June 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

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

Attoney; grossly immoral act. Respondent’ acts of converting his secretary into a mistress; contracting two marriages with Shirley and Leny, are grossly immoral which no civilized society in the world can countenance. The subsequent detention and torture of the complainant is gross misconduct which only a beast may be able to do. In fine, by engaging himself in acts which are grossly immoral and acts which constitute gross misconduct, respondent has ceased to possess the qualifications of a lawyer. Rosario T. Mecaral vs. Atty. Danilo S. Velasquez, A.C. No. 8392, June 29, 2010.

Attorney; representation within bounds of the law. Canon 19 of the Code provides that a lawyer shall represent his client with zeal within the bounds of the law. For this reason, Rule 15.07 of the Code requires a lawyer to impress upon his client compliance with the law and principles of fairness. A lawyer must employ only fair and honest means to attain the lawful objectives of his client. It is his duty to counsel his clients to use peaceful and lawful methods in seeking justice and refrain from doing an intentional wrong to their adversaries. Rural Bank of Calape, Inc. (RBCI), Bohol vs. Atty. James Benedict Florido, A.C. No. 5736, June 18, 2010.

Court personnel; dishonesty and falsification of public document. Dishonesty is defined as intentionally making a false statement on any material fact in securing one’s examination, appointment, or registration. Dishonesty is a serious offense which reflects a person’s character and exposes the moral decay which virtually destroys honor, virtue, and integrity. It is a malevolent act that has no place in the judiciary, as no other office in the government service exacts a greater demand for moral righteousness from an employee than a position in the judiciary. A birth certificate, being a public document, serves as prima facie evidence of filiation. The making of a false statement therein constitutes dishonesty and falsification of a public document. Anonymous vs. Emma B. Curamen, A.M. No. 08-2549. June 18, 2010.

Court personnel; gross misconduct. Pagulayan indeed committed the transgression Judge Beltran charged. What Pagulayan did is the nightmare of every decisionmaker and magistrate who is usually the last to know that somebody has used his or her name to ask for money – “para kay Fiscal o para kay Judge” as mulcters reputedly always say. Pagulayan’s misconduct, it must be stressed, brought dishonor to the administration of justice in particular and, to the public service in general. Indeed, Pagulayan failed to live up to the standards of honesty and integrity required in the public service. In the words of the Constitution, public office is a public trust and Pagulayan betrayed this trust. Under Civil Service rules, gross misconduct is a grave offense and punishable by dismissal. Judge Orlando D. Beltran vs. Vilma C. Pagulayan, Interpreter III, RTC, Branch 2, Tuguegarao City, Cagayan, A.M. No. P-05-2014, June 29, 2010.

Court personnel; simple misconduct. The acts of Rantael in taunting and uttering invectives at Caya and causing the latter physical harm by pulling her hair within the court premises, and during working hours, exhibit discourtesy and disrespect not only to her co-workers but also to the court. Such behavior of letting personal hatred affect public performance falls short of the standard laid down in A.M. No. 03-16-13-SC or the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel which took effect on 1 June 2004. Without doubt, Rantael’s actuations failed to live up to the high standard required of personnel in the judicial service. Thus, she must be held administratively liable for simple misconduct. Simple misconduct has been defined as an unacceptable behavior that transgresses the established rules of conduct for public officers. Office of the Court Administrator vs. Cristita L. Caya and Rhodora Atienza-Rantael, A.M. No. 09-2632, June 18, 2010.

Court personnel; simple neglect of duty. In Collado-Lacorte v. Rabena, Labis, Jr. v. Estañol, Reyes v. Pablico, and several other cases, the Court found process servers liable for simple neglect of duty for failure to serve court notices properly. Simple neglect of duty is failure to give proper attention to a required task. It signifies disregard of duty due to carelessness or indifference. Marie Dinah S. Tolentino-Fuentes vs. Michael Patrick A. Galindez, A.M. No. 07-2410, June 18, 2010.

Court personnel; use of prohibted drugs. As dispensers of justice, all members and employees of the Judiciary are expected to adhere strictly to the laws of the land, one of which is Republic Act No. 9165 which prohibits the use of dangerous drugs. Likewise, we can no longer countenance his manifestations of queer behavior, bordering on absurd, irrational and irresponsible, because it has greatly affected his job performance and efficiency. By using prohibited drugs, and being a front-line representative of the Judiciary, De Guzman has exposed to risk the very institution which he serves. It is only by weeding out the likes of De Guzman from the ranks that we would be able to preserve the integrity of this institution. Office of the Court Administrator Vs. Florecio Reyes, Officer-in-charge, and Rene De Guzman, Clerk, Regional Trial Court, Branch 31, Guimba, Nueva Ecija, A.M. No. P-08-2535, June 23, 2010

Judges; simple misconduct. Judge Carbonell had no authority to render a decision on the subject civil case. As clearly laid down in Circular No. 19-98, the pairing judge shall take cognizance of all cases until the assumption to duty of the regular judge. Since Judge Tabora was already present and performing her functions in court, it was improper for Judge Carbonell to have rendered a decision in Civil Case No. 6840 without the approval of the regular presiding judge. For violating Section 2, Canon 3 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct [on Impartiality], we find Judge Carbonell guilty of simple misconduct. Simple misconduct has been defined as an unacceptable behavior that transgresses the established rules of conduct for public officers. Judge Mona Lisa T. Tabora, Regional Trial Court, Br. 26 San Fernando City, La union vs. Judge Antonio Carbonell, Regional Trial Court, Branch 27 San Fernando City, La Union, A.M. No. 08-2145. June 18, 2010.

(Mon thanks Barbara Anne A. Gandionco for her help in preparing this post.)