Legal Ethics Case Digests – Duty of Lawyer to Client/Proper Conduct
Teodoro R. Rivera vs. Atty. Sergio Angeles
A.C. No. 2519. August 29, 2000
Facts: Atty. Sergio Angeles was the legal counsel of Teodoro Rivera and 2 others in a civil case. Rivera and his 2 co-plaintiffs received a favorable decision. Atty. Angeles received almost PhP 50,000 from one of the defendants in the case as partial fulfillment of the judgement against the latter. Atty. Angeles, however, never told his clients of the amount he had received and never remitted the same to him, leaving them to discover such fact on their own. Rivera and his co-plaintiffs filed an administrative complaint for disbarment against Atty. Angeles.
Held: GUILTY. Atty. Angeles was not disbarred but the Court ruled that his act amounted to serious misconduct. The Court has repeatedly stressed the importance of integrity and good moral character as part of a lawyer’s equipment in the practice of his profession. For it cannot be denied that the respect of litigants for the profession is inexorably diminished whenever a member of the Bar betrays their trust and confidence. The Court is not oblivious of the right of a lawyer to be paid for the legal services he has extended to his client but such right should not be exercised whimsically by appropriating to himself the money intended for his clients. There should never be an instance where the victor in litigation loses everything he won to the fees of his own lawyer. For deceit in dealing with his client, Atty. Angeles was suspended from the practice of law for 1 year.
Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. vs. Attys. Antonio M. Llorente and Ligaya P. Salayon
A.C. No. 4690. August 29, 2000
Facts: Attys. Antonio Llorente and Ligaya Salayon were election officers of the COMELEC and held the position of Chairman and Vice-Chairman respectively for the Pasig City Board of Candidates. The respondents helped conduct and oversee the 1995 elections. Then Senatorial candidate Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. alleged that the respondents tampered with the votes received by them by either adding more votes for particular candidates in their Statement of Votes (SoV) or reducing the number of votes of particular candidates in their SoV. Pimentel filed an administrative complaint for their disbarment. Respondents argued that the discrepancies were due to honest mistake, oversight and fatigue. Respondents also argued that the IBP Board of Governors had already exonerated them from any offense and that the motion for reconsideration filed by Pimentel was not filed in time.
Held: GUILTY. Respondents do not dispute the fact that massive irregularities attended the canvassing of the Pasig City election returns. The only explanation they could offer for such irregularities is that the same could be due to honest mistake, human error, and/or fatigue on the part of the members of the canvassing committees who prepared the SoVs. There is a limit, we believe, to what can be construed as an honest mistake or oversight due to fatigue, in the performance of official duty. The sheer magnitude of the error renders the defense of honest mistake or oversight due to fatigue, as incredible and simply unacceptable. Indeed, what is involved here is not just a case of mathematical error in the tabulation of votes per precinct as reflected in the election returns and the subsequent entry of the erroneous figures in one or two SoVs but a systematic scheme to pad the votes of certain senatorial candidates at the expense of the petitioner in complete disregard of the tabulation in the election returns. A lawyer who holds a government position may not be disciplined as a member of the bar for misconduct in the discharge of his duties as a government official. However, if the misconduct also constitutes a violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility or the lawyer’s oath or is of such character as to affect his qualification as a lawyer or shows moral delinquency on his part, such individual may be disciplined as a member of the bar for such misconduct. Here, by certifying as true and correct the SoVs in question, respondents committed a breach of Rule 1.01 of the Code which stipulates that a lawyer shall not engage in “unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.” By express provision of Canon 6, this is made applicable to lawyers in the government service. In addition, they likewise violated their oath of office as lawyers to “do no falsehood.” The Court found the respondents guilty of misconduct and fined them PhP 10,000 each and issued a stern warning that similar conduct in the future will be severely punished.
Legal Ethics Digests
Ateneo Central Bar Ops 2001
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