Timely Solution. This is the appropriate description for the latest issuance of the National Telecommunications Commission (“NTC”), the government agency that regulates Philippines’ telecommunications infrastructure and services. On January 30, 2014, the NTC issued Memorandum Circular (the “Circular”) Number 01-01-2014 providing guidelines for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the implementation of the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009 (Republic Act No. 9775). The release of the Circular came at an opportune time after the Philippines was reportedly included by the Virtual Global Taskforce – an international alliance of law enforcement agencies against online child abuse – as among the top ten countries with rampant cyber pornographic activities involving boys and girls between ten to fourteen years. The said report might have been the catalyst that triggered the NTC to fulfill its mandate under Section 9 of R.A. No. 9775, “to promulgate rules and regulations… which shall include among others, the installation of filtering software that will block access to or transmission of any form of child pornography.”
Here are select December 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:
Attorney; Applicability of the Code of Professional Responsibility to lawyers in government service in the discharge of their official tasks. Private respondents were charged before the Court of Tax Appeals for violation of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines, as amended. However, the CTA dismissed the case since the prosecution failed to present certified true copies of the documentary evidence submitted contrary to Section 7, Rule 130 and Section 127, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court. The Run After the Smugglers (RATS) Group, Revenue Collection Monitoring Group (RCMG), as counsel for the BOC, filed a petition for certiorari but the petition was filed beyond the reglementary period.
The Supreme Court held that the display of patent violations of even the elementary rules shows that the case against respondents was doomed by design from the start. This stance taken by the lawyers in government service rouses the Court’s vigilance against inefficiency in the administration of justice. Verily, the lawyers representing the offices under the executive branch should be reminded that they still remain as officers of the court from whom a high sense of competence and fervor is expected. The Court will not close its eyes to this sense of apathy in RATS lawyers, lest the government’s goal of revenue enhancement continues to suffer the blows of smuggling and similar activities. The Court reminded the lawyers in the BOC that the canons embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility equally apply to lawyers in government service in the discharge of their official tasks. Thus, RATS lawyers should exert every effort and consider it their duty to assist in the speedy and efficient administration of justice. People of the Philippines v. The Hon. Juanito C. Castaneda, Jr., et al., G.R. No. 208290, December 11, 2013.
Attorney; Champertous contract. Complainants engaged the legal services of Atty. Bañez, Jr. in connection with the recovery of their properties from Fevidal. Complainants signed a contract of legal services, where they would not pay acceptance and appearance fees to Atty. Bañez Jr., but that the docket fees would instead be shared by the parties. Under the contract, complainants would pay him 50% of whatever would be recovered of the properties. Later, however, complainants terminated his services and entered into an amicable settlement with Fevidal. Atty. Bañez, Jr. opposed the withdrawal of their complaint in court. Thus, complainants filed a case against him alleging that the motion of Atty. Baez, Jr. for the recording of his attorney’s charging lien was the “legal problem” preventing them from enjoying the fruits of their property.
Section 26, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court allows an attorney to intervene in a case to protect his rights concerning the payment of his compensation. According to the discretion of the court, the attorney shall have a lien upon all judgments for the payment of money rendered in a case in which his services have been retained by the client. In this case, however, the contract for legal services is in the nature of a champertous contract – an agreement whereby an attorney undertakes to pay the expenses of the proceedings to enforce the client’s rights in exchange for some bargain to have a part of the thing in dispute. Such contracts are contrary to public policy and are thus void or inexistent. They are also contrary to Canon 16.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which states that lawyers shall not lend money to a client, except when in the interest of justice, they have to advance necessary expenses in a legal matter they are handling for the client. Thus, the Court held that Atty. Bañez, Jr. violated Canon 16.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Conchita Baltazar,et al. v. Atty. Juan B. Bañez, Jr., A.C. No. 9091, December 11, 2013.
