. Further, when Atty. Francisco sought to execute the trial court's Decision, Atty. Flores and the Finezas
67

attended "the hearing on the motion for execution of the final judgment" on June 1 7 and 24, 2007.
68 69

Atty. Francisco prayed in his Comment that Atty. Flores "be suspended from the practice of law for at least six (6) months." 70

In a Resolution dated August 9, 2014, the Board of Governors denied Atty. Flores' Motion for Reconsideration but increased the penalty
71

recommended from three (3) months to six (6) months suspension from the practice of law. 72

The issue in this case is whether respondent Atty. Romeo M. Flores violated Canons 10 and 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

This court accepts the findings of fact of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. Based on the records of this administrative Complaint,
respondent is guilty of violating Canon 10, Rules 10.01 and 10.03, and Canon 18, Rule 18.03.

Canon 10, Rule 10.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides:

Canon 10 - A lawyer owes candor, fairness and good faith to the court.

Rule 10.01 -A lawyer shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in Court; nor shall he mislead or allow the Court to be
misled by any artifice.
Respondent was not entirely truthful. He alleged in his Position Paper that:

4. Herein respondent himself only came to know of the denial of their Motion for Reconsideration in June, 2009 when he received a copy of
the motion of complainant for issuance of a writ of execution against the FINEZA[S]. This fact was immediately relayed to the FINEZA[S].

....

6. FINEZAS in filing the petition for relief from judgment believe in good faith that they have complied with the requirement of the rule. They
learned only of the judgment on June 29, 2009.

Herein RESPONDENT only assisted the FINEZA[S] in filing the petition for relief from judgment. He could not personally act as counsel
considering that he has no personal knowledge as to when the FINEZA[S] learned or had knowledge of the denial of the Motion for
Reconsideration.

Although the denial of the Motion for Reconsideration was received in his office on April 3, 2009, respondent was in the United States of
America (U.S.A.) for a 3-month vacation from February 9, 2009 to May, 2009. He had given instructions to his staff to furnish copies of all
court processes to his clients and to refer all legal matters to either Atty. Leonardo C. Aseoche or Atty. Baltazar O. Abasolo as collaborating
counsels, both practicing lawyers in Binangonan, Rizal. (Emphasis supplied)
73

Respondent did not state the exact date when he received a copy of the Motion for Issuance of a Writ of Execution. The record shows that
he received it on June 3, 2009. Respondent then alleges that he immediately informed the Finezas about the matter, but later on
74

contradicted himself when he stated "that he has no personal knowledge as to when the Fineza[s] learned or had knowledge of the denial
of the Motion for Reconsideration." 75

Respondent's statement that he had no knowledge when the Finezas learned about the denial of their Motion for Reconsideration is also
contradicted by the Finezas' allegations in their Petition for Relief from Judgment that:

4. It was only on June 29, 2009 that defendants through their lawyer came to know of the Order dated March 26, 2009[,] denying
their "Motion for Reconsideration" of the decision/Order dated January 15, 2009 reversing the Order of Dismissal by the Municipal
Trial Court, Branch 2, Binangonan, Rizal[.] (Emphasis supplied)
76

Further, respondent does not deny complainant's allegation that he and the Finezas were present when the Motion for Issuance of a Writ of
Execution was heard by the trial court on June 17 and 24, 2009. 77
From the foregoing, it is clear that respondent and the Finezas knew about the trial court's Order denying their Motion for Reconsideration
before June 29, 2009.

While the Complaint is limited to the allegations in the Petition for Relief from Judgment, this court notes that respondent was also not
truthful in his Motion for Reconsideration filed before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. In his Motion for Reconsideration, he alleged
that:

The allegation of complainant that respondent received on April 3 1, 2009 the Order of March 26, 2009 denying his motion for
reconsideration is not correct. It was the law office through his staff that received on 26 March 2009 the Order of Denial, per Reg.
Receipt No. 190. Herein respondent was on vacation in U.S.A. from February 11, 2009 up to June _y 2009. (Emphasis supplied)
78

Respondent's allegations are conflicting. He initially claimed that he was on vacation from February 9, 2009 to May 2009. He subsequently
79

claimed that his vacation was from February 11, 2009 to June 2009. 80

The glaring inconsistencies in respondent's statements are sufficient to show that he is guilty of violating Canon 10, Rule 10.01.

