March 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

Here are selected March 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:

Court personnel; administrative proceedings; desistance. Complainant Plaza manifested before the Court his intention to desist from pursuing the case.  However, we remind complainant that the discretion whether to continue with the proceedings rests exclusively with the Court, notwithstanding the complainant’s intention to desist.  This Court looks with disfavor at affidavits of desistance filed by complainants, especially if done as an afterthought.  Contrary to what the parties might have believed, withdrawal of the complaint does not have the legal effect of exonerating respondent from any administrative disciplinary sanction.  It does not operate to divest this Court of jurisdiction to determine the truth behind the matter stated in the complaint.  The Court’s disciplinary authority cannot be dependent on or frustrated by private arrangements between parties.  An administrative complaint against an official or employee of the judiciary cannot simply be withdrawn by a complainant who suddenly claims a change of mind.  Otherwise, the prompt and fair administration of justice, as well as the discipline of court personnel, would be undermined. Ryan S. Plaza, Clerk of Court, Municipal Trial Court, Argao, Cebu vs. Atty. Marcelina R. Amamio, Clerk of Court, Genoveva R. Vasquez, Legal Researcher and Floramay Patalinhug, Court Stenographer, all of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 26, Argao, Cebu, A.M. No. P-08-2559, March 19, 2010.

Court personnel; dishonesty. Complainant stated that respondent Atty. Cariño may not have disclosed to the Supreme Court, in the course of her application as Clerk of Court, her pending administrative and criminal cases before the Ombudsman. Respondent Atty. Cariño vehemently denied the allegations against her.  She claimed that she was just being truthful when she answered “No” to item number 37(a) of her Personal Data Sheet (PDS) which states:  “Have you ever been formally charged?”  She admitted that she was aware of the two (2) complaints filed against her and her former Regional Election Director before the Ombudsman.  She, however, pointed out that these cases are still in the preliminary investigation and pre-charge stages, since probable cause has yet to be determined by the investigating officers and as such, should not be considered as formal charges yet.

If we but look at the attachments to the complaint itself, it is evident that at the time respondent Atty. Cariño was applying for the position of Clerk of Court, she had not yet been “formally charged” administratively or criminally. Clearly, there were no final dispositions of the cases yet.  In fact, the complainant even stated in his Complaint that those cases were not yet resolved by the Ombudsman. Thus, it is only after the issuance of the resolution finding probable cause and filing of the information in court that she can be considered formally charged.  In fact, the reckoning point is the filing of the information with the written authority or approval of the Ombudsman. To rule otherwise would subject herein respondent, or any civil servant for that matter, to extreme hardships considering that a government official or employee formally charged is deprived of some rights/privileges, i.e., obtaining loans from the Government Service Insurance System or other government-lending institutions, delay in the release of retirement benefits, disqualification from being nominated or appointed to any judicial post and, in some instances, prohibition to travel. Crisostomo M. Plopinio vs. Atty. Liza Zabala-Cariño, etc., A.M. No. P-08-2458, March 22, 2010.

Court personnel; dishonesty. Clerks of court, in particular, are the chief administrative officers of their respective courts.  They must show competence, honesty and probity, having been charged with safeguarding the integrity of the court and its proceedings. Furthermore, they are judicial officers entrusted with the role of performing delicate functions with regard to the collection of legal fees, and are expected to correctly and effectively implement regulations. Hence, as custodians of court funds and revenues, they have always been reminded of their duty to immediately deposit the various funds received by them to the authorized government depositories for they are not supposed to keep funds in their custody.

The clerk of court is primarily accountable for all funds that are collected for the court, whether personally received by him or by a duly appointed cashier who is under his supervision and control.  As the custodian of court funds, revenues, records, properties and premises, he is liable for any loss, shortage, destruction or impairment of said funds and properties. A clerk of court found short of money accountabilities may be dismissed from the service.

In this case, the financial audit conducted in the MTC of Bongabon, Nueva Ecija showed that respondent incurred cash shortages. While he was able to reduce his accountability by producing the required documents, he could not account for the balance. This indicated two things: (1) respondent’s gross negligence and very poor management of the records of collected fees and (2) his failure to account for the remainder which gave rise to the presumption that he misappropriated the same for his personal use. He failed to fully account for the funds despite the ample time he was given to do so.  His continued failure to remit court funds and to give a satisfactory explanation for such failure constitutes grave misconduct, dishonesty and even malversation. These, as well as his gross negligence, are all grave offenses that merit the supreme penalty of dismissal even for the first offense. Office of the Court Administrator vs. Macario C. Villanueva, etc., A.M. No. P-04-1819, March 22, 2010.