Here are select December 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on commercial law:
Corporations; doctrine of apparent authority. The doctrine of apparent authority provides that a corporation will be estopped from denying the agent’s authority if it knowingly permits one of its officers or any other agent to act within the scope of an apparent authority, and it holds him out to the public as possessing the power to do those acts. The doctrine of apparent authority does not apply if the principal did not commit any acts or conduct which a third party knew and relied upon in good faith as a result of the exercise of reasonable prudence. Moreover, the agent’s acts or conduct must have produced a change of position to the third party’s detriment. Advance Paper Corporation and George Haw, in his capacity as President of Advance Paper Corporation v. Arma Traders Corporation, Manuel Ting, et al., G.R. No. 176897, December 11, 2013.
Corporations; doctrine of apparent authority . In People’s Aircargo and Warehousing Co., Inc. v. Court of Appeals, we ruled that the doctrine of apparent authority is applied when the petitioner, through its president Antonio Punsalan Jr., entered into the First Contract without first securing board approval. Despite such lack of board approval, petitioner did not object to or repudiate said contract, thus “clothing” its president with the power to bind the corporation. “Inasmuch as a corporate president is often given general supervision and control over corporate operations, the strict rule that said officer has no inherent power to act for the corporation is slowly giving way to the realization that such officer has certain limited powers in the transaction of the usual and ordinary business of the corporation.”
In the absence of a charter or bylaw provision to the contrary, the president is presumed to have the authority to act within the domain of the general objectives of its business and within the scope of his or her usual duties. Advance Paper Corporation and George Haw, in his capacity as President of Advance Paper Corporation v. Arma Traders Corporation, Manuel Ting, et al., G.R. No. 176897, December 11, 2013.
(Hector thanks Miracle Rodriguez and Camille Maria M. Castolo for their assistance to Lexoterica.)
Here are select November 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:
1. REVISED PENAL CODE
Conspiracy. Appellant conspired with his co-accused in killing the victim. They ganged up on the victim and took turns in stabbing and mauling him – animated by the same purpose and criminal intent to kill. Such unity of mind and purpose is shown by the twelve stab wounds and several abrasions found on different parts of the body of the victim that led to his instantaneous death. The Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that while there may be no evidence of an appreciable time that these persons agreed on the criminal resolution prior to the incident, the stabbings were not separate but were geared towards the consummation of the same end – to attack and kill the victim. Appellant’s positive identification by Candelada as one of those persons who stabbed the victim makes him criminally responsible as principal by indispensable cooperation. People of the Philippines v. Basilio Villarmea y Echavez, et al, G.R. No. 200029, November 13, 2013.
Murder; imposable penalty; damages to be awarded. When death occurs due to a crime, the following damages may be awarded: (1) civil indemnity ex delicto for the death of the victim; (2) actual or compensatory damages; (3) moral damages; (4) exemplary damages; and (5) temperate damages.” The heirs of the victim are likewise entitled to moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00. The award of exemplary damages in the amount of P30,000.00, in view of the aggravating circumstance of treachery, is likewise proper and in line with prevailing jurisprudence. Moreover, while actual damages cannot be awarded since there was no evidence of actual expenses incurred for the death of the victim, in lieu thereof, the sum of P25,000.00 may be granted, as it is hereby granted, by way of temperate damages as it cannot be denied that the heirs of the [victim] suffered pecuniary loss although the exact amount was not proved. In addition, all damages awarded shall earn interest at the rate of 6% per annum from date of finality of the decision until fully paid. People of the Philippines v. Andy Zulueta, a.k.a. Bogarts,G.R. No. 192183, November 11, 2013.
Qualified theft; grave abuse of confidence. To warrant the conviction and, hence, imposition of the penalty for qualified theft, there must be an allegation in the information and proof that there existed between the offended party and the accused such high degree of confidence or that the stolen goods have been entrusted to the custody or vigilance of the accused. In other words, where the accused had never been vested physical access to, or material possession of, the stolen goods, it may not be said that he or she exploited such access or material possession thereby committing such grave abuse of confidence in taking the property. Without the circumstance of a grave abuse of confidence and considering that the use of force in breaking the door was not alleged in the Information, petitioner can only be held accountable for the crime of simple theft under Art. 308 in relation to Art. 309 of the RPC. Ryan Viray v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 205180, November 11, 2013.
