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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