Court personnel; dishonesty.  Section 22(a), (b) and (c) of Rule XIV of the Omnibus Rules Implementing Book V of Executive Order No. 292, and Other Pertinent Civil Service Laws, classifies Gross Neglect of Duty, Dishonesty, and Grave Misconduct as grave offenses. The penalty for each of these offenses is dismissal even for the first offense.

The long delay in the remittance of the court’s funds, as well as the unexplained shortages that remained unaccounted for, raises grave doubts regarding the trustworthiness and integrity of Atty. Caballero.  Her failure to remit the funds in due time constitutes gross dishonesty and gross misconduct. It diminishes the faith of the people in the Judiciary.   Dishonesty, being in the nature of a grave offense, carries the extreme penalty of dismissal from the service even if committed for the first time.  Office of the Court Administrator vs. Jocelyn G. Caballero, Clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court, Kidapawan, North Cotabato, A.M. No. P-05-2064, March 2, 2010.

Court personnel; duty to deposit authorized government depositories immediately. Time and again, we have reminded court personnel tasked with collections of court funds, such as Clerks of Courts and cash clerks, to deposit immediately with authorized government depositories the various funds they have collected, because they are not authorized to keep funds in their custody.  In this case, respondents violated Supreme Court (SC) Circular No. 50-95, which commands that all fiduciary collections shall be deposited immediately by the Clerk of Court concerned, upon receipt thereof, with an authorized government depositary bank.  Section B (4) of SC Circular No. 50-95, on the collection and deposit of court fiduciary funds, mandates that all collections from bail bonds, rental deposits, and other fiduciary funds shall be deposited within twenty-four (24) hours by the Clerk of Court concerned, upon receipt thereof with the Land Bank of the Philippines.  Along the same vein, SC Circular Nos. 13-92 and 5-93 provide the guidelines for the proper administration of court funds. SC Circular No. 13-92 commands that all fiduciary collections “shall be deposited immediately by the Clerk of Court concerned, upon receipt thereof, with an authorized government depositary bank.” Office of the Court Administrator vs. Atty. Mary Ann Paduganan-Peñaranda, Office of the Clerk of Court, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental and Ms. Jocelyn MedianteA.M. No. P-07-2355, March 19, 2010.

Court personnel; duty to deposit funds; belated compliance cannot erase liability. Atty. Caballero’s belated turnover of cash deposited with her is inexcusable and will not exonerate her from liability.  Clerks of Court are presumed to know their duty to immediately deposit with the authorized government depositories the various funds they receive, for they are not supposed to keep funds in their personal possession.   Even undue delay in the remittances of the amounts that they collect at the very least constitutes misfeasance.  Although Atty. Caballero subsequently deposited her other cash accountabilities with respect to the Fiduciary Fund, she was nevertheless liable for failing to immediately deposit the said collections into the court’s funds.  Her belated remittance will not free her from punishment. Even restitution of the whole amount cannot erase her administrative liability.   More so, in the instant case, she failed to fully comply with all the Court’s directives.  Clearly, her failure to deposit the said amount upon collection was prejudicial to the court, which did not earn interest income on the said amount or was not able to otherwise use the said funds.  Office of the Court Administrator vs. Jocelyn G. Caballero, Clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court, Kidapawan, North Cotabato, A.M. No. P-05-2064, March 2, 2010.

Court personnel; grave misconduct. Noel and Amelia are liable for violation of Sec. 1, Canon I of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel, which pertinently provides that court personnel shall not use their official position to secure unwarranted benefits, privileges, or exemption for themselves or for others.  By misrepresenting they could help influence either the outcome of a case or set a case for agenda by the Court En Banc for which they demanded and received payment, Noel and Amelia committed grave misconduct.  It shows the corruption of Noel and Amelia, who used their station or character as Court employees in misrepresenting they could set a case for agenda by the Court En Banc and procuring financial benefits for that vicious act. Re: Complaints of Mrs. Corazon S. Salvador against Spouses Noel and Amelia SeraficoA.M. No. 2008-20-SC, March 15, 2010.

Court personnel; gross neglect of duty. Shortages in the amounts to be remitted and the years of delay in the actual remittances constitute neglect of duty, for which Atty. Caballero should be administratively liable –more so, since she failed to give a satisfactory explanation for said shortages.

