G.R. No. 100113 September 3, 1

G.R. No. 100113 September 3, 1991
RENATO CAYETANO, petitioner,
vs.
CHRISTIAN MONSOD, HON. JOVITO R. SALONGA, COMMISSION ON APPOINTMENT, and HON. GUILLERMO CARAGUE, in his capacity as Secretary of Budget and Management, respondents.
PARAS, J.:p
We are faced here with a controversy of far-reaching proportions. While ostensibly only legal issues are involved, the Court’s decision in this case would indubitably have a profound effect on the political aspect of our national existence.
The 1987 Constitution provides in Section 1 (1), Article IX-C:
There shall be a Commission on Elections composed of a Chairman and six Commissioners who shall be natural-born citizens of the Philippines and, at the time of their appointment, at least thirty-five years of age, holders of a college degree, and must not have been candidates for any elective position in the immediately preceding -elections. However, a majority thereof, including the Chairman, shall be members of the Philippine Bar who have been engaged in the practice of law for at least ten years. (Emphasis supplied)
The aforequoted provision is patterned after Section l(l), Article XII-C of the 1973 Constitution which similarly provides:
There shall be an independent Commission on Elections composed of a Chairman and eight Commissioners who shall be natural-born citizens of the Philippines and, at the time of their appointment, at least thirty-five years of age and holders of a college degree. However, a majority thereof, including the Chairman, shall be members of the Philippine Bar who have been engaged in the practice of law for at least ten years.’ (Emphasis supplied)
Regrettably, however, there seems to be no jurisprudence as to what constitutes practice of law as a legal qualification to an appointive office.
Black defines “practice of law” as:
The rendition of services requiring the knowledge and the application of legal principles and technique to serve the interest of another with his consent. It is not limited to appearing in court, or advising and assisting in the conduct of litigation, but embraces the preparation of pleadings, and other papers incident to actions and special proceedings, conveyancing, the preparation of legal instruments of all kinds, and the giving of all legal advice to clients. It embraces all advice to clients and all actions taken for them in matters connected with the law. An attorney engages in the practice of law by maintaining an office where he is held out to be-an attorney, using a letterhead describing himself as an attorney, counseling clients in legal matters, negotiating with opposing counsel about pending litigation, and fixing and collecting fees for services rendered by his associate. (Black’s Law Dictionary, 3rd ed.)
The practice of law is not limited to the conduct of cases in court. (Land Title Abstract and Trust Co. v. Dworken, 129 Ohio St. 23, 193 N.E. 650) A person is also considered to be in the practice of law when he:
… for valuable consideration engages in the business of advising person, firms, associations or corporations as to their rights under the law, or appears in a representative capacity as an advocate in proceedings pending or prospective, before any court, commissioner, referee, board, body, committee, or commission constituted by law or authorized to settle controversies and there, in such representative capacity performs any act or acts for the purpose of obtaining or defending the rights of their clients under the law. Otherwise stated, one who, in a representative capacity, engages in the business of advising clients as to their rights under the law, or while so engaged performs any act or acts either in court or outside of court for that purpose, is engaged in the practice of law. (State ex. rel. Mckittrick v..C.S. Dudley and Co., 102 S.W. 2d 895, 340 Mo. 852)
This Court in the case of Philippine Lawyers Association v.Agrava, (105 Phil. 173,176-177) stated:
The practice of law is not limited to the conduct of cases or litigation in court; it embraces the preparation of pleadings and other papers incident to actions and special proceedings, the management of such actions and proceedings on behalf of clients before judges and courts, and in addition, conveying. In general, all advice to clients, and all action taken for them in matters connected with the law incorporation services, assessment and condemnation services contemplating an appearance before a judicial body, the foreclosure of a mortgage, enforcement of a creditor’s claim in bankruptcy and insolvency proceedings, and conducting proceedings in attachment, and in matters of estate and guardianship have been held to constitute law practice, as do the preparation and drafting of legal instruments, where the work done involves the determination by the trained legal mind of the legal effect of facts and conditions. (5 Am. Jr. p. 262, 263). (Emphasis supplied)
Practice of law under modem conditions consists in no small part of work performed outside of any court and having no immediate relation to proceedings in court. It embraces conveyancing, the giving of legal advice on a large variety of subjects, and the preparation and execution of legal instruments covering an extensive field of business and trust relations and other affairs. Although these transactions may have no direct connection with court proceedings, they are always subject to become involved in litigation. They require in many aspects a high degree of legal skill, a wide experience with men and affairs, and great capacity for adaptation to difficult and complex situations. These customary functions of an attorney or counselor at law bear an intimate relation to the administration of justice by the courts. No valid distinction, so far as concerns the question set forth in the order, can be drawn between that part of the work of the lawyer which involves appearance in court and that part which involves advice and drafting of instruments in his office. It is of importance to the welfare of the public that these manifold customary functions be performed by persons possessed of adequate learning and skill, of sound moral character, and acting at all times under the heavy trust obligations to clients which rests upon all attorneys. (Moran, Comments on the Rules of Court, Vol. 3 [1953 ed.] , p. 665-666, citing In re Opinion of the Justices [Mass.], 194 N.E. 313, quoted in Rhode Is. Bar Assoc. v. Automobile Service Assoc. [R.I.] 179 A. 139,144). (Emphasis ours)
The University of the Philippines Law Center in conducting orientation briefing for new lawyers (1974-1975) listed the dimensions of the practice of law in even broader terms as advocacy, counselling and public service.
One may be a practicing attorney in following any line of employment in the profession. If what he does exacts knowledge of the law and is of a kind usual for attorneys engaging in the active practice of their profession, and he follows some one or more lines of employment such as this he is a practicing attorney at law within the meaning of the statute. (Barr v. Cardell, 155 NW 312)
Practice of law means any activity, in or out of court, which requires the application of law, legal procedure, knowledge, training and experience. “To engage in the practice of law is to perform those acts which are characteristics of the profession. Generally, to practice law is to give notice or render any kind of service, which device or service requires the use in any degree of legal knowledge or skill.” (111 ALR 23)
The following records of the 1986 Constitutional Commission show that it has adopted a liberal interpretation of the term “practice of law.”
MR. FOZ. Before we suspend the session, may I make a manifestation which I forgot to do during our review of the provisions on the Commission on Audit. May I be allowed to make a very brief statement?
THE PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Jamir).
The Commissioner will please proceed.
MR. FOZ. This has to do with the qualifications of the members of the Commission on Audit. Among others, the qualifications provided for by Section I is that “They must be Members of the Philippine Bar” – I am quoting from the provision – “who have been engaged in the practice of law for at least ten years”.
To avoid any misunderstanding which would result in excluding members of the Bar who are now employed in the COA or Commission on Audit, we would like to make the clarification that this provision on qualifications regarding members of the Bar does not necessarily refer or involve actual practice of law outside the COA We have to interpret this to mean that as long as the lawyers who are employed in the COA are using their legal knowledge or legal talent in their respective work within COA, then they are qualified to be considered for appointment as members or commissioners, even chairman, of the Commission on Audit.
This has been discussed by the Committee on Constitutional Commissions and Agencies and we deem it important to take it up on the floor so that this interpretation may be made available whenever this provision on the qualifications as regards members of the Philippine Bar engaging in the practice of law for at least ten years is taken up.
MR. OPLE. Will Commissioner Foz yield to just one question.
MR. FOZ. Yes, Mr. Presiding Officer.
MR. OPLE. Is he, in effect, saying that service in the COA by a lawyer is equivalent to the requirement of a law practice that is set forth in the Article on the Commission on Audit?
MR. FOZ. We must consider the fact that the work of COA, although it is auditing, will necessarily involve legal work; it will involve legal work. And, therefore, lawyers who are employed in COA now would have the necessary qualifications in accordance with the Provision on qualifications under our provisions on the Commission on Audit. And, therefore, the answer is yes.
MR. OPLE. Yes. So that the construction given to this is that this is equivalent to the practice of law.
MR. FOZ. Yes, Mr. Presiding Officer.
MR. OPLE. Thank you.
… ( Emphasis supplied)
Section 1(1), Article IX-D of the 1987 Constitution, provides, among others, that the Chairman and two Commissioners of the Commission on Audit (COA) should either be certified public accountants with not less than ten years of auditing practice, or members of the Philippine Bar who have been engaged in the practice of law for at least ten years. (emphasis supplied)
Corollary to this is the term “private practitioner” and which is in many ways synonymous with the word “lawyer.” Today, although many lawyers do not engage in private practice, it is still a fact that the majority of lawyers are private practitioners. (Gary Munneke, Opportunities in Law Careers [VGM Career Horizons: Illinois], [1986], p. 15).
At this point, it might be helpful to define private practice. The term, as commonly understood, means “an individual or organization engaged in the business of delivering legal services.” (Ibid.). Lawyers who practice alone are often called “sole practitioners.” Groups of lawyers are called “firms.” The firm is usually a partnership and members of the firm are the partners. Some firms may be organized as professional corporations and the members called shareholders. In either case, the members of the firm are the experienced attorneys. In most firms, there are younger or more inexperienced salaried attorneyscalled “associates.” (Ibid.).
The test that defines law practice by looking to traditional areas of law practice is essentially tautologous, unhelpful defining the practice of law as that which lawyers do. (Charles W. Wolfram, Modern Legal Ethics [West Publishing Co.: Minnesota, 1986], p. 593). The practice of law is defined as the performance of any acts . . . in or out of court, commonly understood to be the practice of law. (State Bar Ass’n v. Connecticut Bank & Trust Co., 145 Conn. 222, 140 A.2d 863, 870 [1958] [quoting Grievance Comm. v. Payne, 128 Conn. 325, 22 A.2d 623, 626 [1941]). Because lawyers perform almost every function known in the commercial and governmental realm, such a definition would obviously be too global to be workable.(Wolfram, op. cit.).
The appearance of a lawyer in litigation in behalf of a client is at once the most publicly familiar role for lawyers as well as an uncommon role for the average lawyer. Most lawyers spend little time in courtrooms, and a large percentage spend their entire practice without litigating a case. (Ibid., p. 593). Nonetheless, many lawyers do continue to litigate and the litigating lawyer’s role colors much of both the public image and the self perception of the legal profession. (Ibid.).
In this regard thus, the dominance of litigation in the public mind reflects history, not reality. (Ibid.). Why is this so? Recall that the late Alexander SyCip, a corporate lawyer, once articulated on the importance of a lawyer as a business counselor in this wise: “Even today, there are still uninformed laymen whose concept of an attorney is one who principally tries cases before the courts. The members of the bench and bar and the informed laymen such as businessmen, know that in most developed societies today, substantially more legal work is transacted in law offices than in the courtrooms. General practitioners of law who do both litigation and non-litigation work also know that in most cases they find themselves spending more time doing what [is] loosely desccribe[d] as business counseling than in trying cases. The business lawyer has been described as the planner, the diagnostician and the trial lawyer, the surgeon. I[t] need not [be] stress[ed] that in law, as in medicine, surgery should be avoided where internal medicine can be effective.” (Business Star, “Corporate Finance Law,” Jan. 11, 1989, p. 4).
In the course of a working day the average general practitioner wig engage in a number of legal tasks, each involving different legal doctrines, legal skills, legal processes, legal institutions, clients, and other interested parties. Even the increasing numbers of lawyers in specialized practice wig usually perform at least some legal services outside their specialty. And even within a narrow specialty such as tax practice, a lawyer will shift from one legal task or role such as advice-giving to an importantly different one such as representing a client before an administrative agency. (Wolfram, supra, p. 687).
By no means will most of this work involve litigation, unless the lawyer is one of the relatively rare types – a litigator who specializes in this work to the exclusion of much else. Instead, the work will require the lawyer to have mastered the full range of traditional lawyer skills of client counselling, advice-giving, document drafting, and negotiation. And increasingly lawyers find that the new skills of evaluation and mediation are both effective for many clients and a source of employment. (Ibid.).
Most lawyers will engage in non-litigation legal work or in litigation work that is constrained in very important ways, at least theoretically, so as to remove from it some of the salient features of adversarial litigation. Of these special roles, the most prominent is that of prosecutor. In some lawyers’ work the constraints are imposed both by the nature of the client and by the way in which the lawyer is organized into a social unit to perform that work. The most common of these roles are those of corporate practice and government legal service. (Ibid.).
In several issues of the Business Star, a business daily, herein below quoted are emerging trends in corporate law practice, a departure from the traditional concept of practice of law.
We are experiencing today what truly may be called a revolutionary transformation in corporate law practice. Lawyers and other professional groups, in particular those members participating in various legal-policy decisional contexts, are finding that understanding the major emerging trends in corporation law is indispensable to intelligent decision-making.
Constructive adjustment to major corporate problems of today requires an accurate understanding of the nature and implications of the corporate law research function accompanied by an accelerating rate of information accumulation. The recognition of the need for such improved corporate legal policy formulation, particularly “model-making” and “contingency planning,” has impressed upon us the inadequacy of traditional procedures in many decisional contexts.
In a complex legal problem the mass of information to be processed, the sorting and weighing of significant conditional factors, the appraisal of major trends, the necessity of estimating the consequences of given courses of action, and the need for fast decision and response in situations of acute danger have prompted the use of sophisticated concepts of information flow theory, operational analysis, automatic data processing, and electronic computing equipment. Understandably, an improved decisional structure must stress the predictive component of the policy-making process, wherein a “model”, of the decisional context or a segment thereof is developed to test projected alternative courses of action in terms of futuristic effects flowing therefrom.
Although members of the legal profession are regularly engaged in predicting and projecting the trends of the law, the subject of corporate finance law has received relatively little organized and formalized attention in the philosophy of advancing corporate legal education. Nonetheless, a cross-disciplinary approach to legal research has become a vital necessity.
Certainly, the general orientation for productive contributions by those trained primarily in the law can be improved through an early introduction to multi-variable decisional context and the various approaches for handling such problems. Lawyers, particularly with either a master’s or doctorate degree in business administration or management, functioning at the legal policy level of decision-making now have some appreciation for the concepts and analytical techniques of other professions which are currently engaged in similar types of complex decision-making.
Truth to tell, many situations involving corporate finance problems would require the services of an astute attorney because of the complex legal implications that arise from each and every necessary step in securing and maintaining the business issue raised. (Business Star, “Corporate Finance Law,” Jan. 11, 1989, p. 4).
In our litigation-prone country, a corporate lawyer is assiduously referred to as the “abogado de campanilla.” He is the “big-time” lawyer, earning big money and with a clientele composed of the tycoons and magnates of business and industry.
Despite the growing number of corporate lawyers, many people could not explain what it is that a corporate lawyer does. For one, the number of attorneys employed by a single corporation will vary with the size and type of the corporation. Many smaller and some large corporations farm out all their legal problems to private law firms. Many others have in-house counsel only for certain matters. Other corporation have a staff large enough to handle most legal problems in-house.
A corporate lawyer, for all intents and purposes, is a lawyer who handles the legal affairs of a corporation. His areas of concern or jurisdiction may include, inter alia: corporate legal research, tax laws research, acting out as corporate secretary (in board meetings), appearances in both courts and other adjudicatory agencies (including the Securities and Exchange Commission), and in other capacities which require an ability to deal with the law.
At any rate, a corporate lawyer may assume responsibilities other than the legal affairs of the business of the corporation he is representing. These include such matters as determining policy and becoming involved in management. ( Emphasis supplied.)
In a big company, for example, one may have a feeling of being isolated from the action, or not understanding how one’s work actually fits into the work of the orgarnization. This can be frustrating to someone who needs to see the results of his work first hand. In short, a corporate lawyer is sometimes offered this fortune to be more closely involved in the running of the business.
Moreover, a corporate lawyer’s services may sometimes be engaged by a multinational corporation (MNC). Some large MNCs provide one of the few opportunities available to corporate lawyers to enter the international law field. After all, international law is practiced in a relatively small number of companies and law firms. Because working in a foreign country is perceived by many as glamorous, tills is an area coveted by corporate lawyers. In most cases, however, the overseas jobs go to experienced attorneys while the younger attorneys do their “international practice” in law libraries. (Business Star, “Corporate Law Practice,” May 25,1990, p. 4).
This brings us to the inevitable, i.e., the role of the lawyer in the realm of finance. To borrow the lines of Harvard-educated lawyer Bruce Wassertein, to wit: “A bad lawyer is one who fails to spot problems, a good lawyer is one who perceives the difficulties, and the excellent lawyer is one who surmounts them.” (Business Star, “Corporate Finance Law,” Jan. 11, 1989, p. 4).
Today, the study of corporate law practice direly needs a “shot in the arm,” so to speak. No longer are we talking of the traditional law teaching method of confining the subject study to the Corporation Code and the Securities Code but an incursion as well into the intertwining modern management issues.
Such corporate legal management issues deal primarily with three (3) types of learning: (1) acquisition of insights into current advances which are of particular significance to the corporate counsel; (2) an introduction to usable disciplinary skins applicable to a corporate counsel’s management responsibilities; and (3) a devotion to the organization and management of the legal function itself.
These three subject areas may be thought of as intersecting circles, with a shared area linking them. Otherwise known as “intersecting managerial jurisprudence,” it forms a unifying theme for the corporate counsel’s total learning.
Some current advances in behavior and policy sciences affect the counsel’s role. For that matter, the corporate lawyer reviews the globalization process, including the resulting strategic repositioning that the firms he provides counsel for are required to make, and the need to think about a corporation’s; strategy at multiple levels. The salience of the nation-state is being reduced as firms deal both with global multinational entities and simultaneously with sub-national governmental units. Firms increasingly collaborate not only with public entities but with each other – often with those who are competitors in other arenas.
Also, the nature of the lawyer’s participation in decision-making within the corporation is rapidly changing. The modem corporate lawyer has gained a new role as a stakeholder – in some cases participating in the organization and operations of governance through participation on boards and other decision-making roles. Often these new patterns develop alongside existing legal institutions and laws are perceived as barriers. These trends are complicated as corporations organize for global operations. ( Emphasis supplied)
The practising lawyer of today is familiar as well with governmental policies toward the promotion and management of technology. New collaborative arrangements for promoting specific technologies or competitiveness more generally require approaches from industry that differ from older, more adversarial relationships and traditional forms of seeking to influence governmental policies. And there are lessons to be learned from other countries. In Europe, Esprit, Eureka and Race are examples of collaborative efforts between governmental and business Japan’s MITI is world famous. (Emphasis supplied)
Following the concept of boundary spanning, the office of the Corporate Counsel comprises a distinct group within the managerial structure of all kinds of organizations. Effectiveness of both long-term and temporary groups within organizations has been found to be related to indentifiable factors in the group-context interaction such as the groups actively revising their knowledge of the environment coordinating work with outsiders, promoting team achievements within the organization. In general, such external activities are better predictors of team performance than internal group processes.
In a crisis situation, the legal managerial capabilities of the corporate lawyer vis-a-vis the managerial mettle of corporations are challenged. Current research is seeking ways both to anticipate effective managerial procedures and to understand relationships of financial liability and insurance considerations. (Emphasis supplied)
Regarding the skills to apply by the corporate counsel, three factors are apropos:
First System Dynamics. The field of systems dynamics has been found an effective tool for new managerial thinking regarding both planning and pressing immediate problems. An understanding of the role of feedback loops, inventory levels, and rates of flow, enable users to simulate all sorts of systematic problems – physical, economic, managerial, social, and psychological. New programming techniques now make the system dynamics principles more accessible to managers – including corporate counsels. (Emphasis supplied)
Second Decision Analysis. This enables users to make better decisions involving complexity and uncertainty. In the context of a law department, it can be used to appraise the settlement value of litigation, aid in negotiation settlement, and minimize the cost and risk involved in managing a portfolio of cases. (Emphasis supplied)
Third Modeling for Negotiation Management. Computer-based models can be used directly by parties and mediators in all lands of negotiations. All integrated set of such tools provide coherent and effective negotiation support, including hands-on on instruction in these techniques. A simulation case of an international joint venture may be used to illustrate the point.
[Be this as it may,] the organization and management of the legal function, concern three pointed areas of consideration, thus:
Preventive Lawyering. Planning by lawyers requires special skills that comprise a major part of the general counsel’s responsibilities. They differ from those of remedial law. Preventive lawyering is concerned with minimizing the risks of legal trouble and maximizing legal rights for such legal entities at that time when transactional or similar facts are being considered and made.
Managerial Jurisprudence. This is the framework within which are undertaken those activities of the firm to which legal consequences attach. It needs to be directly supportive of this nation’s evolving economic and organizational fabric as firms change to stay competitive in a global, interdependent environment. The practice and theory of “law” is not adequate today to facilitate the relationships needed in trying to make a global economy work.
Organization and Functioning of the Corporate Counsel’s Office. The general counsel has emerged in the last decade as one of the most vibrant subsets of the legal profession. The corporate counsel hear responsibility for key aspects of the firm’s strategic issues, including structuring its global operations, managing improved relationships with an increasingly diversified body of employees, managing expanded liability exposure, creating new and varied interactions with public decision-makers, coping internally with more complex make or by decisions.
This whole exercise drives home the thesis that knowing corporate law is not enough to make one a good general corporate counsel nor to give him a full sense of how the legal system shapes corporate activities. And even if the corporate lawyer’s aim is not the understand all of the law’s effects on corporate activities, he must, at the very least, also gain a working knowledge of the management issues if only to be able to grasp not only the basic legal “constitution’ or makeup of the modem corporation. “Business Star”, “The Corporate Counsel,” April 10, 1991, p. 4).
The challenge for lawyers (both of the bar and the bench) is to have more than a passing knowledge of financial law affecting each aspect of their work. Yet, many would admit to ignorance of vast tracts of the financial law territory. What transpires next is a dilemma of professional security: Will the lawyer admit ignorance and risk opprobrium?; or will he feign understanding and risk exposure? (Business Star, “Corporate Finance law,” Jan. 11, 1989, p. 4).
Respondent Christian Monsod was nominated by President Corazon C. Aquino to the position of Chairman of the COMELEC in a letter received by the Secretariat of the Commission on Appointments on April 25, 1991. Petitioner opposed the nomination because allegedly Monsod does not possess the required qualification of having been engaged in the practice of law for at least ten years.
On June 5, 1991, the Commission on Appointments confirmed the nomination of Monsod as Chairman of the COMELEC. On June 18, 1991, he took his oath of office. On the same day, he assumed office as Chairman of the COMELEC.
Challenging the validity of the confirmation by the Commission on Appointments of Monsod’s nomination, petitioner as a citizen and taxpayer, filed the instant petition for certiorari and Prohibition praying that said confirmation and the consequent appointment of Monsod as Chairman of the Commission on Elections be declared null and void.
Atty. Christian Monsod is a member of the Philippine Bar, having passed the bar examinations of 1960 with a grade of 86-55%. He has been a dues paying member of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines since its inception in 1972-73. He has also been paying his professional license fees as lawyer for more than ten years. (p. 124, Rollo)
After graduating from the College of Law (U.P.) and having hurdled the bar, Atty. Monsod worked in the law office of his father. During his stint in the World Bank Group (1963-1970), Monsod worked as an operations officer for about two years in Costa Rica and Panama, which involved getting acquainted with the laws of member-countries negotiating loans and coordinating legal, economic, and project work of the Bank. Upon returning to the Philippines in 1970, he worked with the Meralco Group, served as chief executive officer of an investment bank and subsequently of a business conglomerate, and since 1986, has rendered services to various companies as a legal and economic consultant or chief executive officer. As former Secretary-General (1986) and National Chairman (1987) of NAMFREL. Monsod’s work involved being knowledgeable in election law. He appeared for NAMFREL in its accreditation hearings before the Comelec. In the field of advocacy, Monsod, in his personal capacity and as former Co-Chairman of the Bishops Businessmen’s Conference for Human Development, has worked with the under privileged sectors, such as the farmer and urban poor groups, in initiating, lobbying for and engaging in affirmative action for the agrarian reform law and lately the urban land reform bill. Monsod also made use of his legal knowledge as a member of the Davide Commission, a quast judicial body, which conducted numerous hearings (1990) and as a member of the Constitutional Commission (1986-1987), and Chairman of its Committee on Accountability of Public Officers, for which he was cited by the President of the Commission, Justice Cecilia Muñoz-Palma for “innumerable amendments to reconcile government functions with individual freedoms and public accountability and the party-list system for the House of Representative. (pp. 128-129 Rollo) ( Emphasis supplied)
Just a word about the work of a negotiating team of which Atty. Monsod used to be a member.
In a loan agreement, for instance, a negotiating panel acts as a team, and which is adequately constituted to meet the various contingencies that arise during a negotiation. Besides top officials of the Borrower concerned, there are the legal officer (such as the legal counsel), the finance manager, and an operations officer (such as an official involved in negotiating the contracts) who comprise the members of the team. (Guillermo V. Soliven, “Loan Negotiating Strategies for Developing Country Borrowers,” Staff Paper No. 2, Central Bank of the Philippines, Manila, 1982, p. 11). (Emphasis supplied)
After a fashion, the loan agreement is like a country’s Constitution; it lays down the law as far as the loan transaction is concerned. Thus, the meat of any Loan Agreement can be compartmentalized into five (5) fundamental parts: (1) business terms; (2) borrower’s representation; (3) conditions of closing; (4) covenants; and (5) events of default. (Ibid., p. 13).
In the same vein, lawyers play an important role in any debt restructuring program. For aside from performing the tasks of legislative drafting and legal advising, they score national development policies as key factors in maintaining their countries’ sovereignty. (Condensed from the work paper, entitled “Wanted: Development Lawyers for Developing Nations,” submitted by L. Michael Hager, regional legal adviser of the United States Agency for International Development, during the Session on Law for the Development of Nations at the Abidjan World Conference in Ivory Coast, sponsored by the World Peace Through Law Center on August 26-31, 1973). ( Emphasis supplied)
Loan concessions and compromises, perhaps even more so than purely renegotiation policies, demand expertise in the law of contracts, in legislation and agreement drafting and in renegotiation. Necessarily, a sovereign lawyer may work with an international business specialist or an economist in the formulation of a model loan agreement. Debt restructuring contract agreements contain such a mixture of technical language that they should be carefully drafted and signed only with the advise of competent counsel in conjunction with the guidance of adequate technical support personnel. (See International Law Aspects of the Philippine External Debts, an unpublished dissertation, U.S.T. Graduate School of Law, 1987, p. 321). ( Emphasis supplied)
A critical aspect of sovereign debt restructuring/contract construction is the set of terms and conditions which determines the contractual remedies for a failure to perform one or more elements of the contract. A good agreement must not only define the responsibilities of both parties, but must also state the recourse open to either party when the other fails to discharge an obligation. For a compleat debt restructuring represents a devotion to that principle which in the ultimate analysis is sine qua non for foreign loan agreements-an adherence to the rule of law in domestic and international affairs of whose kind U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once said: “They carry no banners, they beat no drums; but where they are, men learn that bustle and bush are not the equal of quiet genius and serene mastery.” (See Ricardo J. Romulo, “The Role of Lawyers in Foreign Investments,” Integrated Bar of the Philippine Journal, Vol. 15, Nos. 3 and 4, Third and Fourth Quarters, 1977, p. 265).
Interpreted in the light of the various definitions of the term Practice of law”. particularly the modern concept of law practice, and taking into consideration the liberal construction intended by the framers of the Constitution, Atty. Monsod’s past work experiences as a lawyer-economist, a lawyer-manager, a lawyer-entrepreneur of industry, a lawyer-negotiator of contracts, and a lawyer-legislator of both the rich and the poor – verily more than satisfy the constitutional requirement – that he has been engaged in the practice of law for at least ten years.
Besides in the leading case of Luego v. Civil Service Commission, 143 SCRA 327, the Court said:
Appointment is an essentially discretionary power and must be performed by the officer in which it is vested according to his best lights, the only condition being that the appointee should possess the qualifications required by law. If he does, then the appointment cannot be faulted on the ground that there are others better qualified who should have been preferred. This is a political question involving considerations of wisdom which only the appointing authority can decide. (emphasis supplied)
No less emphatic was the Court in the case of (Central Bank v. Civil Service Commission, 171 SCRA 744) where it stated:
It is well-settled that when the appointee is qualified, as in this case, and all the other legal requirements are satisfied, the Commission has no alternative but to attest to the appointment in accordance with the Civil Service Law. The Commission has no authority to revoke an appointment on the ground that another person is more qualified for a particular position. It also has no authority to direct the appointment of a substitute of its choice. To do so would be an encroachment on the discretion vested upon the appointing authority. An appointment is essentially within the discretionary power of whomsoever it is vested, subject to the only condition that the appointee should possess the qualifications required by law. ( Emphasis supplied)
The appointing process in a regular appointment as in the case at bar, consists of four (4) stages: (1) nomination; (2) confirmation by the Commission on Appointments; (3) issuance of a commission (in the Philippines, upon submission by the Commission on Appointments of its certificate of confirmation, the President issues the permanent appointment; and (4) acceptance e.g., oath-taking, posting of bond, etc. . . . (Lacson v. Romero, No. L-3081, October 14, 1949; Gonzales, Law on Public Officers, p. 200)
The power of the Commission on Appointments to give its consent to the nomination of Monsod as Chairman of the Commission on Elections is mandated by Section 1(2) Sub-Article C, Article IX of the Constitution which provides:
The Chairman and the Commisioners shall be appointed by the President with the consent of the Commission on Appointments for a term of seven years without reappointment. Of those first appointed, three Members shall hold office for seven years, two Members for five years, and the last Members for three years, without reappointment. Appointment to any vacancy shall be only for the unexpired term of the predecessor. In no case shall any Member be appointed or designated in a temporary or acting capacity.
Anent Justice Teodoro Padilla’s separate opinion, suffice it to say that his definition of the practice of law is the traditional or stereotyped notion of law practice, as distinguished from the modern concept of the practice of law, which modern connotation is exactly what was intended by the eminent framers of the 1987 Constitution. Moreover, Justice Padilla’s definition would require generally a habitual law practice, perhaps practised two or three times a week and would outlaw say, law practice once or twice a year for ten consecutive years. Clearly, this is far from the constitutional intent.
Upon the other hand, the separate opinion of Justice Isagani Cruz states that in my written opinion, I made use of a definition of law practice which really means nothing because the definition says that law practice ” . . . is what people ordinarily mean by the practice of law.” True I cited the definition but only by way of sarcasm as evident from my statement that the definition of law practice by “traditional areas of law practice is essentially tautologous” or defining a phrase by means of the phrase itself that is being defined.
Justice Cruz goes on to say in substance that since the law covers almost all situations, most individuals, in making use of the law, or in advising others on what the law means, are actually practicing law. In that sense, perhaps, but we should not lose sight of the fact that Mr. Monsod is a lawyer, a member of the Philippine Bar, who has been practising law for over ten years. This is different from the acts of persons practising law, without first becoming lawyers.
Justice Cruz also says that the Supreme Court can even disqualify an elected President of the Philippines, say, on the ground that he lacks one or more qualifications. This matter, I greatly doubt. For one thing, how can an action or petition be brought against the President? And even assuming that he is indeed disqualified, how can the action be entertained since he is the incumbent President?
We now proceed:
The Commission on the basis of evidence submitted doling the public hearings on Monsod’s confirmation, implicitly determined that he possessed the necessary qualifications as required by law. The judgment rendered by the Commission in the exercise of such an acknowledged power is beyond judicial interference except only upon a clear showing of a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. (Art. VIII, Sec. 1 Constitution). Thus, only where such grave abuse of discretion is clearly shown shall the Court interfere with the Commission’s judgment. In the instant case, there is no occasion for the exercise of the Court’s corrective power, since no abuse, much less a grave abuse of discretion, that would amount to lack or excess of jurisdiction and would warrant the issuance of the writs prayed, for has been clearly shown.
Additionally, consider the following:
(1) If the Commission on Appointments rejects a nominee by the President, may the Supreme Court reverse the Commission, and thus in effect confirm the appointment? Clearly, the answer is in the negative.
(2) In the same vein, may the Court reject the nominee, whom the Commission has confirmed? The answer is likewise clear.
(3) If the United States Senate (which is the confirming body in the U.S. Congress) decides to confirm a Presidential nominee, it would be incredible that the U.S. Supreme Court would still reverse the U.S. Senate.
Finally, one significant legal maxim is:
We must interpret not by the letter that killeth, but by the spirit that giveth life.
Take this hypothetical case of Samson and Delilah. Once, the procurator of Judea asked Delilah (who was Samson’s beloved) for help in capturing Samson. Delilah agreed on condition that –
No blade shall touch his skin;
No blood shall flow from his veins.
When Samson (his long hair cut by Delilah) was captured, the procurator placed an iron rod burning white-hot two or three inches away from in front of Samson’s eyes. This blinded the man. Upon hearing of what had happened to her beloved, Delilah was beside herself with anger, and fuming with righteous fury, accused the procurator of reneging on his word. The procurator calmly replied: “Did any blade touch his skin? Did any blood flow from his veins?” The procurator was clearly relying on the letter, not the spirit of the agreement.
In view of the foregoing, this petition is hereby DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.
Resolution March 18, 1954
In the Matter of the Petitions for Admission to the Bar of Unsuccessful Candidates of 1946 to 1953;
ALBINO CUNANAN, ET AL., petitioners.
DIOKNO, J.:
In recent years few controversial issues have aroused so much public interest and concern as Republic Act No. 972, popularly known as the “Bar Flunkers’ Act of 1953.” Under the Rules of Court governing admission to the bar, “in order that a candidate (for admission to the Bar) may be deemed to have passed his examinations successfully, he must have obtained a general average of 75 per cent in all subjects, without falling below 50 per cent in any subject.” (Rule 127, sec. 14, Rules of Court). Nevertheless, considering the varying difficulties of the different bar examinations held since 1946 and the varying degree of strictness with which the examination papers were graded, this court passed and admitted to the bar those candidates who had obtained an average of only 72 per cent in 1946, 69 per cent in 1947, 70 per cent in 1948, and 74 per cent in 1949. In 1950 to 1953, the 74 per cent was raised to 75 per cent.