The importance of Canon 10, Rule 10.01 was extensively discussed in Spouses Umaguing v. De Vera, which involved the submission of a
81

falsified affidavit in an electoral protest. This court discussed that:

Fundamental is the rule that in his dealings with his client and with the courts, every lawyer is expected to be honest, imbued with integrity,
and trustworthy. These expectations, though high and demanding, are the professional and ethical burdens of every member of the
Philippine Bar, for they have been given full expression in the Lawyer's Oath that every lawyer of this country has taken upon admission as
a bona fide member of the Law Profession, thus:

I,_________________, do solemnly swear that I will maintain allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines; I will support its Constitution and
obey the laws as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities therein; I will do no falsehood, nor consent to the doing of
any in court; I will not wittingly or willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit, nor give aid nor consent to the same. I will
delay no man for money or malice, and will conduct myself as a lawyer according to the best of my knowledge and discretion with all good
fidelity as well to the courts as to my clients; and I impose upon myself this voluntary obligation without any mental reservation or purpose
of evasion. So help me God.

The Lawyer's Oath enjoins every lawyer not only to obey the laws of the land but also to refrain from doing any falsehood in or out of court
or from consenting to the doing of any in court, and to conduct himself according to the best of his knowledge and discretion with all good
fidelity to the courts as well as to his clients. Every lawyer is a servant of the law, and has to observe and maintain the rule of law as well as
be an exemplar worthy of emulation by others. It is by no means a coincidence, therefore, that the core values of honesty, integrity, and
trustworthiness are emphatically reiterated by the Code of Professional Responsibility. In this light, Rule 10.01, Canon 10 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility provides that "[a] lawyer shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in Court; nor shall he
mislead, or allow the Court to be misled by any artifice. " (Emphasis and underscoring in the original, citations omitted)
82

This court also finds that respondent violated Rule 10.03 of Canon 10, which provides:

Rule 10.03 - A lawyer shall observe the rules of procedure and shall not misuse them to defeat the ends of justice.

Respondent admitted that he assisted the Finezas "in filing the petition for relief from judgment." Subsequently, respondent moved to
83

withdraw the Petition for Relief from Judgment after recognizing that it was filed erroneously. As stated in the trial court's Order:
84

Nevertheless, the court interposed clarificatory questions to the petitioners and as a result of the discussion this morning, petitioners'
counsel moved for the withdrawal of his Petition for Relief from Judgment after realizing that he erroneously filed the petition before another
court and in another case in violation of Section 1 of Rule 3 8 of the Revised Rules of Court.

WHEREFORE, on motion of the petitioners through counsel, the Court resolved to consider the instant petition for Relief from Judgment
docketed as SCA Case No. 09-015 entitled Ranier [sic] B. Finez.a and Teodora B. Fineza versus Pablo B. Francisco filed on July 8, 2009
and raffled to this court on July 13, 2009 as WITHDRAWN, and this case is hereby DISMISSED. (Emphasis supplied)
85

Respondent's attempts to rectify are further evidence that what he did-file a Petition for Relief docketed as a different case before a different
trial court-was wrong in the first place.
86

Furthermore, this court finds respondent guilty of violating Canon 18, Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides:

Canon 18 - A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence.

....

Rule 18.03 - A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.

Respondent's explanation that he was on vacation is not sufficient. Being the lawyer who filed the Motion for Reconsideration, he should
have been prepared for the possibility that his Motion would be acted upon by the trial court during the time that he was on vacation. In
addition, he does not deny that his office, through his staff, received by registered mail a copy of the trial court's Order on April 3, 2009.
Respondent argues that he instructed his staff to inform his clients of court processes and to refer legal matters to Atty. Leonardo C.
Aseoche or Atty. Baltazar O. Abasolo. However, respondent did not present evidence to support his argument.
87

Respondent further argues that he was not negligent and explained that in the case docketed as Civil Case 384-B for Quieting of Title with
Prayer for Restraining Order/Injunction, he successfully prevented the demolition of the Finezas' family home. 88

Respondent may not have been negligent in handling Civil Case No. 384-B, but he was negligent in handling SCA No. 08-018. When he
allegedly informed the Finezas of the trial court's Order, he should have immediately discussed the matter with his clients. The records of
this case show that he did not consult his clients on what legal remedies they would like to avail themselves of after the denial of the Motion
for Reconsideration.