Clerks of court perform a delicate function as designated custodians of the court’s funds, revenues, records, properties, and premises.  As such, they are generally regarded as treasurers, accountants, guards, and physical plant managers thereof.  It is the clerks of court’s duty to faithfully perform their duties and responsibilities as such, to the end that there is full compliance with their function: that of being the custodians of the court’s funds and revenues, records, properties, and premises.  They are the chief administrative officers of their respective courts.  It is also their duty to ensure that the proper procedures are followed in the collection of cash bonds.   Clerks of court are officers of the law who perform vital functions in the prompt and sound administration of justice. Their office is the hub of adjudicative and administrative orders, processes and concerns. They are liable for any loss, shortage, destruction, or impairment of such funds and property.

It is the duty of the clerks of court to perform their responsibilities faithfully, so that they can fully comply with the circulars on deposits of collections. They are reminded to deposit immediately, with authorized government depositaries, the various funds they have collected, because they are not authorized to keep those funds in their custody. The unwarranted failure to fulfill these responsibilities deserves administrative sanction, and not even the full payment of the collection shortages will exempt the accountable officer from liability.

These circulars are mandatory in nature and designed to promote full accountability for government funds; no protestation of good faith can override such mandatory nature.  By failing to properly remit the cash collections constituting public funds, Atty. Caballero violated the trust reposed in her as disbursement officer of the judiciary.  Her failure to explain the fund shortage satisfactorily and to restitute the shortage and fully comply with the Court’s directives leave us no choice but to hold her liable for gross neglect of duty and gross dishonesty. Hence, for the delay in the remittance of cash collections in violation of Supreme Court Circulars No. 5-93 and No. 13-92, and for her failure to keep proper records of all collections and remittances, Atty. Caballero is found guilty of Gross Neglect of Duty punishable, even for the first offense, by dismissal.  Office of the Court Administrator vs. Jocelyn G. Caballero, clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court, Kidapawan, North Cotabato, A.M. No. P-05-2064, March 2, 2010.

Court personnel; guilty of two or more charges; Lesser offense an aggravating circumstance. Grave misconduct is punishable with dismissal from the service for the first offense under Sec. 52 (A)(3) of the Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service.  Moreover, under Sec. 55 of said Rules, if the respondent is guilty of two (2) or more charges or counts, the penalty to be imposed should be the penalty for the most serious charge, and the rest considered as aggravating.  It is also worthy to note that the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel provides that “all provisions of law, Civil Service rules, and issuances of the Supreme Court or regulating the conduct of public officers and employees applicable to the Judiciary are deemed incorporated into this Code.”  Conformably, in the instant case, the penalty for grave misconduct, which is the more serious charge, must be applied, and the charge of disgraceful and immoral conduct considered as merely an aggravating circumstance.  Re: Complaints of Mrs. Corazon S. Salvador against Spouses Noel and Amelia Serafico, A.M. No. 2008-20-SC, March 15, 2010.

Court personnel; immorality. The investigation established that both Noel and Amelia had subsisting marriages when they got married.  It is, thus, apparent that both had legal impediments to marrying when they married each other.

While the trial court is the proper forum to rule their subsequent marriage as bigamous, from a criminal point of view, Noel and Amelia are nonetheless liable for immorality by the mere fact of living together and contracting a subsequent marriage before their respective first marriages were judicially dissolved.  In effect, Noel, who was still married to Rosemarie Jimeno, and Amelia, who was still married to Marc Michael A. Nacianceno, not only contracted an apparently bigamous marriage, but also cohabited as man and wife in violation of their prior marital status and obligations solemnly assumed before God and man.  Indeed, we find that Noel and Amelia made a mockery of marriage, which is a sacred institution demanding respect and dignity.  Their act of contracting a second marriage while their respective first marriages were still in place is contrary to honesty, justice, decency, and morality.

For marrying each other despite their subsisting prior marriages, Noel and Amelia acted reprehensibly and are guilty of disgraceful and immoral conduct.  They are, thus, liable to suspension for at least six months under Section 52(A)(15) of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service.  Re: Complaints of Mrs. Corazon S. Salvador against Spouses Noel and Amelia SeraficoA.M. No. 2008-20-SC, March 15, 2010.