Believing themselves as fully qualified to practice law as those reconsidered and passed by this court, and feeling conscious of having been discriminated against (See Explanatory Note to R.A. No. 972), unsuccessful candidates who obtained averages of a few percentage lower than those admitted to the Bar agitated in Congress for, and secured in 1951 the passage of Senate Bill No. 12 which, among others, reduced the passing general average in bar examinations to 70 per cent effective since 1946. The President requested the views of this court on the bill. Complying with that request, seven members of the court subscribed to and submitted written comments adverse thereto, and shortly thereafter the President vetoed it. Congress did not override the veto. Instead, it approved Senate Bill No. 371, embodying substantially the provisions of the vetoed bill. Although the members of this court reiterated their unfavorable views on the matter, the President allowed the bill to become a law on June 21, 1953 without his signature. The law, which incidentally was enacted in an election year, reads in full as follows:
REPUBLIC ACT NO. 972
AN ACT TO FIX THE PASSING MARKS FOR BAR EXAMINATIONS FROM NINETEEN HUNDRED AND FORTY-SIX UP TO AND INCLUDING NINETEEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY-FIVE.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Philippines in Congress assembled:
SECTION 1. Notwithstanding the provisions of section fourteen, Rule numbered one hundred twenty-seven of the Rules of Court, any bar candidate who obtained a general average of seventy per cent in any bar examinations after July fourth, nineteen hundred and forty-six up to the August nineteen hundred and fifty-one bar examinations; seventy-one per cent in the nineteen hundred and fifty-two bar examinations; seventy-two per cent in the in the nineteen hundred and fifty-three bar examinations; seventy-three per cent in the nineteen hundred and fifty-four bar examinations; seventy-four per cent in the nineteen hundred and fifty-five bar examinations without a candidate obtaining a grade below fifty per cent in any subject, shall be allowed to take and subscribe the corresponding oath of office as member of the Philippine Bar: Provided, however, That for the purpose of this Act, any exact one-half or more of a fraction, shall be considered as one and included as part of the next whole number.
SEC. 2. Any bar candidate who obtained a grade of seventy-five per cent in any subject in any bar examination after July fourth, nineteen hundred and forty-six shall be deemed to have passed in such subject or subjects and such grade or grades shall be included in computing the passing general average that said candidate may obtain in any subsequent examinations that he may take.
SEC. 3. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.
Enacted on June 21, 1953, without the Executive approval.
After its approval, many of the unsuccessful postwar candidates filed petitions for admission to the bar invoking its provisions, while others whose motions for the revision of their examination papers were still pending also invoked the aforesaid law as an additional ground for admission. There are also others who have sought simply the reconsideration of their grades without, however, invoking the law in question. To avoid injustice to individual petitioners, the court first reviewed the motions for reconsideration, irrespective of whether or not they had invoked Republic Act No. 972. Unfortunately, the court has found no reason to revise their grades. If they are to be admitted to the bar, it must be pursuant to Republic Act No. 972 which, if declared valid, should be applied equally to all concerned whether they have filed petitions or not. A complete list of the petitioners, properly classified, affected by this decision, as well as a more detailed account of the history of Republic Act No. 972, are appended to this decision as Annexes I and II. And to realize more readily the effects of the law, the following statistical data are set forth:
(1) The unsuccessful bar candidates who are to be benefited by section 1 of Republic Act No. 972 total 1,168, classified as follows:
1946 (August) 206 121 18 1946 (November) 477 228 43 1947 749 340 0 1948 899 409 11 1949 1,218 532 164 1950 1,316 893 26 1951 2,068 879 196 1952 2,738 1,033 426 1953 2555 968 284 TOTAL 12,230 5,421 1,168 Of the total 1,168 candidates, 92 have passed in subsequent examination, and only 586 have filed either motions for admission to the bar pursuant to said Republic Act, or mere motions for reconsideration.
(2) In addition, some other 10 unsuccessful candidates are to be benefited by section 2 of said Republic Act. These candidates had each taken from two to five different examinations, but failed to obtain a passing average in any of them. Consolidating, however, their highest grades in different subjects in previous examinations, with their latest marks, they would be sufficient to reach the passing average as provided for by Republic Act No. 972.
(3) The total number of candidates to be benefited by this Republic Acts is therefore 1,094, of which only 604 have filed petitions. Of these 604 petitioners, 33 who failed in 1946 to 1951 had individually presented motions for reconsideration which were denied, while 125 unsuccessful candidates of 1952, and 56 of 1953, had presented similar motions, which are still pending because they could be favorably affected by Republic Act No. 972, – although as has been already stated, this tribunal finds no sufficient reasons to reconsider their grades
UNCONSTITUTIONALITY OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 972
Having been called upon to enforce a law of far-reaching effects on the practice of the legal profession and the administration of justice, and because some doubts have been expressed as to its validity, the court set the hearing of the afore-mentioned petitions for admission on the sole question of whether or not Republic Act No. 972 is constitutional.
We have been enlightened in the study of this question by the brilliant assistance of the members of the bar who have amply argued, orally an in writing, on the various aspects in which the question may be gleaned. The valuable studies of Messrs. E. Voltaire Garcia, Vicente J. Francisco, Vicente Pelaez and Buenaventura Evangelista, in favor of the validity of the law, and of the U.P. Women’s Lawyers’ Circle, the Solicitor General, Messrs. Arturo A. Alafriz, Enrique M. Fernando, Vicente Abad Santos, Carlos A. Barrios, Vicente del Rosario, Juan de Blancaflor, Mamerto V. Gonzales, and Roman Ozaeta against it, aside from the memoranda of counsel for petitioners, Messrs. Jose M. Aruego, M.H. de Joya, Miguel R. Cornejo and Antonio Enrile Inton, and of petitioners Cabrera, Macasaet and Galema themselves, has greatly helped us in this task. The legal researchers of the court have exhausted almost all Philippine and American jurisprudence on the matter. The question has been the object of intense deliberation for a long time by the Tribunal, and finally, after the voting, the preparation of the majority opinion was assigned to a new member in order to place it as humanly as possible above all suspicion of prejudice or partiality.
Republic Act No. 972 has for its object, according to its author, to admit to the Bar, those candidates who suffered from insufficiency of reading materials and inadequate preparation. Quoting a portion of the Explanatory Note of the proposed bill, its author Honorable Senator Pablo Angeles David stated:
The reason for relaxing the standard 75 per cent passing grade is the tremendous handicap which students during the years immediately after the Japanese occupation has to overcome such as the insufficiency of reading materials and the inadequacy of the preparation of students who took up law soon after the liberation.
Of the 9,675 candidates who took the examinations from 1946 to 1952, 5,236 passed. And now it is claimed that in addition 604 candidates be admitted (which in reality total 1,094), because they suffered from “insufficiency of reading materials” and of “inadequacy of preparation.”
By its declared objective, the law is contrary to public interest because it qualifies 1,094 law graduates who confessedly had inadequate preparation for the practice of the profession, as was exactly found by this Tribunal in the aforesaid examinations. The public interest demands of legal profession adequate preparation and efficiency, precisely more so as legal problem evolved by the times become more difficult. An adequate legal preparation is one of the vital requisites for the practice of law that should be developed constantly and maintained firmly. To the legal profession is entrusted the protection of property, life, honor and civil liberties. To approve officially of those inadequately prepared individuals to dedicate themselves to such a delicate mission is to create a serious social danger. Moreover, the statement that there was an insufficiency of legal reading materials is grossly exaggerated. There were abundant materials. Decisions of this court alone in mimeographed copies were made available to the public during those years and private enterprises had also published them in monthly magazines and annual digests. The Official Gazette had been published continuously. Books and magazines published abroad have entered without restriction since 1945. Many law books, some even with revised and enlarged editions have been printed locally during those periods. A new set of Philippine Reports began to be published since 1946, which continued to be supplemented by the addition of new volumes. Those are facts of public knowledge.
Notwithstanding all these, if the law in question is valid, it has to be enforced.
The question is not new in its fundamental aspect or from the point of view of applicable principles, but the resolution of the question would have been easier had an identical case of similar background been picked out from the jurisprudence we daily consult. Is there any precedent in the long Anglo-Saxon legal history, from which has been directly derived the judicial system established here with its lofty ideals by the Congress of the United States, and which we have preserved and attempted to improve, or in our contemporaneous judicial history of more than half a century? From the citations of those defending the law, we can not find a case in which the validity of a similar law had been sustained, while those against its validity cite, among others, the cases of Day (In re Day, 54 NE 646), of Cannon (State vs. Cannon, 240 NW, 441), the opinion of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts in 1932 (81 ALR 1061), of Guariña (24 Phil., 37), aside from the opinion of the President which is expressed in his vote of the original bill and which the postponement of the contested law respects.
This law has no precedent in its favor. When similar laws in other countries had been promulgated, the judiciary immediately declared them without force or effect. It is not within our power to offer a precedent to uphold the disputed law.
To be exact, we ought to state here that we have examined carefully the case that has been cited to us as a favorable precedent of the law – that of Cooper (22 NY, 81), where the Court of Appeals of New York revoked the decision of the Supreme court of that State, denying the petition of Cooper to be admitted to the practice of law under the provisions of a statute concerning the school of law of Columbia College promulgated on April 7, 1860, which was declared by the Court of Appeals to be consistent with the Constitution of the state of New York.
It appears that the Constitution of New York at that time provided:
They (i.e., the judges) shall not hold any other office of public trust. All votes for either of them for any elective office except that of the Court of Appeals, given by the Legislature or the people, shall be void. They shall not exercise any power of appointment to public office. Any male citizen of the age of twenty-one years, of good moral character, and who possesses the requisite qualifications of learning and ability, shall be entitled to admission to practice in all the courts of this State. (p. 93).
According to the Court of Appeals, the object of the constitutional precept is as follows:
Attorneys, solicitors, etc., were public officers; the power of appointing them had previously rested with the judges, and this was the principal appointing power which they possessed. The convention was evidently dissatisfied with the manner in which this power had been exercised, and with the restrictions which the judges had imposed upon admission to practice before them. The prohibitory clause in the section quoted was aimed directly at this power, and the insertion of the provision” expecting the admission of attorneys, in this particular section of the Constitution, evidently arose from its connection with the object of this prohibitory clause. There is nothing indicative of confidence in the courts or of a disposition to preserve any portion of their power over this subject, unless the Supreme Court is right in the inference it draws from the use of the word `admission’ in the action referred to. It is urged that the admission spoken of must be by the court; that to admit means to grant leave, and that the power of granting necessarily implies the power of refusing, and of course the right of determining whether the applicant possesses the requisite qualifications to entitle him to admission.
These positions may all be conceded, without affecting the validity of the act. (p. 93.)
Now, with respect to the law of April 7, 1860, the decision seems to indicate that it provided that the possession of a diploma of the school of law of Columbia College conferring the degree of Bachelor of Laws was evidence of the legal qualifications that the constitution required of applicants for admission to the Bar. The decision does not however quote the text of the law, which we cannot find in any public or accessible private library in the country.
In the case of Cooper, supra, to make the law consistent with the Constitution of New York, the Court of Appeals said of the object of the law:
The motive for passing the act in question is apparent. Columbia College being an institution of established reputation, and having a law department under the charge of able professors, the students in which department were not only subjected to a formal examination by the law committee of the institution, but to a certain definite period of study before being entitled to a diploma of being graduates, the Legislature evidently, and no doubt justly, considered this examination, together with the preliminary study required by the act, as fully equivalent as a test of legal requirements, to the ordinary examination by the court; and as rendering the latter examination, to which no definite period of preliminary study was essential, unnecessary and burdensome.
The act was obviously passed with reference to the learning and ability of the applicant, and for the mere purpose of substituting the examination by the law committee of the college for that of the court. It could have had no other object, and hence no greater scope should be given to its provisions. We cannot suppose that the Legislature designed entirely to dispense with the plain and explicit requirements of the Constitution; and the act contains nothing whatever to indicate an intention that the authorities of the college should inquire as to the age, citizenship, etc., of the students before granting a diploma. The only rational interpretation of which the act admits is, that it was intended to make the college diploma competent evidence as to the legal attainments of the applicant, and nothing else. To this extent alone it operates as a modification of pre-existing statutes, and it is to be read in connection with these statutes and with the Constitution itself in order to determine the present condition of the law on the subject. (p.89)
x x x x x x x x x
The Legislature has not taken from the court its jurisdiction over the question of admission, that has simply prescribed what shall be competent evidence in certain cases upon that question. (p.93)
From the foregoing, the complete inapplicability of the case of Cooper with that at bar may be clearly seen. Please note only the following distinctions:
(1) The law of New York does not require that any candidate of Columbia College who failed in the bar examinations be admitted to the practice of law.
(2) The law of New York according to the very decision of Cooper, has not taken from the court its jurisdiction over the question of admission of attorney at law; in effect, it does not decree the admission of any lawyer.
(3) The Constitution of New York at that time and that of the Philippines are entirely different on the matter of admission of the practice of law.
In the judicial system from which ours has been evolved, the admission, suspension, disbarment and reinstatement of attorneys at law in the practice of the profession and their supervision have been disputably a judicial function and responsibility. Because of this attribute, its continuous and zealous possession and exercise by the judicial power have been demonstrated during more than six centuries, which certainly “constitutes the most solid of titles.” Even considering the power granted to Congress by our Constitution to repeal, alter supplement the rules promulgated by this Court regarding the admission to the practice of law, to our judgment and proposition that the admission, suspension, disbarment and reinstatement of the attorneys at law is a legislative function, properly belonging to Congress, is unacceptable. The function requires (1) previously established rules and principles, (2) concrete facts, whether past or present, affecting determinate individuals. and (3) decision as to whether these facts are governed by the rules and principles; in effect, a judicial function of the highest degree. And it becomes more undisputably judicial, and not legislative, if previous judicial resolutions on the petitions of these same individuals are attempted to be revoked or modified.
We have said that in the judicial system from which ours has been derived, the act of admitting, suspending, disbarring and reinstating attorneys at law in the practice of the profession is concededly judicial. A comprehensive and conscientious study of this matter had been undertaken in the case of State vs. Cannon (1932) 240 NW 441, in which the validity of a legislative enactment providing that Cannon be permitted to practice before the courts was discussed. From the text of this decision we quote the following paragraphs:
This statute presents an assertion of legislative power without parallel in the history of the English speaking people so far as we have been able to ascertain. There has been much uncertainty as to the extent of the power of the Legislature to prescribe the ultimate qualifications of attorney at law has been expressly committed to the courts, and the act of admission has always been regarded as a judicial function. This act purports to constitute Mr. Cannon an attorney at law, and in this respect it stands alone as an assertion of legislative power. (p. 444)
Under the Constitution all legislative power is vested in a Senate and Assembly. (Section 1, art. 4.) In so far as the prescribing of qualifications for admission to the bar are legislative in character, the Legislature is acting within its constitutional authority when it sets up and prescribes such qualifications. (p. 444)
But when the Legislature has prescribed those qualifications which in its judgment will serve the purpose of legitimate legislative solicitude, is the power of the court to impose other and further exactions and qualifications foreclosed or exhausted? (p. 444)
Under our Constitution the judicial and legislative departments are distinct, independent, and coordinate branches of the government. Neither branch enjoys all the powers of sovereignty which properly belongs to its department. Neither department should so act as to embarrass the other in the discharge of its respective functions. That was the scheme and thought of the people setting upon the form of government under which we exist. State vs. Hastings, 10 Wis., 525; Attorney General ex rel. Bashford vs. Barstow, 4 Wis., 567. (p. 445)
The judicial department of government is responsible for the plane upon which the administration of justice is maintained. Its responsibility in this respect is exclusive. By committing a portion of the powers of sovereignty to the judicial department of our state government, under 42a scheme which it was supposed rendered it immune from embarrassment or interference by any other department of government, the courts cannot escape responsibility fir the manner in which the powers of sovereignty thus committed to the judicial department are exercised. (p. 445)
The relation at the bar to the courts is a peculiar and intimate relationship. The bar is an attache of the courts. The quality of justice dispense by the courts depends in no small degree upon the integrity of its bar. An unfaithful bar may easily bring scandal and reproach to the administration of justice and bring the courts themselves into disrepute. (p.445)
Through all time courts have exercised a direct and severe supervision over their bars, at least in the English speaking countries. (p. 445)
After explaining the history of the case, the Court ends thus:
Our conclusion may be epitomized as follows: For more than six centuries prior to the adoption of our Constitution, the courts of England, concededly subordinate to Parliament since the Revolution of 1688, had exercise the right of determining who should be admitted to the practice of law, which, as was said in Matter of the Sergeant’s at Law, 6 Bingham’s New Cases 235, “constitutes the most solid of all titles.” If the courts and judicial power be regarded as an entity, the power to determine who should be admitted to practice law is a constituent element of that entity. It may be difficult to isolate that element and say with assurance that it is either a part of the inherent power of the court, or an essential element of the judicial power exercised by the court, but that it is a power belonging to the judicial entity and made of not only a sovereign institution, but made of it a separate independent, and coordinate branch of the government. They took this institution along with the power traditionally exercise to determine who should constitute its attorney at law. There is no express provision in the Constitution which indicates an intent that this traditional power of the judicial department should in any manner be subject to legislative control. Perhaps the dominant thought of the framers of our constitution was to make the three great departments of government separate and independent of one another. The idea that the Legislature might embarrass the judicial department by prescribing inadequate qualifications for attorneys at law is inconsistent with the dominant purpose of making the judicial independent of the legislative department, and such a purpose should not be inferred in the absence of express constitutional provisions. While the legislature may legislate with respect to the qualifications of attorneys, but is incidental merely to its general and unquestioned power to protect the public interest. When it does legislate a fixing a standard of qualifications required of attorneys at law in order that public interests may be protected, such qualifications do not constitute only a minimum standard and limit the class from which the court must make its selection. Such legislative qualifications do not constitute the ultimate qualifications beyond which the court cannot go in fixing additional qualifications deemed necessary by the course of the proper administration of judicial functions. There is no legislative power to compel courts to admit to their bars persons deemed by them unfit to exercise the prerogatives of an attorney at law. (p. 450)
Furthermore, it is an unlawful attempt to exercise the power of appointment. It is quite likely true that the legislature may exercise the power of appointment when it is in pursuance of a legislative functions. However, the authorities are well-nigh unanimous that the power to admit attorneys to the practice of law is a judicial function. In all of the states, except New Jersey (In re Reisch, 83 N.J. Eq. 82, 90 A. 12), so far as our investigation reveals, attorneys receive their formal license to practice law by their admission as members of the bar of the court so admitting. Cor. Jur. 572; Ex parte Secombre, 19 How. 9,15 L. Ed. 565; Ex parte Garland, 4 Wall. 333, 18 L. Ed. 366; Randall vs. Brigham, 7 Wall. 53, 19 L. Ed. 285; Hanson vs. Grattan, 48 Kan, 843, 115 P. 646, 34 L.R.A. 519; Danforth vs. Egan, 23 S. D. 43, 119 N.W. 1021, 130 Am. St. Rep. 1030, 20 Ann. Cas. 413.
The power of admitting an attorney to practice having been perpetually exercised by the courts, it having been so generally held that the act of the court in admitting an attorney to practice is the judgment of the court, and an attempt as this on the part of the Legislature to confer such right upon any one being most exceedingly uncommon, it seems clear that the licensing of an attorney is and always has been a purely judicial function, no matter where the power to determine the qualifications may reside. (p. 451)
In that same year of 1932, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, in answering a consultation of the Senate of that State, 180 NE 725, said:
It is indispensible to the administration of justice and to interpretation of the laws that there be members of the bar of sufficient ability, adequate learning and sound moral character. This arises from the need of enlightened assistance to the honest, and restraining authority over the knavish, litigant. It is highly important, also that the public be protected from incompetent and vicious practitioners, whose opportunity for doing mischief is wide. It was said by Cardoz, C.L., in People ex rel. Karlin vs. Culkin, 242 N.Y. 456, 470, 471, 162 N.E. 487, 489, 60 A.L.R. 851: “Membership in the bar is a privilege burden with conditions.” One is admitted to the bar “for something more than private gain.” He becomes an “officer of the court”, and ,like the court itself, an instrument or agency to advance the end of justice. His cooperation with the court is due “whenever justice would be imperiled if cooperation was withheld.” Without such attorneys at law the judicial department of government would be hampered in the performance of its duties. That has been the history of attorneys under the common law, both in this country and England. Admission to practice as an attorney at law is almost without exception conceded to be a judicial function. Petition to that end is filed in courts, as are other proceedings invoking judicial action. Admission to the bar is accomplish and made open and notorious by a decision of the court entered upon its records. The establishment by the Constitution of the judicial department conferred authority necessary to the exercise of its powers as a coordinate department of government. It is an inherent power of such a department of government ultimately to determine the qualifications of those to be admitted to practice in its courts, for assisting in its work, and to protect itself in this respect from the unfit, those lacking in sufficient learning, and those not possessing good moral character. Chief Justice Taney stated succinctly and with finality in Ex parte Secombe, 19 How. 9, 13, 15 L. Ed. 565, “It has been well settled, by the rules and practice of common-law courts, that it rests exclusively with the court to determine who is qualified to become one of its officers, as an attorney and counselor, and for what cause he ought to be removed.” (p.727)
In the case of Day and others who collectively filed a petition to secure license to practice the legal profession by virtue of a law of state (In re Day, 54 NE 646), the court said in part:
In the case of Ex parte Garland, 4 Wall, 333, 18 L. Ed. 366, the court, holding the test oath for attorneys to be unconstitutional, explained the nature of the attorney’s office as follows: “They are officers of the court, admitted as such by its order, upon evidence of their possessing sufficient legal learning and fair private character. It has always been the general practice in this country to obtain this evidence by an examination of the parties. In this court the fact of the admission of such officers in the highest court of the states to which they, respectively, belong for, three years preceding their application, is regarded as sufficient evidence of the possession of the requisite legal learning, and the statement of counsel moving their admission sufficient evidence that their private and professional character is fair. The order of admission is the judgment of the court that the parties possess the requisite qualifications as attorneys and counselors, and are entitled to appear as such and conduct causes therein. From its entry the parties become officers of the court, and are responsible to it for professional misconduct. They hold their office during good behavior, and can only be deprived of it for misconduct ascertained and declared by the judgment of the court after opportunity to be heard has been afforded. Ex parte Hoyfron, admission or their exclusion is not the exercise of a mere ministerial power. It is the exercise of judicial power, and has been so held in numerous cases. It was so held by the court of appeals of New York in the matter of the application of Cooper for admission. Re Cooper 22 N. Y. 81. “Attorneys and Counselors”, said that court, “are not only officers of the court, but officers whose duties relate almost exclusively to proceedings of a judicial nature; and hence their appointment may, with propriety, be entrusted to the court, and the latter, in performing his duty, may very justly considered as engaged in the exercise of their appropriate judicial functions.” (pp. 650-651).
We quote from other cases, the following pertinent portions:
Admission to practice of law is almost without exception conceded everywhere to be the exercise of a judicial function, and this opinion need not be burdened with citations in this point. Admission to practice have also been held to be the exercise of one of the inherent powers of the court. – Re Bruen, 102 Wash. 472, 172 Pac. 906.
Admission to the practice of law is the exercise of a judicial function, and is an inherent power of the court. – A.C. Brydonjack, vs. State Bar of California, 281 Pac. 1018; See Annotation on Power of Legislature respecting admission to bar, 65, A.L. R. 1512.
On this matter there is certainly a clear distinction between the functions of the judicial and legislative departments of the government.
The distinction between the functions of the legislative and the judicial departments is that it is the province of the legislature to establish rules that shall regulate and govern in matters of transactions occurring subsequent to the legislative action, while the judiciary determines rights and obligations with reference to transactions that are past or conditions that exist at the time of the exercise of judicial power, and the distinction is a vital one and not subject to alteration or change either by legislative action or by judicial decree.
The judiciary cannot consent that its province shall be invaded by either of the other departments of the government. – 16 C.J.S., Constitutional Law, p. 229.
If the legislature cannot thus indirectly control the action of the courts by requiring of them construction of the law according to its own views, it is very plain it cannot do so directly, by settling aside their judgments, compelling them to grant new trials, ordering the discharge of offenders, or directing what particular steps shall be taken in the progress of a judicial inquiry. – Cooley’s Constitutional Limitations, 192.
In decreeing the bar candidates who obtained in the bar examinations of 1946 to 1952, a general average of 70 per cent without falling below 50 per cent in any subject, be admitted in mass to the practice of law, the disputed law is not a legislation; it is a judgment – a judgment revoking those promulgated by this Court during the aforecited year affecting the bar candidates concerned; and although this Court certainly can revoke these judgments even now, for justifiable reasons, it is no less certain that only this Court, and not the legislative nor executive department, that may be so. Any attempt on the part of any of these departments would be a clear usurpation of its functions, as is the case with the law in question.
That the Constitution has conferred on Congress the power to repeal, alter or supplement the rule promulgated by this Tribunal, concerning the admission to the practice of law, is no valid argument. Section 13, article VIII of the Constitution provides:
Section 13. The Supreme Court shall have the power to promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts, and the admission to the practice of law. Said rules shall be uniform for all courts of the same grade and shall not diminish, increase or modify substantive rights. The existing laws on pleading, practice and procedure are hereby repealed as statutes, and are declared Rules of Court, subject to the power of the Supreme Court to alter and modify the same. The Congress shall have the power to repeal, alter, or supplement the rules concerning pleading, practice, and procedure, and the admission to the practice of law in the Philippines. – Constitution of the Philippines, Art. VIII, sec. 13.
It will be noted that the Constitution has not conferred on Congress and this Tribunal equal responsibilities concerning the admission to the practice of law. the primary power and responsibility which the Constitution recognizes continue to reside in this Court. Had Congress found that this Court has not promulgated any rule on the matter, it would have nothing over which to exercise the power granted to it. Congress may repeal, alter and supplement the rules promulgated by this Court, but the authority and responsibility over the admission, suspension, disbarment and reinstatement of attorneys at law and their supervision remain vested in the Supreme Court. The power to repeal, alter and supplement the rules does not signify nor permit that Congress substitute or take the place of this Tribunal in the exercise of its primary power on the matter. The Constitution does not say nor mean that Congress may admit, suspend, disbar or reinstate directly attorneys at law, or a determinate group of individuals to the practice of law. Its power is limited to repeal, modify or supplement the existing rules on the matter, if according to its judgment the need for a better service of the legal profession requires it. But this power does not relieve this Court of its responsibility to admit, suspend, disbar and reinstate attorneys at law and supervise the practice of the legal profession.
Being coordinate and independent branches, the power to promulgate and enforce rules for the admission to the practice of law and the concurrent power to repeal, alter and supplement them may and should be exercised with the respect that each owes to the other, giving careful consideration to the responsibility which the nature of each department requires. These powers have existed together for centuries without diminution on each part; the harmonious delimitation being found in that the legislature may and should examine if the existing rules on the admission to the Bar respond to the demands which public interest requires of a Bar endowed with high virtues, culture, training and responsibility. The legislature may, by means of appeal, amendment or supplemental rules, fill up any deficiency that it may find, and the judicial power, which has the inherent responsibility for a good and efficient administration of justice and the supervision of the practice of the legal profession, should consider these reforms as the minimum standards for the elevation of the profession, and see to it that with these reforms the lofty objective that is desired in the exercise of its traditional duty of admitting, suspending, disbarring and reinstating attorneys at law is realized. They are powers which, exercise within their proper constitutional limits, are not repugnant, but rather complementary to each other in attaining the establishment of a Bar that would respond to the increasing and exacting necessities of the administration of justice.
The case of Guariña (1913) 24 Phil., 37, illustrates our criterion. Guariña took examination and failed by a few points to obtain the general average. A recently enacted law provided that one who had been appointed to the position of Fiscal may be admitted to the practice of law without a previous examination. The Government appointed Guariña and he discharged the duties of Fiscal in a remote province. This tribunal refused to give his license without previous examinations. The court said:
Relying upon the provisions of section 2 of Act No. 1597, the applicant in this case seeks admission to the bar, without taking the prescribed examination, on the ground that he holds the office of provincial fiscal for the Province of Batanes.
Section 2 of Act No. 1597, enacted February 28, 1907, is as follows:
Sec. 2. Paragraph one of section thirteen of Act Numbered One Hundred and ninety, entitled “An Act providing a Code of Procedure in Civil Actions and Special Proceedings in the Philippine Islands,” is hereby amended to read as follows:
1. Those who have been duly licensed under the laws and orders of the Islands under the sovereignty of Spain or of the United States and are in good and regular standing as members of the bar of the Philippine Islands at the time of the adoption of this code; Provided, That any person who, prior to the passage of this act, or at any time thereafter, shall have held, under the authority of the United States, the position of justice of the Supreme Court, judge of the Court of First Instance, or judge or associate judge of the Court of Land Registration, of the Philippine Islands, or the position of Attorney General, Solicitor General, Assistant Attorney General, assistant attorney in the office of the Attorney General, prosecuting attorney for the City of Manila, city attorney of Manila, assistant city attorney of Manila, provincial fiscal, attorney for the Moro Province, or assistant attorney for the Moro Province, may be licensed to practice law in the courts of the Philippine Islands without an examination, upon motion before the Supreme Court and establishing such fact to the satisfaction of said court.
The records of this court disclose that on a former occasion this appellant took, and failed to pass the prescribed examination. The report of the examining board, dated March 23, 1907, shows that he received an average of only 71 per cent in the various branches of legal learning upon which he was examined, thus falling four points short of the required percentage of 75. We would be delinquent in the performance of our duty to the public and to the bar, if, in the face of this affirmative indication of the deficiency of the applicant in the required qualifications of learning in the law at the time when he presented his former application for admission to the bar, we should grant him license to practice law in the courts of these Islands, without first satisfying ourselves that despite his failure to pass the examination on that occasion, he now “possesses the necessary qualifications of learning and ability.”
But it is contented that under the provisions of the above-cited statute the applicant is entitled as of right to be admitted to the bar without taking the prescribed examination “upon motion before the Supreme Court” accompanied by satisfactory proof that he has held and now holds the office of provincial fiscal of the Province of Batanes. It is urged that having in mind the object which the legislator apparently sought to attain in enacting the above-cited amendment to the earlier statute, and in view of the context generally and especially of the fact that the amendment was inserted as a proviso in that section of the original Act which specifically provides for the admission of certain candidates without examination. It is contented that this mandatory construction is imperatively required in order to give effect to the apparent intention of the legislator, and to the candidate’s claim de jure to have the power exercised.
And after copying article 9 of Act of July 1, 1902 of the Congress of the United States, articles 2, 16 and 17 of Act No. 136, and articles 13 to 16 of Act 190, the Court continued:
Manifestly, the jurisdiction thus conferred upon this court by the commission and confirmed to it by the Act of Congress would be limited and restricted, and in a case such as that under consideration wholly destroyed, by giving the word “may,” as used in the above citation from Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, or of any Act of Congress prescribing, defining or limiting the power conferred upon the commission is to that extent invalid and void, as transcending its rightful limits and authority.
Speaking on the application of the law to those who were appointed to the positions enumerated, and with particular emphasis in the case of Guariña, the Court held:
In the various cases wherein applications for the admission to the bar under the provisions of this statute have been considered heretofore, we have accepted the fact that such appointments had been made as satisfactory evidence of the qualifications of the applicant. But in all of those cases we had reason to believe that the applicants had been practicing attorneys prior to the date of their appointment.
In the case under consideration, however, it affirmatively appears that the applicant was not and never had been practicing attorney in this or any other jurisdiction prior to the date of his appointment as provincial fiscal, and it further affirmatively appears that he was deficient in the required qualifications at the time when he last applied for admission to the bar.
In the light of this affirmative proof of his defieciency on that occasion, we do not think that his appointment to the office of provincial fiscal is in itself satisfactory proof if his possession of the necessary qualifications of learning and ability. We conclude therefore that this application for license to practice in the courts of the Philippines, should be denied.
In view, however, of the fact that when he took the examination he fell only four points short of the necessary grade to entitle him to a license to practice; and in view also of the fact that since that time he has held the responsible office of the governor of the Province of Sorsogon and presumably gave evidence of such marked ability in the performance of the duties of that office that the Chief Executive, with the consent and approval of the Philippine Commission, sought to retain him in the Government service by appointing him to the office of provincial fiscal, we think we would be justified under the above-cited provisions of Act No. 1597 in waiving in his case the ordinary examination prescribed by general rule, provided he offers satisfactory evidence of his proficiency in a special examination which will be given him by a committee of the court upon his application therefor, without prejudice to his right, if he desires so to do, to present himself at any of the ordinary examinations prescribed by general rule. – (In re Guariña, pp. 48-49.)
It is obvious, therefore, that the ultimate power to grant license for the practice of law belongs exclusively to this Court, and the law passed by Congress on the matter is of permissive character, or as other authorities say, merely to fix the minimum conditions for the license.
The law in question, like those in the case of Day and Cannon, has been found also to suffer from the fatal defect of being a class legislation, and that if it has intended to make a classification, it is arbitrary and unreasonable.
In the case of Day, a law enacted on February 21, 1899 required of the Supreme Court, until December 31 of that year, to grant license for the practice of law to those students who began studying before November 4, 1897, and had studied for two years and presented a diploma issued by a school of law, or to those who had studied in a law office and would pass an examination, or to those who had studied for three years if they commenced their studies after the aforementioned date. The Supreme Court declared that this law was unconstitutional being, among others, a class legislation. The Court said:
This is an application to this court for admission to the bar of this state by virtue of diplomas from law schools issued to the applicants. The act of the general assembly passed in 1899, under which the application is made, is entitled “An act to amend section 1 of an act entitled “An act to revise the law in relation to attorneys and counselors,” approved March 28, 1884, in force July 1, 1874.” The amendment, so far as it appears in the enacting clause, consists in the addition to the section of the following: “And every application for a license who shall comply with the rules of the supreme court in regard to admission to the bar in force at the time such applicant commend the study of law, either in a law or office or a law school or college, shall be granted a license under this act notwithstanding any subsequent changes in said rules”. – In re Day et al, 54 N.Y., p. 646.
