February 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

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

Agency; Accounting. Article 1891 of the Civil Code contains a few of the obligations owed by an agent to his principal – Every agent is bound to render an account of his transactions and to deliver to the principal whatever he may have received by virtue of the agency, even though it may not be owing to the principal. Every stipulation exempting the agent from the obligation to render an account shall be void.

It is evident that the reason behind the failure of petitioner to render an accounting to respondent is immaterial. What is important is that the former fulfill her duty to render an account of the relevant transactions she entered into as respondent’s agent. Caridad Segarra Sazon vs. Letecia Vasquez-Menancio, G.R. No. 192085. February 22, 2012.

Agency; Fruits. Every agent is bound to deliver to the principal whatever the former may have received by virtue of the agency, even though that amount may not be owed to the principal. Caridad Segarra Sazon vs. Letecia Vasquez-Menancio, G.R. No. 192085. February 22, 2012.

Attorney’s fees; When payable. With respect to attorney’s fees, it is proper on the ground that petitioner’s act of denying respondent and its employees access to the leased premises has compelled respondent to litigate and incur expenses to protect its interest. Also, under the circumstances prevailing in the present case, attorney’s fees may be granted on grounds of justice and equity. Manila International Airport vs. Avia Filipinas International, Inc., G.R. No. 180168. February 27, 2012

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July 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are select July 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law:

Compensation. For legal compensation to take place, the requirements set forth in Articles 1278 and 1279 of the Civil Code, quoted below, must be present.

ARTICLE 1278. Compensation shall take place when two persons, in their own right, are creditors and debtors of each other.

ARTICLE 1279. In order that compensation may be proper, it is necessary:

(1) That each one of the obligors be bound principally, and that he be at the same time a principal creditor of the other;

(2) That both debts consist in a sum of money, or if the things due are consumable, they be of the same kind, and also of the same quality if the latter has been stated;

(3) That the two debts be due;

(4) That they be liquidated and demandable;

(5) That over neither of them there be any retention or controversy, commenced by third persons and communicated in due time to the debtor.

A debt is liquidated when its existence and amount are determined. It is not necessary that it be admitted by the debtor. Nor is it necessary that the credit appear in a final judgment in order that it can be considered as liquidated; it is enough that its exact amount is known. And a debt is considered liquidated, not only when it is expressed already in definite figures which do not require verification, but also when the determination of the exact amount depends only on a simple arithmetical operation.

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October 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

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

Attorney; misconduct. Respondent (lawyer) was ordered to reimburse his client Php16,300.00.  Nine years after the directive was made, he effected payment.  Respondent’s belated “compliance” with the order glaringly speaks of his lack of candor, of his dishonesty, if not defiance of Court orders, qualities that do not endear him to the esteemed brotherhood of lawyers. The lack of any sufficient justification or explanation for the nine-year delay in complying with the Resolutions betrays a clear and contumacious disregard for the lawful orders of this Court. Such disrespect constitutes a clear violation of the lawyer’s Code of Professional Responsibility. Leonard W. Richards vs. Patricio A. Asoy, A.C. No. 2655, October 12, 2010.

Court personnel; conduct prejudicial to best interest of the service. This case filed by Argoso against Regalado  involves money received by Regalado from an interested  party to implement a writ of execution.  Regalado should not have received money from Argoso for his transportation to Daet, without previously submitting his expenses for the court’s approval.  Regalado’s admission that he received money without complying with the proper procedure in enforcing writs of execution, made him guilty of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. Levi M. Agroso vs. Achilles Andrew Regalado II, etc., A.M. No. P-09-2735, October 12, 2010.

Court personnel; dishonesty. Respondent (clerk of court) failed to regularly submit monthly reports of collections and deposits, as required by SC Circular No. 32-93, and official receipts and other documents, despite the Court’s repeated orders.  The failure to remit the funds in due time amounts to dishonesty and grave misconduct, which the Court cannot tolerate for they diminish the people’s faith in the judiciary.  Office of the Court Administrator vs. Marcela V. Santos, Clerk of Court II etc., A.M. No. P-06-2287, October 12, 2010.

Court personnel; dishonesty etc. Fernandez deserves to be sanctioned.  Her habitual tardiness and absenteeism, coupled with her submission of a falsified document to cover up some of her absences, do not speak well of her fitness for employment in the public service, especially in the judiciary.  We cannot ignore the gross dishonesty involved in her submission of a falsified document to cover up several unauthorized absences.   Isabel D. Marquez vs. Jocelyn C. Fernandez, A.M. No. P-07-2358, October 19, 2010.