Respondent attended the hearing on the Motion for Issuance of a Writ of Execution, and that it was allegedly the Finezas, on their own,
who filed the Petition for Relief from Judgment. Respondent claims that he merely assisted the Finezas in filing the Petition for Relief, but
was not representing them. He argues that he could not represent the Finezas because "he has no personal knowledge as to when the
89

Fineza[ s] learned or had knowledge of the denial of the Motion for Reconsideration." 90

Respondent also seems to have forgotten the general rule that notice to counsel is also notice to client. Thus, when his office received a
1wphi1

copy of the trial court's Order on April 3, 2009, his clients are also deemed as having been notified on the same date.

Manaya v. Alabang Country Club, Inc. involved the dismissal of an appeal before the National Labor Relations Commission due to its late
91

filing. Respondent Alabang Country Club filed a Petition for Certiorari before the Court of Appeals and argued that its lawyer abandoned it,
92

thus, it was "not effectively represented by a competent counsel." The Court of Appeals granted the Petition for Certiorari. Petitioner
93 94

Fernando G. Manaya then filed a Petition for Review on Certiorari before this court, which was granted. This court explained that:
95

It is axiomatic that when a client is represented by counsel, notice to counsel is notice to client. In the absence of a notice of withdrawal or
substitution of counsel, the Court will rightly assume that the counsel of record continues to represent his client and receipt of notice by the
former is the reckoning point of the reglementary period. As heretofore adverted, the original counsel did not file any notice of withdrawal.
Neither was there any intimation by respondent at that time that it was terminating the services of its counsel. (Emphasis supplied, citation
96

omitted)

In Ramirez v. Buhayang-Margallo, this court found Atty. Mercedes Buhayang-Margallo guilty of violating Rule 18.03 of the Code of
97

Professional Responsibility because she failed to file the appellant's brief within the reglementary period that resulted in the loss of
available remedies for her client.
98
Assuming that the Finezas learned about the denial of the Motion for Reconsideration only on June 29, 2009, this would further support the
allegations in the Complaint that respondent violated Canon 18. Respondent alleges that he learned about the denial of the Motion for
Reconsideration when he received a copy of the Motion for Issuance of Writ of Execution. While he did not state the exact date when he
received a copy of the Motion, the record shows that he received it on June 3, 2009. If it were true that the Finezas learned about the denial
of the Motion for Reconsideration on June 29, 2009, then it shows that respondent did not immediately inform his clients about the status of
the forcible entry case. It took him more than 20 days to inform his clients on the matter. Respondent's failure to immediately update his
clients and act upon the denial of the Motion for Reconsideration, which resulted in the expiration of the period for filing a Petition for Relief
from Judgment, clearly points to negligence on his part.

This court takes judicial notice that respondent was previously suspended from the practice of law for two years in Serzo v. Atty.
Flores because he notarized a Deed of Absolute Sale when the vendor was already deceased. His notarial commission was also
99 100

revoked, and this court disqualified him from being reappointed as notary public for two years. 101

It is deplorable that respondent, despite having been sanctioned by this court, once again violated his oath as a lawyer.

WHEREFORE, the findings of fact of the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines dated June 20, 2013 and August 9,
2014 are ACCEPTED and APPROVED. Respondent Atty. Romeo M. Flores is found guilty of violating Canon 10, Rules 10.01 and 10.03,
and Canon 18, Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Respondent Atty. Romeo M. Flores is suspended from the practice of law for two (2) years. He is warned that a repetition of the same or
similar act shall be dealt with more severely.

Let a copy of this Resolution be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be appended to respondent Atty. Romeo M. Flores' personal
record as attorney, to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and to the Office of the Court Administrator for dissemination to all courts
throughout the country for their information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.

MARVIC M.V.F. LEONEN


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

MARIA LOURDES P.A. SERENO


Chief Justice
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

A.C. No. 4955 September 12, 2011

ANTONIO CONLU, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. IRENEO AREDONIA, JR., Respondent.

RESOLUTION

VELASCO, JR., J.:

Before the Court is a complaint1 for disbarment with a prayer for damages instituted by Antonio Conlu (Antonio) against Atty. Ireneo
Aredonia, Jr. (Atty. Ireneo) on grounds of gross negligence and dereliction of sworn duty.

Antonio was the defendant in Civil Case No. 1048, a suit for Quieting of Title and Recovery of a Parcel of Land commenced before the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Silay City, Negros Occidental. 2 He engaged the services of Atty. Ireneo to represent him in the case. On
March 16, 1995, the RTC rendered judgment3 adverse to Antonio. Therefrom, Atty. Ireneo, for Antonio, appealed to the Court of Appeals
(CA) whereat the recourse was docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 50075.