. . . After said provision there is a double proviso, one branch of which is that up to December 31, 1899, this court shall grant a license of admittance to the bar to the holder of every diploma regularly issued by any law school regularly organized under the laws of this state, whose regular course of law studies is two years, and requiring an attendance by the student of at least 36 weeks in each of such years, and showing that the student began the study of law prior to November 4, 1897, and accompanied with the usual proofs of good moral character. The other branch of the proviso is that any student who has studied law for two years in a law office, or part of such time in a law office, “and part in the aforesaid law school,” and whose course of study began prior to November 4, 1897, shall be admitted upon a satisfactory examination by the examining board in the branches now required by the rules of this court. If the right to admission exists at all, it is by virtue of the proviso, which, it is claimed, confers substantial rights and privileges upon the persons named therein, and establishes rules of legislative creation for their admission to the bar. (p. 647.)
Considering the proviso, however, as an enactment, it is clearly a special legislation, prohibited by the constitution, and invalid as such. If the legislature had any right to admit attorneys to practice in the courts and take part in the administration of justice, and could prescribe the character of evidence which should be received by the court as conclusive of the requisite learning and ability of persons to practice law, it could only be done by a general law, persons or classes of persons. Const. art 4, section 2. The right to practice law is a privilege, and a license for that purpose makes the holder an officer of the court, and confers upon him the right to appear for litigants, to argue causes, and to collect fees therefor, and creates certain exemptions, such as from jury services and arrest on civil process while attending court. The law conferring such privileges must be general in its operation. No doubt the legislature, in framing an enactment for that purpose, may classify persons so long as the law establishing classes in general, and has some reasonable relation to the end sought. There must be some difference which furnishes a reasonable basis for different one, having no just relation to the subject of the legislation. Braceville Coal Co. vs. People, 147 Ill. 66, 35 N.E. 62; Ritchie vs. People, 155 Ill. 98, 40 N.E. 454; Railroad Co. vs. Ellis, 165 U.S. 150, 17 Sup. Ct. 255.
The length of time a physician has practiced, and the skill acquired by experience, may furnish a basis for classification (Williams vs. People 121 Ill. 48, II N.E. 881); but the place where such physician has resided and practiced his profession cannot furnish such basis, and is an arbitrary discrimination, making an enactment based upon it void (State vs. Pennyeor, 65 N.E. 113, 18 Atl. 878). Here the legislature undertakes to say what shall serve as a test of fitness for the profession of the law, and plainly, any classification must have some reference to learning, character, or ability to engage in such practice. The proviso is limited, first, to a class of persons who began the study of law prior to November 4, 1897. This class is subdivided into two classes – First, those presenting diplomas issued by any law school of this state before December 31, 1899; and, second, those who studied law for the period of two years in a law office, or part of the time in a law school and part in a law office, who are to be admitted upon examination in the subjects specified in the present rules of this court, and as to this latter subdivision there seems to be no limit of time for making application for admission. As to both classes, the conditions of the rules are dispensed with, and as between the two different conditions and limits of time are fixed. No course of study is prescribed for the law school, but a diploma granted upon the completion of any sort of course its managers may prescribe is made all-sufficient. Can there be anything with relation to the qualifications or fitness of persons to practice law resting upon the mere date of November 4, 1897, which will furnish a basis of classification. Plainly not. Those who began the study of law November 4th could qualify themselves to practice in two years as well as those who began on the 3rd. The classes named in the proviso need spend only two years in study, while those who commenced the next day must spend three years, although they would complete two years before the time limit. The one who commenced on the 3rd. If possessed of a diploma, is to be admitted without examination before December 31, 1899, and without any prescribed course of study, while as to the other the prescribed course must be pursued, and the diploma is utterly useless. Such classification cannot rest upon any natural reason, or bear any just relation to the subject sought, and none is suggested. The proviso is for the sole purpose of bestowing privileges upon certain defined persons. (pp. 647-648.)
In the case of Cannon above cited, State vs. Cannon, 240 N.W. 441, where the legislature attempted by law to reinstate Cannon to the practice of law, the court also held with regards to its aspect of being a class legislation:
But the statute is invalid for another reason. If it be granted that the legislature has power to prescribe ultimately and definitely the qualifications upon which courts must admit and license those applying as attorneys at law, that power can not be exercised in the manner here attempted. That power must be exercised through general laws which will apply to all alike and accord equal opportunity to all. Speaking of the right of the Legislature to exact qualifications of those desiring to pursue chosen callings, Mr. Justice Field in the case of Dent. vs. West Virginia, 129 U.S. 114, 121, 9 S. Ct. 232, 233, 32 L. Ed. 626, said: “It is undoubtedly the right of every citizen of the United States to follow any lawful calling, business or profession he may choose, subject only to such restrictions as are imposed upon all persons of like age, sex, and condition.” This right may in many respects be considered as a distinguishing feature of our republican institutions. Here all vocations are all open to every one on like conditions. All may be pursued as sources of livelihood, some requiring years of study and great learning for their successful prosecution. The interest, or, as it is sometimes termed, the “estate” acquired in them – that is, the right to continue their prosecution – is often of great value to the possessors and cannot be arbitrarily taken from them, any more than their real or personal property can be thus taken. It is fundamental under our system of government that all similarly situated and possessing equal qualifications shall enjoy equal opportunities. Even statutes regulating the practice of medicine, requiring medications to establish the possession on the part of the application of his proper qualifications before he may be licensed to practice, have been challenged, and courts have seriously considered whether the exemption from such examinations of those practicing in the state at the time of the enactment of the law rendered such law unconstitutional because of infringement upon this general principle. State vs. Thomas Call, 121 N.C. 643, 28 S.E. 517; see, also, The State ex rel. Winkler vs. Rosenberg, 101 Wis. 172, 76 N.W. 345; State vs. Whitcom, 122 Wis. 110, 99 N.W. 468.
This law singles out Mr. Cannon and assumes to confer upon him the right to practice law and to constitute him an officer of this Court as a mere matter of legislative grace or favor. It is not material that he had once established his right to practice law and that one time he possessed the requisite learning and other qualifications to entitle him to that right. That fact in no matter affect the power of the Legislature to select from the great body of the public an individual upon whom it would confer its favors.
A statute of the state of Minnesota (Laws 1929, c. 424) commanded the Supreme Court to admit to the practice of law without examination, all who had served in the military or naval forces of the United States during the World War and received a honorable discharge therefrom and who (were disabled therein or thereby within the purview of the Act of Congress approved June 7th, 1924, known as “World War Veteran’s Act, 1924 and whose disability is rated at least ten per cent thereunder at the time of the passage of this Act.” This Act was held |unconstitutional on the ground that it clearly violated the quality clauses of the constitution of that state. In re Application of George W. Humphrey, 178 Minn. 331, 227 N.W. 179.
A good summary of a classification constitutionally acceptable is explained in 12 Am. Jur. 151-153 as follows:
The general rule is well settled by unanimity of the authorities that a classification to be valid must rest upon material differences between the person included in it and those excluded and, furthermore, must be based upon substantial distinctions. As the rule has sometimes avoided the constitutional prohibition, must be founded upon pertinent and real differences, as distinguished from irrelevant and artificial ones. Therefore, any law that is made applicable to one class of citizens only must be based on some substantial difference between the situation of that class and other individuals to which it does not apply and must rest on some reason on which it can be defended. In other words, there must be such a difference between the situation and circumstances of all the members of the class and the situation and circumstances of all other members of the state in relation to the subjects of the discriminatory legislation as presents a just and natural cause for the difference made in their liabilities and burdens and in their rights and privileges. A law is not general because it operates on all within a clause unless there is a substantial reason why it is made to operate on that class only, and not generally on all. (12 Am. Jur. pp. 151-153.)
Pursuant to the law in question, those who, without a grade below 50 per cent in any subject, have obtained a general average of 69.5 per cent in the bar examinations in 1946 to 1951, 70.5 per cent in 1952, 71.5 per cent in 1953, and those will obtain 72.5 per cent in 1954, and 73.5 per cent in 1955, will be permitted to take and subscribe the corresponding oath of office as members of the Bar, notwithstanding that the rules require a minimum general average of 75 per cent, which has been invariably followed since 1950. Is there any motive of the nature indicated by the abovementioned authorities, for this classification ? If there is none, and none has been given, then the classification is fatally defective.
It was indicated that those who failed in 1944, 1941 or the years before, with the general average indicated, were not included because the Tribunal has no record of the unsuccessful candidates of those years. This fact does not justify the unexplained classification of unsuccessful candidates by years, from 1946-1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955. Neither is the exclusion of those who failed before said years under the same conditions justified. The fact that this Court has no record of examinations prior to 1946 does not signify that no one concerned may prove by some other means his right to an equal consideration.
To defend the disputed law from being declared unconstitutional on account of its retroactivity, it is argued that it is curative, and that in such form it is constitutional. What does Rep. Act 972 intend to cure ? Only from 1946 to 1949 were there cases in which the Tribunal permitted admission to the bar of candidates who did not obtain the general average of 75 per cent: in 1946 those who obtained only 72 per cent; in the 1947 and those who had 69 per cent or more; in 1948, 70 per cent and in 1949, 74 per cent; and in 1950 to 1953, those who obtained 74 per cent, which was considered by the Court as equivalent to 75 per cent as prescribed by the Rules, by reason of circumstances deemed to be sufficiently justifiable. These changes in the passing averages during those years were all that could be objected to or criticized. Now, it is desired to undo what had been done – cancel the license that was issued to those who did not obtain the prescribed 75 per cent ? Certainly not. The disputed law clearly does not propose to do so. Concededly, it approves what has been done by this Tribunal. What Congress lamented is that the Court did not consider 69.5 per cent obtained by those candidates who failed in 1946 to 1952 as sufficient to qualify them to practice law. Hence, it is the lack of will or defect of judgment of the Court that is being cured, and to complete the cure of this infirmity, the effectivity of the disputed law is being extended up to the years 1953, 1954 and 1955, increasing each year the general average by one per cent, with the order that said candidates be admitted to the Bar. This purpose, manifest in the said law, is the best proof that what the law attempts to amend and correct are not the rules promulgated, but the will or judgment of the Court, by means of simply taking its place. This is doing directly what the Tribunal should have done during those years according to the judgment of Congress. In other words, the power exercised was not to repeal, alter or supplement the rules, which continue in force. What was done was to stop or suspend them. And this power is not included in what the Constitution has granted to Congress, because it falls within the power to apply the rules. This power corresponds to the judiciary, to which such duty been confided.
Article 2 of the law in question permits partial passing of examinations, at indefinite intervals. The grave defect of this system is that it does not take into account that the laws and jurisprudence are not stationary, and when a candidate finally receives his certificate, it may happen that the existing laws and jurisprudence are already different, seriously affecting in this manner his usefulness. The system that the said law prescribes was used in the first bar examinations of this country, but was abandoned for this and other disadvantages. In this case, however, the fatal defect is that the article is not expressed in the title will have temporary effect only from 1946 to 1955, the text of article 2 establishes a permanent system for an indefinite time. This is contrary to Section 21 (1), article VI of the Constitution, which vitiates and annuls article 2 completely; and because it is inseparable from article 1, it is obvious that its nullity affect the entire law.
Laws are unconstitutional on the following grounds: first, because they are not within the legislative powers of Congress to enact, or Congress has exceeded its powers; second, because they create or establish arbitrary methods or forms that infringe constitutional principles; and third, because their purposes or effects violate the Constitution or its basic principles. As has already been seen, the contested law suffers from these fatal defects.
Summarizing, we are of the opinion and hereby declare that Republic Act No. 972 is unconstitutional and therefore, void, and without any force nor effect for the following reasons, to wit:
1. Because its declared purpose is to admit 810 candidates who failed in the bar examinations of 1946-1952, and who, it admits, are certainly inadequately prepared to practice law, as was exactly found by this Court in the aforesaid years. It decrees the admission to the Bar of these candidates, depriving this Tribunal of the opportunity to determine if they are at present already prepared to become members of the Bar. It obliges the Tribunal to perform something contrary to reason and in an arbitrary manner. This is a manifest encroachment on the constitutional responsibility of the Supreme Court.
2. Because it is, in effect, a judgment revoking the resolution of this Court on the petitions of these 810 candidates, without having examined their respective examination papers, and although it is admitted that this Tribunal may reconsider said resolution at any time for justifiable reasons, only this Court and no other may revise and alter them. In attempting to do it directly Republic Act No. 972 violated the Constitution.
3. By the disputed law, Congress has exceeded its legislative power to repeal, alter and supplement the rules on admission to the Bar. Such additional or amendatory rules are, as they ought to be, intended to regulate acts subsequent to its promulgation and should tend to improve and elevate the practice of law, and this Tribunal shall consider these rules as minimum norms towards that end in the admission, suspension, disbarment and reinstatement of lawyers to the Bar, inasmuch as a good bar assists immensely in the daily performance of judicial functions and is essential to a worthy administration of justice. It is therefore the primary and inherent prerogative of the Supreme Court to render the ultimate decision on who may be admitted and may continue in the practice of law according to existing rules.
4. The reason advanced for the pretended classification of candidates, which the law makes, is contrary to facts which are of general knowledge and does not justify the admission to the Bar of law students inadequately prepared. The pretended classification is arbitrary. It is undoubtedly a class legislation.
5. Article 2 of Republic Act No. 972 is not embraced in the title of the law, contrary to what the Constitution enjoins, and being inseparable from the provisions of article 1, the entire law is void.
6. Lacking in eight votes to declare the nullity of that part of article 1 referring to the examinations of 1953 to 1955, said part of article 1, insofar as it concerns the examinations in those years, shall continue in force.

R E S O L U T I O N
Upon mature deliberation by this Court, after hearing and availing of the magnificent and impassioned discussion of the contested law by our Chief Justice at the opening and close of the debate among the members of the Court, and after hearing the judicious observations of two of our beloved colleagues who since the beginning have announced their decision not to take part in voting, we, the eight members of the Court who subscribed to this decision have voted and resolved, and have decided for the Court, and under the authority of the same:
1. That (a) the portion of article 1 of Republic Act No. 972 referring to the examinations of 1946 to 1952, and (b) all of article 2 of said law are unconstitutional and, therefore, void and without force and effect.
2. That, for lack of unanimity in the eight Justices, that part of article 1 which refers to the examinations subsequent to the approval of the law, that is from 1953 to 1955 inclusive, is valid and shall continue to be in force, in conformity with section 10, article VII of the Constitution.
Consequently, (1) all the above-mentioned petitions of the candidates who failed in the examinations of 1946 to 1952 inclusive are denied, and (2) all candidates who in the examinations of 1953 obtained a general average of 71.5 per cent or more, without having a grade below 50 per cent in any subject, are considered as having passed, whether they have filed petitions for admission or not. After this decision has become final, they shall be permitted to take and subscribe the corresponding oath of office as members of the Bar on the date or dates that the chief Justice may set. So ordered.
Bengzon, Montemayor, Jugo, Labrador, Pablo, Padilla, and Reyes, JJ., concur.

B.M. No. 712 July 13, 1995
IN THE MATTER OF THE ADMISSION TO THE BAR AND OATH-TAKING OF SUCCESSFUL BAR APPLICANT AL C. ARGOSINO, petitioner.
R E S O L U T I O N
FELICIANO, J.:
A criminal information was filed on 4 February 1992 with the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 101, charging Mr. A.C. Argosino along with thirteen (13) other individuals, with the crime of homicide in connection with the death of one Raul Camaligan on 8 September 1991. The death of Raul Camaligan stemmed from the infliction of severe physical injuries upon him in the course of “hazing” conducted as part of university fraternity initiation rites. Mr. Argosino and his co-accused then entered into plea bargaining with the prosecution and as a result of such bargaining, pleaded guilty to the lesser offense of homicide through reckless imprudence. This plea was accepted by the trial court. In a judgment dated 11 February 1993, each of the fourteen (14) accused individuals was sentenced to suffer imprisonment for a period ranging from two (2) years, four (4) months and one (1) day to four (4) years.
Eleven (11) days later, Mr. Argosino and his colleagues filed an application for probation with the lower court. The application for probation was granted in an Order dated 18 June 1993 issued by Regional Trial Court Judge Pedro T. Santiago. The period of probation was set at two (2) years, counted from the probationer’s initial report to the probation officer assigned to supervise him.
Less than a month later, on 13 July 1993, Mr. Argosino filed a Petition for Admission to Take the 1993 Bar Examinations. In this Petition, he disclosed the fact of his criminal conviction and his then probation status. He was allowed to take the 1993 Bar Examinations in this Court’s En Banc Resolution dated 14 August 1993. 1 He passed the Bar Examination. He was not, however, allowed to take the lawyer’s oath of office.
On 15 April 1994, Mr. Argosino filed a Petition with this Court to allow him to take the attorney’s oath of office and to admit him to the practice of law, averring that Judge Pedro T. Santiago had terminated his probation period by virtue of an Order dated 11 April 1994. We note that his probation period did not last for more than ten (10) months from the time of the Order of Judge Santiago granting him probation dated 18 June 1993. Since then, Mr. Argosino has filed three (3) Motions for Early Resolution of his Petition for Admission to the Bar.
The practice of law is not a natural, absolute or constitutional right to be granted to everyone who demands it. Rather, it is a high personal privilege limited to citizens of good moral character, with special educational qualifications, duly ascertained and certified. 2 The essentiality of good moral character in those who would be lawyers is stressed in the following excerpts which we quote with approval and which we regard as having persuasive effect:
In Re Farmer: 3
xxx xxx xxx
This “upright character” prescribed by the statute, as a condition precedent to the applicant’s right to receive a license to practice law in North Carolina, and of which he must, in addition to other requisites, satisfy the court, includes all the elements necessary to make up such a character. It is something more than an absence of bad character. It is the good name which the applicant has acquired, or should have acquired, through association with his fellows. It means that he must have conducted himself as a man of upright character ordinarily would, or should, or does. Such character expresses itself, not in negatives nor in following the line of least resistance, but quite often, in the will to do the unpleasant thing if it is right, and the resolve not to do the pleasant thing if it is wrong. . . .
xxx xxx xxx
And we may pause to say that this requirement of the statute is eminently proper. Consider for a moment the duties of a lawyer. He is sought as counsellor, and his advice comes home, in its ultimate effect, to every man’s fireside. Vast interests are committed to his care; he is the recipient of unbounded trust and confidence; he deals with is client’s property, reputation, his life, his all. An attorney at law is a sworn officer of the Court, whose chief concern, as such, is to aid the administration of justice. . . .
xxx xxx xxx 4
In Re Application of Kaufman, 5 citing Re Law Examination of 1926 (1926) 191 Wis 359, 210 NW 710:
It can also be truthfully said that there exists nowhere greater temptations to deviate from the straight and narrow path than in the multiplicity of circumstances that arise in the practice of profession. For these reasons the wisdom of requiring an applicant for admission to the bar to possess a high moral standard therefore becomes clearly apparent, and the board of bar examiners as an arm of the court, is required to cause a minute examination to be made of the moral standard of each candidate for admission to practice. . . . It needs no further argument, therefore, to arrive at the conclusion that the highest degree of scrutiny must be exercised as to the moral character of a candidate who presents himself for admission to the bar. The evil must, if possible, be successfully met at its very source, and prevented, for, after a lawyer has once been admitted, and has pursued his profession, and has established himself therein, a far more difficult situation is presented to the court when proceedings are instituted for disbarment and for the recalling and annulment of his license.
In Re Keenan: 6
The right to practice law is not one of the inherent rights of every citizen, as in the right to carry on an ordinary trade or business. It is a peculiar privilege granted and continued only to those who demonstrate special fitness in intellectual attainment and in moral character. All may aspire to it on an absolutely equal basis, but not all will attain it. Elaborate machinery has been set up to test applicants by standards fair to all and to separate the fit from the unfit. Only those who pass the test are allowed to enter the profession, and only those who maintain the standards are allowed to remain in it.
Re Rouss: 7
Membership in the bar is a privilege burdened with conditions, and a fair private and professional character is one of them; to refuse admission to an unworthy applicant is not to punish him for past offense: an examination into character, like the examination into learning, is merely a test of fitness.
Cobb vs. Judge of Superior Court: 8
Attorney’s are licensed because of their learning and ability, so that they may not only protect the rights and interests of their clients, but be able to assist court in the trial of the cause. Yet what protection to clients or assistance to courts could such agents give? They are required to be of good moral character, so that the agents and officers of the court, which they are, may not bring discredit upon the due administration of the law, and it is of the highest possible consequence that both those who have not such qualifications in the first instance, or who, having had them, have fallen therefrom, shall not be permitted to appear in courts to aid in the administration of justice.
It has also been stressed that the requirement of good moral character is, in fact, of greater importance so far as the general public and the proper administration of justice are concerned, than the possession of legal learning:
. . . (In re Applicants for License, 55 S.E. 635, 143 N.C. 1, 10 L.R.A. [N.S.] 288, 10 Ann./Cas. 187):
The public policy of our state has always been to admit no person to the practice of the law unless he covered an upright moral character. The possession of this by the attorney is more important, if anything, to the public and to the proper administration of justice than legal learning. Legal learning may be acquired in after years, but if the applicant passes the threshold of the bar with a bad moral character the chances are that his character will remain bad, and that he will become a disgrace instead of an ornament to his great calling – a curse instead of a benefit to his community – a Quirk, a Gammon or a Snap, instead of a Davis, a Smith or a Ruffin. 9
All aspects of moral character and behavior may be inquired into in respect of those seeking admission to the Bar. The scope of such inquiry is, indeed, said to be properly broader than inquiry into the moral proceedings for disbarment:
Re Stepsay: 10
The inquiry as to the moral character of an attorney in a proceeding for his admission to practice is broader in scope than in a disbarment proceeding.
Re Wells: 11
. . . that an applicant’s contention that upon application for admission to the California Bar the court cannot reject him for want of good moral character unless it appears that he has been guilty of acts which would be cause for his disbarment or suspension, could not be sustained; that the inquiry is broader in its scope than that in a disbarment proceeding, and the court may receive any evidence which tends to show the applicant’s character as respects honesty, integrity, and general morality, and may no doubt refuse admission upon proofs that might not establish his guilt of any of the acts declared to be causes for disbarment.
The requirement of good moral character to be satisfied by those who would seek admission to the bar must of necessity be more stringent than the norm of conduct expected from members of the general public. There is a very real need to prevent a general perception that entry into the legal profession is open to individuals with inadequate moral qualifications. The growth of such a perception would signal the progressive destruction of our people’s confidence in their courts of law and in our legal system as we know it. 12
Mr. Argosino’s participation in the deplorable “hazing” activities certainly fell far short of the required standard of good moral character. The deliberate (rather than merely accidental or inadvertent) infliction of severe physical injuries which proximately led to the death of the unfortunate Raul Camaligan, certainly indicated serious character flaws on the part of those who inflicted such injuries. Mr. Argosino and his co-accused had failed to discharge their moral duty to protect the life and well-being of a “neophyte” who had, by seeking admission to the fraternity involved, reposed trust and confidence in all of them that, at the very least, he would not be beaten and kicked to death like a useless stray dog. Thus, participation in the prolonged and mindless physical beatings inflicted upon Raul Camaligan constituted evident rejection of that moral duty and was totally irresponsible behavior, which makes impossible a finding that the participant was then possessed of good moral character.
Now that the original period of probation granted by the trial court has expired, the Court is prepared to consider de novo the question of whether applicant A.C. Argosino has purged himself of the obvious deficiency in moral character referred to above. We stress that good moral character is a requirement possession of which must be demonstrated not only at the time of application for permission to take the bar examinations but also, and more importantly, at the time of application for admission to the bar and to take the attorney’s oath of office.
Mr. Argosino must, therefore, submit to this Court, for its examination and consideration, evidence that he may be now regarded as complying with the requirement of good moral character imposed upon those seeking admission to the bar. His evidence may consist, inter alia, of sworn certifications from responsible members of the community who have a good reputation for truth and who have actually known Mr. Argosino for a significant period of time, particularly since the judgment of conviction was rendered by Judge Santiago. He should show to the Court how he has tried to make up for the senseless killing of a helpless student to the family of the deceased student and to the community at large. Mr. Argosino must, in other words, submit relevant evidence to show that he is a different person now, that he has become morally fit for admission to the ancient and learned profession of the law.
Finally, Mr. Argosino is hereby DIRECTED to inform this Court, by appropriate written manifestation, of the names and addresses of the father and mother (in default thereof, brothers and sisters, if any, of Raul Camaligan), within ten (10) day from notice hereof. Let a copy of this Resolution be furnished to the parents or brothers and sisters, if any, of Raul Camaligan.
Narvasa, C.J., Padilla, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero and Melo, JJ., concur.
Bellosillo, J. is on leave.
[B.M. No. 1154. June 8, 2004]
IN THE MATTER OF THE DISQUALIFICATION OF BAR EXAMINEE HARON S. MELING IN THE 2002 BAR EXAMINATIONS AND FOR DISCIPLINARY ACTION AS MEMBER OF THE PHILIPPINE SHARI’A BAR,
ATTY. FROILAN R. MELENDREZ, petitioner,
R E S O L U T I O N
TINGA, J.:
The Court is here confronted with a Petition that seeks twin reliefs, one of which is ripe while the other has been rendered moot by a supervening event.
The antecedents follow.
On October 14, 2002, Atty. Froilan R. Melendrez (Melendrez) filed with the Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC) a Petition[1] to disqualify Haron S. Meling (Meling) from taking the 2002 Bar Examinations and to impose on him the appropriate disciplinary penalty as a member of the Philippine Shari’a Bar.
In the Petition, Melendrez alleges that Meling did not disclose in his Petition to take the 2002 Bar Examinations that he has three (3) pending criminal cases before the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC), Cotabato City, namely: Criminal Cases Noa. 15685 and 15686, both for Grave Oral Defamation, and Criminal Case No. 15687 for Less Serious Physical Injuries.
The above-mentioned cases arose from an incident which occurred on May 21, 2001, when Meling allegedly uttered defamatory words against Melendrez and his wife in front of media practitioners and other people. Meling also purportedly attacked and hit the face of Melendrez’ wife causing the injuries to the latter.
Furthermore, Melendrez alleges that Meling has been using the title “Attorney” in his communications, as Secretary to the Mayor of Cotabato City, despite the fact that he is not a member of the Bar. Attached to the Petition is an indorsement letter which shows that Meling used the appellation and appears on its face to have been received by the Sangguniang Panglungsod of Cotabato City on November 27, 2001.
Pursuant to this Court’s Resolution[2] dated December 3, 2002, Meling filed his Answer with the OBC.
In his Answer,[3] Meling explains that he did not disclose the criminal cases filed against him by Melendrez because retired Judge Corocoy Moson, their former professor, advised him to settle his misunderstanding with Melendrez. Believing in good faith that the case would be settled because the said Judge has moral ascendancy over them, he being their former professor in the College of Law, Meling considered the three cases that actually arose from a single incident and involving the same parties as “closed and terminated.” Moreover, Meling denies the charges and adds that the acts complained of do not involve moral turpitude.
As regards the use of the title “Attorney,” Meling admits that some of his communications really contained the word “Attorney” as they were, according to him, typed by the office clerk.
In its Report and Recommendation[4] dated December 8, 2003, the OBC disposed of the charge of non-disclosure against Meling in this wise:
The reasons of Meling in not disclosing the criminal cases filed against him in his petition to take the Bar Examinations are ludicrous. He should have known that only the court of competent jurisdiction can dismiss cases, not a retired judge nor a law professor. In fact, the cases filed against Meling are still pending. Furthermore, granting arguendo that these cases were already dismissed, he is still required to disclose the same for the Court to ascertain his good moral character. Petitions to take the Bar Examinations are made under oath, and should not be taken lightly by an applicant.
The merit of the cases against Meling is not material in this case. What matters is his act of concealing them which constitutes dishonesty.
In Bar Matter 1209, the Court stated, thus:
It has been held that good moral character is what a person really is, as distinguished from good reputation or from the opinion generally entertained of him, the estimate in which he is held by the public in the place where he is known. Moral character is not a subjective term but one which corresponds to objective reality. The standard of personal and professional integrity is not satisfied by such conduct as it merely enables a person to escape the penalty of criminal law. Good moral character includes at least common honesty.
The non-disclosure of Meling of the criminal cases filed against him makes him also answerable under Rule 7.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which states that “a lawyer shall be answerable for knowingly making a false statement or suppressing a material fact in connection with his application for admission to the bar.”[5]
As regards Meling’s use of the title “Attorney”, the OBC had this to say:
Anent the issue of the use of the appellation “Attorney” in his letters, the explanation of Meling is not acceptable. Aware that he is not a member of the Bar, there was no valid reason why he signed as “attorney” whoever may have typed the letters.
Although there is no showing that Meling is engaged in the practice of law, the fact is, he is signing his communications as “Atty. Haron S. Meling” knowing fully well that he is not entitled thereto. As held by the Court in Bar Matter 1209, the unauthorized use of the appellation “attorney” may render a person liable for indirect contempt of court.[6]
Consequently, the OBC recommended that Meling not be allowed to take the Lawyer’s Oath and sign the Roll of Attorneys in the event that he passes the Bar Examinations. Further, it recommended that Meling’s membership in the Shari’a Bar be suspended until further orders from the Court.[7]
We fully concur with the findings and recommendation of the OBC. Meling, however, did not pass the 2003 Bar Examinations. This renders the Petition, insofar as it seeks to prevent Meling from taking the Lawyer’s Oath and signing the Roll of Attorneys, moot and academic.
On the other hand, the prayer in the same Petition for the Court to impose the appropriate sanctions upon him as a member of the Shari’a Bar is ripe for resolution and has to be acted upon.
Practice of law, whether under the regular or the Shari’a Court, is not a matter of right but merely a privilege bestowed upon individuals who are not only learned in the law but who are also known to possess good moral character.[8] The requirement of good moral character is not only a condition precedent to admission to the practice of law, its continued possession is also essential for remaining in the practice of law.[9]
The standard form issued in connection with the application to take the 2002 Bar Examinations requires the applicant to aver that he or she “has not been charged with any act or omission punishable by law, rule or regulation before a fiscal, judge, officer or administrative body, or indicted for, or accused or convicted by any court or tribunal of, any offense or crime involving moral turpitude; nor is there any pending case or charge against him/her.” Despite the declaration required by the form, Meling did not reveal that he has three pending criminal cases. His deliberate silence constitutes concealment, done under oath at that.
The disclosure requirement is imposed by the Court to determine whether there is satisfactory evidence of good moral character of the applicant.[10] The nature of whatever cases are pending against the applicant would aid the Court in determining whether he is endowed with the moral fitness demanded of a lawyer. By concealing the existence of such cases, the applicant then flunks the test of fitness even if the cases are ultimately proven to be unwarranted or insufficient to impugn or affect the good moral character of the applicant.
Meling’s concealment of the fact that there are three (3) pending criminal cases against him speaks of his lack of the requisite good moral character and results in the forfeiture of the privilege bestowed upon him as a member of the Shari’a Bar.
Moreover, his use of the appellation “Attorney”, knowing fully well that he is not entitled to its use, cannot go unchecked. In Alawi v. Alauya,[11] the Court had the occasion to discuss the impropriety of the use of the title “Attorney” by members of the Shari’a Bar who are not likewise members of the Philippine Bar. The respondent therein, an executive clerk of court of the 4th Judicial Shari’a District in Marawi City, used the title “Attorney” in several correspondence in connection with the rescission of a contract entered into by him in his private capacity. The Court declared that:
…persons who pass the Shari’a Bar are not full-fledged members of the Philippine Bar, hence, may only practice law before Shari’a courts. While one who has been admitted to the Shari’a Bar, and one who has been admitted to the Philippine Bar, may both be considered “counselors,” in the sense that they give counsel or advice in a professional capacity, only the latter is an “attorney.” The title “attorney” is reserved to those who, having obtained the necessary degree in the study of law and successfully taken the Bar Examinations, have been admitted to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and remain members thereof in good standing; and it is they only who are authorized to practice law in this jurisdiction.[12]
The judiciary has no place for dishonest officers of the court, such as Meling in this case. The solemn task of administering justice demands that those who are privileged to be part of service therein, from the highest official to the lowliest employee, must not only be competent and dedicated, but likewise live and practice the virtues of honesty and integrity. Anything short of this standard would diminish the public’s faith in the Judiciary and constitutes infidelity to the constitutional tenet that a public office is a public trust.
In Leda v. Tabang, supra, the respondent concealed the fact of his marriage in his application to take the Bar examinations and made conflicting submissions before the Court. As a result, we found the respondent grossly unfit and unworthy to continue in the practice of law and suspended him therefrom until further orders from the Court.
WHEREFORE, the Petition is granted insofar as it seeks the imposition of appropriate sanctions upon Haron S. Meling as a member of the Philippine Shari’a Bar. Accordingly, the membership of Haron S. Meling in the Philippine Shari’a Bar is hereby SUSPENDED until further orders from the Court, the suspension to take effect immediately. Insofar as the Petition seeks to prevent Haron S. Meling from taking the Lawyer’s Oath and signing the Roll of Attorneys as a member of the Philippine Bar, the same is DISMISSED for having become moot and academic.
Copies of this Decision shall be circulated to all the Shari’a Courts in the country for their information and guidance.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Vitug, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., and Azcuna, JJ., concur.
A.C. No. 244 March 29, 1963
IN THE MATTER OF THE PETITION FOR DISBARMENT OF TELESFORO A. DIAO,
vs.
SEVERINO G. MARTINEZ, petitioner.
BENGZON, C.J.:
After successfully passing the corresponding examinations held in 1953, Telesforo A. Diao was admitted to the Bar.
About two years later, Severino Martinez charged him with having falsely represented in his application for such Bar examination, that he had the requisite academic qualifications. The matter was in due course referred to the Solicitor General who caused the charge to be investigated; and later he submitted a report recommending that Diao’s name be erased from the roll of attorneys, because contrary to the allegations in his petition for examination in this Court, he (Diao) had not completed, before taking up law subjects, the required pre-legal education prescribed by the Department of Private Education, specially, in the following particulars:
(a) Diao did not complete his high school training; and
(b) Diao never attended Quisumbing College, and never obtained his A.A. diploma therefrom – which contradicts the credentials he had submitted in support of his application for examination, and of his allegation therein of successful completion of the “required pre-legal education”.
Answering this official report and complaint, Telesforo A. Diao, practically admits the first charge: but he claims that although he had left high school in his third year, he entered the service of the U.S. Army, passed the General Classification Test given therein, which (according to him) is equivalent to a high school diploma, and upon his return to civilian life, the educational authorities considered his army service as the equivalent of 3rd and 4th year high school.