Court personnel; gross misconduct. On several instances, Abellanosa demanded and received various sums of money from party-litigants in cases pending before the RTC of Makati, Branch 137.  Also, the Order of the Makati RTC Branch 137 was published in the Taliba newspaper, but it did not go through the mandated procedure for distribution of judicial notices or orders by raffle to qualified newspapers or periodicals under P.D. No. 1079.  Abellanosa’s acts of soliciting money from litigants to facilitate the publication of their petitions or orders of the court clearly manifested her desire to achieve personal gain and constitutes gross misconduct which is deplorable. Judge Jenny Lind R. Aldecoa-Delorino vs. Jessica B. Abellanosa, etc./Jessica B. Abellanosa, etc. vs. Judge Jenny Lind R. Aldecoa-Delorino/Jessica B. Abellanosa etc. vs. Rowena L. Ramos, etc., A.M. No. P-08-2472/A.M. No. RTJ-08-2106/A.M. No. P-08-2420, October 19, 2010.

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September 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

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

Attorney; mistake binding on client. Petitioner cannot simply harp on the mistakes and negligence of his lawyer allegedly beset with personal problems and emotional depression.   The negligence and mistakes of counsel are binding on the client.  There are exceptions to this rule, such as when the reckless or gross negligence of counsel deprives the client of due process of law, or when the application of the general rule results in the outright deprivation of one’s property or liberty through a technicality. However, in this case, we find no reason to exempt petitioner from the general rule. The admitted inability of his counsel to attend fully and ably to the prosecution of his appeal and other sorts of excuses should have prompted petitioner to be more vigilant in protecting his rights and replace said counsel with a more competent lawyer.  Instead, petitioner continued to allow his counsel to represent him on appeal and even up to this Court, apparently in the hope of moving this Court with a fervent plea for relaxation of the rules for reason of petitioner’s age and medical condition.  Verily, diligence is required not only from lawyers but also from their clients. Gregorio Dimarucot y Garcia vs.. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 183975,September 20, 2010.

Attorney; mistake binding on client. Considering the initial 15-day extension granted by the CA and the injunction under Sec. 4, Rule 43 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure against further extensions “except for the most compelling reason”, it was clearly inexcusable for petitioner to expediently plead its counsel’s heavy workload as ground for seeking an additional extension of 10 days within which to file its petition for review.  To our mind, petitioner would do well to remember that, rather than the low gate to which parties are unreasonably required to stoop, procedural rules are designed for the orderly conduct of proceedings and expeditious settlement of cases in the courts of law.  Like all rules, they are required to be followed and utter disregard of the same cannot be expediently rationalized by harping on the policy of liberal construction which was never intended as an unfettered license to disregard the letter of the law or, for that matter, a convenient excuse to substitute substantial compliance for regular adherence thereto.  When it comes to compliance with time rules, the Court cannot afford inexcusable delay. J. Tiosejo Investment Corporation vs.. Sps. Benjamin and Eleanor Ang, G.R. No. 174149, September 8, 2010.

Attorney’s fees. It is settled that a claim for attorney’s fees may be asserted either in the very action in which a lawyer rendered his services or in a separate action.  But enforcing it in the main case bodes well as it forestalls multiplicity of suits.  The intestate court in this case, therefore, correctly allowed Atty. Siapian to interject his claim for attorney’s fees in the estate proceedings against some of the heirs and, after hearing, adjudicate the same on April 3, 1997 with an order for Arturo, et al to pay Atty. Siapian the fees of P3 million due him.  Since the award of P3 million in attorney’s fees in favor of Atty. Siapian had already become final and executory, the intestate court was within its powers to order the Register of Deeds to annotate his lien on the Estate’s titles to its properties.  The Estate has no cause for complaint since the lien was neither a claim nor a burden against the Estate itself.  It was not enforceable against the Estate but only against Arturo, et al, who constituted the majority of the heirs. Heirs and/or Estate of Atty. Rolando P. Siapian, represented by Susan S. Mendoza vs. Intestate Estate of the Late Eufrocina G. Mackay as represented by Dr. Roderick Mackay, et al., G.R. No. 184799, September 1, 2010.

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August 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

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

Attorney; gross discourtesy. When Milagros finally met respondent on September 30, 2008 [in order to collect on his debt to her], respondent, in the presence of several others, told her “Eh kung sabihin ko na sugar mommy kita,” adding that “Nagpapakantot ka naman sa akin.” The Court finds that respondent is indeed guilty of gross discourtesy amounting to conduct unbecoming of a court employee.  By such violation, respondent failed to live up to his oath of office as member of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and violated Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The Court has consistently been reminding officials and employees of the Judiciary that their conduct or behavior is circumscribed with a heavy burden of responsibility which, at all times, should be characterized by, among other things, strict propriety and decorum. As such, they should not use abusive, offensive, scandalous, menacing and improper language. Their every act or word should be marked by prudence, restraint, courtesy and dignity. Aside from violating Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, respondent appears to have also violated Rule 8.01 of the same Code. Complaints of Mrs. Milagros Lee & Samantha Lee against Atty. Gil Luisito R. Capito, A.M. No. 2008-19-SC. August 18, 2010

Attorney; mistake binding on client. A client is generally bound by the mistakes of his lawyer; otherwise, there would never be an end to a litigation as long as a new counsel could be employed, and who could then allege and show that the preceding counsel had not been sufficiently diligent or experienced or learned. The legal profession demands of a lawyer that degree of vigilance and attention expected of a good father of a family; such lawyer should adopt the norm of practice expected of men of good intentions.  Moreover, a lawyer owes it to himself and to his clients to adopt an efficient and orderly system of keeping track of the developments in his cases, and should be knowledgeable of the remedies appropriate to his cases. National Tobacco Administration vs. Daniel Castillo, G.R. No. 154124,August 13, 2010.