The CA, per its Resolution of February 10, 1997, eventually dismissed the appeal for non-filing of the appellants brief within the
reglementary period. Antonio got wind of the dismissal from his wife who verified the status of the case when she happened to be in Manila.
When confronted about the dismissal action, Atty. Ireneo promised to seek reconsideration, which he did, but which the appellate court later
denied for belated filing of the motion.

In that motion4 he prepared and filed, Atty. Ireneo averred receiving the adverted February 10, 1997 CA Resolution 5only on April 25, 1997,
adding in this regard that the person in the law office who initially received a copy of said resolution was not so authorized. However, the
CA denied the motion for having been filed out of time. As the CA would declare in a subsequent resolution dated December 3, 1997, there
was a valid receipt by Atty. Ireneo, as shown by the registry return card with his signature, of a copy of the CAs February 10, 1997
Resolution. Accordingly, as the CA wrote, the motion for reconsideration of the February resolution which bore the mailing date May 8, 1997
cannot but be considered as filed way out of time.
In light of these successive setbacks, a disgusted Antonio got the case records back from Atty. Ireneo and personally filed on October 13,
1997 another motion for reconsideration. By Resolution of December 3, 1997, the CA again denied 6 this motion for the reason that the
prejudicial impact of the belated filing by his former counsel of the first motion for reconsideration binds Antonio.

Forthwith, Antonio elevated his case to the Court on a petition for certiorari but the Court would later dismiss the petition and his
subsequent motion to reconsider the denial.

Such was the state of things when Antonio lodged this instant administrative case for disbarment with a prayer for damages. To support his
claim for damages, Antonio asserts having suffered sleepless nights, mental torture and anguish as a result of Atty. Ireneos erring ways,
besides which Antonio also lost a valuable real property subject of Civil Case No. 1048.

Following Atty. Ireneos repeated failure to submit, as ordered, his comment, a number of extensions of time given notwithstanding, 7 the
Court referred the instant case, docketed as Administrative Case No. 4955, to its Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC) for evaluation, report
and recommendation.

Acting on OBCs Report and Recommendation8 dated November 23, 2000, the Court, by Resolution of January 31, 2001, directed Atty.
Ireneo to show cause within ten (10) days from noticelater successively extended via Resolutions dated July 16 and 29, 2002why he
should not be disciplinarily dealt with or held in contempt for failing to file his comment and to comply with the filing of it.

In separate resolutions, the Court (a) imposed on Atty. Ireneo a fine of PhP 2,000; 9 (b) ordered his arrest but which the National Bureau of
Investigation (NBI) cannot effect for the reason: "whereabouts unknown"; 10 (c) considered him as having waived his right to file comment;
and (d) referred the administrative case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for report, investigation and recommendation. 11

At the IBP, Atty. Ireneo desisted from addressing his administrative case, his desistance expressed by not attending the mandatory
conference or filing the required position paper. On the basis of the pleadings, the IBP-Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) found Ireneo
liable for violating Canon 1, Rules 1.01 and 1.03 and Canon 18, Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and recommended
his suspension from the practice of law for a period of six (6) months, with warning. The salient portions of the investigating commissioners
Report and Recommendation12 read as follows:

Uncontroverted and uncontested are respondents inability to file appellants Brief, his futile attempts to mislead the Court of Appeals that
he did not personally received [sic] the resolution of dismissal. His filing of the Motion for Reconsideration five (5) months late. [sic]

Aggravated by his failure to file his comment in the instant administrative complaint despite his numerous motions for extension to file the
same. [sic]

He is even adamant to comply with the show cause order of the bar confidant. The series of snobbish actuations in several resolution of the
Supreme Court enjoining him to make the necessary pleading. [sic]
By Resolution No. XVIII-2008-523, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved said report and recommendation of the CBD. 13

We agree with the inculpatory findings of the IBP but not as to the level of the penalty it recommended.