We have serious doubts, about the validity of this claim, what with respondent’s failure to exhibit any certification to that effect (the equivalence) by the proper school officials. However, it is unnecessary to dwell on this, since the second charge is clearly meritorious. Diao never obtained his A.A. from Quisumbing College; and yet his application for examination represented him as an A.A. graduate (1940-1941) of such college. Now, asserting he had obtained his A.A. title from the Arellano University in April, 1949, he says he was erroneously certified, due to confusion, as a graduate of Quisumbing College, in his school records.
Wherefore, the parties respectfully pray that the foregoing stipulation of facts be admitted and approved by this Honorable Court, without prejudice to the parties adducing other evidence to prove their case not covered by this stipulation of facts. 1äwphï1.ñët
This explanation is not acceptable, for the reason that the “error” or “confusion” was obviously of his own making. Had his application disclosed his having obtained A.A. from Arellano University, it would also have disclosed that he got it in April, 1949, thereby showing that he began his law studies (2nd semester of 1948-1949) six months before obtaining his Associate in Arts degree. And then he would not have been permitted to take the bar tests, because our Rules provide, and the applicant for the Bar examination must affirm under oath, “That previous to the study of law, he had successfully and satisfactorily completed the required pre-legal education(A.A.) as prescribed by the Department of Private Education,” (emphasis on “previous”).
Plainly, therefore, Telesforo A. Diao was not qualified to take the bar examinations; but due to his false representations, he was allowed to take it, luckily passed it, and was thereafter admitted to the Bar. Such admission having been obtained under false pretenses must be, and is hereby revoked. The fact that he hurdled the Bar examinations is immaterial. Passing such examinations is not the only qualification to become an attorney-at-law; taking the prescribed courses of legal study in the regular manner is equally essential..
The Clerk is, therefore, ordered to strike from the roll of attorneys, the name of Telesforo A. Diao. And the latter is required to return his lawyer’s diploma within thirty days. So ordered.
Padilla, Bautista Angelo, Labrador, Concepcion, Reyes, J.B.L., Barrera, Paredes, Dizon, Regala and Makalintal, JJ., concur.
February 20, 1981
IN RE: PETITION FOR REINSTATEMENT IN THE ROLL OF ATTORNEYS, JUAN T. PUBLICO, petitioner.
MELENCIO-HERRERA, J.:
Three Petitions for the reinstatement of Juan T. Publico in the Roll of Attorneys, have been filed: (1) by Juan T. Publico himself dated May 28, 1979; 2) by the President and twelve members of the faculty of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Sta. Mesa, Manila, where Juan T. Publico is also a faculty member, filed on June 1, 1979; and 3) by the San Page 723 Miguel (Catanduanes) Civic Association in Metro Manila through its President, Vice-President and Directors on April 23, 1979.
The records disclose that Juan Tapel Publico filed a petition to take the Bar Examination in 1960 after failing in the 1959 Bar Examination. His uncle, Dulcisimo B. Tapel opposed the petition alleging that his nephew is not a person of good moral character for having misrepresented, sometime in 1950, when he was sixteen (16) years of age, that he was eligible for Third Year High School, University of Manila, by utilizing the school records of his cousin and name-sake, Juan M. Publico when, in actual fact, petitioner had not completed Grade VI of his elementary schooling, much less, First and Second Year High School. When required to file a formal Complaint, Dulcisimo Tapel instituted an administrative case against his nephew for falsification of school records or credentials.
In the meantime, Juan T. Publico took the 1960 Bar Examination, passed it, took the lawyer’s oath, and signed the Roll of Attorneys.
The administrative case was referred to the Court’s Legal Officer-Investigator, Ricardo Paras, Jr., for investigation and report. On September 10, 1961, Dulcisimo Tapel moved to drop the complaint on the ground that his witnesses had turned hostile. The Motion was denied, however, as the complainant’s witnesses had already testified. Upon the termination of the hearing, the Legal Officer-Investigator submitted a Report with the following findings and recommendation:
To recapitulate, respondent Juan Tapel Publico (son of Francisco Publico) studied at Buhi Elementary School, Bato, Catanduanes, until Grade VI, but finished only Grade V in said school, because on February 1, 1950, or before the end of the school year 1949-1950, he left said school and came to Manila. Once in Manila, he enrolled in Third Year high school at the University of Manila. Required by the school authorities to submit his school records for Grade VI elementary and First and Second Year high school, he sent for the records of his cousin Juan Marino Publico (son of Gabriel Publico).
For all the foregoing, we find and so hold that respondent falsified his school records, by making it appear that he had finished or completed Grade VI elementary and First and Second Year high school, when in truth and in fact he had not, thereby violating the provisions of Sections 5 and 6, Rule 127 of the Rules of Court, which require completion by a bar examinee or candidate of the prescribed courses in elementary, high, pre-law and law school, prior to his admission to the practice of law.
Wherefore, the undersigned Investigators hereby recommend that respondent’s name be stricken from the Rollo of Attorneys.
In this Court’s Resolution of February 23, 1962, the name of Juan T. Publico was stricken off the Roll of Attorneys.
Approximately eleven years later, or on June 28, 1973, Juan T. Publico filed a Petition for Reinstatement alleging that he had never received, for had he been informed, nor did he have any knowledge of the Resolution of the Court ordering the Bar Division to strike his name from the Roll of Attorneys until March 1969, when after taking his oath of office as Municipal Judge of Gigmoto, Catanduanes, he was advised to inquire into the outcome of the disbarment case against him; that he was shocked and humiliated upon learning of the said Resolution; that he resigned from all his positions in public and private offices, and transferred to Manila. He then prayed that the Court allow his reinstatement taking into consideration his exemplary conduct from the time he became a lawyer, his services to the community the numerous awards, resolutions and/’or commendations he received, which were incorporated in the Petition, and particularly, for the sake of his children. The Court denied the Petition. Petitioner moved for reconsideration claiming that he had been sufficiently punished already, but again this was denied by the Court for lack of merit.
On April 17, 1974, Juan T. Publico filed his second Petition for Reinstatement stating that the Complaint for disbarment against him had been withdrawn by the complainant, but that the Legal Officer-Investigator proceeded with the hearing ex parte; that he was unable to cross-examine the witnesses against him as he was unaware of the ex-parte proceedings until he was informed by the Legal Officer-Investigator about the same; that he had suffered so much already and to let him suffer perpetual disqualification would not be in consonance with the program of the New Society. He prayed that his name be reinstated in the Roll of Attorneys, or that the case be reopened so that he could cross-examine the witnesses against him and clear himself of the charges. This Court denied his Petition in its Resolution of April 23, 1974.
On November 17, 1975, Juan T. Publico wrote to the Chief Justice imploring his assistance that he may be given another opportunity to enjoy the privileges of a lawyer, and requesting that a hearing be held where he could personally plead for his reinstatement in the Roll of Attorneys. Again, this Court denied the aforesaid letter-petition.
Petitioner filed a fourth petition for reinstatement on July 8, 1976 stating that he had remained a person of good moral character and had an exemplary social standing in the community where he resides, as shown by his election to various positions in different associations: as peace officer of Barangay 593, Zone 58 of the City of Manila (Annex A of the petition), President of the Stallholders and Vendors Association of Pamilihang Sentral ng Sta. Mesa, Inc. (Annex B), re-elected President of the Altura Elementary School General Parents-Teachers Association (Annex C), and re-elected President of the San Miguel (Catanduanes) Civic Association in Metro Manila (Annex D). He also alleged that his moral character and integrity had remained irreproachable, that he had been more than sufficiently punished and had been undergoing economic difficulties because of his disbarment. In its Resolution of August 3, 1976, this Court denied the Petition with finality.
For consideration now is petitioner’s fifth plea for reinstatement filed on June 1, 1979 in addition to a letter-petition addressed to Chief Justice Enrique M. Fernando dated November 3, 1979. In his Petition, Juan T. Publico avers that his enrollment in Third Year High School in Manila was through the initiative of his uncle, Dulcisimo B. Tapel who accompanied him to school and enrolled him in a grade level above his qualifications in spite of his demonstrations; that the misrepresentation committed about his academic records was not his own fault alone, but was precipitated by his uncle, who as member of the faculty of the Catanduanes Institute had access to the records of the school; that being merely sixteen years of age, he could not be expected to act with discernment as he was still under the influence of his uncle, who later on caused his disbarment; that he had conducted himself in a manner befitting a member of the bar; that he had striven to serve the people and the government as shown by the positions he held as Municipal Attorney of San Miguel, Catanduanes, Deputy Register of Deed of Catanduanes, Election Registrar of the Commission on Elections, and Editorial Assistant in the Editorial Staff of the defunct House of Representatives, and presently as faculty member of the Polytechnic university of the Philippines, a State University.
Additionally, petitioner submitted evidence purporting to show his honesty and integrity and other manifestations of his good moral character, particularly, the Resolution dated March 30, 1979 of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Catanduanes Chapter (Annex A); the Resolution dated April 16, 1979 of the Sangguniang Bayan of San Miguel, Catanduanes (Annex B); the letter of the Municipal Mayor of San Miguel, Alejandro T. Tatel addressed to the late Chief Justice Castro dated April 17, 1979 (Annex B-1), all attesting to his good character and standing in the community and his capability as a lawyer. Further submitted are certifications issued by the different government offices Court of First Instance of Catanduanes (Annex C); Catanduanes Integrated National Police Command (Annex F should be D); Office of the Provincial Fiscal at Virac, Catanduanes (Annex F), and First Municipal Circuit Court, Bato-San Miguel, Bato, Catanduanes (Annex E), certifying that petitioner has not been accused nor convicted of any crime.
The petition filed by the President and Faculty of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines reiterated the same circumstances as those stated by Juan T. Publico in his own Petition and further professed that Atty. Publico is a competent and proficient teacher; that his moral integrity and honesty are beyond reproach; that to require him to comply with what he missed in the steps of the educational ladder would be meaningless and without any value as it is not intended to benefit him nor the system of education; and that non-formal education has already been recognized and given its equivalence in the scheme of formal education. The petition also mentioned the names of some great men who had been school dropouts, but who did not let this fact deter them from attaining success in their respective fields.
The petition filed by the San Miguel (Catanduanes) Civic Association in Metro Manila is substantially of the same tenor and added that petitioner was re-elected President of that Association for four years from 1972 to 1975 inclusive.
No opposition has been filed to any of the petitions.
The criterion for reinstatement has been stated as follows:
Whether or not the applicant shall be reinstated rests to a great extent in the sound discretion of the court, The court action will depend, generally speaking, on whether or not it decides that the public interest in the orderly and impartial administration of justice will be conserved by the applicant’s participation therein in the capacity of an attorney and counselor at law. The applicant must, like a candidate for admission to the bar, satisfy the court that he is a person of good moral character – a fit and proper person to practice law. The court will take into consideration the applicant’s character and standing prior to the disbarment, the nature and character of the charge for which he was disbarred, his conduct subsequent to the disbarment, and the time that has elapsed between the disbarment and the application for reinstatement. (5 Am. Jur., Sec. 301, p. 443). 1
Almost nineteen (19) years, by February 23, 1981, shall have elapsed since petitioner was barred from exercising his profession. Cognizant that the power to discipline, especially if amounting to disbarment, should be exercised on the preservative and not on the indicative principle, 2 we find that the evidence submitted by petitioner, particularly, the testimonials presented on his behalf, as listed heretofore, his good conduct and honorable dealings subsequent to his disbarment, his active involvement in civic, educational, and religious organizations, render him fit to be restored to membership in the Bar, and that petitioner has been sufficiently punished and disciplined. 3
WHEREFORE, petitioner Juan T. Publico is hereby ordered reinstated in the Roll of Attorneys.
SO ORDERED.
Teehankee, Makasiar, Concepcion, Jr., Fernandez, Guerrero, Abad Santos and De Castro, JJ., concur.
Aquino J., took no part.
BAR MATTER NO. 702 May 12, 1994
Gentlemen:
Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a Resolution of the Court En Banc dated May 12, 1994.
Bar Matter No. 702 (In the Matter of Petition to authorize Sharia’h District Court Judges to Appoint Shari’a Lawyers as Notaries Public, Atty. Royo M. Gampong, petitioner)
Petitioner Royo M. Gampong, a Bachelor of Laws (LIB) graduate of Notre Dame University who was admitted to the Philippine Shari’a Bar on October 7, 1991, filed the instant petition praying that this Court, after due notice and hearing, issue an order authorizing all Shari’a District Court Judges to appoint Shari’a Lawyers who possess the qualifications and none of the disqualifications as notaries public within their respective jurisdictions.
On the theory that Shari’a District Courts are co-equal with the regular Regional Trial Courts in the hierarchy of the Philippine Judicial System, petitioner claims that by analogy, Shari’a District Court Judges may be authorized to appoint the members of the Philippine Shari’a Bar. Petitioner further argues that, being a special member of the Philippine Bar and a practicing Shari’a lawyer, notarial work is indispensable and imperative in the exercise of his profession; therefore, he is qualified to be appointed as notary public by Shari’a District Judge. Petitioner likewise claims that Shari’a lawyers cannot be appointed as notaries public in their places of residence and in cities and other pilot centers where Shari’a courts are established because the RTC Executive Judges in Cotabato and Maguindanao require them to secure certifications from the IBP Secretary that there are no practicing lawyers in the place where they are applying. Thus, Shari’a lawyers lose their chance to be appointed as notaries public because of the policy of the IBP chapters in Region 12 to appoint regular IBP members practically in all municipalities and provinces.
The petition is denied.
The appointment, qualification, jurisdiction and powers of notaries public are governed by the provisions of the Notarial Law embodied in Sections 231 to Section 241, Chapter 11 of the Revised Administrative Code, Section 232 of the Revised Administrative Code as amended by Executive Order No. 41, May 11, 1945 provides:
Section 232. Appointment of notaries public. – Judges of Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court) in the respective may appoint as many notaries public as the public good requires, and there shall be at least one for every municipality in each province. Notaries public in the City of Manila shall be appointed by one of the judges of the Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court) of Manila to be chosen by the judges of the branches of said court” (Words in parenthesis supplied)
Strictly speaking, Shari’a District Courts do not form part of the integrated judicial system of the Philippines. Section 2 of the Judiciary Reorganization Acts of 1980 (B.P. Blg. 129) enumerates the courts covered by the Act, comprising the integrated judicial system. Shari’a Courts are not included in the enumeration notwithstanding that, when said B.P. Blg. 129 took effect on August 14, 1981, P.D. No. 1083 (otherwise known as “Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines”) was already in force. The Shari’a Courts are mentioned in Section 45 of the Act only for the purpose of including them “in the funding appropriations.”
The fact that judges thereof are required by law to possess the same qualifications as those of Regional Trial Courts does not signify that the Shari’a Court is a regular court like the Regional Trial Court. The latter is a court of general jurisdiction, i.e., competent to decide all cases, civil and criminal, within its jurisdiction. A Shari’a District Court, created pursuant to Article 137 of Presidential Decree No. 1083, is a court of limited jurisdiction, exercising original only over cases specifically enumerated in Article 143 thereof. In other words, a Shari’a District Court is not a regular court exercising general jurisdiction within the meaning of Section 232 of the Notarial Law.
The fact, too, that Shari’a Courts are called “courts” does not imply that they are on equal footing or are identical with regular courts, for the word “court” may be applied to tribunals which are not actually judicial in character, but are quasi-judicial agencies, like the Securities and Exchange Commission, Land Registration Authority, Social Security Commission, Civil Aeronautics Boards, Bureau of Patents, Trademark and Technology, Energy Regulatory Board, etc. 1
Moreover, decisions of the Shari’a District Courts are not elevated to this Court by appeal under Rule 41, or by petition for review under Rule 45, of the Rules of Court. Their decisions are final “whether on appeal from the Shari’a Circuit Court or not” 2 and hence, may reach this Court only by way of a special civil action under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, similar to those of the National Labor Relations Commission, or the Central Board of Assessment Appeals. 3
Furthermore, the qualifications for appointment as a judge of a Shari’a District Court are different from those required of a judge of a Regional Trial Court under Section 15 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 which provides:
Section 15. Qualifications – No person shall be appointed Regional trial Court Judge unless he is a natural born citizen of the Philippines, at least thirty-five years of age, and, for at least ten years, has been engaged in the practice of law in the Philippines requiring admission to the practice of law as an indispensable requirement.
In case of Shari’a Court judges, on the other hand, a Special Bar Examination for Shari’a Courts was authorized by the Supreme Court in its En Banc resolution dated September 20, 1983. Those who pass said examination are qualified for appointment for Shari’a court judges and for admission to special membership in the Philippine Bar to practice law in the Shari’a courts pursuant to Article 152, in relation to Articles 148 and 158 of P.D. No. 1083. Said Article 152, P.D. No. 1083 provides, thus:
Art. 152. Qualifications. – No person shall be appointed judge of the Shari’a Circuit Court unless he is a natural born citizen of the Philippines, at least twenty-five years of age, and has passed an examination in the Sharia’ and Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) to be given by the Supreme Court for admission to special membership in the Philippine Bar to practice law in the Shari’a courts.
The authority thus conferred by the Notarial Law upon judges of the Court of First Instance, now the Regional Trial Court, in their respective provinces to appoint notaries public cannot be expanded to cloth the judges of the Shari’a District Court with the same statutory authority. The authority to appoint notaries public contemplated under Section 232 of the Notarial Law and the corresponding supervising authority over them authorized under Section 248 thereof require the qualifications and experience of an RTC Judge.
It must be made clear in this regard that since a person who has passed the Shari’a Bar Examination does not automatically become a regular member of the Philippine Bar, he lacks the necessary qualification to be appointed a notary public. Section 233 of the Notarial Law provides for the qualifications for appointment as notary public, thus:
Section 233. Qualifications for Appointment. – To be eligible for appointment as notary public, a person must be a citizen of the Philippines (or of the United States) and over twenty-one years of age. He must, furthermore, be a person who has been admitted to the practice of law or who has completed and passed in the studies of law in a reputable university or school of law, or has passed the examination for the office of the peace or clerk or deputy clerk of court, or be a person who had qualified for the office of notary public under the Spanish sovereignty.
In the chartered cities and in the capitals of the provinces, where there are two or more lawyers appointed as notaries public, no person other than a lawyer or a person who had qualified to hold the office of notary public under the Spanish sovereignty shall hold said office.
In municipalities or municipal districts where no person resides having the qualifications herein before specified or having them, refuses to hold such office, judges of first instance may appoint other persons temporarily to exercise the office of notary public who have the requisite qualifications or fitness and morality.
In an En Banc resolution of the Court dated August 5, 1993, in Bar Matter No. 681 “Re: Petition to Allow Shari’a Lawyers to exercise their profession at the regular courts,” this Court categorically stated that a person who has passed the Shari’a Bar Examination is only a special member of the Philippine Bar and not a full-fledged member thereof even if he is a Bachelor of Laws degree holder. As such, he is authorized to practice only in the Shari’a courts.
Only a person duly admitted as members of the Philippine Bar in accordance with the Rules of Court are entitled to practice law before the regular courts. Section 1, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court provides:
Section 1. Who may practice law. – Any person heretofore duly admitted as a member of the bar, or hereafter admitted as such in accordance with the provisions of this rule, and who is in good and regular standing, is entitled to practice law.
This Court further emphasized in its resolution in Bar Matter 681, that:
In order to be admitted as member of the Philippine Bar, the candidate must pass an examination for admission covering the following subjects: Political and International Law; Labor and Social Legislation; Civil Law and Taxation; Mercantile Law; Criminal Law; Remedial Law; and Legal Ethics and Practical Exercises (Sec. 11, Rule 138) Further, in order that a candidate may be deemed to have passed the bar examination, he must have obtained a general average of 75% in all the aforementioned subjects without failing below 50% in any subject (Sec. 14, Rule 138). On the other hand, the subjects covered by the special bar examination for Shari’a courts are: (1) Jurisprudence (Fiqh) and Customary laws (Adat); (2) Persons, Family Relations and Property; (3) Successions, Wills/Adjudication and Settlement of Property; (4) Procedure in Shari’a Courts (See Resolution dated September 20, 1983).
It is quite obvious that the subject matter of the two examinations are different. The Philippine Bar Examination covers the entire range of the Philippine Laws and jurisprudence, while the Shari’a Bar Examination covers Muslim personal laws and jurisprudence only. Hence, a person who has passed the Shari’a Bar Examination, who is not a lawyer, is not qualified to practice law before the regular courts because he has not passed the requisite examinations for admission as a member of the Philippine Bar. However, the Shari’a bar lawyer may appear before the Municipal Trial Courts as agent or friend of a litigant, if appointed by the latter for the purpose but not before the Regional Trial Courts as only duly authorized members of the Bar may conduct litigations in the latter court (Sec. 34, Rule 138).
Considering, therefore that a person who has passed the Shari’a Bar Examination is only a special member of the Philippine Bar and not a full-fledged member thereof even if he holds a Bachelor of Laws Degree, he is not qualified to practice to qualified to practice law before the regular courts. As a general rule, a Shari’a Lawyer is not possessed of the basic requisite of “practice of law” in order to be appointed as a notary public under Section 233 of the Notarial Law in relation to Section 1, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court.
WHEREFORE, the petition to authorize Shari’a District Court Judges to appoint Shari’a Lawyers as notaries public in their respective jurisdiction is DENIED.

G.R. No. L-23959 November 29, 1971
PHILIPPINE ASSOCIATION OF FREE LABOR UNIONS (PAFLU), ENRIQUE ENTILA & VICTORIANO TENAZAS petitioners,
vs.
BINALBAGAN ISABELA SUGAR COMPANY, COURT OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS, & QUINTIN MUNING respondents.
REYES, J.B.L., J.:
May a non-lawyer recover attorney’s fees for legal services rendered? This is the issue presented in this petition for review of an order, dated 12 May 1964, and the en banc resolution, dated 8 December 1964, of the Court of Industrial Relations, in its Case No. 72-ULP-Iloilo, granting respondent Quintin Muning a non-lawyer, attorney’s fees for professional services in the said case.
The above-named petitioners were complainants in Case No. 72-ULP-Iloilo entitled, “PAFLU et al. vs. Binalbagan Isabela Sugar Co., et al.” After trial, the Court of Industrial Relations rendered a decision, on 29 March 1961, ordering the reinstatement with backwages of complainants Enrique Entila and Victorino Tenazas. Said decision became final. On 18 October 1963, Cipriano Cid & Associates, counsel of record for the winning complainants, filed a notice of attorney’s lien equivalent to 30% of the total backwages. On 22 November 1963, Atty. Atanacio Pacis also filed a similar notice for a reasonable amount. Complainants Entila and Tenazas on 3 December 1963, filed a manifestation indicating their non-objection to an award of attorney’s fees for 25% of their backwages, and, on the same day, Quentin Muning filed a “Petition for the Award of Services Rendered” equivalent to 20% of the backwages. Munings petition was opposed by Cipriano Cid & Associates the ground that he is not a lawyer.
The records of Case No. 72-ULP-Iloilo show that the charge was filed by Cipriano Cid & Associates through Atty. Atanacio Pacis. All the hearings were held in Bacolod City and appearances made in behalf of the complainants were at first by Attorney Pacis and subsequently by respondent Quintin Muning.
On 12 May 1964, the Court of Industrial Relations awarded 25% of the backwages as compensation for professional services rendered in the case, apportioned as follows:
Attys. Cipriano Cid & Associates ……………………………………… 10%
Quintin Muning ………………………………………………………………. 10%
Atty. Atanacio Pacis ……………………………………………………….. 5%
The award of 10% to Quintin Muning who is not a lawyer according to the order, is sought to be voided in the present petition.
Respondent Muning moved in this Court to dismiss the present petition on the ground of late filing but his motion was overruled on 20 January 1965. 1 He asked for reconsideration, but, considering that the motion contained averments that go into the merits of the case, this Court admitted and considered the motion for reconsideration for all purposes as respondent’s answer to the petitioner for review. 2 The case was considered submitted for decision without respondent’s brief. 3
Applicable to the issue at hand is the principle enunciated in Amalgamated Laborers’ Association, et al. vs. Court of Industrial Relations, et al., L-23467, 27 March 1968, 4 that an agreement providing for the division of attorney’s fees, whereby a non-lawyer union president is allowed to share in said fees with lawyers, is condemned by Canon 34 of Legal Ethics and is immoral and cannot be justified. An award by a court of attorney’s fees is no less immoral in the absence of a contract, as in the present case.
The provision in Section 5(b) of Republic Act No. 875 that –
In the proceeding before the Court or Hearing Examiner thereof, the parties shall not be required to be represented by legal counsel …
is no justification for a ruling, that the person representing the party-litigant in the Court of Industrial Relations, even if he is not a lawyer, is entitled to attorney’s fees: for the same section adds that –
it shall be the duty and obligation of the Court or Hearing Officer to examine and cross examine witnesses on behalf of the parties and to assist in the orderly presentation of evidence.
thus making it clear that the representation should be exclusively entrusted to duly qualified members of the bar.
The permission for a non-member of the bar to represent or appear or defend in the said court on behalf of a party-litigant does not by itself entitle the representative to compensation for such representation. For Section 24, Rule 138, of the Rules of Court, providing –
Sec. 24. Compensation of attorney’s agreement as to fees. – An attorney shall be entitled to have and recover from his client no more than a reasonable compensation for his services, …
imports the existence of an attorney-client relationship as a condition to the recovery of attorney’s fees. Such a relationship cannot exist unless the client’s representative in court be a lawyer. Since respondent Muning is not one, he cannot establish an attorney-client relationship with Enrique Entila and Victorino Tenezas or with PAFLU, and he cannot, therefore, recover attorney’s fees. Certainly public policy demands that legal work in representation of parties litigant should be entrusted only to those possessing tested qualifications and who are sworn, to observe the rules and the ethics of the profession, as well as being subject to judicial disciplinary control for the protection of courts, clients and the public.
On the present issue, the rule in American jurisdictions is persuasive. There, it is stated:
But in practically all jurisdictions statutes have now been enacted prohibiting persons not licensed or admitted to the bar from practising law, and under statutes of this kind, the great weight of authority is to the effect that compensation for legal services cannot be recovered by one who has not been admitted to practice before the court or in the jurisdiction the services were rendered. 5
No one is entitled to recover compensation for services as an attorney at law unless he has been duly admitted to practice … and is an attorney in good standing at the time. 6
The reasons are that the ethics of the legal profession should not be violated; 7 that acting as an attorney with authority constitutes contempt of court, which is punishable by fine or imprisonment or both, 8 and the law will not assist a person to reap the fruits or benefit of an act or an act done in violation of law; 9 and that if were to be allowed to non-lawyers, it would leave the public in hopeless confusion as to whom to consult in case of necessity and also leave the bar in a chaotic condition, aside from the fact that non-lawyers are not amenable to disciplinary measures. 10
And the general rule above-stated (referring to non-recovery of attorney’s fees by non-lawyers) cannot be circumvented when the services were purely legal, by seeking to recover as an “agent” and not as an attorney. 11
The weight of the reasons heretofore stated why a non-lawyer may not be awarded attorney’s fees should suffice to refute the possible argument that appearances by non-lawyers before the Court of Industrial Relations should be excepted on the ground that said court is a court of special jurisdiction; such special jurisdiction does not weigh the aforesaid reasons and cannot justify an exception.
The other issue in this case is whether or not a union may appeal an award of attorney’s fees which are deductible from the backpay of some of its members. This issue arose because it was the union PAFLU, alone, that moved for an extension of time to file the present petition for review; union members Entila and Tenazas did not ask for extension but they were included as petitioners in the present petition that was subsequently filed, it being contended that, as to them (Entila and Tenazas), their inclusion in the petition as co-petitioners was belated.
We hold that a union or legitimate labor organization may appeal an award of attorney’s fees which are deductible from the backpay of its members because such union or labor organization is permitted to institute an action in the industrial court, 12 on behalf of its members; and the union was organized “for the promotion of the emloyees’ moral, social and economic well-being”; 13 hence, if an award is disadvantageous to its members, the union may prosecute an appeal as an aggrieved party, under Section 6, Republic Act 875, which provides:
Sec. 6. Unfair Labor Practice cases – Appeals. – Any person aggrieved by any order of the Court may appeal to the Supreme Court of the Philippines …,
since more often than not the individual unionist is not in a position to bear the financial burden of litigations.
Petitioners allege that respondent Muning is engaged in the habitual practice of law before the Court of Industrial Relations, and many of them like him who are not licensed to practice, registering their appearances as “representatives” and appearing daily before the said court. If true, this is a serious situation demanding corrective action that respondent court should actively pursue and enforce by positive action to that purpose. But since this matter was not brought in issue before the court a quo, it may not be taken up in the present case. Petitioners, however, may file proper action against the persons alleged to be illegally engaged in the practice of law.
WHEREFORE, the orders under review are hereby set aside insofar as they awarded 10% of the backwages as attorney’s fees for respondent Quintin Muning. Said orders are affirmed in all other respects. Costs against respondent Muning.
Concepcion, C.J., Makalintal, Zaldivar, Castro, Fernando, Teehankee, Barredo, Villamor and Makasiar, JJ. concur.

G.R. No. L-2610 June 16, 1951
CEFERINA RAMOS, ET ALS., petitioners,
vs.
ANATOLIO C. MAÑALAC, or his successor, as Judge of the Court of First Instance of Pangasinan, Second Branch, and FELIPE LOPEZ, respondents.
BAUTISTA ANGELO, J.:
This is a petition for certiorari seeking the annulment of an order of the Court of First Instance of Pangasinan dated September 22, 1947, placing one Felipe Lopez in possession of two (2) parcels of land claimed to belong to petitioners, and of the decision rendered by the same court on August 24, 1939, ordering the foreclosure of the mortgage executed on said property to satisfy the payment of an obligation.
The facts involved in this case are: On August 31, 1933, Victoriano, Leonardo, Vicenta, Isabina, Gregoria, Ceferina, Jose and Geronimo, all surnamed Ramos, executed a power of attorney in favor of their brother Eladio Ramos giving the latter authority to encumber, mortgage and transfer in favor of any person a parcel of land situated in Bayambang, Pangasinan. On August 9, 1934, by virtue of the power of attorney abovementioned, Eladio Ramos executed in favor of one Romualdo Rivera a mortgage on therefore said property. Together with another parcel of land, to guarantee the payment of loan of 300, with interest thereon at the rate of 12% per annum. When Eladio Ramos failed to pay the obligation on its date of maturity, Romualdo Rivera, the mortgage, filed an action to foreclosure the mortgage, making as parties-defendants the herein petitioners, brothers and sisters of Eladio Ramos (civil case No. 7668). The summons was served only upon Eladio Ramos, who acknowledge the service in his own behalf and in that services of Attorney Lauro C. Maiquez, who put in his appearance for all the defendants, and submitted an answer in their behalf. After trial, at which both parties presented their evidence, the court rendered decision ordering Eladio Ramos to pay to the plaintiff his obligation of 300, with interest thereon at the rate of 12 per cent per annum, from August 9, 1934, until its full payment, plus the sum of 100 as attorney’s fees, and ordering the foreclosure of the mortgage upon failure of Eladio Ramos to pay the judgment within ninety (90) days from the date the decision becomes final. The decision was rendered on August 24, 1939. As Eladio Ramos failed to pay the judgment within the period therein specified, on motion of the plaintiff, the court ordered the sale at public auction of the mortgaged properties, which were sold to the plaintiff as the highest bidder and the provincial sheriff issued the corresponding deed of the sale in his favor. The sale was confirmed by the court on April 1, 1941. On August 21, 1947, Romualdo Rivera sold the properties to Felipa Lopez, who later filed a motion praying that she be placed in possession thereof. This motion was granted on September 22, 1947. As the petitioners did not heed the order, they were summoned by the court to explain why they should no be punished for contempt for their refusal to comply with the writ of possession, to which they answered contending that said writ partakes of the nature of an action and as it was issued after more than five years, the court acted in excess of its jurisdiction, and that the sale conducted by the sheriff was illegal because petitioners were not properly served with summons as defendants in the foreclosure suit. The explanation given by petitioners having been found to be unsatisfactory, the court insisted in its order and threatened to punish the petitioners as for contempt of court if they failed to obey the order. Hence this petition for certiorari.
The issues posed by the petitioners relate (1) to the validity of the decision rendered by the lower court on August 24, 1939, in civil case No. 7668, ordering the foreclosure of the mortgage excluded by Eladio Ramos on the properties in question; and (2) to the validity of the order of the court dated September 22, 1947, directing the issuance of a writ of possession to place respondent Felipa Lopez in possession to place respondent Felipa Lopez in possession of the properties purchased by her from the mortgagee.
As regards the first issue, we are of the opinion that the claim of the petitioners can not be sustained for the reason that it is in the nature of a collateral attack to a judgment which on its face is valid and regular and has become final long ago. It is a well-known rule that a judgment, which on its face is valid and regular, can only be attacked in separate action brought principally for the purpose (Gomez vs. Concepcion, 47 Phil., 717).
Granting for the sake of argument that petitioners were not properly served with summons in civil case No. 7668, as they claim, the defect in the service was cured when the petitioners voluntarily appeared and answered the complaint thru their attorney of record, Lauro C. Maiquez who appeared in their behalf in all stages of the case. Since an Attorney Maiquez who appeared for the petitioners must be presumed to have been authorized by them when he appeared in their behalf in all the stages of the case. The security and finality of judicial proceedings require that the evasions and tergiversations of unsuccessful litigants should be received with undue favor to overcome such presumption (Tan Lua vs. O’Brien, 55 Phil., 53). This is specially so when, as in the instant case, it is only after the lapse of more than nine (9) years after the judgment has been rendered that petitioners thought of challenging the jurisdiction of the court.
