Here are select June 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:
Administrative Complaint; moot and academic. The Court dismissed the complaint filed by Inter-Petal Recreational Corporation against Chief Justice Renato Corona for being moot and academic after considering the judgment of the Senate sitting as an Impeachment Court, which found the Chief Justice guilty of the charge under Article II of the Articles of Impeachment, with the penalty of removal from office and disqualification to hold any office under the Republic of the Philippines as provided in Section 3(7), Article XI of the Constitution. Re: Complaint Against the Honorable Chief Justice Renato C. Corona dated September 14, 2011 filed by Inter-Petal Recreational Corporation, A.M. No. 12-6-10-SC. June 13, 2012
Attorneys; disbarment cases imprescriptible. The defense of prescription is untenable. The Court has held that administrative cases against lawyers do not prescribe. The lapse of considerable time from the commission of the offending act to the institution of the administrative complaint will not erase the administrative culpability of a lawyer. Otherwise, members of the bar would only be emboldened to disregard the very oath they took as lawyers, prescinding from the fact that as long as no private complainant would immediately come forward, they stand a chance of being completely exonerated from whatever administrative liability they ought to answer for. Fidela Bengco and Teresita Bengco vs. Atty. Pablo Bernardo, A.C. No. 6368, June 13, 2012.
Here are select February 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:
Administrative cases against lawyers; prescriptive period. The two-year prescriptive period for initiating a complaint against a lawyer for disbarment or suspension provided under Section 1, Rule VIII of the Rules of Procedure of the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline should be construed to mean two years from the date of discovery of the professional misconduct. Nesa Isenhardt vs. Atty. Leonardo M. Real, A.C. No. 8254, February 15, 2012.
Attorney; disqualification as notary public. A notary public should not notarize a document unless the person who signs it is the same person who executed it, personally appearing before him to attest to the contents and the truth of what are stated therein. This is to enable the notary public to verify the genuineness of the signature of the acknowledging party and to ascertain that the document is the party’s free act. The duties of a notary public is dictated by public policy and impressed with public interest. It is not a meaningless ministerial act of acknowledging documents executed by parties who are willing to pay the fees for notarization. It is of no moment that the subject SPA was not utilized by the grantee for the purpose it was intended because the property was allegedly transferred from complainant to her brother by virtue of a deed of sale consummated between them. What is being penalized is respondent’s act of notarizing a document despite the absence of one of the parties. A notarized document is by law entitled to full credit upon its face and it is for this reason that notaries public must observe the basic requirements in notarizing documents. Otherwise, the confidence of the public in notarized documents will be undermined. Nesa Isenhardt vs. Atty. Leonardo M. Real, A.C. No. 8254, February 15, 2012.
Here are selected July 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:
Court personnel; dishonesty and conduct prejudicial. A complaint was filed against the respondent alleging that he accepted employment as Chief Judicial Staff Officer of the Supreme Court, and thus received salaries and other benefits as such, while still remaining an active member and officer of the Philippine National Police (PNP). The Court found that respondent was liable for gross dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. His non-disclosure of the material fact that he was still employed as an active member of the PNP and receiving his monthly salaries during the period that he was already a Court employee is considered substantial proof that he tried to cheat/defraud both the PNP and the Court. Respondent transgressed the Constitution and the Civil Service law on the prohibition on dual employment and double compensation in the government service. Re: Gross violation of Civil Service Law on the prohibition against dual employment and double compensation in the government service committed by Mr. Eduardo V. Escala, etc. A.M. No. 2011-04-SC, July 5, 2011
Court personnel; effect of absences without approved leave. An administrative case was filed against Cabrera, a Utility Worker in the MTCC of Lipa City, who has failed to file his Daily Time Records (DTRs) and to seek leave for any of his absences. The Court held that pursuant to the Omnibus Rules on Leave, an employee’s absence without official leave for at least 30 working days warrants his separation from the service. A public office is a public trust. Public officers must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with the utmost degree of responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency. By going on AWOL, Cabrera grossly disregarded and neglected the duties of his office. He failed to adhere to the high standards of public accountability imposed on all those in government service. Re: Dropping from the Rolls of Cornelio Reniette Cabrera, etc. A.M. No. P-11-2946. July 13, 2011
Here are selected June 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:
