July 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

Here are select July 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:

Attorney; bigamy; gross immorality. A disbarment case is sui generis. Its focus is on the qualification and fitness of a lawyer to continue membership in the bar and not the procedural technicalities in filing the case.Respondent’s regard for marriage contracts as ordinary agreements indicates either his wanton disregard of the sanctity of marriage or his gross ignorance of the law on what course of action to take to annul a marriage under the old Civil Code provisions. Respondent entered into marriage twice while his first marriage was still subsisting. He exhibited a deplorable lack of that degree of morality required of him as a member of the bar. He made a mockery of marriage, a sacred institution demanding respect and dignity.His acts of committing bigamy twice constituted grossly immoral conduct and are grounds for disbarment under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court. Manuel G. Villatuya vs. Atty. Bede S. Tabalingcos A.C. No. 6622, July 10, 2012.

Attorney; conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude is a ground for disbarment. Conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude is a ground for disbarment. Moral turpitude is defined as an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private duties which a man owes to his fellow men, or to society in general, contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals.Section 27, Rule 138 provides that “a member of the bar may be disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court  for  any deceit,  malpractice,  or  other  gross  misconduct  in  such  office,  grossly immoral conduct, or  by reason of his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he is required to take before admission to practice, or for a willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court, or for corruptly or willfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority so to do. The practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice.”

In a disbarment case, the Court   will no longer review a final judgment of conviction. The crime of direct bribery is a crime involving moral turpitude. The lawyer’s final conviction of the crime of direct bribery clearly falls under one of the grounds for disbarment under Section 27 of Rule 138. Disbarment follows as a consequence of the lawyer’s conviction of the crime. Atty. Policarpio I. Catalan, Jr. vs. Atty. Joselito M. Silvosa. A.C. No. 7360, July 24, 2012.

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July 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are select July 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law:

Civil Code

Contracts; reciprocal obligations. Reciprocal obligations are those which arise from the same cause, and in which each party is a debtor and a creditor of the other, such that the obligation of one is dependent upon the obligation of the other. They are to be performed simultaneously such that the performance of one is conditioned upon the simultaneous fulfillment of the other. For one party to demand the performance of the obligation of the other party, the former must also perform its own obligation. Accordingly, petitioner, not having provided the services that would require the payment of service fees as stipulated in the Lease Development Agreement, is not entitled to collect the same. Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority vs. Honorable Court of Appeals and Subic International Hotel Corporation; G.R. No. 192885, July 4, 2012.

Contracts; contract of sale vs. contract to sell. The elements of a contract of sale are, to wit: a) Consent or meeting of the minds, that is, consent to transfer ownership in exchange for the price; b) Determinate subject matter; and c) Price certain in money or its equivalent.  It is the absence of the first element which distinguishes a contract of sale from that of a contract to sell.

In a contract to sell, the prospective seller explicitly reserves the transfer of title to the prospective buyer, meaning, the prospective seller does not as yet agree or consent to transfer ownership of the property subject of the contract to sell until the happening of an event, such as, in most cases, the full payment of the purchase price. What the seller agrees or obliges himself to do is to fulfill his promise to sell the subject property when the entire amount of the purchase price is delivered to him. In other words, the full payment of the purchase price partakes of a suspensive condition, the non-fulfillment of which prevents the obligation to sell from arising and, thus, ownership is retained by the prospective seller without further remedies by the prospective buyer.

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July 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are select July 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on political law:

Constitutional Law

Bill of rights; right of confrontation.  The examination of witnesses must be done orally before a judge in open court.  This is true especially in criminal cases where the Constitution secures to the accused his right to a public trial and to meet the witnesses against him face to face.  The requirement is the “safest and most satisfactory method of investigating facts” as it enables the judge to test the witness’ credibility through his manner and deportment while testifying.  It is not without exceptions, however, as the Rules of Court recognizes the conditional examination of witnesses and the use of their depositions as testimonial evidence in lieu of direct court testimony.  Go, et al.  v. The People of the Philippines and Highdone Company, Ltd., et al., G.R. No. 185527, July 18, 2012.