The second issue raised by the petitioners is not also taken, for the simple reason that the issuance of a writ of possession in a foreclosure proceedings is not an execution of judgment within the purview of section 6, Rule 39, of the Rules of Court, but is merely a ministerial and complementary duty of the court can undertake even after the lapse of five (5) years, provided the statute of limitations and the rights of third persons have not intervened in the meantime (Rivera vs. Rupac, 61 Phil., 201). This is the correct interpretation of section 6, Rule 39, in relation to section 3, Rule 70 of the Rules of Court. This is a case where the judgment involved is already final executed, and the properties mortgaged sold by order of the court, and the properties mortgaged sold by order of the court, and purchaser thereof has transferred them to a third person, who desires to be placed in their possession. In the exercise of its interlocutory duty to put and end to the litigation and save multiplicity of an action, no plausible reason is seen why the court cannot issue a peremptory order to place the ultimate purchaser in the possession of the property.
The general rule is that after a sale has been made under a decree in a foreclosure suit, the court has the power to give possession to the purchaser, and the latter will not be driven to an action at law to obtain possession. The power of the court to issue a process and place the purchaser in possession, is said to rest upon the ground that it has power to enforce its own decrees and thus avoid circuitous action and vexatious litigation (Rovero de Ortega vs. Natividad, 71 Phil., 340).
It has also been held:
In a foreclosure suit, where no third person not a party thereto intervenes and the debtor continues in possession of the real property mortgaged, a writ of possession is a necessary remedy to put an end to the litigation, inasmuch as section 257 of the Code of Civil Procedure (now section 3, Rule 70 of the Rules of Court) provides that the confirmation of the sale by judicial decree operates to divest all the parties to the action of their respective rights and vests them in the purchaser. According to this legal provision, it is the duty of the competent court to issue a writ so that the purchaser may be placed in the possession of the property which he purchased at the public auction sale and become his by virtue of the final decree confirming the sale. (Rivera vs. Rupac, 61 Phil., 201). Emphasis supplied.
The following American authorities may also be involved in support of the order of the lower court:
A court of equity, having obtained jurisdiction in action for the foreclosure of the mortgage, and having decreed a sale of the premises, RETAINS its jurisdiction and has authority to put the purchaser in possession of the property, without compelling him to resort to an action of law. (27 Cyc., 1937; 42 C. J., 271 and cases there cited.) (Bold types and emphasis supplied).
. . . It does not appear to consist with sound principle that the court which has exclusive authority to foreclosure the equity of redemption of a mortgagor, and can call all the parties in interest before it, and decree a sale of the mortgaged premises, should not be able even to put the purchaser into possession against one of the very parties to the suit, and who is bound by the decree. When the court has obtained jurisdiction of a case, and has investigated and decided upon the merits, it is not sufficient for the ends of justice merely to declare the right without affording the remedy. If it was to be understood that after a decree and sale mortgaged premises, the mortgagor, or other party to the suit, or perhaps, those who have been let into possession by the mortgagor, pendente lite, could withhold the possession in defiance of the authority of this court, and compel the purchaser to resort to a court of law, I apprehend that the delay and expense and inconvenience of such a course of proceeding would greatly impair the value and diminish the results of sales under a decree. (See Notes to Wilson v. Polk, 51 Am. D., 151). (Kershew v. Thompson, 4 Johns, Ch., 609).
Wherefore, the petition is dismissed with costs against the petitioners.
Paras, C. J., Feria, Bengzon, Montemayor and Jugo, JJ., concur.

A.M. No. 35 September 30, 1949
In re Attorney FELIX P. DAVID, petitioner.
REYES, J.:
The respondent, Felix P. David, a member of a Philippine Bar, is charged with the malpractice for misappropriating funds entrusted to him by his client, the complainant Briccio S. Henson. Respondent having answered denying the charge, the complaint was referred to the Solicitor General for investigation. After the investigation the Solicitor General rendered his report finding the respondent guilty of professional misconduct and recommending disciplinary action. The Solicitor General reports the following facts to have been conclusively established:
. . . that on February 15, 1947, respondent obtained P840 from his client Briccio Henson to be applied to the payment of inheritance and real estate taxes due from the estate of Esteban Henson for 1945, 1946 and 1947 (p. 3, t. s. n.), for which he signed a receipt (Annex ‘A’; p. 3, t. s. n.). On several occasions, complainant asked the respondent to show him the official tax receipt evidencing the payment of said taxes, to which the latter answered that he had already paid them, but the receipts were left with his friend in San Fernando. Respondent promised to give the receipt later. Complainant waited patiently for it but it was never delivered. After the respondent had failed to deliver the receipt, complainant became suspicious and inquired from the provincial treasurer of Pampanga about the matter. Said official gave the information that the taxes were never paid. Consequently, complainant requested the respondent to refund the money given him for the payment of said taxes (p. 7, t. s. n., OSG), but he failed to do so. Respondent made several promises to return the money which he never complied. Neither had he done anything to transfer the titles of the land in the name of the heirs of Esteban Henson up to the present (p. 9, t. s. n.). In view of this failure of the respondent, the complainant was ultimately forced to pay the taxes out of his own pocket (p. 8, t.s.n.).
Required to answer the complaint formulated by the Solicitor General on the basis of his report, respondent failed to do so. And despite due notice he likewise failed to appear at the hearing before this Court. Indeed, we note from the Solicitor General’s report that respondent, instead of welcoming every opportunity for hearing, seems to have wanted to avoid it. On this point the report says:
At the hearing held on May 26, 1948, both parties appeared and the complainant had testified, the hearing was set for continuance the following day. Both parties agreed in the presence of the investigator to postpone said hearing for June 5, 1948. On June 5, 1948, complainant appeared, but respondent did not show up, so to give the respondent a chance, the investigator postponed the continuation of the hearing to June 17. Both parties were duly subpoenaed (attached to the records). On June 15th, respondent sent a letter (attached to the records) to Assistant Solicitor General Ruperto Kapunan, asking that the hearing be postponed to June 25, 1948. According to the request, both parties were again duly subpoenaed for June 25, 1948 (attached to the record). In the subpoena sent to respondent, his attention was invited to Rule 127, section 28, of the Rules of Court, which provides that if he fails to appear and answer the charge, the Solicitor in charge will proceed to hear the case ex parte. In spite of this, on the morning of June 25, he again sent another letter (attached to the records) to Assistant Solicitor General Kapunan, asking that the hearing be transferred to July 7, or 8, 1948. In order that the respondent be given all the chances to defend himself, his request was granted. In the subpoena sent him setting the hearing for July 8, 1948, as requested, the following remark was stated:
Failure on your part to appear will cause the investigator to proceed with the investigation and to file the corresponding recommendation to the Supreme Court. No further postponement will be entertained.
It is worthwhile mentioning that every time the case was set for hearing the complainant made his appearance.
On the morning of July 8, 1948, both parties appeared; respondent made a formal request in person to the investigator asking that the hearing be postponed to 2 o’clock p.m. of the same day. Out of consideration to him, even to the discomfiture of complainant, respondent’s request was again granted. But contrary to his assurance, the respondent again failed to appear.
There is no question that respondent received from complainant the sum of P840 for the specific purpose of applying the same to the payment of taxes due from the estate which he was engaged to settle. The receipt which he issued for said amount as well as for the sum of P110 and a sack of rice paid to him for his expenses and fee reads as follows: . . .
February 15, 1947. Received from Mr. Briccio S. Henson the sum of eight hundred and forty (P840) pesos to be paid as follows:
P210 -Inheritance tax of the heirs of the late Don Esteban Henson. P630 -Land taxes for 1945-1947. Failure on my part to deliver to him the official receipts corresponding to the above mentioned amount, I promise to return to him the whole amount of P840 not later than April 16, 1947 without any obligation on his part.
A separate amount of one hundred and ten (P110) pesos and a sack of rice was paid to me for my expenses and fee.
(Sgd.) Atty. FELIX DAVID. Respondent did not care to testify. But through his unverified answer, he would make it appear that he was entitled to and had been promised a legal fee for his services and that, as this promise was not complied with, he “saw it fit to withhold said amount (the P840 for taxes) until he is paid.” This explanation is obviously an afterthought and clearly unfounded. For the established fact is that respondent at first made complainant believe that the sum in question had already been applied by him to the payment of taxes, and, as testified to by complainant, for the little that respondent was able to do in connection with the case entrusted to him, he has already received his fee as shown by the above-copied receipt. The conclusion is therefore irresistible that respondent misappropriated the money of his client. This makes him guilty of unprofessional conduct.
In view of the gravity of the misconduct committed, the respondent Felix P. David is hereby ordered suspended from the practice of law for a period of five years from the date this decision become final, without prejudice to a more severe action if the sum misappropriated is not refunded within one month from the same date.
Moran, C. J., Ozaeta, Feria, Bengzon, Padilla, Tuason, Montemayor, and Torres, JJ., concur.
G.R. No. L-4663 May 30, 1951
FERDINAND E. MARCOS and MANUEL CONCORDIA, petitioners,
vs.
CHIEF OF STAFF, ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES, ET AL., respondents.
x———————————————————x
G.R. No. L-4671 May 30, 1951
MANUEL A. CONCORDIA and FERDINAND E. MARCOS, petitioners,
vs.
CHIEF OF STAFF, ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES, ET AL., respondents.
FERIA, J.:
These are two special civil actions of mandamus instituted by the same petitioners against the respondents General Court-Martials composed each of different members or officers of the Philippine Army, in which it is alleged that the respondents Military Tribunals excluded unlawfully the petitioners from the enjoyment of their right to appear as counsel for the accused prosecuted before said tribunals, to which the petitioners are entitled because they are attorneys duly admitted to practice law in the Philippine Courts, on the ground that they are disqualified or inhibited by section 17, Article 17 of the Constitution to appear as counsel for said defendants. Said Section 17 reads as follows:
SEC. 17. No Senator or Member of the House of Representatives shall directly or indirectly be financially interested in any contract with the Government or any subdivision or instrumentality thereof, or in any franchise or special privilege granted by the Congress during his term of office. He shall not appear as counsel before the Electoral Tribunals or before any court in any civil case wherein the Government or any subdivision or instrumentality thereof is the adverse party, or in any criminal case wherein an offer or employee of the Government is accused of an offense committed in relation to his office. . . ..
The only question for this Court to determine in these two cases is whether the prohibition contained in the above quoted section 17 of our Constitution is applicable to the petitioners.
We are of the opinion and therefore hold that it is applicable, because the words “any court” includes the General Court-Martial, and a court-martial case is a criminal case within the meaning of the above quoted provisions of our Constitution.
It is obvious that the words “any court,” used in prohibiting members of Congress to appear as counsel “in any criminal case in which an officer or employee of the Government is accused of an offense committed in relation to his office,” refers, not only to a civil, but also to a military court or a Court-Martial. Because, in construing a Constitution, “it must be taken as established that where words are used which have both a restricted and a general meaning, the general must prevail over the restricted unless the nature of the subject matter of the context clearly indicates that the limited sense is intended.” (11 American Jurisprudence, pp. 680-682).
In the case of Ramon Ruffy vs. Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army,* 43 Off. Gaz., 855, we did not hold that the word “court” in general used in our Constitution does not include a Court-Martial; what we held is that the words “inferior courts” used in connection with the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to “review on appeal certiorari or writ of error, as the law or rules of court may provide, final judgments of inferior courts in all criminal cases in which the penalty imposed is death or life imprisonment,” as provided for in section 2, Article VIII, of the Constitution, do not refer to Courts-Martial or Military Courts.
Winthrop’s Military Law and Precedents, quoted by the petitioners and by this Court in the case of Ramon Ruffy et al vs. Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army, supra, has to say in this connection the following:
Notwithstanding that the court-martial is only an instrumentality of the executive power having no relation or connection, in law, with the judicial establishments of the country, it is yet, so far as it is a court at all, and within its field of action, as fully a court of law and justice as is any civil tribunal. As a court of law, it is bound, like any court, by the fundamental principles of law, and, in the absence of special provision of the subject in the military code, it observes in general the rules of evidence as adopted in the common-law courts. As a court of justice, it is required by the terms of its statutory oath, (art. 84.) to adjudicate between the U.S. an the accused “without partiality, favor, or affection,” and according, not only to the laws and customs of the service, but to its “conscience,” i.e. its sense of substantial right and justice unaffected by technicalities. In the words of the Attorney General, court-martial are thus, “in the strictest sense courts of justice. (Winthrop’s Military Law and Precedents, Vol. 1 and 2, 2nd Ed., p. 54.)
In re Bogart, 3 Fed. Cas., 796, 801, citing 6 Op. Attys. Gen. 425, with approval, the court said:
In the language of Attorney General Cushing, a court-martial is a lawful tribunal existing by the same authority that any other exists by, and the law military is a branch of law as valid as any other, and it differs from the general law of the land in authority only in this: that it applies to officers and soldiers of the army but not to other members of the body politic, and that it is limited to breaches of military duty.
And in re Davison, 21 F. 618, 620, it was held:
That court-martial are lawful tribunals existing by the same authority as civil courts of the United States, have the same plenary jurisdiction in offenses by the law military as the latter courts have in controversies within their cognizance, and in their special and more limited sphere are entitled to as untrammeled an exercise of their powers.
And lastly, American Jurisprudence says:
SEC. 99. Representation by Counsel. – It is the general rule that one accused of the crime has the right to be represented before the court by counsel, and this is expressly so declared by the statues controlling the procedure in court-martial. It has been held that a constitutional provision extending that right to one accused in any trial in any court whatever applies to a court-martial and gives the accused the undeniable right to defend by counsel, and that a court-martial has no power to refuse an attorney the right to appear before it if he is properly licensed to practice in the courts of the state. (Citing the case of State ex rel Huffaker vs. Crosby, 24 Nev. 115, 50 Pac. 127; 36 American Jurisprudence 253)
The fact that a judgment of conviction, not of acquittal, rendered by a court-martial must be approved by the reviewing authority before it can be executed (Article of War 46), does not change or affect the character of a court-martial as a court. A judgment of the Court of First Instance imposing death penalty must also be approved by the Supreme Court before it can be executed.
That court-martial cases are criminal cases within the meaning of Section 17, Article VI, of the Constitution is also evident, because the crimes and misdemeanors forbidden or punished by the Articles of War are offenses against the Republic of the Philippines. According to section 1, Rule 106, of the Rules of Court, a criminal action or case is one which involves a wrong or injury done to the Republic, for the punishment of which the offender is prosecuted in the name of the People of the Philippines; and pursuant to Article of War 17, “the trial advocate of a general or special court-martial shall prosecute (the accused) in the name of the People of the Philippines.”
Winthtrop, in his well known work “Military Law and Precedents’ says the following:
In regard to the class of courts to which it belongs, it is lastly to be noted that the court-martial is strictly a criminal court. It has no civil jurisdiction whatever; cannot enforce a contract, collect a debt, or award damages in favor of an individual. . . . Its judgment is a criminal sentence not a civil verdict; its proper function is to award punishment upon the ascertainment of guilt. (Winthrop’s Military Law and Precedents, Vols. 1 & 2, 2nd Ed., p. 55.)
In N. Y. it was held that the term “criminal case,” used in the clause, must be allowed some meaning, and none can be conceived, other than a prosecution for a criminal offense. Ex parte Carter. 66 S. W. 540, 544, 166 No. 604, 57 L.R.A. 654, quoting People vs. Kelly, 24 N.Y. 74; Counselman vs. Hitchcock, 12 S. Ct. 195; 142 U.S. 547, L. Ed. 111o. (Words and Phrases, Vol. 10, p. 485.)
Besides, that a court-martial is a court, and the prosecution of an accused before it is a criminal and not an administrative case, and therefore it would be, under certain conditions, a bar to another prosecution of the defendant for the same offense, because the latter would place the accused in jeopardy, is shown by the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Grafton vs. United States, 206 U. S. 333; 51 Law. Ed., 1088, 1092, in which the following was held:
If a court-martial has jurisdiction to try an officer or soldier for a crime, its judgment will be accorded the finality and conclusiveness as to the issues involved which attend the judgment of a civil court in a case of which it may legally take cognizance; and restricting our decision to the above question of double jeopardy, we judge that, consistently with the above act of 1902, and for the reasons stated, the plaintiff in error, a soldier in the Army, having been acquitted of the crime of homicide, alleged to have been committed by him in the Philippines, by a military court of competent jurisdiction, proceeding under the authority of the United States, could not be subsequently tried for the same offense in a civil court exercising authority in that territory.
Furthermore, taking into consideration the apparent intention or purpose of the framers of our Constitution in enacting section 17, Article VI of the Philippine Constitution, it is obvious that there exist the same if not more reason for prohibiting the appearance of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives as counsel for the accused in court-martial, as for inhibiting them to appear as such in civil courts, because the independence of civil court’s judges is guaranteed by our Constitution. Ubi eadem ibi eadem lex.
Wherefore, as the petitioners are disqualified to appear as counsel for the accused in court-martial, the respondents did not unlawfully exclude them from the enjoyment of any right, and hence the petitions for mandamus in these two cases are denied with costs against the petitioners.
Paras, C.J., Pablo, Bengzon, Reyes, Jugo, and Bautista Angelo, JJ., concur.

[A.M. No. P-99-1287. January 26, 2001]
OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR, complainant, vs. ATTY. MISAEL M. LADAGA, Branch Clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court, Branch 133, Makati City, respondent.
R E S O L U T I O N
KAPUNAN, J.:
In a Letter, dated August 31, 1998, respondent Atty. Misael M. Ladaga, Branch Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court of Makati, Branch 133, requested the Court Administrator, Justice Alfredo L. Benipayo, for authority to appear as pro bono counsel of his cousin, Narcisa Naldoza Ladaga, in Criminal Case No. 84885, entitled “People vs. Narcisa Naldoza Ladaga” for Falsification of Public Document pending before the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 40.[1] While respondent’s letter-request was pending action, Lisa Payoyo Andres, the private complainant in Criminal Case No. 84885, sent a letter to the Court Administrator, dated September 2, 1998, requesting for a certification with regard to respondent’s authority to appear as counsel for the accused in the said criminal case.[2] On September 7, 1998, the Office of the Court Administrator referred the matter to respondent for comment.[3]
In his Comment,[4] dated September 14, 1998, respondent admitted that he had appeared in Criminal Case No. 84885 without prior authorization. He reasoned out that the factual circumstances surrounding the criminal case compelled him to handle the defense of his cousin who did not have enough resources to hire the services of a counsel de parte; while, on the other hand, private complainant was a member of a powerful family who was out to get even with his cousin. Furthermore, he rationalized that his appearance in the criminal case did not prejudice his office nor the interest of the public since he did not take advantage of his position. In any case, his appearances in court were covered by leave application approved by the presiding judge.
On December 8, 1998, the Court issued a resolution denying respondent’s request for authorization to appear as counsel and directing the Office of the Court Administrator to file formal charges against him for appearing in court without the required authorization from the Court.[5] On January 25, 1999, the Court Administrator filed the instant administrative complaint against respondent for violating Sec. 7(b)(2) of Republic Act No. 6713, otherwise known as the “Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees,” which provides:
Sec. 7. Prohibited Acts and Transactions. – In addition to acts and omissions of public officials and employees now prescribed in the Constitution and existing laws, the following shall constitute prohibited acts and transactions of any public official and employee and are hereby declared to be unlawful:
x x x
(b) Outside employment and other activities related thereto.- Public officials and employees during their incumbency shall not:
x x x
(2) Engage in the private practice of their profession unless authorized by the Constitution or law, Provided, that such practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with their official functions;
In our Resolution, dated February 9, 1999, we required respondent to comment on the administrative complaint.
In his Comment, respondent explained that he and Ms. Ladaga are “close blood cousins” who belong to a “powerless family” from the impoverished town of Bacauag, Surigao del Norte. From childhood until he finished his law degree, Ms. Ladaga had always supported and guided him while he looked up to her as a mentor and an adviser. Because of their close relationship, Ms. Ladaga sought respondent’s help and advice when she was charged in Criminal Case No. 84885 for falsification by the private complainant, Lisa Payoyo Andres, whose only purpose in filing the said criminal case was to “seek vengeance” on her cousin. He explained that his cousin’s discord with Ms. Andres started when the latter’s husband, SPO4 Pedro Andres, left the conjugal home to cohabit with Ms. Ladaga. During the course of their illicit affair, SPO4 Andres and Ms. Ladaga begot three (3) children. The birth certificate of their eldest child is the subject of the falsification charge against Ms. Ladaga. Respondent stated that since he is the only lawyer in their family, he felt it to be his duty to accept Ms. Ladaga’s plea to be her counsel since she did not have enough funds to pay for the services of a lawyer. Respondent also pointed out that in his seven (7) years of untainted government service, initially with the Commission on Human Rights and now with the judiciary, he had performed his duties with honesty and integrity and that it was only in this particular case that he had been administratively charged for extending a helping hand to a close relative by giving a free legal assistance for “humanitarian purpose.” He never took advantage of his position as branch clerk of court since the questioned appearances were made in the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City and not in Makati where he is holding office. He stressed that during the hearings of the criminal case, he was on leave as shown by his approved leave applications attached to his comment.
In our Resolution, dated June 22, 1999, we noted respondent’s comment and referred the administrative matter to the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Makati, Judge Josefina Guevarra-Salonga, for investigation, report and recommendation.
In her Report, dated September 29, 1999, Judge Salonga made the following findings and recommendation:
There is no question that Atty. Misael Ladaga appeared as counsel for and in behalf of his cousin, Narcisa Naldoza Ladaga, an accused in Criminal Case No. 84-885 for “Falsification of Public Documents” before the METC of Quezon City. It is also denied that the appearance of said respondent in said case was without the previous permission of the Court.
An examination of the records shows that during the occasions that the respondent appeared as such counsel before the METC of Quezon City, he was on official leave of absence. Moreover, his Presiding Judge, Judge Napoleon Inoturan was aware of the case he was handling. That the respondent appeared as pro bono counsel likewise cannot be denied. His cousin-client Narcisa Ladaga herself positively declared that the respondent did not receive a single centavo from her. Helpless as she was and respondent being the only lawyer in the family, he agreed to represent her out of his compassion and high regard for her.
It may not be amiss to point out, this is the first time that respondent ever handled a case for a member of his family who is like a big sister to him. He appeared for free and for the purpose of settling the case amicably. Furthermore, his Presiding Judge was aware of his appearance as counsel for his cousin. On top of this, during all the years that he has been in government service, he has maintained his integrity and independence.
RECOMMENDATION
In the light of the foregoing, it appearing that the respondent appeared as counsel for his cousin without first securing permission from the court, and considering that this is his first time to do it coupled with the fact that said appearance was not for a fee and was with the knowledge of his Presiding Judge, it is hereby respectfully recommended that he be REPRIMANDED with a stern warning that any repetition of such act would be dealt with more severely.[6]
We agree with the recommendation of the investigating judge.
Respondent is charged under Sec. 7(b)(2) of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees which prohibits civil servants from engaging in the private practice of their profession. A similar prohibition is found under Sec. 35, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court which disallows certain attorneys from engaging in the private practice of their profession. The said section reads:
SEC. 35. Certain attorneys not to practice.- No judge or other official or employee of the superior courts or of the Office of the Solicitor General, shall engage in private practice as a member of the bar or give professional advise to clients.
However, it should be clarified that “private practice” of a profession, specifically the law profession in this case, which is prohibited, does not pertain to an isolated court appearance; rather, it contemplates a succession of acts of the same nature habitually or customarily holding one’s self to the public as a lawyer.
In the case of People vs. Villanueva,[7] we explained the meaning of the term “private practice” prohibited by the said section, to wit:
We believe that the isolated appearance of City Attorney Fule did not constitute private practice, within the meaning and contemplation of the Rules. Practice is more than an isolated appearance, for it consists in frequent or customary action, a succession of acts of the same kind. In other words, it is frequent habitual exercise (State vs. Cotner, 127, p. 1, 87 Kan. 864, 42 LRA, N.S. 768) Practice of law to fall within the prohibition of statute has been interpreted as customarily or habitually holding one’s self out to the public, as a lawyer and demanding payment for such services (State vs. Bryan, 4 S.E. 522, 98 N.C. 644, 647). The appearance as counsel on one occasion, is not conclusive as determinative of engagement in the private practice of law. The following observation of the Solicitor General is noteworthy:
“Essentially, the word private practice of law implies that one must have presented himself to be in the active and continued practice of the legal profession and that his professional services are available to the public for a compensation, as a source of his livelihood or in consideration of his said services.”
For one thing, it has never been refuted that City Attorney Fule had been given permission by his immediate superior, the Secretary of Justice, to represent the complainant in the case at bar, who is a relative.[8]
Based on the foregoing, it is evident that the isolated instances when respondent appeared as pro bono counsel of his cousin in Criminal Case No. 84885 does not constitute the “private practice” of the law profession contemplated by law.
Nonetheless, while respondent’s isolated court appearances did not amount to a private practice of law, he failed to obtain a written permission therefor from the head of the Department, which is this Court as required by Section 12, Rule XVIII of the Revised Civil Service Rules, thus:
Sec. 12. No officer or employee shall engage directly in any private business, vocation, or profession or be connected with any commercial, credit, agricultural, or industrial undertaking without a written permission from the head of the Department: Provided, That this prohibition will be absolute in the case of those officers and employees whose duties and responsibilities require that their entire time be at the disposal of the Government; Provided, further, That if an employee is granted permission to engage in outside activities, time so devoted outside of office hours should be fixed by the agency to the end that it will not impair in any way the efficiency of the officer or employee: And provided, finally, That no permission is necessary in the case of investments, made by an officer or employee, which do not involve real or apparent conflict between his private interests and public duties, or in any way influence him in the discharge of his duties, and he shall not take part in the management of the enterprise or become an officer of the board of directors.[9]
Respondent entered his appearance and attended court proceedings on numerous occasions, i.e., May 4-15, 1998, June 18, 1998, July 13, 1998 and August 5, 1998, as borne out by his own admission. It is true that he filed leave applications corresponding to the dates he appeared in court. However, he failed to obtain a prior permission from the head of the Department. The presiding judge of the court to which respondent is assigned is not the head of the Department contemplated by law.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, respondent Atty. Misael M. Ladaga is hereby REPRIMANDED with a stern warning that any repetition of such act would be dealt with more severely. SO ORDERED.
[A.M. No. P-99-1287. January 26, 2001]
OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR, complainant, vs. ATTY. MISAEL M. LADAGA, Branch Clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court, Branch 133, Makati City, respondent.
R E S O L U T I O N
KAPUNAN, J.:
In a Letter, dated August 31, 1998, respondent Atty. Misael M. Ladaga, Branch Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court of Makati, Branch 133, requested the Court Administrator, Justice Alfredo L. Benipayo, for authority to appear as pro bono counsel of his cousin, Narcisa Naldoza Ladaga, in Criminal Case No. 84885, entitled “People vs. Narcisa Naldoza Ladaga” for Falsification of Public Document pending before the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 40.[1] While respondent’s letter-request was pending action, Lisa Payoyo Andres, the private complainant in Criminal Case No. 84885, sent a letter to the Court Administrator, dated September 2, 1998, requesting for a certification with regard to respondent’s authority to appear as counsel for the accused in the said criminal case.[2] On September 7, 1998, the Office of the Court Administrator referred the matter to respondent for comment.[3]
In his Comment,[4] dated September 14, 1998, respondent admitted that he had appeared in Criminal Case No. 84885 without prior authorization. He reasoned out that the factual circumstances surrounding the criminal case compelled him to handle the defense of his cousin who did not have enough resources to hire the services of a counsel de parte; while, on the other hand, private complainant was a member of a powerful family who was out to get even with his cousin. Furthermore, he rationalized that his appearance in the criminal case did not prejudice his office nor the interest of the public since he did not take advantage of his position. In any case, his appearances in court were covered by leave application approved by the presiding judge.
On December 8, 1998, the Court issued a resolution denying respondent’s request for authorization to appear as counsel and directing the Office of the Court Administrator to file formal charges against him for appearing in court without the required authorization from the Court.[5] On January 25, 1999, the Court Administrator filed the instant administrative complaint against respondent for violating Sec. 7(b)(2) of Republic Act No. 6713, otherwise known as the “Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees,” which provides:
Sec. 7. Prohibited Acts and Transactions. – In addition to acts and omissions of public officials and employees now prescribed in the Constitution and existing laws, the following shall constitute prohibited acts and transactions of any public official and employee and are hereby declared to be unlawful:
x x x
(b) Outside employment and other activities related thereto.- Public officials and employees during their incumbency shall not:
x x x
(2) Engage in the private practice of their profession unless authorized by the Constitution or law, Provided, that such practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with their official functions;
In our Resolution, dated February 9, 1999, we required respondent to comment on the administrative complaint.
In his Comment, respondent explained that he and Ms. Ladaga are “close blood cousins” who belong to a “powerless family” from the impoverished town of Bacauag, Surigao del Norte. From childhood until he finished his law degree, Ms. Ladaga had always supported and guided him while he looked up to her as a mentor and an adviser. Because of their close relationship, Ms. Ladaga sought respondent’s help and advice when she was charged in Criminal Case No. 84885 for falsification by the private complainant, Lisa Payoyo Andres, whose only purpose in filing the said criminal case was to “seek vengeance” on her cousin. He explained that his cousin’s discord with Ms. Andres started when the latter’s husband, SPO4 Pedro Andres, left the conjugal home to cohabit with Ms. Ladaga. During the course of their illicit affair, SPO4 Andres and Ms. Ladaga begot three (3) children. The birth certificate of their eldest child is the subject of the falsification charge against Ms. Ladaga. Respondent stated that since he is the only lawyer in their family, he felt it to be his duty to accept Ms. Ladaga’s plea to be her counsel since she did not have enough funds to pay for the services of a lawyer. Respondent also pointed out that in his seven (7) years of untainted government service, initially with the Commission on Human Rights and now with the judiciary, he had performed his duties with honesty and integrity and that it was only in this particular case that he had been administratively charged for extending a helping hand to a close relative by giving a free legal assistance for “humanitarian purpose.” He never took advantage of his position as branch clerk of court since the questioned appearances were made in the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City and not in Makati where he is holding office. He stressed that during the hearings of the criminal case, he was on leave as shown by his approved leave applications attached to his comment.
In our Resolution, dated June 22, 1999, we noted respondent’s comment and referred the administrative matter to the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Makati, Judge Josefina Guevarra-Salonga, for investigation, report and recommendation.
In her Report, dated September 29, 1999, Judge Salonga made the following findings and recommendation:
There is no question that Atty. Misael Ladaga appeared as counsel for and in behalf of his cousin, Narcisa Naldoza Ladaga, an accused in Criminal Case No. 84-885 for “Falsification of Public Documents” before the METC of Quezon City. It is also denied that the appearance of said respondent in said case was without the previous permission of the Court.
An examination of the records shows that during the occasions that the respondent appeared as such counsel before the METC of Quezon City, he was on official leave of absence. Moreover, his Presiding Judge, Judge Napoleon Inoturan was aware of the case he was handling. That the respondent appeared as pro bono counsel likewise cannot be denied. His cousin-client Narcisa Ladaga herself positively declared that the respondent did not receive a single centavo from her. Helpless as she was and respondent being the only lawyer in the family, he agreed to represent her out of his compassion and high regard for her.
It may not be amiss to point out, this is the first time that respondent ever handled a case for a member of his family who is like a big sister to him. He appeared for free and for the purpose of settling the case amicably. Furthermore, his Presiding Judge was aware of his appearance as counsel for his cousin. On top of this, during all the years that he has been in government service, he has maintained his integrity and independence.
RECOMMENDATION
In the light of the foregoing, it appearing that the respondent appeared as counsel for his cousin without first securing permission from the court, and considering that this is his first time to do it coupled with the fact that said appearance was not for a fee and was with the knowledge of his Presiding Judge, it is hereby respectfully recommended that he be REPRIMANDED with a stern warning that any repetition of such act would be dealt with more severely.[6]
We agree with the recommendation of the investigating judge.
Respondent is charged under Sec. 7(b)(2) of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees which prohibits civil servants from engaging in the private practice of their profession. A similar prohibition is found under Sec. 35, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court which disallows certain attorneys from engaging in the private practice of their profession. The said section reads:
SEC. 35. Certain attorneys not to practice.- No judge or other official or employee of the superior courts or of the Office of the Solicitor General, shall engage in private practice as a member of the bar or give professional advise to clients.
However, it should be clarified that “private practice” of a profession, specifically the law profession in this case, which is prohibited, does not pertain to an isolated court appearance; rather, it contemplates a succession of acts of the same nature habitually or customarily holding one’s self to the public as a lawyer.
In the case of People vs. Villanueva,[7] we explained the meaning of the term “private practice” prohibited by the said section, to wit:
We believe that the isolated appearance of City Attorney Fule did not constitute private practice, within the meaning and contemplation of the Rules. Practice is more than an isolated appearance, for it consists in frequent or customary action, a succession of acts of the same kind. In other words, it is frequent habitual exercise (State vs. Cotner, 127, p. 1, 87 Kan. 864, 42 LRA, N.S. 768) Practice of law to fall within the prohibition of statute has been interpreted as customarily or habitually holding one’s self out to the public, as a lawyer and demanding payment for such services (State vs. Bryan, 4 S.E. 522, 98 N.C. 644, 647). The appearance as counsel on one occasion, is not conclusive as determinative of engagement in the private practice of law. The following observation of the Solicitor General is noteworthy:
“Essentially, the word private practice of law implies that one must have presented himself to be in the active and continued practice of the legal profession and that his professional services are available to the public for a compensation, as a source of his livelihood or in consideration of his said services.”
For one thing, it has never been refuted that City Attorney Fule had been given permission by his immediate superior, the Secretary of Justice, to represent the complainant in the case at bar, who is a relative.[8]
Based on the foregoing, it is evident that the isolated instances when respondent appeared as pro bono counsel of his cousin in Criminal Case No. 84885 does not constitute the “private practice” of the law profession contemplated by law.