Administrative proceedings; quantum of evidence. It is a settled rule that in administrative proceedings that the complainant has the burden of proving the allegations in his or her complaint with substantial evidence. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the presumption that the respondent has regularly performed his duties will prevail. Illupa vs. Abdullah, A.M. No. SCC-11-16-P. June 1, 2011
Administrative proceedings; mitigating circumstances. In several jurisprudential precedents, the Court has refrained from imposing the actual administrative penalties prescribed by law or regulation in the presence of mitigating factors. Factors such as the respondents’ length of service, the respondents’ acknowledgement of his or her infractions and feeling of remorse, family circumstances, humanitarian and equitable considerations, respondent’s advanced age, among other things, have had varying significance in the determination by the Court of the imposable penalty. Office of the Court Administrator vs. Aguilar, A.M. No. RTJ-07-2087, June 7, 2011
Court personnel; conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. Respondent was found to have knowingly delayed the release of a warrant of arrest against an accused in a criminal case until the accused had left the country. For knowingly delaying the release of the warrant of arrest, respondent had placed the court in a very negative light. It prejudiced the Court’s standing in the community as it projected an image of a Court that is unable to enforce its processes on time. For this reason, we find her liable not only for simple neglect of duty, but for the more serious offense of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. Respondent clerk of court’s very much delayed action on the complainant’s request for a copy of the warrant of arrest in the criminal case and in the delivery of the warrant to the police authorities cast doubts on the capability of the court to administer justice fairly and expeditiously. Such act is likely to reflect adversely on the administration of justice. Thus, the respondent should be made to answer for her infraction in a way that will serve as a lesson to everyone in the judiciary to be forthright in his dealings with the public, and to act speedily on matters within his area of responsibility, regardless of who is involved. The prejudice she caused and her liability for her conduct can in no way be extinguished or mitigated by the issuance of a second warrant of arrest, or by the complainant’s subsequent voluntary desistance from pursuing the case. The harm had already been done on the aggrieved party and on the judiciary when these developments transpired. Sonido vs. Ilocso, A.M. No. P-10-2794. June 1, 2011
Here are selected April 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:
Attorney; negligence. A complaint for disciplinary action was filed against Atty. Macario Ga due to his failure to reconstitute or turn over to his client the records of the case in his possession. The Code of Professional Responsibility mandates lawyers to serve their clients with competence and diligence. Rule 18.03 and Rule 18.04 state: Rule 18.03. A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable; Rule 18.04. A lawyer shall keep the client informed of the status of his case and shall respond within a reasonable time to the client’s request for information. Respondent Atty. Ga breached these duties when he failed to reconstitute or turn over the records of the case to his client, herein complainant Gone. His negligence manifests lack of competence and diligence required of every lawyer. His failure to comply with the request of his client was a gross betrayal of his fiduciary duty and a breach of the trust reposed upon him by his client. Respondent’s sentiments against complainant Gone is not a valid reason for him to renege on his obligation as a lawyer. The moment he agreed to handle the case, he was bound to give it his utmost attention, skill and competence. Public interest requires that he exert his best efforts and all his learning and ability in defense of his client’s cause. Those who perform that duty with diligence and candor not only safeguard the interests of the client, but also serve the ends of justice. They do honor to the bar and help maintain the community’s respect for the legal profession. Patricio Gone v. Atty. Macario Ga, A.C. No. 7771, April 6, 2011.
Court personnel; conduct unbecoming. Sheriff Villarosa’s failure to comply with Section 9 of Rule 39 by delaying the deposit of the final amount he received (from a judgment debtor pursuant to a writ of execution) and not delivering the other amounts to the Clerk of Court; and to faithfully account for the amounts he received thru his failure to deliver the exact amounts, are clear manifestation of conduct unbecoming of a government employee, tantamount to grave abuse of authority and dishonesty. The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees enunciates the state policy to promote a high standard of ethics in public service, and enjoins public officials and employees to discharge their duties with utmost responsibility, integrity and competence. Section 4 of the Code lays down the norms of conduct which every public official and employee shall observe in the discharge and execution of their official duties, specifically providing that they shall at all times respect the rights of others, and refrain from doing acts contrary to law, good morals, good customs, public policy, public order, and public interest. Thus, any conduct contrary to these standards would qualify as conduct unbecoming of a government employee. Ma. Chedna Romero v. Pacifico B. Villarosa, Jr., Sheriff IV, RTC, Br 17 Palompon, Leyte, A.M. No. P-11-2913, April 12, 2011.