Bill of rights; right of confrontation; conditional examination of witnesses.  But for purposes of taking the deposition in criminal cases, more particularly of a prosecution witness who would foreseeably be unavailable for trial, the testimonial examination should be made before the court, or at least before the judge, where the case is pending as required by the clear mandate of Section 15, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure…

Certainly, to take the deposition of the prosecution witness elsewhere and not before the very same court where the case is pending would not only deprive a detained accused of his right to attend the proceedings but also deprive the trial judge of the opportunity to observe the prosecution witness’ deportment and properly assess his credibility, which is especially intolerable when the witness’ testimony is crucial to the prosecution’s case against the accused…

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July 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

Here are select July 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on labor law and procedure:

Dismissal; due process.  Due process requirement is met when there is simply an opportunity to be heard and to explain one’s side even if no hearing is conducted. An employee may be afforded ample opportunity to be heard by means of any method, verbal or written, whether in a hearing, conference or some other fair, just and reasonable way. After receiving the first notice apprising him of the charges against him, the employee may submit a written explanation (which may be in the form of a letter, memorandum, affidavit or position paper) and offer evidence in support thereof, like relevant company records and the sworn statements of his witnesses. For this purpose, he may prepare his explanation personally or with the assistance of a representative or counsel. He may also ask the employer to provide him copy of records material to his defense. His written explanation may also include a request that a formal hearing or conference be held. In such a case, the conduct of a formal hearing or conference becomes mandatory, just as it is where there exist substantial evidentiary disputes or where company rules or practice requires an actual hearing as part of employment pre-termination procedure.

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July 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are select July 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:


Rape; principles in deciding rape cases. Antonio Baraoil was found guilty by the lower courts for two crimes of rape defined and penalized under RA 8353 and the Revised Penal Code. Courts use the following principles in deciding rape cases: (1) an accusation of rape can be made with facility; it is difficult to prove but more difficult for the person accused, though innocent, to disprove; (2) due to the nature of the crime of rape in which only two persons are usually involved, the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized with extreme caution; and (3) the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense. Due to the nature of this crime, conviction for rape may be solely based on the complainant’s testimony provided it is credible, natural, convincing, and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things. The Supreme Court (“SC”) held in the instant case that the totality of the evidence adduced by the prosecution proved the guilt of the accused-appellant beyond reasonable doubt. The SC finds no cogent reason to disturb the trial court’s appreciation of the credibility of the prosecution witnesses’ testimony. People of the Philippines v. Antonio Baraoil, G.R. No. 194608, July 9, 2012.

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July 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Tax Law

Here are select July 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on tax law:

National Internal Revenue Code; Value Added Tax; “zero-rated” transaction; recipient of services. The recipient of services must be doing business outside the Philippines for the transaction to qualify it as zero-rated under Section 108 (B) of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997 (1997 Tax Code). Since Section 108 (B) of the 1997 Tax Code is a verbatim copy of Section 102 (b) of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1977 (1977 Tax Code), any interpretation of the latter holds true for the former. When the Supreme Court decides a case, it does not pass a new law, but merely interprets a pre-existing one. Even though the taxpayer’s present petition was filed before the decision in the case of Commissioner of Internal Revenue v Burmeister and Wain Scandinavian Contractor Mindanao, Inc. was promulgated, the pronouncements made in that case may be applied to the present case without violating the rule against retroactive application. When the Court interpreted Section 102 (b) of the 1977 Tax Code in the Burmeister case, this interpretation became part of the law from the moment it became effective. It is elementary that the interpretation of a law by the Court constitutes part of that law from the date it was originally passed, since the Court’s construction merely establishes the contemporaneous legislative intent that the interpreted law carried into effect.

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