Nonetheless, while respondent’s isolated court appearances did not amount to a private practice of law, he failed to obtain a written permission therefor from the head of the Department, which is this Court as required by Section 12, Rule XVIII of the Revised Civil Service Rules, thus:
Sec. 12. No officer or employee shall engage directly in any private business, vocation, or profession or be connected with any commercial, credit, agricultural, or industrial undertaking without a written permission from the head of the Department: Provided, That this prohibition will be absolute in the case of those officers and employees whose duties and responsibilities require that their entire time be at the disposal of the Government; Provided, further, That if an employee is granted permission to engage in outside activities, time so devoted outside of office hours should be fixed by the agency to the end that it will not impair in any way the efficiency of the officer or employee: And provided, finally, That no permission is necessary in the case of investments, made by an officer or employee, which do not involve real or apparent conflict between his private interests and public duties, or in any way influence him in the discharge of his duties, and he shall not take part in the management of the enterprise or become an officer of the board of directors.[9]
Respondent entered his appearance and attended court proceedings on numerous occasions, i.e., May 4-15, 1998, June 18, 1998, July 13, 1998 and August 5, 1998, as borne out by his own admission. It is true that he filed leave applications corresponding to the dates he appeared in court. However, he failed to obtain a prior permission from the head of the Department. The presiding judge of the court to which respondent is assigned is not the head of the Department contemplated by law.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, respondent Atty. Misael M. Ladaga is hereby REPRIMANDED with a stern warning that any repetition of such act would be dealt with more severely. SO ORDERED. Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Puno, Pardo, and Ynares-Santiago, JJ., concur.
A.M. No. 10-5-7-SC December 7, 2010
JOVITO S. OLAZO, Complainant,
vs.
JUSTICE DANTE O. TINGA (Ret.), Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
BRION, J.:
Before us is the disbarment case against retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Dante O. Tinga (respondent) filed by Mr. Jovito S. Olazo (complainant). The respondent is charged of violating Rule 6.02,1 Rule 6.032 and Rule 1.013 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for representing conflicting interests.
Factual Background
In March 1990, the complainant filed a sales application covering a parcel of land situated in Barangay Lower Bicutan in the Municipality of Taguig. The land (subject land) was previously part of Fort Andres Bonifacio that was segregated and declared open for disposition pursuant to Proclamation No. 2476,4 issued on January 7, 1986, and Proclamation No. 172,5 issued on October 16, 1987.
To implement Proclamation No. 172, Memorandum No. 119 was issued by then Executive Secretary Catalino Macaraig, creating a Committee on Awards whose duty was to study, evaluate, and make a recommendation on the applications to purchase the lands declared open for disposition. The Committee on Awards was headed by the Director of Lands and the respondent was one of the Committee members, in his official capacity as the Congressman of Taguig and Pateros (from 1987 to 1998); the respondent’s district includes the areas covered by the proclamations.
The First Charge: Violation of Rule 6.02
In the complaint,6 the complainant claimed that the respondent abused his position as Congressman and as a member of the Committee on Awards when he unduly interfered with the complainant’s sales application because of his personal interest over the subject land. The complainant alleged that the respondent exerted undue pressure and influence over the complainant’s father, Miguel P. Olazo, for the latter to contest the complainant’s sales application and claim the subject land for himself. The complainant also alleged that the respondent prevailed upon Miguel Olazo to accept, on various dates, sums of money as payment of the latter’s alleged rights over the subject land. The complainant further claimed that the respondent brokered the transfer of rights of the subject land between Miguel Olazo and Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez, who is the nephew of the respondent’s deceased wife.
As a result of the respondent’s abuse of his official functions, the complainant’s sales application was denied. The conveyance of rights to Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez and his sales application were subsequently given due course by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The Second Charge: Violation of Rule 6.03
The second charge involves another parcel of land within the proclaimed areas belonging to Manuel Olazo, the complainant’s brother. The complainant alleged that the respondent persuaded Miguel Olazo to direct Manuel to convey his rights over the land to Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez. As a result of the respondent’s promptings, the rights to the land were transferred to Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez.
In addition, the complainant alleged that in May 1999, the respondent met with Manuel for the purpose of nullifying the conveyance of rights over the land to Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez. The complainant claimed that the respondent wanted the rights over the land transferred to one Rolando Olazo, the Barangay Chairman of Hagonoy, Taguig. The respondent in this regard executed an “Assurance” where he stated that he was the lawyer of Ramon Lee and Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez.
The Third Charge: Violation of Rule 1.01
The complainant alleged that the respondent engaged in unlawful conduct considering his knowledge that Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez was not a qualified beneficiary under Memorandum No. 119. The complainant averred that Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez is not a bona fide resident of the proclaimed areas and does not qualify for an award. Thus, the approval of his sales application by the Committee on Awards amounted to a violation of the objectives of Proclamation No. 172 and Memorandum No. 119.
The complainant also alleged that the respondent violated Section 7(b)(2) of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees or Republic Act (R.A.) No. 6713 since he engaged in the practice of law, within the one-year prohibition period, when he appeared as a lawyer for Ramon Lee and Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez before the Committee on Awards.
In his Comment,7 the respondent claimed that the present complaint is the third malicious charge filed against him by the complainant. The first one was submitted before the Judicial and Bar Council when he was nominated as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; the second complaint is now pending with the Office of the Ombudsman, for alleged violation of Section 3(e) and (i) of R.A. No. 3019, as amended.
With his own supporting documents, the respondent presented a different version of the antecedent events.
The respondent asserted that Miguel Olazo owned the rights over the subject land and he later conveyed these rights to Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez. Miguel Olazo’s rights over the subject land and the transfer of his rights to Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez were duly recognized by the Secretary of the DENR before whom the conflict of rights over the subject land (between Miguel Olazo and Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez, on one hand, and the complainant on the other hand) was brought. In its decision, the DENR found Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez a qualified applicant, and his application over the subject land was given due course. The respondent emphasized that the DENR decision is now final and executory. It was affirmed by the Office of the President, by the Court of Appeals and by the Supreme Court.
The respondent also advanced the following defenses:
(1) He denied the complainant’s allegation that Miguel Olazo told him (complainant) that the respondent had been orchestrating to get the subject land. The respondent argued that this allegation was without corroboration and was debunked by the affidavits of Miguel Olazo and Francisca Olazo, the complainant’s sister.
(2) He denied the complainant’s allegation that he offered the complainant P50,000.00 for the subject land and that he (the respondent) had exerted undue pressure and influence on Miguel Olazo to claim the rights over the subject land. The respondent also denied that he had an inordinate interest in the subject land.
(3) He claimed that there was nothing wrong in signing as a witness in Miguel Olazo’s affidavit where the latter asserted his rights over the subject land. The affidavit merely attested to the truth.
(4) He asserted that he and Miguel Olazo were cousins and that the latter decided to sell his rights over the subject land for the medical treatment of his heart condition and the illness of his daughter, Francisca Olazo. The respondent insisted that the money he extended to them was a form of loan.
(5) The respondent’s participation in the transaction between Miguel Olazo and Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez involved the payment of the loan that the respondent extended to Miguel Olazo.
(6) Manuel’s belated and secondhand allegation in his Sinumpaang Salaysay, dated January 20, 2000, regarding what his father told him, cannot prevail over his earlier Sinumpaang Salaysay with Francisca Olazo, dated August 2, 1997. In the said Sinumpaang Salaysay, Manuel categorically asserted that his father Miguel Olazo, not the complainant, was the farmer-beneficiary. Manuel also expressed his agreement to the transfer of rights (Pagpapatibay Sa Paglilipat Ng Karapatan) in favor of Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez, and the withdrawal of his father’s application to give way to Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez’s application.
(7) The complainant’s allegation that the respondent had pressured and influenced Miguel Olazo to sell the subject land was not sufficient as it was lacking in specificity and corroboration. The DENR decision was clear that the complainant had no rights over the subject land.
The respondent additionally denied violating Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. He alleged that during his third term as Congressman from 1995 to 1997, the conflicting applications of the complainant, Miguel Olazo and Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez were not included in the agenda for deliberation of the Committee on Awards. Rather, their conflicting claims and their respective supporting documents were before the Office of the Regional Director, NCR of the DENR. This office ruled over the conflicting claims only on August 2, 2000. This ruling became the basis of the decision of the Secretary of the DENR.
Similarly, the respondent cannot be held liable under Rule 6.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility since the provision applies to lawyers in the government service who are allowed by law to engage in private law practice and to those who, though prohibited from engaging in the practice of law, have friends, former associates and relatives who are in the active practice of law.8 In this regard, the respondent had already completed his third term in Congress and his stint in the Committee on Awards when he represented Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez on May 24, 1999.
Lastly, the respondent claimed that he cannot be held liable under Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility since he did not intervene in the disposition of the conflicting applications of the complainant and Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez because the applications were not submitted to the Committee on Awards when he was still a member.
The Court’s Ruling
Generally, a lawyer who holds a government office may not be disciplined as a member of the Bar for misconduct in the discharge of his duties as a government official.9 He may be disciplined by this Court as a member of the Bar only when his misconduct also constitutes a violation of his oath as a lawyer.10
The issue in this case calls for a determination of whether the respondent’s actions constitute a breach of the standard ethical conduct – first, while the respondent was still an elective public official and a member of the Committee on Awards; and second, when he was no longer a public official, but a private lawyer who represented a client before the office he was previously connected with.
After a careful evaluation of the pleadings filed by both parties and their respective pieces of evidence, we resolve to dismiss the administrative complaint.
Accountability of a government lawyer in public office
Canon 6 of the Code of Professional Responsibility highlights the continuing standard of ethical conduct to be observed by government lawyers in the discharge of their official tasks. In addition to the standard of conduct laid down under R.A. No. 6713 for government employees, a lawyer in the government service is obliged to observe the standard of conduct under the Code of Professional Responsibility.
Since public office is a public trust, the ethical conduct demanded upon lawyers in the government service is more exacting than the standards for those in private practice. Lawyers in the government service are subject to constant public scrutiny under norms of public accountability. They also bear the heavy burden of having to put aside their private interest in favor of the interest of the public; their private activities should not interfere with the discharge of their official functions.11
The first charge involves a violation of Rule 6.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. It imposes the following restrictions in the conduct of a government lawyer:
A lawyer in the government service shall not use his public position to promote or advance his private interests, nor allow the latter to interfere with his public duties.
The above provision prohibits a lawyer from using his or her public position to: (1) promote private interests; (2) advance private interests; or (3) allow private interest to interfere with his or her public duties. We previously held that the restriction extends to all government lawyers who use their public offices to promote their private interests.12
In Huyssen v. Gutierrez,13 we defined promotion of private interest to include soliciting gifts or anything of monetary value in any transaction requiring the approval of his or her office, or may be affected by the functions of his or her office. In Ali v. Bubong,14 we recognized that private interest is not limited to direct interest, but extends to advancing the interest of relatives. We also ruled that private interest interferes with public duty when the respondent uses the office and his or her knowledge of the intricacies of the law to benefit relatives.15
In Vitriolo v. Dasig,16 we found the act of the respondent (an official of the Commission on Higher Education) of extorting money from persons with applications or requests pending before her office to be a serious breach of Rule 6.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.17 We reached the same conclusion in Huyssen, where we found the respondent (an employee of the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation) liable under Rule 6.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, based on the evidence showing that he demanded money from the complainant who had a pending application for visas before his office.18
Similarly, in Igoy v. Soriano19 we found the respondent (a Court Attorney of this Court) liable for violating Rule 6.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, after considering the evidence showing that he demanded and received money from the complainant who had a pending case before this Court.
Applying these legal precepts to the facts of the case, we find the absence of any concrete proof that the respondent abused his position as a Congressman and as a member of the Committee on Awards in the manner defined under Rule 6.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
First, the records do not clearly show if the complainant’s sales application was ever brought before the Committee on Awards. By the complaint’s own account, the complainant filed a sales application in March 1990 before the Land Management Bureau. By 1996, the complainant’s sales application was pending before the Office of the Regional Director, NCR of the DENR due to the conflicting claims of Miguel Olazo, and, subsequently, of Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez. The records show that it was only on August 2, 2000 that the Office of the Regional Director, NCR of the DENR rendered its decision, or after the term of the respondent’s elective public office and membership to the Committee on Awards, which expired in 1997.
These circumstances do not show that the respondent did in any way promote, advance or use his private interests in the discharge of his official duties. To repeat, since the sales application was not brought before the Committee on Awards when the respondent was still a member, no sufficient basis exists to conclude that he used his position to obtain personal benefits. We note in this regard that the denial of the complainant’s sales application over the subject land was made by the DENR, not by the Committee on Awards.
Second, the complainant’s allegation that the respondent “orchestrated” the efforts to get the subject land does not specify how the orchestration was undertaken. What appears clear in the records is the uncorroborated Sinumpaang Salaysay of Miguel Olazo, dated May 25, 2003,20 categorically stating that the respondent had no interest in the subject land, and neither was he a contracting party in the transfer of his rights over the subject land. In the absence of any specific charge, Olazo’s disclaimer is the nearest relevant statement on the respondent’s alleged participation, and we find it to be in the respondent’s favor.
Third, the other documents executed by Miguel Olazo, that the complainant presented to support his claim that the respondent exerted undue pressure and influence over his father (namely: the letter, dated June 22, 1996, to the DENR Regional Director-NCR;21 the Sinumpaang Salaysay dated July 12, 1996;22 and the Sinumpaang Salaysay dated July 17, 199623), do not contain any reference to the alleged pressure or force exerted by the respondent over Miguel Olazo. The documents merely showed that the respondent helped Miguel Olazo in having his farm lots (covered by the proclaimed areas) surveyed. They also showed that the respondent merely acted as a witness in the Sinumpaang Salaysay dated July 17, 1996. To our mind, there are neutral acts that may be rendered by one relative to another, and do not show how the respondent could have influenced the decision of Miguel Olazo to contest the complainant’s sales application. At the same time, we cannot give any credit to the Sinumpaang Salaysay, dated January 20, 2000, of Manuel. They are not only hearsay but are contrary to what Miguel Olazo states on the record. We note that Manuel had no personal knowledge, other than what Miguel Olazo told him, of the force allegedly exerted by the respondent against Miguel Olazo.
In turn, the respondent was able to provide a satisfactory explanation – backed by corroborating evidence – of the nature of the transaction in which he gave the various sums of money to Miguel Olazo and Francisca Olazo in the year 1995. In her affidavits dated May 25, 200324 and July 21, 2010,25 Francisca Olazo corroborated the respondent’s claim that the sums of money he extended to her and Miguel Olazo were loans used for their medical treatment. Miguel Olazo, in his Sinumpaang Salaysay dated May 25, 2003, asserted that some of the money borrowed from the respondent was used for his medical treatment and hospitalization expenses.
The affidavit of Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez further corroborated the respondent’s claim that the latter’s involvement was limited to being paid the loans he gave to Miguel Olazo and Francisca Olazo. According to Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez, he and Miguel Olazo agreed that a portion of the loan would be directly paid by Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez to the respondent and the amount paid would be considered as part of the purchase price of the subject land.26
It also bears stressing that a facial comparison of the documentary evidence, specifically the dates when the sums of money were extended by the respondent – on February 21, 1995, September 2, 1995 and October 17, 1995, and the date when the Deed of Conveyance27 over the subject land was executed or on October 25, 1995, showed that the sums of money were extended prior to the transfer of rights over the subject land. These pieces of evidence are consistent with the respondent’s allegation that Miguel Olazo decided to sell his rights over the subject land to pay the loans he obtained from the respondent and, also, to finance his continuing medical treatment.
Private practice of law after separation from public office
As proof that the respondent was engaged in an unauthorized practice of law after his separation from the government service, the complainant presented the Sinumpaang Salaysay, dated January 20, 2000, of Manuel and the document entitled “Assurance” where the respondent legally represented Ramon Lee and Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez. Nevertheless, the foregoing pieces of evidence fail to persuade us to conclude that there was a violation of Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
In Cayetano v. Monsod,28 we defined the practice of law as any activity, in and out of court, that requires the application of law, legal procedure, knowledge, training and experience. Moreover, we ruled that to engage in the practice of law is to perform those acts which are characteristics of the profession; to practice law is to give notice or render any kind of service, which device or service requires the use in any degree of legal knowledge or skill.
Under the circumstances, the foregoing definition should be correlated with R.A. No. 6713 and Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which impose certain restrictions on government lawyers to engage in private practice after their separation from the service.
Section 7(b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713 reads:
Section 7. Prohibited Acts and Transactions. – In addition to acts and
omissions of public officials and employees now prescribed in the Constitution and existing laws, the following shall constitute prohibited acts and transactions of any public official and employee and are hereby declared to be unlawful:
x x x x
(b) Outside employment and other activities related thereto. – Public officials and employees during their incumbency shall not:
x x x x
(2) Engage in the private practice of their profession unless authorized by the Constitution or law, provided, that such practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with their official functions; x x x
These prohibitions shall continue to apply for a period of one (1) year after resignation, retirement, or separation from public office, except in the case of subparagraph (b) (2) above, but the professional concerned cannot practice his profession in connection with any matter before the office he used to be with, in which case the one-year prohibition shall likewise apply.
As a rule, government lawyers are not allowed to engage in the private practice of their profession during their incumbency.29 By way of exception, a government lawyer can engage in the practice of his or her profession under the following conditions: first, the private practice is authorized by the Constitution or by the law; and second, the practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with his or her official functions.30 The last paragraph of Section 7 provides an exception to the exception. In case of lawyers separated from the government service who are covered under subparagraph (b) (2) of Section 7 of R.A. No. 6713, a one-year prohibition is imposed to practice law in connection with any matter before the office he used to be with.
Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility echoes this restriction and prohibits lawyers, after leaving the government service, to accept engagement or employment in connection with any matter in which he had intervened while in the said service. The keyword in Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility is the term “intervene” which we previously interpreted to include an act of a person who has the power to influence the proceedings.31 Otherwise stated, to fall within the ambit of Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, the respondent must have accepted engagement or employment in a matter which, by virtue of his public office, he had previously exercised power to influence the outcome of the proceedings.1avvphi1
As the records show, no evidence exists showing that the respondent previously interfered with the sales application covering Manuel’s land when the former was still a member of the Committee on Awards. The complainant, too, failed to sufficiently establish that the respondent was engaged in the practice of law. At face value, the legal service rendered by the respondent was limited only in the preparation of a single document. In Borja, Sr. v. Sulyap, Inc.,32 we specifically described private practice of law as one that contemplates a succession of acts of the same nature habitually or customarily holding one’s self to the public as a lawyer.
In any event, even granting that respondent’s act fell within the definition of practice of law, the available pieces of evidence are insufficient to show that the legal representation was made before the Committee on Awards, or that the Assurance was intended to be presented before it. These are matters for the complainant to prove and we cannot consider any uncertainty in this regard against the respondent’s favor.
Violation of Rule 1.01
Rule 1.01 prohibits a lawyer from engaging in unlawful, immoral or deceitful conduct. From the above discussion, we already struck down the complainant’s allegation that respondent engaged in an unauthorized practice of law when he appeared as a lawyer for Ramon Lee and Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez before the Committee on Awards.
We find that a similar treatment should be given to the complainant’s claim that the respondent violated paragraph 4(1)33 of Memorandum No. 119 when he encouraged the sales application of Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez despite his knowledge that his nephew was not a qualified applicant. The matter of Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez’s qualifications to apply for a sales application over lots covered by the proclaimed areas has been resolved in the affirmative by the Secretary of the DENR in the decision dated April 3, 2004,34 when the DENR gave due course to his sales application over the subject land. We are, at this point, bound by this finding.
As pointed out by the respondent, the DENR decision was affirmed by the Office of the President, the Court of Appeals35 and, finally, the Court, per our Minute Resolution, dated October 11, 2006, in G.R. No. 173453. In our Resolution, we dismissed the petition for review on certiorari filed by the complainant after finding, among others, that no reversible error was committed by the Court of Appeals in its decision.36
All told, considering the serious consequences of the penalty of disbarment or suspension of a member of the Bar, the burden rests on the complainant to present clear, convincing and satisfactory proof for the Court to exercise its disciplinary powers.37 The respondent generally is under no obligation to prove his/her defense,38 until the burden shifts to him/her because of what the complainant has proven. Where no case has in the first place been proven, nothing has to be rebutted in defense.39
With this in mind, we resolve to dismiss the administrative case against the respondent for the complainant’s failure to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the former committed unethical infractions warranting the exercise of the Court’s disciplinary power.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, we DISMISS the administrative case for violation of Rule 6.02, Rule 6.03 and Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, filed against retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Dante O. Tinga, for lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.

B.M. No. 1678 December 17, 2007
PETITION FOR LEAVE TO RESUME PRACTICE OF LAW,
BENJAMIN M. DACANAY, petitioner.
R E S O L U T I O N
CORONA, J.:
This bar matter concerns the petition of petitioner Benjamin M. Dacanay for leave to resume the practice of law.
Petitioner was admitted to the Philippine bar in March 1960. He practiced law until he migrated to Canada in December 1998 to seek medical attention for his ailments. He subsequently applied for Canadian citizenship to avail of Canada’s free medical aid program. His application was approved and he became a Canadian citizen in May 2004.
On July 14, 2006, pursuant to Republic Act (RA) 9225 (Citizenship Retention and Re-Acquisition Act of 2003), petitioner reacquired his Philippine citizenship.1 On that day, he took his oath of allegiance as a Filipino citizen before the Philippine Consulate General in Toronto, Canada. Thereafter, he returned to the Philippines and now intends to resume his law practice. There is a question, however, whether petitioner Benjamin M. Dacanay lost his membership in the Philippine bar when he gave up his Philippine citizenship in May 2004. Thus, this petition.
In a report dated October 16, 2007, the Office of the Bar Confidant cites Section 2, Rule 138 (Attorneys and Admission to Bar) of the Rules of Court:
SECTION 2. Requirements for all applicants for admission to the bar. – Every applicant for admission as a member of the bar must be a citizen of the Philippines, at least twenty-one years of age, of good moral character, and a resident of the Philippines; and must produce before the Supreme Court satisfactory evidence of good moral character, and that no charges against him, involving moral turpitude, have been filed or are pending in any court in the Philippines.
Applying the provision, the Office of the Bar Confidant opines that, by virtue of his reacquisition of Philippine citizenship, in 2006, petitioner has again met all the qualifications and has none of the disqualifications for membership in the bar. It recommends that he be allowed to resume the practice of law in the Philippines, conditioned on his retaking the lawyer’s oath to remind him of his duties and responsibilities as a member of the Philippine bar.
We approve the recommendation of the Office of the Bar Confidant with certain modifications.
The practice of law is a privilege burdened with conditions.2 It is so delicately affected with public interest that it is both a power and a duty of the State (through this Court) to control and regulate it in order to protect and promote the public welfare.3
Adherence to rigid standards of mental fitness, maintenance of the highest degree of morality, faithful observance of the rules of the legal profession, compliance with the mandatory continuing legal education requirement and payment of membership fees to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) are the conditions required for membership in good standing in the bar and for enjoying the privilege to practice law. Any breach by a lawyer of any of these conditions makes him unworthy of the trust and confidence which the courts and clients repose in him for the continued exercise of his professional privilege.4
Section 1, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court provides:
SECTION 1. Who may practice law. – Any person heretofore duly admitted as a member of the bar, or thereafter admitted as such in accordance with the provisions of this Rule, and who is in good and regular standing, is entitled to practice law.
Pursuant thereto, any person admitted as a member of the Philippine bar in accordance with the statutory requirements and who is in good and regular standing is entitled to practice law.
Admission to the bar requires certain qualifications. The Rules of Court mandates that an applicant for admission to the bar be a citizen of the Philippines, at least twenty-one years of age, of good moral character and a resident of the Philippines.5 He must also produce before this Court satisfactory evidence of good moral character and that no charges against him, involving moral turpitude, have been filed or are pending in any court in the Philippines.6
Moreover, admission to the bar involves various phases such as furnishing satisfactory proof of educational, moral and other qualifications;7 passing the bar examinations;8 taking the lawyer’s oath9 and signing the roll of attorneys and receiving from the clerk of court of this Court a certificate of the license to practice.10
The second requisite for the practice of law ? membership in good standing ? is a continuing requirement. This means continued membership and, concomitantly, payment of annual membership dues in the IBP;11 payment of the annual professional tax;12 compliance with the mandatory continuing legal education requirement;13 faithful observance of the rules and ethics of the legal profession and being continually subject to judicial disciplinary control.14
Given the foregoing, may a lawyer who has lost his Filipino citizenship still practice law in the Philippines? No.
The Constitution provides that the practice of all professions in the Philippines shall be limited to Filipino citizens save in cases prescribed by law.15 Since Filipino citizenship is a requirement for admission to the bar, loss thereof terminates membership in the Philippine bar and, consequently, the privilege to engage in the practice of law. In other words, the loss of Filipino citizenship ipso jure terminates the privilege to practice law in the Philippines. The practice of law is a privilege denied to foreigners.16
The exception is when Filipino citizenship is lost by reason of naturalization as a citizen of another country but subsequently reacquired pursuant to RA 9225. This is because “all Philippine citizens who become citizens of another country shall be deemed not to have lost their Philippine citizenship under the conditions of [RA 9225].”17 Therefore, a Filipino lawyer who becomes a citizen of another country is deemed never to have lost his Philippine citizenship if he reacquires it in accordance with RA 9225. Although he is also deemed never to have terminated his membership in the Philippine bar, no automatic right to resume law practice accrues.
Under RA 9225, if a person intends to practice the legal profession in the Philippines and he reacquires his Filipino citizenship pursuant to its provisions “(he) shall apply with the proper authority for a license or permit to engage in such practice.”18 Stated otherwise, before a lawyer who reacquires Filipino citizenship pursuant to RA 9225 can resume his law practice, he must first secure from this Court the authority to do so, conditioned on:
(a) the updating and payment in full of the annual membership dues in the IBP;
(b) the payment of professional tax;
(c) the completion of at least 36 credit hours of mandatory continuing legal education; this is specially significant to refresh the applicant/petitioner’s knowledge of Philippine laws and update him of legal developments and
(d) the retaking of the lawyer’s oath which will not only remind him of his duties and responsibilities as a lawyer and as an officer of the Court, but also renew his pledge to maintain allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines.
Compliance with these conditions will restore his good standing as a member of the Philippine bar.
WHEREFORE, the petition of Attorney Benjamin M. Dacanay is hereby GRANTED, subject to compliance with the conditions stated above and submission of proof of such compliance to the Bar Confidant, after which he may retake his oath as a member of the Philippine bar.
SO ORDERED.

A.C. No. 5738 February 19, 2008
WILFREDO M. CATU, complainant,
vs.
ATTY. VICENTE G. RELLOSA, respondent.
R E S O L U T I O N
CORONA, J.:
Complainant Wilfredo M. Catu is a co-owner of a lot1 and the building erected thereon located at 959 San Andres Street, Malate, Manila. His mother and brother, Regina Catu and Antonio Catu, contested the possession of Elizabeth C. Diaz-Catu2 and Antonio Pastor3 of one of the units in the building. The latter ignored demands for them to vacate the premises. Thus, a complaint was initiated against them in the Lupong Tagapamayapa of Barangay 723, Zone 79 of the 5th District of Manila4 where the parties reside.
Respondent, as punong barangay of Barangay 723, summoned the parties to conciliation meetings.5 When the parties failed to arrive at an amicable settlement, respondent issued a certification for the filing of the appropriate action in court.
Thereafter, Regina and Antonio filed a complaint for ejectment against Elizabeth and Pastor in the Metropolitan Trial Court of Manila, Branch 11. Respondent entered his appearance as counsel for the defendants in that case. Because of this, complainant filed the instant administrative complaint,6 claiming that respondent committed an act of impropriety as a lawyer and as a public officer when he stood as counsel for the defendants despite the fact that he presided over the conciliation proceedings between the litigants as punong barangay.
In his defense, respondent claimed that one of his duties as punong barangay was to hear complaints referred to the barangay’s Lupong Tagapamayapa. As such, he heard the complaint of Regina and Antonio against Elizabeth and Pastor. As head of the Lupon, he performed his task with utmost objectivity, without bias or partiality towards any of the parties. The parties, however, were not able to amicably settle their dispute and Regina and Antonio filed the ejectment case. It was then that Elizabeth sought his legal assistance. He acceded to her request. He handled her case for free because she was financially distressed and he wanted to prevent the commission of a patent injustice against her.
The complaint was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation. As there was no factual issue to thresh out, the IBP’s Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) required the parties to submit their respective position papers. After evaluating the contentions of the parties, the IBP-CBD found sufficient ground to discipline respondent.7
According to the IBP-CBD, respondent admitted that, as punong barangay, he presided over the conciliation proceedings and heard the complaint of Regina and Antonio against Elizabeth and Pastor. Subsequently, however, he represented Elizabeth and Pastor in the ejectment case filed against them by Regina and Antonio. In the course thereof, he prepared and signed pleadings including the answer with counterclaim, pre-trial brief, position paper and notice of appeal. By so doing, respondent violated Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility:
Rule 6.03 – A lawyer shall not, after leaving government service, accept engagement or employment in connection with any matter in which he intervened while in said service.
Furthermore, as an elective official, respondent contravened the prohibition under Section 7(b)(2) of RA 6713:8
SEC. 7. Prohibited Acts and Transactions. – In addition to acts and omissions of public officials and employees now prescribed in the Constitution and existing laws, the following shall constitute prohibited acts and transactions of any public official ands employee and are hereby declared to be unlawful:
xxx xxx xxx
(b) Outside employment and other activities related thereto. – Public officials and employees during their incumbency shall not:
xxx xxx xxx
(2) Engage in the private practice of profession unless authorized by the Constitution or law, provided that such practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with their official functions; xxx (emphasis supplied)
According to the IBP-CBD, respondent’s violation of this prohibition constituted a breach of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility:
CANON 1. A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, OBEY THE LAWS OF THE LAND, PROMOTE RESPECT FOR LAW AND LEGAL PROCESSES. (emphasis supplied)
For these infractions, the IBP-CBD recommended the respondent’s suspension from the practice of law for one month with a stern warning that the commission of the same or similar act will be dealt with more severely.9 This was adopted and approved by the IBP Board of Governors.10
We modify the foregoing findings regarding the transgression of respondent as well as the recommendation on the imposable penalty.
Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility Applies Only to Former Government Lawyers
Respondent cannot be found liable for violation of Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. As worded, that Rule applies only to a lawyer who has left government service and in connection “with any matter in which he intervened while in said service.” In PCGG v. Sandiganbayan,11 we ruled that Rule 6.03 prohibits former government lawyers from accepting “engagement or employment in connection with any matter in which [they] had intervened while in said service.”
Respondent was an incumbent punong barangay at the time he committed the act complained of. Therefore, he was not covered by that provision.
Section 90 of RA 7160, Not Section 7(b)(2) of RA 6713, Governs The Practice of Profession of Elective Local Government Officials
Section 7(b)(2) of RA 6713 prohibits public officials and employees, during their incumbency, from engaging in the private practice of their profession “unless authorized by the Constitution or law, provided that such practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with their official functions.” This is the general law which applies to all public officials and employees.
For elective local government officials, Section 90 of RA 716012 governs:
SEC. 90. Practice of Profession. – (a) All governors, city and municipal mayors are prohibited from practicing their profession or engaging in any occupation other than the exercise of their functions as local chief executives.
(b) Sanggunian members may practice their professions, engage in any occupation, or teach in schools except during session hours: Provided, That sanggunian members who are members of the Bar shall not:
(1) Appear as counsel before any court in any civil case wherein a local government unit or any office, agency, or instrumentality of the government is the adverse party;
(2) Appear as counsel in any criminal case wherein an officer or employee of the national or local government is accused of an offense committed in relation to his office;
(3) Collect any fee for their appearance in administrative proceedings involving the local government unit of which he is an official; and
(4) Use property and personnel of the Government except when the sanggunian member concerned is defending the interest of the Government.
(c) Doctors of medicine may practice their profession even during official hours of work only on occasions of emergency: Provided, That the officials concerned do not derive monetary compensation therefrom.
This is a special provision that applies specifically to the practice of profession by elective local officials. As a special law with a definite scope (that is, the practice of profession by elective local officials), it constitutes an exception to Section 7(b)(2) of RA 6713, the general law on engaging in the private practice of profession by public officials and employees. Lex specialibus derogat generalibus.13
Under RA 7160, elective local officials of provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays are the following: the governor, the vice governor and members of the sangguniang panlalawigan for provinces; the city mayor, the city vice mayor and the members of the sangguniang panlungsod for cities; the municipal mayor, the municipal vice mayor and the members of the sangguniang bayan for municipalities and the punong barangay, the members of the sangguniang barangay and the members of the sangguniang kabataan for barangays.
Of these elective local officials, governors, city mayors and municipal mayors are prohibited from practicing their profession or engaging in any occupation other than the exercise of their functions as local chief executives. This is because they are required to render full time service. They should therefore devote all their time and attention to the performance of their official duties.
On the other hand, members of the sangguniang panlalawigan, sangguniang panlungsod or sangguniang bayan may practice their professions, engage in any occupation, or teach in schools except during session hours. In other words, they may practice their professions, engage in any occupation, or teach in schools outside their session hours. Unlike governors, city mayors and municipal mayors, members of the sangguniang panlalawigan, sangguniang panlungsod or sangguniang bayan are required to hold regular sessions only at least once a week.14 Since the law itself grants them the authority to practice their professions, engage in any occupation or teach in schools outside session hours, there is no longer any need for them to secure prior permission or authorization from any other person or office for any of these purposes.
While, as already discussed, certain local elective officials (like governors, mayors, provincial board members and councilors) are expressly subjected to a total or partial proscription to practice their profession or engage in any occupation, no such interdiction is made on the punong barangay and the members of the sangguniang barangay. Expressio unius est exclusio alterius.15 Since they are excluded from any prohibition, the presumption is that they are allowed to practice their profession. And this stands to reason because they are not mandated to serve full time. In fact, the sangguniang barangay is supposed to hold regular sessions only twice a month.16
Accordingly, as punong barangay, respondent was not forbidden to practice his profession. However, he should have procured prior permission or authorization from the head of his Department, as required by civil service regulations.
