December 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

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

Administrative proceeding; settlement does not render case moot. The fact that the complainant manifested that he is no longer interested to pursue the administrative case against the respondent since he and the latter have already agreed to settle their dispute amicably would not render the case moot.  The withdrawal of complaints cannot divest the Court of its jurisdiction nor strip it of its power to determine the veracity of the charges made and to discipline, such as the results of its investigation may warrant, an erring respondent.  Administrative actions cannot depend on the will or pleasure of the complainant who may, for reasons of his own, condone what may be destestable.  Neither can the Court be bound by the unilateral act of the complainant in a matter relating to its disciplinary power.  The Court’s interest in the affairs of the judiciary is of paramount concern.  For sure, public interest is at stake in the conduct and actuations of officials and employees of the judiciary, inasmuch as the various programs and efforts of this Court in improving the delivery of justice to the people should not be frustrated and put to naught by private arrangements between the parties.  Fernando P. Chan vs. Joven T. Olegario, Process Server, Regional Trial Court, Branch 6, Iligan City, A.M. No. P-09-2714, December 6, 2010.

Attorney; negligence. Respondent Atty. Elayda failed to inform his clients, petitioners herein, of the dates of hearing and the adverse decision against them, which eventually became final and executory as no appeal was filed therefrom, to the prejudice of his clients. A lawyer is duty bound to uphold and safeguard the interests of his clients.  He should be conscientious, competent and diligent in handling his clients’ cases.  Atty. Elayda should give adequate attention, care, and time to all the cases he is handling.  As the petitioners’ counsel, Atty. Elayda is expected to monitor the progress of said spouses’ case and is obligated to exert all efforts to present every remedy or defense authorized by law to protect the cause espoused by the petitioners. Respondent is guilty of gross negligence. Spouses Virgilio and Angelina Aranda vs. Atty. Emmanuel F. Elayda, A.C. No. 7907. December 15, 2010

Court personnel; conduct unbecoming of court employee. Respondent Olegario, a court process server, evaded the payment of his debt for seven (7) years. Respondent Olegario is guilty of conduct unbecoming of court employee. The Court stressed the need for circumspect and proper behavior on the part of court employees. While it may be just for an individual to incur indebtedness unrestrained by the fact that he is a public officer or employee, caution should be taken to prevent the occurrence of dubious circumstances that might inevitably impair the image of the public office. Employees of the court should always keep in mind that the court is regarded by the public with respect. Certainly, to preserve decency within the judiciary, court personnel must comply with just contractual obligations, act fairly and adhere to high ethical standards. Like all other court personnel, Olegario is expected to be a paragon of uprightness, fairness and honesty not only in all his official conduct but also in his personal actuations, including business and commercial transactions, so as to avoid becoming his court’s albatross of infamy. The penalty imposed by the law is not directed at Olegario’s private life, but at his actuation unbecoming a public official.  Fernando P. Chan vs. Joven T. Olegario, Process Server, Regional Trial Court, Branch 6, Iligan City, A.M. No. P-09-2714, December 6, 2010.

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