Res ipsa loquitur. Atty. Ireneo had doubtless been languid in the performance of his duty as Antonios counsel. He neglected, without
reason, to file the appellants brief before the CA. He failed, in short, to exert his utmost ability and to give his full commitment to maintain
and defend Antonios right. Antonio, by choosing Atty. Ireneo to represent him, relied upon and reposed his trust and confidence on the
latter, as his counsel, to do whatsoever was legally necessary to protect Antonios interest, if not to secure a favorable judgment. Once they
agree to take up the cause of a client, lawyers, regardless of the importance of the subject matter litigated or financial arrangements agreed
upon, owe fidelity to such cause and should always be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed on them. 14 And to add insult to injury,
Atty. Ireneo appeared not to have taken any effort to personally apprise Antonio of the dismissal of the appeal, however personally
embarrassing the cause for the dismissal might have been. As mentioned earlier, Antonio came to know about the outcome of his appeal
only after his wife took the trouble of verifying the case status when she came to Manila. By then, all remedies had been lost.

It must be remembered that a retained counsel is expected to serve the client with competence and diligence. This duty includes not merely
reviewing the cases entrusted to the counsels care and giving the client sound legal advice, but also properly representing the client in
court, attending scheduled hearings, preparing and filing required pleadings, prosecuting the handled cases with reasonable dispatch, and
urging their termination without waiting for the client or the court to prod him or her to do so. The lawyer should not be sitting idly by and
leave the rights of the client in a state of uncertainty.15

The failure to file a brief resulting in the dismissal of an appeal constitutes inexcusable negligence. 16 This default translates to a violation of
the injunction of Canon 18, Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, respectively providing:

CANON 18 A LAWYER SHALL SERVE HIS CLIENT WITH COMPETENCE AND DILIGENCE.

xxxx

Rule 18.03 A lawyer shall not neglect a matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.

Rule 18.04 A lawyer shall keep the client informed of the status of his case and shall respond within a reasonable time to the clients
request for information.

As if his lack of candor in his professional relationship with Antonio was not abhorrent enough, Atty. Ireneo tried to mislead the appellate
court about the receipt of a copy of its February 10, 1997 Resolution dismissing the appeal in CA-G.R. CV No. 50075. He denied personally
receiving such copy, but the CA found and declared that he himself received said copy. The CA arrived at this conclusion thru the process
of comparing Atty. Ireneos signature appearing in the pleadings with that in the registry return card. Both signatures belong to one and the
same person. Needless to stress, Atty. Ireneo had under the premises indulged in deliberate falsehood, contrary to the self-explanatory
prescriptions of Canon 1, Rule 1.01 and Canon 10, Rule 10.01, which provide:

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

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

xxxx

CANON 10 A LAWYER OWES CANDOR, FAIRNESS AND GOOD FAITH TO THE COURT.

Rule 10.01 A lawyer shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court; nor shall he mislead, or allow the Court to be
misled by any artifice. (Emphasis supplied.)

We cannot write finis to this case without delving into and addressing Atty. Ireneos defiant stance against the Court as demonstrated by his
repetitive disregard of its resolution to file his comment on the basic complaint. After requesting and securing no less than three (3)
extensions of time to file his comment, he simply closed, so to speak, communication lines. And when ordered to give an explanation
through a show-cause directive for not complying, he asked for and was granted a 30-day extension. But the required comment never
came. When the Court eventually directed the NBI to arrest him, he just left his last known address and could not be located.

The Courts patience has been tested to the limit by what in hindsight amounts to a lawyers impudence and disrespectful bent. At the
minimum, members of the legal fraternity owe courts of justice respect, courtesy and such other becoming conduct so essential in the
promotion of orderly, impartial and speedy justice. What Atty. Ireneo has done was the exact opposite. What is clear to the Court by now is
that Ireneo was determined all along not to submit a comment and, in the process, delay the resolution of the instant case. By asking
several extensions of time to submit one, but without the intention to so submit, Ireneo has effectively trifled with the Courts processes, if
not its liberality. This cannot be tolerated. It cannot be allowed to go unpunished, if the integrity and orderly functioning of the administration
of justice is to be maintained. And to be sure, Atty. Ireneo can neither defeat this Courts jurisdiction over him as a member of the bar nor
evade administrative liability by the mere ruse of concealing his whereabouts. 17 Manifestly, he has fallen short of the diligence required of
every member of the Bar. The pertinent Canon of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides:

CANON 12 A LAWYER SHALL EXERT EVERY EFFORT AND CONSIDER HIS DUTY TO ASSIST IN THE SPEEDY AND EFFICIENT
ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE.

xxxx
Rule 12.03 A lawyer shall not, after obtaining extensions of time to file pleadings, memoranda or briefs, let the period lapse without
submitting the same or offering an explanation for his failure to do so.