A Lawyer In Government Service Who Is Not Prohibited To Practice Law Must Secure Prior Authority From The Head Of His Department
A civil service officer or employee whose responsibilities do not require his time to be fully at the disposal of the government can engage in the private practice of law only with the written permission of the head of the department concerned.17 Section 12, Rule XVIII of the Revised Civil Service Rules provides:
Sec. 12. No officer or employee shall engage directly in any private business, vocation, or profession or be connected with any commercial, credit, agricultural, or industrial undertaking without a written permission from the head of the Department: Provided, That this prohibition will be absolute in the case of those officers and employees whose duties and responsibilities require that their entire time be at the disposal of the Government; Provided, further, That if an employee is granted permission to engage in outside activities, time so devoted outside of office hours should be fixed by the agency to the end that it will not impair in any way the efficiency of the officer or employee: And provided, finally, that no permission is necessary in the case of investments, made by an officer or employee, which do not involve real or apparent conflict between his private interests and public duties, or in any way influence him in the discharge of his duties, and he shall not take part in the management of the enterprise or become an officer of the board of directors. (emphasis supplied)
As punong barangay, respondent should have therefore obtained the prior written permission of the Secretary of Interior and Local Government before he entered his appearance as counsel for Elizabeth and Pastor. This he failed to do.
The failure of respondent to comply with Section 12, Rule XVIII of the Revised Civil Service Rules constitutes a violation of his oath as a lawyer: to obey the laws. Lawyers are servants of the law, vires legis, men of the law. Their paramount duty to society is to obey the law and promote respect for it. To underscore the primacy and importance of this duty, it is enshrined as the first canon of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
In acting as counsel for a party without first securing the required written permission, respondent not only engaged in the unauthorized practice of law but also violated civil service rules which is a breach of Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility:
Rule 1.01 – A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. (emphasis supplied)
For not living up to his oath as well as for not complying with the exacting ethical standards of the legal profession, respondent failed to comply with Canon 7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility:
CANON 7. A LAWYER SHALL AT ALL TIMES UPHOLD THE INTEGRITY AND THE DIGNITY OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION AND SUPPORT THE ACTIVITIES OF THE INTEGRATED BAR. (emphasis supplied)
Indeed, a lawyer who disobeys the law disrespects it. In so doing, he disregards legal ethics and disgraces the dignity of the legal profession.
Public confidence in the law and in lawyers may be eroded by the irresponsible and improper conduct of a member of the bar.18 Every lawyer should act and comport himself in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity of the legal profession.19
A member of the bar may be disbarred or suspended from his office as an attorney for violation of the lawyer’s oath20 and/or for breach of the ethics of the legal profession as embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility.
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Vicente G. Rellosa is hereby found GUILTY of professional misconduct for violating his oath as a lawyer and Canons 1 and 7 and Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. He is therefore SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of six months effective from his receipt of this resolution. He is sternly WARNED that any repetition of similar acts shall be dealt with more severely.
Respondent is strongly advised to look up and take to heart the meaning of the word delicadeza.
Let a copy of this resolution be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant and entered into the records of respondent Atty. Vicente G. Rellosa. The Office of the Court Administrator shall furnish copies to all the courts of the land for their information and guidance.
SO ORDERED.

B.M. No. 793 July 30, 2004
IN RE: SUSPENSION FROM THE PRACTICE OF LAW IN THE TERRITORY OF GUAM OF ATTY. LEON G. MAQUERA.
R E S O L U T I O N
TINGA, J.:
May a member of the Philippine Bar who was disbarred or suspended from the practice of law in a foreign jurisdiction where he has also been admitted as an attorney be meted the same sanction as a member of the Philippine Bar for the same infraction committed in the foreign jurisdiction? There is a Rule of Court provision covering this case’s central issue. Up to this juncture, its reach and breadth have not undergone the test of an unsettled case.
In a Letter dated August 20, 1996,1 the District Court of Guam informed this Court of the suspension of Atty. Leon G. Maquera (Maquera) from the practice of law in Guam for two (2) years pursuant to the Decision rendered by the Superior Court of Guam on May 7, 1996 in Special Proceedings Case No. SP0075-94,2 a disciplinary case filed by the Guam Bar Ethics Committee against Maquera.
The Court referred the matter of Maquera’s suspension in Guam to the Bar Confidant for comment in its Resolution dated November 19, 1996.3 Under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court, the disbarment or suspension of a member of the Philippine Bar in a foreign jurisdiction, where he has also been admitted as an attorney, is also a ground for his disbarment or suspension in this realm, provided the foreign court’s action is by reason of an act or omission constituting deceit, malpractice or other gross misconduct, grossly immoral conduct, or a violation of the lawyer’s oath.
In a Memorandum dated February 20, 1997, then Bar Confidant Atty. Erlinda C. Verzosa recommended that the Court obtain copies of the record of Maquera’s case since the documents transmitted by the Guam District Court do not contain the factual and legal bases for Maquera’s suspension and are thus insufficient to enable her to determine whether Maquera’s acts or omissions which resulted in his suspension in Guam are likewise violative of his oath as a member of the Philippine Bar.4
Pursuant to this Court’s directive in its Resolution dated March 18, 1997,5 the Bar Confidant sent a letter dated November 13, 1997 to the District Court of Guam requesting for certified copies of the record of the disciplinary case against Maquera and of the rules violated by him.6
The Court received certified copies of the record of Maquera’s case from the District Court of Guam on December 8, 1997.7
Thereafter, Maquera’s case was referred by the Court to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation report and recommendation within sixty (60) days from the IBP’s receipt of the case records.8
The IBP sent Maquera a Notice of Hearing requiring him to appear before the IBP’s Commission on Bar Discipline on July 28, 1998.9 However, the notice was returned unserved because Maquera had already moved from his last known address in Agana, Guam and did not leave any forwarding address.10
On October 9, 2003, the IBP submitted to the Court its Report and Recommendation and its Resolution No. XVI-2003-110, indefinitely suspending Maquera from the practice of law within the Philippines until and unless he updates and pays his IBP membership dues in full.11
The IBP found that Maquera was admitted to the Philippine Bar on February 28, 1958. On October 18, 1974, he was admitted to the practice of law in the territory of Guam. He was suspended from the practice of law in Guam for misconduct, as he acquired his client’s property as payment for his legal services, then sold it and as a consequence obtained an unreasonably high fee for handling his client’s case.12
In its Decision, the Superior Court of Guam stated that on August 6, 1987, Edward Benavente, the creditor of a certain Castro, obtained a judgment against Castro in a civil case. Maquera served as Castro’s counsel in said case. Castro’s property subject of the case, a parcel of land, was to be sold at a public auction in satisfaction of his obligation to Benavente. Castro, however, retained the right of redemption over the property for one year. The right of redemption could be exercised by paying the amount of the judgment debt within the aforesaid period.13
At the auction sale, Benavente purchased Castro’s property for Five Hundred U.S. Dollars (US$500.00), the amount which Castro was adjudged to pay him.14
On December 21, 1987, Castro, in consideration of Maquera’s legal services in the civil case involving Benavente, entered into an oral agreement with Maquera and assigned his right of redemption in favor of the latter.15
On January 8, 1988, Maquera exercised Castro’s right of redemption by paying Benavente US$525.00 in satisfaction of the judgment debt. Thereafter, Maquera had the title to the property transferred in his name.16
On December 31, 1988, Maquera sold the property to C.S. Chang and C.C. Chang for Three Hundred Twenty Thousand U.S. Dollars (US$320,000.00).17
On January 15, 1994, the Guam Bar Ethics Committee (Committee) conducted hearings regarding Maquera’s alleged misconduct.18
Subsequently, the Committee filed a Petition in the Superior Court of Guam praying that Maquera be sanctioned for violations of Rules 1.519 and 1.8(a)20 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct (Model Rules) in force in Guam. In its Petition, the Committee claimed that Maquera obtained an unreasonably high fee for his services. The Committee further alleged that Maquera himself admitted his failure to comply with the requirement in Rule 1.8 (a) of the Model Rules that a lawyer shall not enter into a business transaction with a client or knowingly acquire a pecuniary interest adverse to a client unless the transaction and the terms governing the lawyer’s acquisition of such interest are fair and reasonable to the client, and are fully disclosed to, and understood by the client and reduced in writing.21
The Committee recommended that Maquera be: (1) suspended from the practice of law in Guam for a period of two 2 years, however, with all but thirty (30) days of the period of suspension deferred; (2) ordered to return to Castro the difference between the sale price of the property to the Changs and the amount due him for legal services rendered to Castro; (3) required to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings; and (4) publicly reprimanded. It also recommended that other jurisdictions be informed that Maquera has been subject to disciplinary action by the Superior Court of Guam.22
Maquera did not deny that Castro executed a quitclaim deed to the property in his favor as compensation for past legal services and that the transaction, except for the deed itself, was oral and was not made pursuant to a prior written agreement. However, he contended that the transaction was made three days following the alleged termination of the attorney-client relationship between them, and that the property did not constitute an exorbitant fee for his legal services to Castro.23
On May 7, 1996, the Superior Court of Guam rendered its Decision24 suspending Maquera from the practice of law in Guam for a period of two (2) years and ordering him to take the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) within that period. The court found that the attorney-client relationship between Maquera and Castro was not yet completely terminated when they entered into the oral agreement to transfer Castro’s right of redemption to Maquera on December 21, 1987. It also held that Maquera profited too much from the eventual transfer of Castro’s property to him since he was able to sell the same to the Changs with more than US$200,000.00 in profit, whereas his legal fees for services rendered to Castro amounted only to US$45,000.00. The court also ordered him to take the MPRE upon his admission during the hearings of his case that he was aware of the requirements of the Model Rules regarding business transactions between an attorney and his client “in a very general sort of way.”25
On the basis of the Decision of the Superior Court of Guam, the IBP concluded that although the said court found Maquera liable for misconduct, “there is no evidence to establish that [Maquera] committed a breach of ethics in the Philippines.”26 However, the IBP still resolved to suspend him indefinitely for his failure to pay his annual dues as a member of the IBP since 1977, which failure is, in turn, a ground for removal of the name of the delinquent member from the Roll of Attorneys under Section 10, Rule 139-A of the Revised Rules of Court.27
The power of the Court to disbar or suspend a lawyer for acts or omissions committed in a foreign jurisdiction is found in Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court, as amended by Supreme Court Resolution dated February 13, 1992, which states:
Section 27. Disbarment or suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court, grounds therefor.-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 appearing as attorney for a party to a case without authority to do so. The practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice.
The disbarment or suspension of a member of the Philippine Bar by a competent court or other disciplinatory agency in a foreign jurisdiction where he has also been admitted as an attorney is a ground for his disbarment or suspension if the basis of such action includes any of the acts hereinabove enumerated.
The judgment, resolution or order of the foreign court or disciplinary agency shall be prima facie evidence of the ground for disbarment or suspension (Emphasis supplied).
The Court must therefore determine whether Maquera’s acts, namely: acquiring by assignment Castro’s right of redemption over the property subject of the civil case where Maquera appeared as counsel for him; exercising the right of redemption; and, subsequently selling the property for a huge profit, violate Philippine law or the standards of ethical behavior for members of the Philippine Bar and thus constitute grounds for his suspension or disbarment in this jurisdiction.
The Superior Court of Guam found that Maquera acquired his client’s property by exercising the right of redemption previously assigned to him by the client in payment of his legal services. Such transaction falls squarely under Article 1492 in relation to Article 1491, paragraph 5 of the Civil Code of the Philippines. Paragraph 5 of Article 149128 prohibits the lawyer’s acquisition by assignment of the client’s property which is the subject of the litigation handled by the lawyer. Under Article 1492,29 the prohibition extends to sales in legal redemption.
The prohibition ordained in paragraph 5 of Article 1491 and Article 1492 is founded on public policy because, by virtue of his office, an attorney may easily take advantage of the credulity and ignorance of his client30 and unduly enrich himself at the expense of his client.
The case of In re: Ruste31 illustrates the significance of the aforementioned prohibition. In that case, the attorney acquired his clients’ property subject of a case where he was acting as counsel pursuant to a deed of sale executed by his clients in his favor. He contended that the sale was made at the instance of his clients because they had no money to pay him for his services. The Court ruled that the lawyer’s acquisition of the property of his clients under the circumstances obtaining therein rendered him liable for malpractice. The Court held:
…Whether the deed of sale in question was executed at the instance of the spouses driven by financial necessity, as contended by the respondent, or at the latter’s behest, as contended by the complainant, is of no moment. In either case an attorney occupies a vantage position to press upon or dictate his terms to a harassed client, in breach of the “rule so amply protective of the confidential relations, which must necessarily exist between attorney and client, and of the rights of both”.32
The Superior Court of Guam also hinted that Maquera’s acquisition of Castro’s right of redemption, his subsequent exercise of said right, and his act of selling the redeemed property for huge profits were tainted with deceit and bad faith when it concluded that Maquera charged Castro an exorbitant fee for his legal services. The court held that since the assignment of the right of redemption to Maquera was in payment for his legal services, and since the property redeemed by him had a market value of US$248,220.00 as of December 21, 1987 (the date when the right of redemption was assigned to him), he is liable for misconduct for accepting payment for his legal services way beyond his actual fees which amounted only to US$45,000.00.
Maquera’s acts in Guam which resulted in his two (2)-year suspension from the practice of law in that jurisdiction are also valid grounds for his suspension from the practice of law in the Philippines. Such acts are violative of a lawyer’s sworn duty to act with fidelity toward his clients. They are also violative of the Code of Professional Responsibility, specifically, Canon 17 which states that “[a] lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and shall be mindful the trust and confidence reposed in him;” and Rule 1.01 which prohibits lawyers from engaging in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. The requirement of good moral character is not only a condition precedent to admission to the Philippine Bar but is also a continuing requirement to maintain one’s good’s standing in the legal profession.33
It bears stressing that the Guam Superior Court’s judgment ordering Maquera’s suspension from the practice of law in Guam does not automatically result in his suspension or disbarment in the Philippines. Under Section 27,34 Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court, the acts which led to his suspension in Guam are mere grounds for disbarment or suspension in this jurisdiction, at that only if the basis of the foreign court’s action includes any of the grounds for disbarment or suspension in this jurisdiction.35 Likewise, the judgment of the Superior Court of Guam only constitutes prima facie evidence of Maquera’s unethical acts as a lawyer.36 More fundamentally, due process demands that he be given the opportunity to defend himself and to present testimonial and documentary evidence on the matter in an investigation to be conducted in accordance with Rule 139-B of the Revised Rules of Court. Said rule mandates that a respondent lawyer must in all cases be notified of the charges against him. It is only after reasonable notice and failure on the part of the respondent lawyer to appear during the scheduled investigation that an investigation may be conducted ex parte.37
The Court notes that Maquera has not yet been able to adduce evidence on his behalf regarding the charges of unethical behavior in Guam against him, as it is not certain that he did receive the Notice of Hearing earlier sent by the IBP’s Commission on Bar Discipline. Thus, there is a need to ascertain Maquera’s current and correct address in Guam in order that another notice, this time specifically informing him of the charges against him and requiring him to explain why he should not be suspended or disbarred on those grounds (through this Resolution), may be sent to him.
Nevertheless, the Court agrees with the IBP that Maquera should be suspended from the practice of law for non-payment of his IBP membership dues from 1977 up to the present.38 Under Section 10, Rule 139-A of the Revised Rules of Court, non-payment of membership dues for six (6) months shall warrant suspension of membership in the IBP, and default in such payment for one year shall be ground for removal of the name of the delinquent member from the Roll of Attorneys.39
WHEREFORE, Atty. Leon G. Maquera is required to SHOW CAUSE, within fifteen (15) days from receipt of this Resolution, why he should not be suspended or disbarred for his acts which gave rise to the disciplinary proceedings against him in the Superior Court of Guam and his subsequent suspension in said jurisdiction.
The Bar Confidant is directed to locate the current and correct address of Atty. Maquera in Guam and to serve upon him a copy of this Resolution.
In the meantime, Atty. Maquera is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for ONE (1) YEAR or until he shall have paid his membership dues, whichever comes later.
Let a copy of this Resolution be attached to Atty. Maquera’s personal record in the Office of the Bar Confidant and copies be furnished to all chapters of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and to all courts in the land.
SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. L-27654 February 18, 1970
IN THE MATTER OF PROCEEDINGS FOR DISCIPLINARY ACTION AGAINST ATTY. VICENTE RAUL ALMACEN In L-27654, ANTONIO H. CALERO,
vs.
VIRGINIA Y. YAPTINCHAY.
CASTRO, J.:
Before us is Atty. Vicente Raul Almacen’s “Petition to Surrender Lawyer’s Certificate of Title,” filed on September 25, 1967, in protest against what he therein asserts is “a great injustice committed against his client by this Supreme Court.” He indicts this Court, in his own phrase, as a tribunal “peopled by men who are calloused to our pleas for justice, who ignore without reasons their own applicable decisions and commit culpable violations of the Constitution with impunity.” His client’s he continues, who was deeply aggrieved by this Court’s “unjust judgment,” has become “one of the sacrificial victims before the altar of hypocrisy.” In the same breath that he alludes to the classic symbol of justice, he ridicules the members of this Court, saying “that justice as administered by the present members of the Supreme Court is not only blind, but also deaf and dumb.” He then vows to argue the cause of his client “in the people’s forum,” so that “the people may know of the silent injustice’s committed by this Court,” and that “whatever mistakes, wrongs and injustices that were committed must never be repeated.” He ends his petition with a prayer that
… a resolution issue ordering the Clerk of Court to receive the certificate of the undersigned attorney and counsellor-at-law IN TRUST with reservation that at any time in the future and in the event we regain our faith and confidence, we may retrieve our title to assume the practice of the noblest profession.
He reiterated and disclosed to the press the contents of the aforementioned petition. Thus, on September 26, 1967, the Manila Times published statements attributed to him, as follows:
Vicente Raul Almacen, in an unprecedented petition, said he did it to expose the tribunal’s “unconstitutional and obnoxious” practice of arbitrarily denying petitions or appeals without any reason.
Because of the tribunal’s “short-cut justice,” Almacen deplored, his client was condemned to pay P120,000, without knowing why he lost the case.
xxx xxx xxx
There is no use continuing his law practice, Almacen said in this petition, “where our Supreme Court is composed of men who are calloused to our pleas for justice, who ignore without reason their own applicable decisions and commit culpable violations of the Constitution with impunity.
xxx xxx xxx
He expressed the hope that by divesting himself of his title by which he earns his living, the present members of the Supreme Court “will become responsive to all cases brought to its attention without discrimination, and will purge itself of those unconstitutional and obnoxious “lack of merit” or “denied resolutions. (Emphasis supplied)
Atty. Almacen’s statement that
… our own Supreme Court is composed of men who are calloused to our pleas of [sic] justice, who ignore their own applicable decisions and commit culpable violations of the Constitution with impunity
was quoted by columnist Vicente Albano Pacis in the issue of the Manila Chronicle of September 28, 1967. In connection therewith, Pacis commented that Atty. Almacen had “accused the high tribunal of offenses so serious that the Court must clear itself,” and that “his charge is one of the constitutional bases for impeachment.”
The genesis of this unfortunate incident was a civil case entitled Virginia Y. Yaptinchay vs. Antonio H. Calero,1 in which Atty. Almacen was counsel for the defendant. The trial court, after due hearing, rendered judgment against his client. On June 15, 1966 Atty. Almacen received a copy of the decision. Twenty days later, or on July 5, 1966, he moved for its reconsideration. He served on the adverse counsel a copy of the motion, but did not notify the latter of the time and place of hearing on said motion. Meanwhile, on July 18, 1966, the plaintiff moved for execution of the judgment. For “lack of proof of service,” the trial court denied both motions. To prove that he did serve on the adverse party a copy of his first motion for reconsideration, Atty. Almacen filed on August 17, 1966 a second motion for reconsideration to which he attached the required registry return card. This second motion for reconsideration, however, was ordered withdrawn by the trial court on August 30, 1966, upon verbal motion of Atty. Almacen himself, who, earlier, that is, on August 22, 1966, had already perfected the appeal. Because the plaintiff interposed no objection to the record on appeal and appeal bond, the trial court elevated the case to the Court of Appeals.
But the Court of Appeals, on the authority of this Court’s decision in Manila Surety & Fidelity Co., Inc. vs. Batu Construction & Co., L-16636, June 24, 1965, dismissed the appeal, in the following words:
Upon consideration of the motion dated March 27, 1967, filed by plaintiff-appellee praying that the appeal be dismissed, and of the opposition thereto filed by defendant-appellant; the Court RESOLVED TO DISMISS, as it hereby dismisses, the appeal, for the reason that the motion for reconsideration dated July 5, 1966 (pp. 90-113, printed record on appeal) does not contain a notice of time and place of hearing thereof and is, therefore, a useless piece of paper (Manila Surety & Fidelity Co., Inc. vs. Batu Construction & Co., G.R. No. L-16636, June 24, 1965), which did not interrupt the running of the period to appeal, and, consequently, the appeal was perfected out of time.
Atty. Almacen moved to reconsider this resolution, urging that Manila Surety & Fidelity Co. is not decisive. At the same time he filed a pleading entitled “Latest decision of the Supreme Court in Support of Motion for Reconsideration,” citing Republic of the Philippines vs. Gregorio A. Venturanza, L-20417, decided by this Court on May 30, 1966, as the applicable case. Again, the Court of Appeals denied the motion for reconsideration, thus:
Before this Court for resolution are the motion dated May 9, 1967 and the supplement thereto of the same date filed by defendant- appellant, praying for reconsideration of the resolution of May 8, 1967, dismissing the appeal.
Appellant contends that there are some important distinctions between this case and that of Manila Surety and Fidelity Co., Inc. vs. Batu Construction & Co., G.R. No. L- 16636, June 24, 1965, relied upon by this Court in its resolution of May 8, 1967. Appellant further states that in the latest case, Republic vs. Venturanza, L-20417, May 30, 1966, decided by the Supreme Court concerning the question raised by appellant’s motion, the ruling is contrary to the doctrine laid down in the Manila Surety & Fidelity Co., Inc. case.
There is no substantial distinction between this case and that of Manila Surety & Fidelity Co.
In the case of Republic vs. Venturanza, the resolution denying the motion to dismiss the appeal, based on grounds similar to those raised herein was issued on November 26, 1962, which was much earlier than the date of promulgation of the decision in the Manila Surety Case, which was June 24, 1965. Further, the resolution in the Venturanza case was interlocutory and the Supreme Court issued it “without prejudice to appellee’s restoring the point in the brief.” In the main decision in said case (Rep. vs. Venturanza the Supreme Court passed upon the issue sub silencio presumably because of its prior decisions contrary to the resolution of November 26, 1962, one of which is that in the Manila Surety and Fidelity case. Therefore Republic vs. Venturanza is no authority on the matter in issue.
Atty. Almacen then appealed to this Court by certiorari. We refused to take the case, and by minute resolution denied the appeal. Denied shortly thereafter was his motion for reconsideration as well as his petition for leave to file a second motion for reconsideration and for extension of time. Entry of judgment was made on September 8, 1967. Hence, the second motion for reconsideration filed by him after the Said date was ordered expunged from the records.
It was at this juncture that Atty. Almacen gave vent to his disappointment by filing his “Petition to Surrender Lawyer’s Certificate of Title,” already adverted to – a pleading that is interspersed from beginning to end with the insolent contemptuous, grossly disrespectful and derogatory remarks hereinbefore reproduced, against this Court as well as its individual members, a behavior that is as unprecedented as it is unprofessional.
Nonetheless we decided by resolution dated September 28, 1967 to withhold action on his petition until he shall have actually surrendered his certificate. Patiently, we waited for him to make good his proffer. No word came from him. So he was reminded to turn over his certificate, which he had earlier vociferously offered to surrender, so that this Court could act on his petition. To said reminder he manifested “that he has no pending petition in connection with Case G.R. No. L-27654, Calero vs. Yaptinchay, said case is now final and executory;” that this Court’s September 28, 1967 resolution did not require him to do either a positive or negative act; and that since his offer was not accepted, he “chose to pursue the negative act.”
In the exercise of its inherent power to discipline a member of the bar for contumely and gross misconduct, this Court on November 17, 1967 resolved to require Atty. Almacen to show cause “why no disciplinary action should be taken against him.” Denying the charges contained in the November 17 resolution, he asked for permission “to give reasons and cause why no disciplinary action should be taken against him … in an open and public hearing.” This Court resolved (on December 7) “to require Atty. Almacen to state, within five days from notice hereof, his reasons for such request, otherwise, oral argument shall be deemed waived and incident submitted for decision.” To this resolution he manifested that since this Court is “the complainant, prosecutor and Judge,” he preferred to be heard and to answer questions “in person and in an open and public hearing” so that this Court could observe his sincerity and candor. He also asked for leave to file a written explanation “in the event this Court has no time to hear him in person.” To give him the ampliest latitude for his defense, he was allowed to file a written explanation and thereafter was heard in oral argument.
His written answer, as undignified and cynical as it is unchastened, offers -no apology. Far from being contrite Atty. Almacen unremittingly repeats his jeremiad of lamentations, this time embellishing it with abundant sarcasm and innuendo. Thus:
At the start, let me quote passages from the Holy Bible, Chapter 7, St. Matthew: –
“Do not judge, that you may not be judged. For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged, and with what measure you measure, it shall be measured to you. But why dost thou see the speck in thy brother’s eye, and yet dost not consider the beam in thy own eye? Or how can thou say to thy brother, “Let me cast out the speck from thy eye”; and behold, there is a beam in thy own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam from thy own eye, and then thou wilt see clearly to cast out the speck from thy brother’s eyes.”
“Therefore all that you wish men to do to you, even to do you also to them: for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
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Your respondent has no intention of disavowing the statements mentioned in his petition. On the contrary, he refirms the truth of what he stated, compatible with his lawyer’s oath that he will do no falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court. But he vigorously DENY under oath that the underscored statements contained in the CHARGE are insolent, contemptuous, grossly disrespectful and derogatory to the individual members of the Court; that they tend to bring the entire Court, without justification, into disrepute; and constitute conduct unbecoming of a member of the noble profession of law.
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Respondent stands four-square that his statement is borne by TRUTH and has been asserted with NO MALICE BEFORE AND AFTER THOUGHT but mainly motivated with the highest interest of justice that in the particular case of our client, the members have shown callousness to our various pleas for JUSTICE, our pleadings will bear us on this matter, …
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To all these beggings, supplications, words of humility, appeals for charity, generosity, fairness, understanding, sympathy and above all in the highest interest of JUSTICE, – what did we get from this COURT? One word, DENIED, with all its hardiness and insensibility. That was the unfeeling of the Court towards our pleas and prayers, in simple word, it is plain callousness towards our particular case.
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Now that your respondent has the guts to tell the members of the Court that notwithstanding the violation of the Constitution, you remained unpunished, this Court in the reverse order of natural things, is now in the attempt to inflict punishment on your respondent for acts he said in good faith.
Did His Honors care to listen to our pleadings and supplications for JUSTICE, CHARITY, GENEROSITY and FAIRNESS? Did His Honors attempt to justify their stubborn denial with any semblance of reason, NEVER. Now that your respondent is given the opportunity to face you, he reiterates the same statement with emphasis, DID YOU? Sir. Is this. the way of life in the Philippines today, that even our own President, said: – “the story is current, though nebulous ,is to its truth, it is still being circulated that justice in the Philippines today is not what it is used to be before the war. There are those who have told me frankly and brutally that justice is a commodity, a marketable commodity in the Philippines.”
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We condemn the SIN, not the SINNER. We detest the ACTS, not the ACTOR. We attack the decision of this Court, not the members. … We were provoked. We were compelled by force of necessity. We were angry but we waited for the finality of the decision. We waited until this Court has performed its duties. We never interfered nor obstruct in the performance of their duties. But in the end, after seeing that the Constitution has placed finality on your judgment against our client and sensing that you have not performed your duties with “circumspection, carefulness, confidence and wisdom”, your Respondent rise to claim his God given right to speak the truth and his Constitutional right of free speech.
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The INJUSTICES which we have attributed to this Court and the further violations we sought to be prevented is impliedly shared by our President. … .
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What has been abhored and condemned, are the very things that were applied to us. Recalling Madam Roland’s famous apostrophe during the French revolution, “O Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name”, we may dare say, “O JUSTICE, what technicalities are committed in thy name’ or more appropriately, ‘O JUSTICE, what injustices are committed in thy name.”
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We must admit that this Court is not free from commission of any abuses, but who would correct such abuses considering that yours is a court of last resort. A strong public opinion must be generated so as to curtail these abuses.
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The phrase, Justice is blind is symbolize in paintings that can be found in all courts and government offices. We have added only two more symbols, that it is also deaf and dumb. Deaf in the sense that no members of this Court has ever heard our cries for charity, generosity, fairness, understanding sympathy and for justice; dumb in the sense, that inspite of our beggings, supplications, and pleadings to give us reasons why our appeal has been DENIED, not one word was spoken or given … We refer to no human defect or ailment in the above statement. We only describe the. impersonal state of things and nothing more.
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As we have stated, we have lost our faith and confidence in the members of this Court and for which reason we offered to surrender our lawyer’s certificate, IN TRUST ONLY. Because what has been lost today may be regained tomorrow. As the offer was intended as our self-imposed sacrifice, then we alone may decide as to when we must end our self-sacrifice. If we have to choose between forcing ourselves to have faith and confidence in the members of the Court but disregard our Constitution and to uphold the Constitution and be condemned by the members of this Court, there is no choice, we must uphold the latter.
But overlooking, for the nonce, the vituperative chaff which he claims is not intended as a studied disrespect to this Court, let us examine the grain of his grievances.
He chafes at the minute resolution denial of his petition for review. We are quite aware of the criticisms2 expressed against this Court’s practice of rejecting petitions by minute resolutions. We have been asked to do away with it, to state the facts and the law, and to spell out the reasons for denial. We have given this suggestion very careful thought. For we know the abject frustration of a lawyer who tediously collates the facts and for many weary hours meticulously marshalls his arguments, only to have his efforts rebuffed with a terse unadorned denial. Truth to tell, however, most petitions rejected by this Court are utterly frivolous and ought never to have been lodged at all.3 The rest do exhibit a first-impression cogency, but fail to, withstand critical scrutiny. By and large, this Court has been generous in giving due course to petitions for certiorari.
Be this as it may, were we to accept every case or write a full opinion for every petition we reject, we would be unable to carry out effectively the burden placed upon us by the Constitution. The proper role of the Supreme Court, as Mr. Chief Justice Vinson of the U.S. Supreme Court has defined it, is to decide “only those cases which present questions whose resolutions will have immediate importance beyond the particular facts and parties involved.” Pertinent here is the observation of Mr. Justice Frankfurter in Maryland vs. Baltimore Radio Show, 94 L. ed 562, 566:
A variety of considerations underlie denials of the writ, and as to the same petition different reasons may read different justices to the same result … .
Since there are these conflicting, and, to the uninformed, even confusing reasons for denying petitions for certiorari, it has been suggested from time to time that the Court indicate its reasons for denial. Practical considerations preclude. In order that the Court may be enabled to discharge its indispensable duties, Congress has placed the control of the Court’s business, in effect, within the Court’s discretion. During the last three terms the Court disposed of 260, 217, 224 cases, respectively, on their merits. For the same three terms the Court denied, respectively, 1,260, 1,105,1,189 petitions calling for discretionary review. If the Court is to do its work it would not be feasible to give reasons, however brief, for refusing to take these cases. The tune that would be required is prohibitive. Apart from the fact that as already indicated different reasons not infrequently move different members of the Court in concluding that a particular case at a particular time makes review undesirable.
Six years ago, in Novino, et al., vs. Court of Appeals, et al., 1,21098, May 31, 1963 (60 O.G. 8099), this Court, through the then Chief Justice Cesar Bengzon, articulated its considered view on this matter. There, the petitioners counsel urged that a “lack of merit” resolution violates Section 12 of Article VIII of the Constitution. Said Chief Justice Bengzon:
In connection with identical short resolutions, the same question has been raised before; and we held that these “resolutions” are not “decisions” within the above constitutional requirement. They merely hold that the petition for review should not be entertained in view of the provisions of Rule 46 of the Rules of Court; and even ordinary lawyers have all this time so understood it. It should be remembered that a petition to review the decision of the Court of Appeals is not a matter of right, but of sound judicial discretion; and so there is no need to fully explain the court’s denial. For one thing, the facts and the law are already mentioned in the Court of Appeals’ opinion.
By the way, this mode of disposal has – as intended – helped the Court in alleviating its heavy docket; it was patterned after the practice of the U.S. Supreme Court, wherein petitions for review are often merely ordered “dismissed”.
We underscore the fact that cases taken to this Court on petitions for certiorari from the Court of Appeals have had the benefit of appellate review. Hence, the need for compelling reasons to buttress such petitions if this Court is to be moved into accepting them. For it is axiomatic that the supervisory jurisdiction vested upon this Court over the Court of Appeals is not intended to give every losing party another hearing. This axiom is implied in sec. 4 of Rule 45 of the Rules of Court which recites:
Review of Court of Appeals’ decision discretionary.-A review is not a matter of right but of sound judicial discretion, and will be granted only when there are special and important reasons therefor. The following, while neither controlling nor fully measuring the court’s discretion, indicate the character of reasons which will be considered:
(a) When the Court of Appeals has decided a question of substance, not theretofore determined by the Supreme Court, nor has decided it in a way probably not in accord with law or with the applicable decisions of the Supreme Court;
(b) When the Court of Appeals has so far departed from the accepted and usual course of judicial proceedings, or so far sanctioned such departure by the lower court, as to call for the exercise of the power of supervision.
Recalling Atty. Almacen’s petition for review, we found, upon a thoroughgoing examination of the pleadings. and records, that the Court of Appeals had fully and correctly considered the dismissal of his appeal in the light of the law and applicable decisions of this Court. Far from straying away from the “accepted and usual course of judicial proceedings,” it traced the procedural lines etched by this Court in a number of decisions. There was, therefore, no need for this Court to exercise its supervisory power.