Here are select November 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:
Attorney; Accountability for Money Received from Client. Atty. Lawsin undertook to process the registration and eventually deliver, within a period of 6 months, the certificate of title over a certain parcel of land (subject land) in favor of complainant acting as the representative of the Heirs of the late Isabel Segovia. Atty. Lawsin received from complainant the amounts of P15,000 and P39,000 to cover for the litigation and land registration expenses, respectively. Atty. Lawsin, however, failed to fulfil his undertaking and failed to return the money to complainant. The Supreme Court held that Atty. Lawsin’s failure to properly account for and duly return his client’s money despite due demand is tantamount to a violation of Rules 16.01 and 16.03, Canon 16 of the Code. Complainant’s purported act of “maligning” him does not justify the latter’s failure to properly account for and return his client’s money upon due demand. Verily, a lawyer’s duty to his client is one essentially imbued with trust so much so that it is incumbent upon the former to exhaust all reasonable efforts towards its faithful compliance. Azucena Segovia-Ribaya v. Atty. Bartolome C. Lawsin, A.C. No. 7965, November 13, 2013.
Attorney; Administrative Proceedings; Sole Issue. Complainants filed a complaint for dishonesty against respondent, a retired judge, for knowingly making untruthful statements in the complaint he filed against them. The Supreme Court held that in administrative cases, the only issue within the ambit of the Court’s disciplinary authority is whether a lawyer is fit to remain a member of the Bar. Other issues are proper subjects of judicial action. On its face, the 12 September 2006 complaint filed by the Spouses Williams against Atty. Enriquez does not merit an administrative case. In order for the Court to determine whether Atty. Enriquez is guilty of dishonesty, the issue of ownership must first be settled. The issue of ownership of real property must be settled in a judicial, not administrative, case. Sps. David Williams and Marissa Williams v. Atty. Rudy T. Enriquez, A.C. No. 7329, November 27, 2013.
Here are select October 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on tax law:
National Internal Revenue Code; income tax; creditable withholding tax; claims for tax credit or refund; requisites. A taxpayer claiming for a tax credit or refund of creditable withholding tax must comply with the following requisites: (1) The claim must be filed with the Commissioner of Internal Revenue within the two-year period from the date of payment of the tax; (2) It must be shown on the return of the recipient that the income received was declared as part of the gross income; and (3) The fact of withholding is established by a copy of a statement duly issued by the payor to the payee showing the amount paid and the amount of tax withheld. The first requirement is based on section 229 of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997 which provides that “no such suit or proceeding shall be filed after the expiration of two years from the date of payment of the tax or penalty regardless of any supervening cause that may arise after payment.” The second and third requirements are based on Section 10 of Revenue Regulation No. 6-85 which provides that a claim will prosper only “when it is shown on the return that the income payment received has been declared as part of the gross income and the fact of withholding is established by a copy of the Withholding Tax Statement duly issued by the payor to the payee showing the amount paid and the amount of tax withheld therefrom.” Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Team [Philippines] Operations Corporation (formerly Mirant [Philippines] Operations Corporation), G.R. No. 185728. October 16, 2013.
Here are select October 2013 cases on legal and judicial ethics:
Attorney; Gross Immoral Conduct. Respondent Pedreña, a Public Attorney, was charged for sexual harassment. The Supreme Court held that the records show that the respondent rubbed the complainant’s right leg with his hand; tried to insert his finger into her firmly closed hand; grabbed her hand and forcibly placed it on his crotch area; and pressed his finger against her private part. Given the circumstances in which he committed them, his acts were not merely offensive and undesirable but repulsive, disgraceful and grossly immoral. They constituted misconduct on the part of any lawyer. In this regard, immoral conduct is gross when it is so corrupt as to constitute a criminal act, or so unprincipled as to be reprehensible to a high degree, or when committed under such scandalous or revolting circumstances as to shock the community’s sense of decency. Atty. Pedreña’s misconduct was aggravated by the fact that he was then a Public Attorney mandated to provide free legal service to indigent litigants, and by the fact that complainant was then such a client. He also disregarded his oath as a public officer to serve others and to be accountable at all times, because he thereby took advantage of her vulnerability as a client then in desperate need of his legal assistance. Thus, respondent was meted out the penalty of suspension from the practice of law for two (2) years. Jocelyn De Leon v. Atty. Tyrone Pedrena, A.C. No. 9401, October 22, 2013.