Court personnel; misconduct. The contention of the Clerk of Court that there was no danger to the building and the records since the raffle draw was merely held at the ground floor lobby and that those who attended the raffle draw were decent people, majority of whom are women, is untenable.  Time and again, the Court has always stressed in pertinent issuances and decisions that courts are temples of justice, the honor and dignity of which must be upheld and that their use shall not expose judicial records to danger of loss or damage.  So strict is the Court about this that it has declared that the prohibition against the use of Halls of Justice for purposes other than that for which they have been built extends to their immediate vicinity including their grounds.  If the building housing the Argao Hall of Justice is such an important historical landmark, all the more reason why activities, such as Sara Lee raffle draw, should not be held within.  At most, the said Hall of Justice could have been made part of a regular local tour, to be viewed at designated hours, which viewing shall be confined to certain areas not intrusive to court operations and records. Ryan S. Plaza, Clerk of Court Municipal Trial Court, Argao, Cebu vs. Atty. Marcelina R. Amamio, Clerk of Court, Genoveva R. Vasquez, Legal Researcher and Floramay Patalinhug, Court Stenographer, all of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 26, Argao, Cebu, A.M. No. P-08-2559, March 19, 2010.

Court personnel; neglect of duty. It is the duty of clerks of court to perform their responsibilities faithfully, so that they can fully comply with the circulars on deposits of collections.  Delay in the remittances of collections constitutes neglect of duty.  The failure to remit judiciary collections on time deprives the court of the interest that may be earned if the amounts are deposited in a bank. Under the Civil Service Rules and the Omnibus Rules implementing it, simple neglect of duty is a less grave offense penalized with suspension for one month and one day to six months for the first offense, and dismissal for the second offense.  Office of the Court Administrator vs. Atty. Mary Ann Paduganan-Peñaranda, Office of the Clerk of Court, Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental and Ms. Jocelyn MedianteA.M. No. P-07-2355, March 19, 2010.

Court personnel; simple misconduct. Bengson’s act of dealing with Hernando, more particularly of offering her services to facilitate the titling of Hernando’s property, whether directly or through another, certainly fell short of the above yardstick or standard for court employees and personnel.  She definitely had no business indulging, even indirectly, in the processing or the titling of the property.

Now, in Dela Cruz v. Zapico, this Court reiterated that misconduct generally means wrongful, unlawful conduct, motivated by a premeditated, obstinate or intentional purpose.  Thus, any transgression or deviation from the established norm, whether it be work-related or not, amounts to misconduct.  Undeniably, Bengson’s solicitation and misrepresentation amounted to Simple Misconduct. Priscilla L. Hernando vs. Juliana Y Bengson, etc., A.M. No. P-09-2686, March 10, 2010.

Judges; gross inefficiency. Section 15, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution mandates lower courts to decide or resolve cases or matters for decision or final resolution within three (3) months from date of submission.  Failure to decide cases within the 90-day reglementary period may warrant imposition of administrative sanctions on the erring judge.

Canon 3, Rule 3.05 of the Code of Judicial Conduct enjoins judges to dispose of their business promptly and to decide cases within the required period.  Thus, all cases or matters must be decided or resolved by all lower courts within a period of three (3) months from submission.

Furthermore, the Court, in Administrative Circular No. 3-99 dated January 15, 1999, requires all judges to scrupulously observe the periods prescribed in the Constitution for deciding cases, because failure to comply therewith violates the constitutional right of the parties to speedy disposition of their cases.

Likewise, Administrative Circular No. 28, dated July 3, 1989, expressly provides that:

(3) x x x Lack of transcript of stenographic notes shall not be a valid reason to interrupt or suspend the period for deciding the case x x x.

Under Section 9(1), Rule 140, Revised Rules of Court, undue delay in rendering a decision constitutes a less serious charge punishable under Section 11(b) of the same Rule by either suspension from office without salary and other benefits for not less than one (1) month but not more than three (3) months, or a fine of more than Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00) but not exceeding Twenty Thousand Pesos (P20,000.00).

Because Judge Emuslan could not proffer any valid excuse, his failure to decide the 43 cases translates to gross inefficiency in the performance of his duties.  He should be held administratively liable. Re: Cases Submitted for decision before Hon. Meliton G. Emuslan, former Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 47, Urdaneta City, Pangasinan, A.M. No. RTJ-10-2226, March 22, 2010.