Rule 12.04 A lawyer shall not unduly delay a case, impede the execution of a judgment or misuse Court processes. (Emphasis
supplied.)1avvphil

A lawyer may be disbarred or suspended for gross misconduct or for transgressions defined by the rules as grounds to strip a lawyer of
professional license.18 Considering, however, the serious consequences of either penalty, the Court will exercise its power to disbar or
suspend only upon a clear, convincing, and satisfactory proof of misconduct that seriously affects the standing of a lawyer as an officer of
the court and as member of the bar.

In Heirs of Tiburcio F. Ballesteros, Sr. v. Apiag,19 the Court penalized a lawyer who failed to file a pre-trial brief and other pleadings, such as
position papers, leading to the dismissal of the case with six months suspension. In Soriano v. Reyes, 20 We meted a one-year suspension
on a lawyer for inexcusable negligence, the latter having failed to file a pre-trial brief leading to the dismissal of the case and failure to
prosecute in another case, and omitting to apprise complainant of the status of the two cases with assurance of his diligent attention to
them.

In this case, Atty. Ireneo should be called to task for the interplay of the following: his inexcusable negligence that resulted in the dismissal
of Antonios appeal, coupled by his lack of candor in not apprising Antonio of the status of his appealed case; his attempt to mislead the CA
in a vain bid to evade the consequence of the belated filing of a motion for reconsideration; and, last but not least, his cavalier disregard of
the Courts directives primarily issued to resolve the charges brought against him by Antonio. We deem it fitting that Atty. Ireneo be
suspended from the practice of law for a period of one year, up from the penalty recommended by the IBP Board of Governors. This should
serve as a constant reminder of his duty to respect courts of justice and to observe that degree of diligence required by the practice of the
legal profession. His being a first offender dictates to large degree this leniency.

The prayer for damages cannot be granted. Let alone the fact that Antonio chose not to file his position paper before the IBP-CBD and,
therefore, was unable to satisfactorily prove his claim for damages, a proceeding for disbarment or suspension is not in any sense a civil
action; it is undertaken and prosecuted for public welfare. It does not involve private interest and affords no redress for private grievance. 21

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Ireneo Aredonia, Jr. is declared GUILTY of inexcusable negligence, attempting to mislead the appellate
court, misuse of Court processes, and willful disobedience to lawful orders of the Court. He is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law
for a period of one (1) year effective upon his receipt of this Resolution, with WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar acts will be
dealt with more severely. Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and
all courts throughout the country.

SO ORDERED.
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
Associate Justice

ROBERTO A. ABAD MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.*


Associate Justice Associate Justice

JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA


Associate Justice

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

A.C. No. 6198 September 15, 2006

RENATO M. MALIGAYA, complainant,


vs.
ATTY. ANTONIO G. DORONILLA, JR., respondent.

RESOLUTION

CORONA, J.:

Atty. Antonio G. Doronilla, Jr. of the Judge Advocate General's Service is before us on a charge of unethical conduct for having uttered a
falsehood in open court during a hearing of Civil Case No. Q-99-38778. 1

Civil Case No. Q-99-38778 was an action for damages filed by complainant Renato M. Maligaya, a doctor and retired colonel of the Armed
Forces of the Philippines, against several military officers for whom Atty. Doronilla stood as counsel. At one point during the February 19,
2002 hearing of the case, Atty. Doronilla said:
And another matter, Your Honor. I was appearing in other cases he [complainant Maligaya] filed before against the same
defendants. We had an agreement that if we withdraw the case against him, he will also withdraw all the cases. So, with
that understanding, he even retired and he is now receiving pension.2 (emphasis supplied)

Considering this to be of some consequence, presiding Judge Reynaldo B. Daway asked a number of clarificatory questions and thereafter
ordered Atty. Doronilla to put his statements in writing and "file the appropriate pleading." 3Weeks passed but Atty. Doronilla submitted no
such pleading or anything else to substantiate his averments.

