November 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

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

Attorney; gross misconduct. Deliberate failure to pay just debts constitute gross misconduct, for which a lawyer may be sanctioned with suspension from the practice of law. Lawyers are instruments for the administration of justice and vanguards of our legal system. They must, at all times, faithfully perform their duties to society, to the bar, the courts and to their clients, which include prompt payment of financial obligations. Manuel C. Yuhico vs. Atty. Fred L. Gutierrez, A.C. No. 8391, November 23, 2010.

Attorney; gross misconduct. There is nothing ethically remiss in a lawyer who files numerous cases in different fora, as long as he does so in good faith, in accordance with the Rules, and without any ill-motive or purpose other than to achieve justice and fairness.  In the present case, however, we find that the barrage of cases filed by the respondent against his former client and others close to her was meant to overwhelm said client and to show her that the respondent does not fold easily after he was meted a penalty of one year suspension from the practice of law. Atty. Carmen Leonor M. Alcantara, et al. vs. Atty. Eduardo C. de Vera, A.C. No. 5859, November 23, 2010.

Court personnel; gross dishonesty.  Saddi’s failure to turn over up to this time the full amount of his collections and to adequately explain and present evidence thereon constitute gross dishonesty, grave misconduct, and even malversation of public funds.  The delayed remittance of his cash collections and failure to submit monthly reports of court funds he received constitute gross neglect of duty.  Dishonesty alone, being in the nature of a grave offense, carries the extreme penalty of dismissal from the service with forfeiture of retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and perpetual disqualification for reemployment in the government service.  Office of the Court Administrator vs. Gregorio B. Saddi, A.M. No. P-10-2818, November 15, 2010.

Court personnel; immorality. Immoral conduct is conduct which is “willful, flagrant, or shameless, and which shows a moral indifference to the opinion of the good and respectable members of the community.”  Abandonment of one’s wife and children, and cohabitation with a woman not his wife, constitutes immoral conduct that is subject to disciplinary action. Thelma T. Babante-Caples vs. Philbert B. Caples etc., A.M. No. HOJ-10-03, November 15, 2010

Court personnel; loafing.  The Civil Service Commission Rules define “loafing” as “frequent unauthorized absences from duty during regular office hours.” The word “frequent” connotes that the employees absent themselves from duty more than onceFirst, respondent’s claimed activities (smoking, reading newspapers and discussing legal matters with the police), even if true, would not consume as much as 2 to 3 hours of his time.  Second, any discussions of legal matters with the police should be upon the instructions of his judge.  Finally, the respondent should only read newspapers and smoke during breaktime; these activities should never be done during working hours. Exec. Judge Aurora Maqueda Roman vs. Virgilio M. Fortaleza, A.M. No. P-10-2865, November 22, 2010.

Court personnel; misconduct. The Court finds respondent guilty of violating Section 9 (b), Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, considered a less grave offense, when, instead of faithfully implementing the alias writ upon the properties subject of the writ therein defendant Powroll and its stockholders, he arrogated upon himself the authority to levy the three motorcycles belonging to RUSI Marketing, which was not even a party to the case.  It may seem that the list of stockholders of both companies are the same, but such fact did not give respondent the blanket authority to undertake the levy on the properties of RUSI Marketing as the said company was not named as a defendant in the civil case and there was no judgment rendered against it.  Moreover, RUSI Marketing is a separate entity from that of its stockholders and, therefore, its properties do not necessarily include the properties of its stockholders. Antonio T. Ramas-Uypitching vs. Vincent Horace U. Magalona, A.M. No. P-07-2379, November 17, 2010.

Court personnel; misconduct. Fixing may range from the patently corrupt act of serving as middleman between a litigant and the decision maker, to rendering illegal and out-of-the-way assistance such as providing referral service to lawyers and other participants in court cases, or providing information such as the identity of the ponente, all for a fee, or, likewise for a fee, intervening to facilitate court processes such as the release of court papers or providing advance and illegitimate copies of drafts or final but unpromulgated decisions. Pastor C. Pinlac vs. Oscar T. Llamas, etc., A.M. No. P-10-2781, November 24, 2010.

Judges; gross ignorance of the law.  With the numerous cases already decided on the matter of bail, we feel justified to expect judges to diligently discharge their duties on the grant or denial of applications for bail.  Judge Buaya granted the ex-parte motion to grant bail on the same day that it was filed by the accused.  He did this without the required notice and hearing. He justified his action on the ex-parte motion by arguing that the offense charged against the accused was a bailable offense; a hearing was no longer required since bail was a matter of right.  Under the present Rules of Court, however, notice and hearing are required whether bail is a matter of right or discretion. Lorna M. Villanueva vs. Judge Apolinario M. Buaya, A.M. No. RTJ-08-2131, November 22, 2010.

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