Attorney; mistake of counsel. Granting that their counsel made a mistake in entering into such stipulations, such procedural error unfortunately bound them.  The Court has consistently held that the mistake or negligence of a counsel in the area of procedural technique binds the client unless such mistake or negligence of counsel is so gross or palpable that would require the courts to step in and accord relief to the client who suffered thereby.  Without this doctrinal rule, there would never be an end to a suit so long as a new counsel could be employed to allege and show that the prior counsel had not been sufficiently diligent, experienced, or learned. Gilbert Urma, et al. vs. Hon. Orlando Beltran, et al., G.R. No. 180836, August 8, 2010.

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May 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

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

Attorney’s fees; quantum meruit.  The principle of quantum meruit (as much as he deserves) may be a basis for determining the reasonable amount of attorney’s fees.  Quantum meruit is a device to prevent undue enrichment based on the equitable postulate that it is unjust for a person to retain benefit without paying for it. It is applicable even if there was a formal written contract for attorney’s fees as long as the agreed fee was found by the court to be unconscionable.  In fixing a reasonable compensation for the services rendered by a lawyer on the basis of quantum meruit, factors such as the time spent, and extent of services rendered; novelty and difficulty of the questions involved; importance of the subject matter; skill demanded; probability of losing other employment as a result of acceptance of the proffered case; customary charges for similar services; amount involved in the controversy and the benefits resulting to the client; certainty of compensation; character of employment; and professional standing of the lawyer, may be considered [Orocio v. Anguluan, G.R. Nos. 179892-93, January 30, 2009].  Indubitably entwined with a lawyer’s duty to charge only reasonable fee is the power of the Court to reduce the amount of attorney’s fees if the same is excessive and unconscionable in relation to Sec. 24, Rule 138 of the Rules.  Attorney’s fees are unconscionable if they affront one’s sense of justice, decency or unreasonableness.

Verily, the determination of the amount of reasonable attorney’s fees requires the presentation of evidence and a full-blown trial.  It would be only after due hearing and evaluation of the evidence presented by the parties that the trial court can render judgment as to the propriety of the amount to be awarded.  Hicoblino M. Catly (Deceased), Substituted by his wife, Lourdes A. Catly vs. William Navarro, et al., G.R. No. 167239, May 5, 2010.

Judges; gross inefficiency. Article VIII, Section 15(1) of the 1987 Constitution mandates lower court judges to decide a case within the reglementary period of 90 days.  The Code of Judicial Conduct under Rule 3.05 of Canon 3 likewise enunciates that judges should administer justice without delay and directs every judge to dispose of the court’s business promptly within the period prescribed by law.  Rules prescribing the time within which certain acts must be done are indispensable to prevent needless delays in the orderly and speedy disposition of cases.  Thus, the 90-day period is mandatory.

Judges are enjoined to decide cases with dispatch.  Any delay, no matter how short, in the disposition of cases undermines the people’s faith and confidence in the judiciary.  It also deprives the parties of their right to the speedy disposition of their cases.  Failure to decide a case within the reglementary period is not excusable and constitutes gross inefficiency warranting the imposition of administrative sanctions on the defaulting judge.

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February 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

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

Court personnel; administrative complaint; effect of resignation. Respondent Nuñez has filed his resignation on September 5, 2008, which was subsequently accepted by the Court, subject to the usual clearance requirements and without prejudice to the continuation of the proceedings in the instant administrative case.  Nonetheless, the fact of his resignation and our approval thereof does not render moot the complaint against him.  Our jurisdiction over him is not lost by the mere fact that he resigned during the pendency of the case.  To deprive the Court of authority to pronounce his innocence or guilt of the charges is undoubtedly fraught with injustices and pregnant with dreadful and dangerous implications. What would prevent a corrupt and unscrupulous government employee from committing abuses and other condemnable acts knowing fully well that he would soon be beyond the pale of the law and immune to all administrative penalties?  Resignation should be used neither as an escape nor as an easy way out to evade administrative liability by court personnel facing administrative sanction. If only for reasons of public policy, the Court must assert and maintain its jurisdiction over members of the judiciary and other officials under its supervision and control for acts performed in office which are inimical to the service and prejudicial to the interests of litigants and the general public. If innocent, respondent official merits vindication of his name and integrity as he leaves the government which he served well and faithfully; if guilty, he deserves to receive the corresponding censure and a penalty proper and imposable under the situation.  Judge Delia P. Noel-Bertulfo, Municipal Trial Court, Palompon, Leyte vs. Fyndee P. Nuñez, Court Aide, Municipal Trial Court, Palompon, Leyte, A.M. No. P-10-2758, February 2, 2010.

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