July 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

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

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June 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

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

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June 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

Here are selected June 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on labor law and procedure:

Appeal; decision of DOLE Secretary. For petitioner’s refusal to comply with his deployment assignment, respondent manning agency filed a complaint against him for breach of contract before the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).  The POEA penalized petitioner with one year suspension from overseas deployment. The suspension was reduced to six months by the Secretary of Labor. Petitioner appealed the latter’s decision with the Office of the President (OP). The Supreme Court ruled that petitioner’s appeal was erroneous. The proper remedy to question the decisions or orders of the Secretary of Labor is via Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65.   Appeals to the OP in labor cases have been eliminated, except those involving national interest over which the President may assume jurisdiction. The present case does not affect national interest. Hence, petitioner’s appeal to the OP did not toll the running of the period and the assailed decision of the Secretary of Labor is deemed to have attained finality. Miguel Dela Pena Barairo vs. Office of the President and MST Marine Services (Phils.) Inc., G.R. No. 189314. June 15, 2011

Appeal from decisions of labor arbiter; bond requirement for perfection of appeal may be relaxed in meritorious cases. The posting of a bond is indispensable to the perfection of an appeal in cases involving monetary awards from the decision of the labor arbiter.  However, under Section 6, Rule VI of the NLRC’s Revised Rules of Procedure, the bond may be reduced albeit only (1) on meritorious grounds and (2) upon posting of a partial bond in a reasonable amount in relation to the monetary award. For this purpose, the NLRC is not precluded from conducting a preliminary determination of the employer’s financial capability to post the required bond, without necessarily passing upon the merits.  In the present case, the NLRC gravely abused its discretion in denying petitioner’s motion to reduce bond peremptorily without considering the evidence presented by petitioner showing that it was under a state of receivership. Such circumstance constitutes meritorious grounds to reduce the bond. Moreover, the petitioner exhibited its good faith by posting a partial cash bond during the reglementary period. University Plans, Inc. vs. Belinda P. Solano, et al., G.R. No. 170416, June 22, 2011 

Certiorari; substantial compliance. The three material dates which should be stated in the petition for certiorari under Rule 65 are the dates when the notice of judgment was received, when a motion for reconsideration was filed and when the notice of the denial of the motion for reconsideration was received. These dates should be reflected in the petition to enable the reviewing court to determine if the petition was filed on time. In the present case, the petition filed with the Court of Appeals failed to state when petitioner received the assailed NLRC Decision and when he filed his partial motion for reconsideration.  However, this omission is not at all fatal because these material dates are reflected in petitioner’s Partial Motion for Reconsideration attached to the petition.  The failure to state these two dates in the petition may be excused if the same are evident from the records of the case.  The Court further stated that the more important material date which must be duly alleged in the petition is the date of receipt of the resolution of denial of the motion for reconsideration. Since petitioner has duly complied with this rule, there was substantial compliance with the requisite formalities. William Endeliseo Barroga vs. Data Center College of the Philippines, et al., G.R. No. 174158. June 27, 2011

Collective bargaining agreement; duty of parties to maintain status quo pending renegotiation. Article 253 of the Labor Code mandates the parties to keep the status quo and to continue in full force and effect the terms and conditions of the existing agreement during the 60-day period prior to the expiration of the old CBA and/or until a new agreement is reached by the parties. The law does not provide for any exception nor qualification on which economic provisions of the existing agreement are to retain its force and effect. Likewise, the law does not distinguish between a CBA duly agreed upon by the parties and an imposed CBA like the one in the present case. Hence, considering that no new CBA had been, in the meantime, agreed upon by respondent GMC and the Union, the provisions of the imposed CBA continues to have full force and effect until a new CBA is entered into by the parties. General Milling Corporation-Independent Labor Union [GMC-ILU] vs. General Milling Corporation/General Milling Corporation vs.General Milling Corporation-Independent Labor Union [GMC-ILU], et al., G.R. Nos. 183122/183889, June 15, 2011.

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April 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

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.

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January 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

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.

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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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