Here are selected February 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:
Administrative proceedings; compromise agreements. The compromise agreement between complainant and respondent, or the fact that complainant already forgave respondent, does not necessarily warrant the dismissal of the administrative case. Three reasons justify the continuation of the administrative matter despite the compromise agreement or the forgiveness. One, the Court’s disciplinary authority is not dependent on or cannot be frustrated by the private arrangements entered into by the parties; otherwise, the prompt and fair administration of justice, as well as the discipline of court personnel, will be undermined. Two, public interest is at stake in the conduct and actuations of the officials and employees of the Judiciary. Accordingly, the efforts of the Court in improving the delivery of justice to the people should not be frustrated and put to naught by any private arrangements between the parties. And, three, the Court’s interest in the affairs of the Judiciary is a paramount concern that bows to no limits. Benigno B. Reas v. Carlos M. Relacion, A.M. No. P-05-2095. February 9, 2011.
Administrative Proceedings; substantial evidence. Bayani was charged with dishonesty for failure to disclose in her Personal Data Sheet that she was previously admonished in an administrative case. Bayani invoked good faith as her defense. The Court ruled that while her defense of good faith may be difficult to prove as clearly it is a question of intention, a state of mind, erroneous judgment on the part of Bayani does not, however, necessarily connote the existence of bad faith, malice, or an intention to defraud. In administrative proceedings, only substantial evidence is required to warrant disciplinary sanctions. Substantial evidence is defined as relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Thus, after much consideration of the facts and circumstances, while the Court has not shied away in imposing the strictest penalty to erring employees, neither can it think and rule unreasonably in determining whether an employee deserves disciplinary sanction. Bayani was admonished and warned that a repetition of the same or similar offense will warrant the imposition of a mere severe penalty. Re: Anonymous Complaint against Ms. Hermogena F. Bayani for Dishonesty, A.M. No. 2007-22-SC. February 1, 2011.
Here are selected January 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:
Attorney; dishonesty. Respondent was accused of filing various pleadings on behalf of parties who were already deceased. To all attorneys, truthfulness and honesty have the highest value, for, as the Court has said in Young v. Batuegas: “A lawyer must be a disciple of truth. He swore upon his admission to the Bar that he will ‘do no falsehood nor consent to the doing of any in court’ and he shall ‘conduct himself as a lawyer according to the best of his knowledge and discretion with all good fidelity as well to the courts as to his clients.’ He should bear in mind that as an officer of the court his high vocation is to correctly inform the court upon the law and the facts of the case and to aid it in doing justice and arriving at correct conclusion. The courts, on the other hand, are entitled to expect only complete honesty from lawyers appearing and pleading before them. While a lawyer has the solemn duty to defend his client’s rights and is expected to display the utmost zeal in defense of his client’s cause, his conduct must never be at the expense of truth.” Respondent lawyer was found not liable as he had disclosed in a pleading the death of the deceased parties and the fact that he was representing the successors in interest of the deceased parties. Jessie R. De Leon vs. Atty. Eduardo G. Castelo, A.C. No. 8620, January 12, 2011.
Court personnel; conduct prejudicial to service. The respondents were accused of failing to serve a court order and delaying the issuance and implementation of the writ of execution. Due to this negligence, the writ’s implementation was delayed for almost two years, thereby gave the defendants sufficient time to conceal and/or dissipate their assets to thwart plaintiffs’ efforts to recover in full the judgment awarded to them. Court employees bear the burden of observing exacting standards of ethics and morality. This is the price one pays for the honor of working in the judiciary. Those who are part of the machinery dispensing justice, from the presiding judge to the lowliest clerk, must conduct themselves with utmost decorum and propriety to maintain the public’s faith and respect for the judiciary. Respondents were held guilty of conduct prejudicial to the interest of the service. Judge Philbert I. Iturralde, et al. vs. OIC Branch Clerk of Court Babe SJ. Ramirez, et al., A.M. No. P-03-1730, January 18, 2011.