Judges; gross misconduct. This is a case about the improper conduct of an MTC judge who kept properties owned by the complainant while conducting a preliminary investigation.  During the ocular inspection, Judge Ocampo allegedly took pieces of antique, including a marble bust of Spelmans’ mother, a flower pot, a statue, and a copper scale of justice.  A week later, Judge Ocampo went back and further took six Oakwood chairs and its table, four gold champagne glasses, and a deer horn chandelier. Judge Ocampo denied the charge, pointing out that Spelmans’ wife, Villan (the complainant in that theft case), gave him certain household items for safekeeping before she filed the case of theft against Rencio.

Respondent judge should be made accountable for gross misconduct constituting violations of the New Code of Judicial Conduct, specifically Section 6 of Canon 1, Section 1 of Canon 2, and Section 1 of Canon 4. From the circumstances, his acts were motivated by malice.  He was not a warehouseman for personal properties of litigants in his court.  He certainly would have kept Spelmans’ properties had the latter not filed a complaint against him.  He was guilty of covetousness.  It affected the performance of his duties as an officer of the court and tainted the judiciary’s integrity.  He should be punished accordingly. Roland Ernest Marie Jose Spelmans vs. Judge Gaydifredo T. Ocampo, Municipal Trial Court, Polomolok, South Cotabato, A.M. No. MTJ-07-1663, March 26, 2010.

Judges; simple misconduct. There was no showing from Judge Barillo that he exerted any effort at all to ascertain the correct rule or procedure regarding the lifting of suspension of lawyers, or to determine if the suspension of Atty. Paras had indeed already been lifted before the said counsel was allowed to resume his practice of law.  Significantly, upon verification by the Court of the status of the suspension of Atty. Paras, it appeared that, based on the records of the Office of the Bar Confidant, the suspension imposed on Atty. Paras in A.C. No. 3066 was yet to be lifted.  In our opinion, Judge Barillo was negligent in failing to confirm such fact.

Still, the Court is not convinced that Judge Barillo should be held liable for gross misconduct and gross ignorance of the law absent any evidence showing outright bad faith.  It may truly be said that the various faux pas committed by Judge Barillo are examples of poor judgment and negligence.  However, equally important to note is the fact that there is no allegation, much less a genuine showing, that Judge Barillo was impelled by bad faith, dishonesty, hatred or some other corrupt motive in committing the acts for which he was charged.  Neither were allegations of corruption nor imputations of pecuniary benefit ever asserted against him.

Thus, contrary to the findings of the OCA, the transgressions committed by Judge Barillo in this case are not flagrant enough or motivated by any ill motive so as to be classified as grave misconduct or to warrant a finding of gross ignorance of the law.  Nevertheless, the Court rules that Judge Barillo is guilty of simple misconduct in view of the commission of acts which subjected the MTC to distrust and accusations of partiality.  Hon. Hector B. Barillo, Acting Presiding Judge, MTC, Guihulngan, Negros Oriental vs. Hon. Ralph Lantion, et al./Walter J. Aragones vs. Hon. Hector B. Barillo, Acting Presiding Judge, MTC, Guihulngan, Negros, G.R. No. 159117/A.M. No. MTJ-10-1752, March 10, 2010.

Lawyer’s liability for filing complaint with Ombudsman.  In our view, the complainants’ errors do not belong to the genre of plain and simple errors that lawyers commit in the practice of their profession.  Their plain disregard, misuse and misrepresentation of constitutional provisions constitute serious misconduct that reflects on their fitness for continued membership in the Philippine Bar.  At the very least, their transgressions are blatant violations of Rule 10.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides:  “Rule 10.02.  A lawyer shall not knowingly misquote or misrepresent the contents of a paper, the language or the argument of opposing counsel, or the text of a decision or authority, or knowingly cite as a law a provision already rendered inoperative by repeal or amendment, or assert as a fact that which has not been proved.”

To emphasize the importance of requiring lawyers to act candidly and in good faith, an identical provision is found in Cannon 22 of the Canons of Professional Ethics.  Moreover, lawyers are sworn to “do no falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court…” before they are even admitted to the Bar.  All these the complainants appear to have seriously violated.

In the interest of due process and fair play, the complainants Lozano should be heard, in relation to their criminal complaint before the Ombudsman against retired Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. and retired Associate Justice Ma. Alicia Austria-Martinez, on why they should not be penalized as members of the Bar and as officers of this Court, for their open disregard of the plain terms of the Constitution and the applicable laws and jurisprudence, and their misuse and misrepresentation of constitutional provisions in their criminal complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman.  Re: Subpoena Duces Tecum dated January 11, 2010 of Acting Director Aleu A. Amante, PIAB-C Office of the Ombudsman, A.M. No. 10-1-13-SC, March 2, 2010.