On April 29, 2002, Maligaya filed a complaint against Atty. Doronilla in the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Commission on Bar
Discipline.4 The complaint, which charged Atty. Doronilla with "misleading the court through misrepresentation of facts resulting [in]
obstruction of justice,"5 was referred to a commissioner6 for investigation. Complainant swore before the investigating commissioner that he
had never entered into any agreement to withdraw his lawsuits.7 Atty. Doronilla, who took up the larger part of two hearings to present
evidence and explain his side, admitted several times that there was, in fact, no such agreement. 8 Later he explained in his memorandum
that his main concern was "to settle the case amicably among comrades in arms without going to trial" 9 and insisted that there was no proof
of his having violated the Code of Professional Responsibility or the lawyer's oath. 10 He pointed out, in addition, that his false statement (or,
as he put it, his "alleged acts of falsity") had no effect on the continuance of the case and therefore caused no actual prejudice to
complainant.11

In due time, investigating commissioner Lydia A. Navarro submitted a report and recommendation finding Atty. Doronilla guilty of purposely
stating a falsehood in violation of Canon 10, Rule 10.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility 12 and recommending that he be
"suspended from the government military service as legal officer for a period of three months." 13 This was adopted and approved in toto by
the IBP Board of Governors on August 30, 2003.14

There is a strong public interest involved in requiring lawyers who, as officers of the court, participate in the dispensation of justice, to
behave at all times in a manner consistent with truth and honor.15 The common caricature that lawyers by and large do not feel compelled to
speak the truth and to act honestly should not become a common reality.16 To this end, Canon 10 and Rule 10.01 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility state:

CANON 10 A LAWYER OWES CANDOR, FAIRNESS, AND GOOD FAITH TO THE COURT.

Rule 10.01 A lawyer shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court; nor shall he mislead, or allow the Court
to be misled by any artifice.

By stating untruthfully in open court that complainant had agreed to withdraw his lawsuits, Atty. Doronilla breached these peremptory tenets
of ethical conduct. Not only that, he violated the lawyer's oath to "do no falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court," of which Canon
10 and Rule 10.01 are but restatements. His act infringed on every lawyer's duty to "never seek to mislead the judge or any judicial officer
by an artifice or false statement of fact or law."17
Atty. Doronilla's unethical conduct was compounded, moreover, by his obstinate refusal to acknowledge the impropriety of what he had
done. From the very beginning of this administrative case, Atty. Doronilla maintained the untenable position that he had done nothing wrong
in the hearing of Civil Case No. Q-99-38778. He persisted in doing so even after having admitted that he had, in that hearing, spoken of an
agreement that did not in truth exist. Rather than express remorse for that regrettable incident, Atty. Doronilla resorted to an ill-conceived
attempt to evade responsibility, professing that the falsehood had not been meant for the information of Judge Daway but only as "a sort of
question" to complainant regarding a "pending proposal" to settle the case. 18

The explanation submitted by Atty. Doronilla, remarkable only for its speciousness, 19 cannot absolve him. If anything, it leads us to suspect
an unseemly readiness on his part to obfuscate plain facts for the unworthy purpose of escaping his just deserts. There is in his favor,
though, a presumption of good faith20 which keeps us from treating the incongruity of his proffered excuse as an indication of mendacity.
Besides, in the light of his avowal that his only aim was "to settle the case amicably among comrades in arms without going to
trial,"21 perhaps it is not unreasonable to assume that what he really meant to say was that he had intended the misrepresentation as a
gambit to get the proposed agreement on the table, as it were. But even if that had been so, it would have been no justification for speaking
falsely in court. There is nothing in the duty of a lawyer to foster peace among disputants that, in any way, makes it necessary under any
circumstances for counsel to state as a fact that which is not true. A lawyer's duty to the court to employ only such means as are consistent
with truth and honor22 forbids recourse to such a tactic. Thus, even as we give Atty. Doronilla the benefit of the doubt and accept as true his
avowed objective of getting the parties to settle the case amicably, we must call him to account for resorting to falsehood as a means to that
end.

Atty. Doronilla's offense is within the ambit of Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, which in part declares:

A member of the bar may be disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any deceit x x x or for
any violation of the oath which he is required to take before admission to practice x x x.

The suspension referred to in the foregoing provision means only suspension from the practice of law. For this reason, we disagree with the
IBP's recommendation for Atty. Doronilla's suspension from the government military service. After all, the only purpose of this administrative
case is to determine Atty. Doronilla's liability as a member of the legal profession, not his liability as a legal officer in the military service.
Thus, it would be improper for us to order, as a penalty for his breach of legal ethics and the lawyer's oath, his suspension from
employment in the Judge Advocate General's Service. Of course, suspension from employment as a military legal officer may well follow as
a consequence of his suspension from the practice of law but that should not be reason for us to impose it as a penalty for his
professional misconduct. We would be going beyond the purpose of this proceeding were we to do so. Therefore, we shall treat the IBP's
recommendation as one for suspension from the practice of law.