Lawyers; deceitful conduct. The overt act in arranging the meeting between Judge Dizon and complainants-litigants in the Coffee Shop of the East Royal Hotel made it clear that Respondent consented to Judge Dizon’s desire to ask money from the complainants-litigants for a favorable decision of their case which was pending before the sala of Judge Dizon.  The admission proved that the respondent had known all along of the illegal transaction between the judge and the complainants, and belied his feigned lack of knowledge of the delivery of the money to the judge.

The Code of Professional Responsibility enjoins an attorney from engaging in unlawful, dishonest, or deceitful conduct. Corollary to this injunction is the rule that an attorney shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the Legal Profession and support the activities of the Integrated Bar.  The respondent did not measure up to the exacting standards of the Law Profession, which demanded of him as an attorney the absolute abdication of any personal advantage that conflicted in any way, directly or indirectly, with the interest of his clients. For monetary gain, he disregarded the vow to “delay no man for money or malice” and to “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” that he made when he took the Lawyer’s Oath. He also disobeyed the explicit command to him as an attorney “to accept no compensation in connection with his client’s business except from him or with his knowledge and approval.” He conveniently ignored that the relation between him and his clients was highly fiduciary in nature and of a very delicate, exacting, and confidential character.

Verily, the respondent was guilty of gross misconduct, which is “improper or wrong conduct, the transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful in character, and implies a wrongful intent and not mere error of judgment.” Any gross misconduct of an attorney in his professional or private capacity shows him unfit to manage the affairs of others, and is a ground for the imposition of the penalty of suspension or disbarment, because good moral character is an essential qualification for the admission of an attorney and for the continuance of such privilege.  Spouses Manuel C. Rafols, Jr., et al. vs. Atty. Ricardo G. Barrios, Jr., A.C. No. 4973, March 15, 2010.

Lawyers; lifting order of suspension; guidelines. The following guidelines are to be observed in the matter of the lifting of an order suspending a lawyer from the practice of law: (1) After a finding that respondent lawyer must be suspended from the practice of law, the Court shall render a decision imposing the penalty; (2) Unless the Court explicitly states that the decision is immediately executory upon receipt thereof, respondent has 15 days within which to file a motion for reconsideration thereof.  The denial of said motion shall render the decision final and executory; (3) Upon the expiration of the period of suspension, respondent shall file a Sworn Statement with the Court, through the Office of the Bar Confidant, stating therein that he or she has desisted from the practice of law and has not appeared in any court during the period of his or her suspension; (4) Copies of the Sworn Statement shall be furnished to the Local Chapter of the IBP and to the Executive Judge of the courts where respondent has pending cases handled by him or her, and/or where he or she has appeared as counsel; (5) The Sworn Statement shall be considered as proof of respondent’s  compliance with the order of suspension; and (6) Any finding or report contrary to the statements made by the lawyer under oath shall be a ground for the imposition of a more severe punishment, or disbarment, as may be warranted.  Ligaya Maniago vs. Atty. Lourdes I. De Dios, A.C. No. 7472, March 30, 2010.

Lawyers; misconduct. The Court finds that by conniving with Gerangco in taking over the Board of Directors and the GEMASCO facilities, respondent violated the provisions of the Cooperative Code of the Philippines and the GEMASCO By-Laws.  He also violated the Lawyer’s Oath, which provides that a lawyer shall support the Constitution and obey the laws.

When respondent caused the filing of baseless criminal complaints against complainant, he violated the Lawyer’s Oath that a lawyer shall “not wittingly or willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit, nor give aid or consent to the same.”  When, after obtaining an extension of time to file comment on the complaint, respondent failed to file any and ignored this Court’s subsequent show cause order, he violated Rule 12.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which states that “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.”

The Court notes that respondent had previously been suspended from the practice of law for six months for violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility, he having been found to have received an acceptance fee and misled the client into believing that he had filed a case for her when he had not. It appears, however, that respondent has not reformed his ways.  A more severe penalty this time is thus called for.  Iluminada M. Vaflor-Fabroa Vs. Atty. Oscar Paguinto, A.C. No. 6273, March 15, 2010.

(Mon thanks Joyce Melcar T.Tan for her help in preparing this post.)