At any rate, we are not inclined to adopt the IBP's recommendation on the duration of Atty. Doronilla's suspension. We need to consider a
few circumstances that mitigate his liability somewhat. First, we give him credit for exhibiting enough candor to admit, during the
investigation, the falsity of the statement he had made in Judge Daway's courtroom. Second, the absence of material damage to
complainant may also be considered as a mitigating circumstance. 23 And finally, since this is Atty. Doronilla's first offense, he is entitled to
some measure of forbearance.24

Nonetheless, his unrepentant attitude throughout the conduct of this administrative case tells us that a mere slap on the wrist is definitely
not enough. Atty. Doronilla, it seems, needs time away from the practice of law to recognize his error and to purge himself of the
misbegotten notion that an effort to compromise justifies the sacrifice of truthfulness in court.

WHEREFORE, Atty. Antonio G. Doronilla, Jr. is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for TWO MONTHS. He is WARNED that a
repetition of the same or similar misconduct shall be dealt with more severely.

Let a copy of this Resolution be attached to his personal record and copies furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Office of the
Court Administrator, the Chief-of-Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Commanding General of the AFP Judge Advocate
General's Service.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, Chairperson, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Azcuna, Garcia, J.J., concur.

Footnotes

1
The case, entitled "Renato M. Maligaya v. Octavio S. Dauz, et al.," was filed and heard in Branch 90, Regional Trial Court of
Quezon City.

2
Rollo, p. 8 (Aside from this damage suit, complainant filed other cases against the military officers. The military, on the other hand,
had instituted an administrative case against complainant prior to his retirement. The case was dismissed when he retired from the
service in 1999. Id., p. 186).

3
Id., p. 9.

4
Docketed as CBD Case No. 02-955.

5
Rollo, p. 3.
6
Commissioner Lydia A. Navarro.

7
TSN, July 11, 2002, pp. 28, 35, 60, & 78.

8
ATTY. Doronilla:

Actually there is no agreement but there was a proposal to dismiss and to withdraw all the cases. There was no agreement.
TSN July 11, 2002, p. 105;

COMM. NAVARRO:

An answer. His question was, was there an agreement in the cases pending before Judge Daway and he answered, there
was no agreement.

ATTY. DORONILLA:

There was no agreement. Id., p. 106;

ATTY. DORONILLA:

Q: Is it true that in the hearing of July 11, 2002 on page 105 you said actually that there was no agreement but there was
proposal to dismiss and to withdraw all the cases?

A: There was no agreement. TSN, December 10, 2002, p. 43;

COMM. NAVARRO:

Has there been an agreement?

ATTY. DORONILLA:

There was no agreement as I said in an agreement there must be two parties to have it consummated (sic). Our part is
already done Id., p. 52.

9
Rollo, p. 217.
10
Id.

11
Id. p. 218.

12
Infra.

13
Report and Recommendation, p. 6.

14
Per Resolution No. XVI-2003-37.

15
Sabayle v. Tandayag, A.C. No. 140-J, 8 March 1988, 158 SCRA 497, 506.

16
Id.

17
Rules of Court, Rule 138, Sec. 20.

18
Q: What made you make a manifestation saying (sic) that there was an agreement?

A: That manifestation is a sort of question to the plaintiff. It is not giving information to the court. TSN July 11, 2002, p. 102

Q: What do you mean when you say (sic) there was an agreement?

A: It was only a question propounded to the plaintiff on the premise that there was a pending proposal to agree on those withdrawal
(sic). To withdraw the case before the separation board and the case before Judge Daway (sic). TSN, July 11, 2002, pp. 106-107.

The contention if taken literally was preposterous, for he had quite obviously been addressing Judge Daway when he said there
19

was an agreement, and that assertion could not have been construed as other than a statement of fact.

20
Cuaresma v. Daquis, No. L-35113, 25 March 1975, 63 SCRA 257, 260.

21
Supra note 9.

22
Rules of Court, Rule 138, Sec. 20 (d); Pangan v. Ramos, A.C. No. 1053, 7 September 1979, 93 SCRA 87, 89.

23
Cailing v. Espinosa, 103 Phil. 1165 (1958).
24
See e.g., Whitson v. Atienza, A.C. No. 5535, 28 August 2003, 410 SCRA 10; Alcantara v. Atty. Pefianco, 441 Phil. 514
(2002); Fernandez v. Atty. Novero, Jr., 441 Phil. 506 (2002).