As a law practitioner who was admitted to the Bar as far back as 1941, Atty. Almacen knew – or ought to have known – that for a motion for reconsideration to stay the running of the period of appeal, the movant must not only serve a copy of the motion upon the adverse party (which he did), but also notify the adverse party of the time and place of hearing (which admittedly he did not). This rule was unequivocally articulated in Manila Surety & Fidelity vs. Batu Construction & Co., supra:
The written notice referred to evidently is prescribed for motions in general by Rule 15, Sections 4 and 5 (formerly Rule 26), which provides that such notice shall state the time, and place of hearing and shall be served upon all the Parties concerned at least three days in advance. And according to Section 6 of the same Rule no motion shall be acted upon by the court without proof of such notice. Indeed it has been held that in such a case the motion is nothing but a useless piece of paper (Philippine National Bank v. Damasco, I,18638, Feb. 28, 1963; citing Manakil v. Revilla, 42 Phil. 81; Roman Catholic Bishop of Lipa v. Municipality of Unisan, 41 Phil. 866; and Director of Lands vs. Sanz, 45 Phil. 117). The reason is obvious: Unless the movant sets the time and place of hearing the Court would have no way to determine whether that party agrees to or objects to the motion, and if he objects, to hear him on his objection, since the Rules themselves do not fix any period within which he may file his reply or opposition.
If Atty. Almacen failed to move the appellate court to review the lower court’s judgment, he has only himself to blame. His own negligence caused the forfeiture of the remedy of appeal, which, incidentally, is not a matter of right. To shift away from himself the consequences of his carelessness, he looked for a “whipping boy.” But he made sure that he assumed the posture of a martyr, and, in offering to surrender his professional certificate, he took the liberty of vilifying this Court and inflicting his exacerbating rancor on the members thereof. It would thus appear that there is no justification for his scurrilous and scandalous outbursts.
Nonetheless we gave this unprecedented act of Atty. Almacen the most circumspect consideration. We know that it is natural for a lawyer to express his dissatisfaction each time he loses what he sanguinely believes to be a meritorious case. That is why lawyers are given ‘wide latitude to differ with, and voice their disapproval of, not only the courts’ rulings but, also the manner in which they are handed down.
Moreover, every citizen has the right to comment upon and criticize the actuations of public officers. This right is not diminished by the fact that the criticism is aimed at a judicial authority,4 or that it is articulated by a lawyer.5 Such right is especially recognized where the criticism concerns a concluded litigation,6 because then the court’s actuations are thrown open to public consumption.7 “Our decisions and all our official actions,” said the Supreme Court of Nebraska,8 “are public property, and the press and the people have the undoubted right to comment on them, criticize and censure them as they see fit. Judicial officers, like other public servants, must answer for their official actions before the chancery of public opinion.”
The likely danger of confusing the fury of human reaction to an attack on one’s integrity, competence and honesty, with “imminent danger to the administration of justice,” is the reason why courts have been loath to inflict punishment on those who assail their actuations.9 This danger lurks especially in such a case as this where those who Sit as members of an entire Court are themselves collectively the aggrieved parties.
Courts thus treat with forbearance and restraint a lawyer who vigorously assails their actuations. 10 For courageous and fearless advocates are the strands that weave durability into the tapestry of justice. Hence, as citizen and officer of the court, every lawyer is expected not only to exercise the right, but also to consider it his duty to expose the shortcomings and indiscretions of courts and judges. 11
Courts and judges are not sacrosanct. 12 They should and expect critical evaluation of their performance. 13 For like the executive and the legislative branches, the judiciary is rooted in the soil of democratic society, nourished by the periodic appraisal of the citizens whom it is expected to serve.
Well-recognized therefore is the right of a lawyer, both as an officer of the court and as a citizen, to criticize in properly respectful terms and through legitimate channels the acts of courts and judges. The reason is that
An attorney does not surrender, in assuming the important place accorded to him in the administration of justice, his right as a citizen to criticize the decisions of the courts in a fair and respectful manner, and the independence of the bar, as well as of the judiciary, has always been encouraged by the courts. (In re Ades, 6 F Supp. 487) .
Criticism of the courts has, indeed, been an important part of the traditional work of the bar. In the prosecution of appeals, he points out the errors of lower courts. In written for law journals he dissects with detachment the doctrinal pronouncements of courts and fearlessly lays bare for -all to see that flaws and inconsistence” of the doctrines (Hill v. Lyman, 126 NYS 2d 286). As aptly stated by Chief Justice Sharswood in Ex Parte Steinman, 40 Am. Rep. 641:
No class of the community ought to be allowed freer scope in the expansion or publication of opinions as to the capacity, impartiality or integrity of judges than members of the bar. They have the best opportunities for observing and forming a correct judgment. They are in constant attendance on the courts. … To say that an attorney can only act or speak on this subject under liability to be called to account and to be deprived of his profession and livelihood, by the judge or judges whom he may consider it his duty to attack and expose, is a position too monstrous to be
entertained. … .
Hence, as a citizen and as Officer of the court a lawyer is expected not only to exercise the right, but also to consider it his duty to avail of such right. No law may abridge this right. Nor is he “professionally answerable for a scrutiny into the official conduct of the judges, which would not expose him to legal animadversion as a citizen.” (Case of Austin, 28 Am. Dee. 657, 665).
Above all others, the members of the bar have the beat Opportunity to become conversant with the character and efficiency of our judges. No class is less likely to abuse the privilege, as no other class has as great an interest in the preservation of an able and upright bench. (State Board of Examiners in Law v. Hart, 116 N.W. 212, 216)
To curtail the right of a lawyer to be critical of the foibles of courts and judges is to seal the lips of those in the best position to give advice and who might consider it their duty to speak disparagingly. “Under such a rule,” so far as the bar is concerned, “the merits of a sitting judge may be rehearsed, but as to his demerits there must be profound silence.” (State v. Circuit Court, 72 N.W. 196)
But it is the cardinal condition of all such criticism that it shall be bona fide, and shall not spill over the walls of decency and propriety. A wide chasm exists between fair criticism, on the One hand, and abuse and slander of courts and the judges thereof, on the other. Intemperate and unfair criticism is a gross violation of the duty of respect to courts. It is Such a misconduct that subjects a lawyer to disciplinary action.
For, membership in the Bar imposes upon a person obligations and duties which are not mere flux and ferment. His investiture into the legal profession places upon his shoulders no burden more basic, more exacting and more imperative than that of respectful behavior toward the courts. He vows solemnly to conduct himself “with all good fidelity … to the courts; 14 and the Rules of Court constantly remind him “to observe and maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers.” 15 The first canon of legal ethics enjoins him “to maintain towards the courts a respectful attitude, not for the sake of the temporary incumbent of the judicial office, but for the maintenance of its supreme importance.”
As Mr. Justice Field puts it:
… the obligation which attorneys impliedly assume, if they do not by express declaration take upon themselves, when they are admitted to the Bar, is not merely to be obedient to the Constitution and laws, but to maintain at all times the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers. This obligation is not discharged by merely observing the rules of courteous demeanor in open court, but includes abstaining out of court from all insulting language and offensive conduct toward judges personally for their judicial acts. (Bradley, v. Fisher, 20 Law. 4d. 647, 652)
The lawyer’s duty to render respectful subordination to the courts is essential to the orderly administration of justice. Hence, in the – assertion of their clients’ rights, lawyers – even those gifted with superior intellect are enjoined to rein up their tempers.
The counsel in any case may or may not be an abler or more learned lawyer than the judge, and it may tax his patience and temper to submit to rulings which he regards as incorrect, but discipline and self-respect are as necessary to the orderly administration of justice as they are to the effectiveness of an army. The decisions of the judge must be obeyed, because he is the tribunal appointed to decide, and the bar should at all times be the foremost in rendering respectful submission. (In Re Scouten, 40 Atl. 481)
We concede that a lawyer may think highly of his intellectual endowment That is his privilege. And he may suffer frustration at what he feels is others’ lack of it. That is his misfortune. Some such frame of mind, however, should not be allowed to harden into a belief that he may attack a court’s decision in words calculated to jettison the time-honored aphorism that courts are the temples of right. (Per Justice Sanchez in Rheem of the Philippines vs. Ferrer, L-22979. June 26, 1967)
In his relations with the courts, a lawyer may not divide his personality so as to be an attorney at one time and a mere citizen at another. Thus, statements made by an attorney in private conversations or communications 16 or in the course of a political, campaign, 17 if couched in insulting language as to bring into scorn and disrepute the administration of justice, may subject the attorney to disciplinary action.
Of fundamental pertinence at this juncture is an examination of relevant parallel precedents.
1. Admitting that a “judge as a public official is neither sacrosanct nor immune to public criticism of his conduct in office,” the Supreme Court of Florida in State v. Calhoon, 102 So. 2d 604, 608, nevertheless declared that “any conduct of a lawyer which brings into scorn and disrepute the administration of justice demands condemnation and the application of appropriate penalties,” adding that:
It would be contrary to, every democratic theory to hold that a judge or a court is beyond bona fide comments and criticisms which do not exceed the bounds of decency and truth or which are not aimed at. the destruction of public confidence in the judicial system as such. However, when the likely impairment of the administration of justice the direct product of false and scandalous accusations then the rule is otherwise.
2. In In Re Glenn, 130 N.W. 2d 672, an attorney was suspended for putting out and circulating a leaflet entitled “JUSTICE??? IN OTUMWA,” which accused a municipal judge of having committed judicial error, of being so prejudiced as to deny his clients a fair trial on appeal and of being subject to the control of a group of city officials. As a prefatory statement he wrote: “They say that Justice is BLIND, but it took Municipal Judge Willard to prove that it is also DEAF and DUMB!” The court did not hesitate to find that the leaflet went much further than the accused, as a lawyer, had a right to do.
The entire publication evidences a desire on the part Of the accused to belittle and besmirch the court and to bring it into disrepute with the general public.
3. In In Re Humphrey, 163 Pac. 60, the Supreme Court of California affirmed the two-year suspension of an attorney who published a circular assailing a judge who at that time was a candidate for re-election to a judicial office. The circular which referred to two decisions of the judge concluded with a statement that the judge “used his judicial office to enable -said bank to keep that money.” Said the court:
We are aware that there is a line of authorities which place no limit to the criticism members of the bar may make regarding the capacity, impartiality, or integrity of the courts, even though it extends to the deliberate publication by the attorney capable of correct reasoning of baseless insinuations against the intelligence and integrity of the highest courts. See State Board, etc. v. Hart. 116 N.W. 212, 17 LRA (N.S.) 585, 15 Ann Cas 197 and note: Ex parte Steinman 95 Pac. 220, 40 Am. Rep. 637. In the first case mentioned it was observed, for instance:
“It may be (although we do not so decide) that a libelous publication by an attorney, directed against a judicial officer, could be so vile and of such a nature as to justify the disbarment of its author.”
Yet the false charges made by an attorney in that case were of graver character than those made by the respondent here. But, in our view, the better rule is that which requires of those who are permitted to enjoy the privilege of practicing law the strictest observance at all times of the principles of truth, honesty and fairness, especially in their criticism of the courts, to the end that the public confidence in the due administration of justice be upheld, and the dignity and usefulness of the courts be maintained. In re Collins, 81 Pac. 220.
4. In People ex rel Chicago Bar Asso. v. Metzen, 123 N.E. 734, an attorney, representing a woman who had been granted a divorce, attacked the judge who set aside the decree on bill of review. He wrote the judge a threatening letter and gave the press the story of a proposed libel suit against the judge and others. The letter began:
Unless the record in In re Petersen v. Petersen is cleared up so that my name is protected from the libel, lies, and perjury committed in the cases involved, I shall be compelled to resort to such drastic action as the law allows and the case warrants.
Further, he said: “However let me assure you I do not intend to allow such dastardly work to go unchallenged,” and said that he was engaged in dealing with men and not irresponsible political manikins or appearances of men. Ordering the attorney’s disbarment, the Supreme Court of Illinois declared:
… Judges are not exempt from just criticism, and whenever there is proper ground for serious complaint against a judge, it is the right and duty of a lawyer to submit his grievances to the proper authorities, but the public interest and the administration of the law demand that the courts should have the confidence and respect of the people. Unjust criticism, insulting language, and offensive conduct toward the judges personally by attorneys, who are officers of the court, which tend to bring the courts and the law into disrepute and to destroy public confidence in their integrity, cannot be permitted. The letter written to the judge was plainly an attempt to intimidate and influence him in the discharge of judicial functions, and the bringing of the unauthorized suit, together with the write-up in the Sunday papers, was intended and calculated to bring the court into disrepute with the public.
5. In a public speech, a Rhode Island lawyer accused the courts of the state of being influenced by corruption and greed, saying that the seats of the Supreme Court were bartered. It does not appear that the attorney had criticized any of the opinions or decisions of the Court. The lawyer was charged with unprofessional conduct, and was ordered suspended for a period of two years. The Court said:
A calumny of that character, if believed, would tend to weaken the authority of the court against whose members it was made, bring its judgments into contempt, undermine its influence as an unbiased arbiter of the people’s right, and interfere with the administration of justice. …
Because a man is a member of the bar the court will not, under the guise of disciplinary proceedings, deprive him of any part of that freedom of speech which he possesses as a citizen. The acts and decisions of the courts of this state, in cases that have reached final determination, are not exempt from fair and honest comment and criticism. It is only when an attorney transcends the limits of legitimate criticism that he will be held responsible for an abuse of his liberty of speech. We well understand that an independent bar, as well as independent court, is always a vigilant defender of civil rights. In Re Troy, 111 Atl. 723. 725.
6. In In Re Rockmore, 111 NYS 879, an attorney was suspended for six months for submitting to an appellate court an affidavit reflecting upon the judicial integrity of the court from which the appeal was taken. Such action, the Court said, constitutes unprofessional conduct justifying suspension from practice, notwithstanding that he fully retracted and withdrew the statements, and asserted that the affidavit was the result of an impulse caused by what he considered grave injustice. The Court said:
We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that there is a growing habit in the profession of criticising the motives and integrity of judicial officers in the discharge of their duties, and thereby reflecting on the administration of justice and creating the impression that judicial action is influenced by corrupt or improper motives. Every attorney of this court, as well as every other citizen, has the right and it is his duty, to submit charges to the authorities in whom is vested the power to remove judicial officers for any conduct or act of a judicial officer that tends to show a violation of his duties, or would justify an inference that he is false to his trust, or has improperly administered the duties devolved upon him; and such charges to the tribunal, if based upon reasonable inferences, will be encouraged, and the person making them
protected. … While we recognize the inherent right of an attorney in a case decided against him, or the right of the Public generally, to criticise the decisions of the courts, or the reasons announced for them, the habit of criticising the motives of judicial officers in the performance of their official duties, when the proceeding is not against the officers whose acts or motives are criticised, tends to subvert the confidence of the community in the courts of justice and in the administration of justice; and when such charges are made by officers of the courts, who are bound by their duty to protect the administration of justice, the attorney making such charges is guilty of professional misconduct.
7. In In Re Mitchell, 71 So. 467, a lawyer published this statement:
I accepted the decision in this case, however, with patience, barring possible temporary observations more or less vituperative and finally concluded, that, as my clients were foreigners, it might have been expecting too much to look for a decision in their favor against a widow residing here.
The Supreme Court of Alabama declared that:
… the expressions above set out, not only transcend the bounds of propriety and privileged criticism, but are an unwarranted attack, direct, or by insinuation and innuendo, upon the motives and integrity of this court, and make out a prima facie case of improper conduct upon the part of a lawyer who holds a license from this court and who is under oath to demean himself with all good fidelity to the court as well as to his client.
The charges, however, were dismissed after the attorney apologized to the Court.
8. In State ex rel. Dabney v. Breckenridge, 258 Pac. 747, an attorney published in a newspaper an article in which he impugned the motives of the court and its members to try a case, charging the court of having arbitrarily and for a sinister purpose undertaken to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. The Court suspended the respondent for 30 days, saying that:
The privileges which the law gives to members of the bar is one most subversive of the public good, if the conduct of such members does not measure up to the requirements of the law itself, as well as to the ethics of the profession. …
The right of free speech and free discussion as to judicial determination is of prime importance under our system and ideals of government. No right thinking man would concede for a moment that the best interest to private citizens, as well as to public officials, whether he labors in a judicial capacity or otherwise, would be served by denying this right of free speech to any individual. But such right does not have as its corollary that members of the bar who are sworn to act honestly and honorably both with their client and with the courts where justice is administered, if administered at all, could ever properly serve their client or the public good by designedly misstating facts or carelessly asserting the law. Truth and honesty of purpose by members of the bar in such discussion is necessary. The health of a municipality is none the less impaired by a polluted water supply than is the health of the thought of a community toward the judiciary by the filthy wanton, and malignant misuse of members of the bar of the confidence the public, through its duly established courts, has reposed in them to deal with the affairs of the private individual, the protection of whose rights he lends his strength and money to maintain the judiciary. For such conduct on the part of the members of the bar the law itself demands retribution – not the court.
9. In Bar Ass’n of San Francisco v. Philbrook, 170 Pac. 440, the filing of an affidavit by an attorney in a pending action using in respect to the several judges the terms criminal corrupt, and wicked conspiracies,,” “criminal confederates,” “colossal and confident insolence,” “criminal prosecution,” “calculated brutality,” “a corrupt deadfall,” and similar phrases, was considered conduct unbecoming of a member of the bar, and the name of the erring lawyer was ordered stricken from the roll of attorneys.
10. In State Board of Examiners v. Hart, 116 N.W. 215, the erring attorney claimed that greater latitude should be allowed in case of criticism of cases finally adjudicated than in those pending. This lawyer wrote a personal letter to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Minnesota impugning both the intelligence and the integrity of the said Chief Justice and his associates in the decisions of certain appeals in which he had been attorney for the defeated litigants. The letters were published in a newspaper. One of the letters contained this paragraph:
You assigned it (the property involved) to one who has no better right to it than the burglar to his plunder. It seems like robbing a widow to reward a fraud, with the court acting as a fence, or umpire, watchful and vigilant that the widow got no undue
advantage. … The point is this: Is a proper motive for the decisions discoverable, short of assigning to the court emasculated intelligence, or a constipation of morals and faithlessness to duty? If the state bar association, or a committee chosen from its rank, or the faculty of the University Law School, aided by the researches of its hundreds of bright, active students, or if any member of the court, or any other person, can formulate a statement of a correct motive for the decision, which shall not require fumigation before it is stated, and quarantine after it is made, it will gratify every right-minded citizen of the state to read it.
The Supreme Court of Minnesota, in ordering the suspension of the attorney for six months, delivered its opinion as follows:
The question remains whether the accused was guilty of professional misconduct in sending to the Chief Justice the letter addressed to him. This was done, as we have found, for the very purpose of insulting him and the other justices of this court; and the insult was so directed to the Chief Justice personally because of acts done by him and his associates in their official capacity. Such a communication, so made, could never subserve any good purpose. Its only effect in any case would be to gratify the spite of an angry attorney and humiliate the officers so assailed. It would not and could not ever enlighten the public in regard to their judicial capacity or integrity. Nor was it an exercise by the accused of any constitutional right, or of any privilege which any reputable attorney, uninfluenced by passion, could ever have any occasion or desire to assert. No judicial officer, with due regard to his position, can resent such an insult otherwise than by methods sanctioned by law; and for any words, oral or written, however abusive, vile, or indecent, addressed secretly to the judge alone, he can have no redress in any action triable by a jury. “The sending of a libelous communication or libelous matter to the person defamed does not constitute an actionable publication.” 18 Am. & Eng. Enc. Law (2d Ed.) p. 1017. In these respects the sending by the accused of this letter to the Chief Justice was wholly different from his other acts charged in the accusation, and, as we have said, wholly different principles are applicable thereto.
The conduct of the accused was in every way discreditable; but so far as he exercised the rights of a citizen, guaranteed by the Constitution and sanctioned by considerations of public policy, to which reference has been made, he was immune, as we hold, from the penalty here sought to be enforced. To that extent his rights as a citizen were paramount to the obligation which he had assumed as an officer of this court. When, however he proceeded and thus assailed the Chief Justice personally, he exercised no right which the court can recognize, but, on the contrary, willfully violated his obligation to maintain the respect due to courts and judicial officers. “This obligation is not discharged by merely observing the rules of courteous demeanor in open court, but it includes abstaining out of court from all insulting language and offensive conduct toward the judges personally for their official acts.” Bradley v. Fisher, 13 Wall. (U.S.) 355, 20 L. Ed. 646. And there appears to be no distinction, as regards the principle involved, between the indignity of an assault by an attorney upon a judge, induced by his official act, and a personal insult for like cause by written or spoken words addressed to the judge in his chambers or at his home or elsewhere. Either act constitutes misconduct wholly different from criticism of judicial acts addressed or spoken to others. The distinction made is, we think entirely logical and well sustained by authority. It was recognized in Ex parte McLeod supra. While the court in that case, as has been shown, fully sustained the right of a citizen to criticise rulings of the court in actions which are ended, it held that one might be summarily punished for assaulting a judicial officer, in that case a commissioner of the court, for his rulings in a cause wholly concluded. “Is it in the power of any person,” said the court, “by insulting or assaulting the judge because of official acts, if only the assailant restrains his passion until the judge leaves the building, to compel the judge to forfeit either his own self-respect to the regard of the people by tame submission to the indignity, or else set in his own person the evil example of punishing the insult by taking the law in his own hands? … No high-minded, manly man would hold judicial office under such conditions.”
That a communication such as this, addressed to the Judge personally, constitutes professional delinquency for which a professional punishment may be imposed, has been directly decided. “An attorney who, after being defeated in a case, wrote a personal letter to the trial justice, complaining of his conduct and reflecting upon his integrity as a justice, is guilty of misconduct and will be disciplined by the court.” Matter of Manheim 133 App. Div. 136, 99 N.Y. Supp. 87 The same is held in Re Griffin (City Ct.) 1 N.Y. 7 and in Re Wilkes (City Ct.) 3 N.Y. In the latter case it appeared that the accused attorney had addressed a sealed letter to a justice of the City Court of New York, in which it was stated, in reference to his decision: “It is not law; neither is it common sense. The result is I have been robbed of 80.” And it was decided that, while such conduct was not a contempt under the state, the matter should be “called to the attention of the Supreme Court, which has power to discipline the attorney.” “If,” says the court, “counsel learned in the law are permitted by writings leveled at the heads of judges, to charge them with ignorance, with unjust rulings, and with robbery, either as principals or accessories, it will not be long before the general public may feel that they may redress their fancied grievances in like manner, and thus the lot of a judge will be anything but a happy one, and the administration of justice will fall into bad repute.”
The recent case of Johnson v. State (Ala.) 44 South. 671, was in this respect much the same as the case at bar. The accused, an attorney at law, wrote and mailed a letter to the circuit judge, which the latter received by due course of mail, at his home, while not holding court, and which referred in insulting terms to the conduct of the judge in a cause wherein the accused had been one of the attorneys. For this it was held that the attorney was rightly disbarred in having “willfully failed to maintain respect due to him [the judge] as a judicial officer, and thereby breached his oath as an attorney.” As recognizing the same principle, and in support of its application to the facts of this case, we cite the following: Ex parte Bradley, 7 Wall (U.S.) 364, 19 L. Ed. 214; Beene v. State, 22 Ark. 149; Commonwealth v. Dandridge, 2 Va. Cas. 408; People v. Green, 7 Colo 237, 244, 3 Pac. 65, 374, 49 Am. Rep. 351; Smith’s Appeal, 179 Pa. 14, 36 Atl. 134; Scouten’s Appeal, 186 Pa. 270, Atl. 481.
Our conclusion is that the charges against the accused have been so far sustained as to make it our duty to impose such a penalty as may be sufficient lesson to him and a suitable warning to others. …
11. In Cobb v. United States, 172 F. 641, the court affirmed a lawyer’s suspension for 18 months for publishing a letter in a newspaper in which he accused a judge of being under the sinister influence of a gang that had paralyzed him for two years.
12. In In Re Graves, 221 Pac. 411, the court held that an attorney’s unjustifiable attack against the official acts and decisions of a judge constitutes “moral turpitude.” There, the attorney was disbarred for criticising not only the judge, but his decisions in general claiming that the judge was dishonest in reaching his decisions and unfair in his general conduct of a case.
13. In In Re Doss, 12 N.E. 2d 659, an attorney published newspaper articles after the trial of cases, criticising the court in intemperate language. The invariable effect of this sort of propaganda, said the court, is to breed disrespect for courts and bring the legal profession into disrepute with the public, for which reason the lawyer was disbarred.
14. In State v. Grimes, 354 Pac. 2d 108, an attorney, dissatisfied with the loss of a case, prepared over a period of years vicious attacks on jurists. The Oklahoma Supreme Court declared that his acts involved such gross moral turpitude as to make him unfit as a member of the bar. His disbarment was ordered, even though he expressed an intention to resign from the bar.
The teaching derived from the above disquisition and impressive affluence of judicial pronouncements is indubitable: Post-litigation utterances or publications, made by lawyers, critical of the courts and their judicial actuations, whether amounting to a crime or not, which transcend the permissible bounds of fair comment and legitimate criticism and thereby tend to bring them into disrepute or to subvert public confidence in their integrity and in the orderly administration of justice, constitute grave professional misconduct which may be visited with disbarment or other lesser appropriate disciplinary sanctions by the Supreme Court in the exercise of the prerogatives inherent in it as the duly constituted guardian of the morals and ethics of the legal fraternity.
Of course, rarely have we wielded our disciplinary powers in the face of unwarranted outbursts of counsel such as those catalogued in the above-cited jurisprudence. Cases of comparable nature have generally been disposed of under the power of courts to punish for contempt which, although resting on different bases and calculated to attain a different end, nevertheless illustrates that universal abhorrence of such condemnable practices.
A perusal of the more representative of these instances may afford enlightenment.
1. In Salcedo vs. Hernandez, 61 Phil. 724, where counsel branded the denial of his motion for reconsideration as “absolutely erroneous and constituting an outrage to the rigths of the petitioner Felipe Salcedo and a mockery of the popular will expressed at the polls,” this Court, although conceding that
It is right and plausible that an attorney, in defending the cause and rights of his client, should do so with all the fervor and energy of which he is capable, but it is not, and never will be so for him to exercise said right by resorting to intimidation or proceeding without the propriety and respect which the dignity of the courts requires. The reason for this is that respect for the courts guarantees the stability of their institution. Without such guaranty, said institution would be resting on a very shaky foundation,
found counsel guilty of contempt inasmuch as, in its opinion, the statements made disclosed
… an inexcusable disrespect of the authority of the court and an intentional contempt of its dignity, because the court is thereby charged with no less than having proceeded in utter disregard of the laws, the rights to the parties, and ‘of the untoward consequences, or with having abused its power and mocked and flouted the rights of Attorney Vicente J. Francisco’s client … .
2. In In re Sotto, 82 Phil. 595, counsel, a senator and the author of the Press Freedom Law, reaching to, the imprisonment for contempt of one Angel Parazo, who, invoking said law, refused to divulge the source of a news item carried in his paper, caused to be published in i local newspaper a statement expressing his regret “that our High Tribunal has not only erroneously interpreted said law, but it is once more putting in evidence the incompetency or narrow mindedness of the majority of its members,” and his belief that “In the wake of so many blunders and injustices deliberately committed during these last years, … the only remedy to put an end to go much evil, is to change the members of the Supreme Court,” which tribunal he denounced as “a constant peril to liberty and democracy” and “a far cry from the impregnable bulwark of justice of those memorable times of Cayetano Arellano, Victorino Mapa, Manuel Araullo and other learned jurists who were the honor and glory of the Philippine Judiciary.” He there also announced that one of the first measures he would introduce in then forthcoming session of Congress would have for its object the complete reorganization of the Supreme Court. Finding him in contempt, despite his avowals of good faith and his invocation of the guarantee of free speech, this Court declared:
But in the above-quoted written statement which he caused to be published in the press, the respondent does not merely criticize or comment on the decision of the Parazo case, which was then and still is pending consideration by this Court upon petition of Angel Parazo. He not only intends to intimidate the members of this Court with the presentation of a bill in the next Congress, of which he is one of the members, reorganizing the Supreme Court and reducing the number of Justices from eleven, so as to change the members of this Court which decided the Parazo case, who according to his statement, are incompetent and narrow minded, in order to influence the final decision of said case by this Court, and thus embarrass or obstruct the administration of justice. But the respondent also attacks the honesty and integrity of this Court for the apparent purpose of bringing the Justices of this Court into disrepute and degrading the administration. of justice … .
To hurl the false charge that this Court has been for the last years committing deliberately so many blunders and injustices, that is to say, that it has been deciding in favor of Que party knowing that the law and justice is on the part of the adverse party and not on the one in whose favor the decision was rendered, in many cases decided during the last years, would tend necessarily to undermine the confidence of the people in the honesty and integrity of the members of this Court, and consequently to lower ,or degrade the administration of justice by this Court. The Supreme Court of the Philippines is, under the Constitution, the last bulwark to which the Filipino people may repair to obtain relief for their grievances or protection of their rights when these are trampled upon, and if the people lose their confidence in the honesty and integrity of the members of this Court and believe that they cannot expect justice therefrom, they might be driven to take the law into their own hands, and disorder and perhaps chaos might be the result. As a member of the bar and an officer of the courts, Atty. Vicente Sotto, like any other, is in duty bound to uphold the dignity and authority of this Court, to which he owes fidelity according to the oath he has taken as such attorney, and not to promote distrust in the administration of justice. Respect to the courts guarantees the stability of other institutions, which without such guaranty would be resting on a very shaky foundation.
Significantly, too, the Court therein hastened to emphasize that
… an attorney as an officer of the court is under special obligation to be respectful in his conduct and communication to the courts; he may be removed from office or stricken from the roll of attorneys as being guilty of flagrant misconduct (17 L.R.A. [N.S.], 586, 594.)
3. In Rheem of the Philippines vs. Ferrer: In re Proceedings against Alfonso Ponce Enrile, et al., supra, where counsel charged this Court with having “repeatedly fallen” into ,the pitfall of blindly adhering to its previous “erroneous” pronouncements, “in disregard of the law on jurisdiction” of the Court of Industrial Relations, our condemnation of counsel’s misconduct was unequivocal. Articulating the sentiments of the Court, Mr. Justice Sanchez stressed:
As we look back at the language (heretofore quoted) employed in the motion for reconsideration, implications there are which inescapably arrest attention. It speaks of one pitfall into which this Court has repeatedly fallen whenever the jurisdiction of the Court of Industrial Relations comes into question. That pitfall is the tendency of this Court to rely on its own pronouncements in disregard of the law on jurisdiction. It makes a sweeping charge that the decisions of this Court, blindly adhere to earlier rulings without as much as making any reference to and analysis of the pertinent statute governing the jurisdiction of the industrial court. The plain import of all these is that this Court is so patently inept that in determining the jurisdiction of the industrial court, it has committed error and continuously repeated that error to the point of perpetuation. It pictures this Court as one which refuses to hew to the line drawn by the law on jurisdictional boundaries. Implicit in the quoted statements is that the pronouncements of this Court on the jurisdiction of the industrial court are not entitled to respect. Those statements detract much from the dignity of and respect due this Court. They bring into question the capability of the members – and some former members of this Court to render justice. The second paragraph quoted yields a tone of sarcasm which counsel labelled as “so called” the “rule against splitting of jurisdiction.”
Similar thoughts and sentiments have been expressed in other cases 18 which, in the interest of brevity, need not now be reviewed in detail.
Of course, a common denominator underlies the aforecited cases – all of them involved contumacious statements made in pleadings filed pending litigation. So that, in line with the doctrinal rule that the protective mantle of contempt may ordinarily be invoked only against scurrilous remarks or malicious innuendoes while a court mulls over a pending case and not after the conclusion thereof, 19 Atty. Almacen would now seek to sidestep the thrust of a contempt charge by his studied emphasis that the remarks for which he is now called upon to account were made only after this Court had written finis to his appeal. This is of no moment.
The rule that bars contempt after a judicial proceeding has terminated, has lost much of its vitality. For sometime, this was the prevailing view in this jurisdiction. The first stir for a modification thereof, however, came when, in People vs. Alarcon, 20 the then Chief Justice Manuel V. Moran dissented with the holding of the majority, speaking thru Justice Jose P. Laurel, which upheld the rule above-adverted to. A complete disengagement from the settled rule was later to be made in In re Brillantes, 21 a contempt proceeding, where the editor of the Manila Guardian was adjudged in contempt for publishing an editorial which asserted that the 1944 Bar Examinations were conducted in a farcical manner after the question of the validity of the said examinations had been resolved and the case closed. Virtually, this was an adoption of the view expressed by Chief Justice Moran in his dissent in Alarcon to the effect that them may still be contempt by publication even after a case has been terminated. Said Chief Justice Moran in Alarcon:
A publication which tends to impede, obstruct, embarrass or influence the courts in administering justice in a pending suit or proceeding, constitutes criminal contempt which is ‘summarily punishable by courts. A publication which tends to degrade the courts and to destroy public confidence in them or that which tends to bring them in any way into disrepute, constitutes likewise criminal contempt, and is equally punishable by courts. What is sought, in the first kind of contempt, to be shielded against the influence of newspaper comments, is the all-important duty of the courts to administer justice in the decision of a pending case. In the second kind of contempt, the punitive hand of justice is extended to vindicate the courts from any act or conduct calculated to bring them into disfavor or to destroy public confidence in them. In the first there is no contempt where there is no action pending, as there is no decision which might in any way be influenced by the newspaper publication. In the second, the contempt exists, with or without a pending case, as what is sought to be protected is the court itself and its dignity. Courts would lose their utility if public confidence in them is destroyed.
Accordingly, no comfort is afforded Atty. Almacen by the circumstance that his statements and actuations now under consideration were made only after the judgment in his client’s appeal had attained finality. He could as much be liable for contempt therefor as if it had been perpetrated during the pendency of the said appeal.
More than this, however, consideration of whether or not he could be held liable for contempt for such post litigation utterances and actuations, is here immaterial. By the tenor of our Resolution of November 17, 1967, we have confronted the situation here presented solely in so far as it concerns Atty. Almacen’s professional identity, his sworn duty as a lawyer and his fitness as an officer of this Court, in the exercise of the disciplinary power the morals inherent in our authority and duty to safeguard and ethics of the legal profession and to preserve its ranks from the intrusions of unprincipled and unworthy disciples of the noblest of callings. In this inquiry, the pendency or non-pendency of a case in court is altogether of no consequence. The sole objective of this proceeding is to preserve the purity of the legal profession, by removing or suspending a member whose misconduct has proved himself unfit to continue to be entrusted with the duties and responsibilities belonging to the office of an attorney.
Undoubtedly, this is well within our authority to do. By constitutional mandate, 22 our is the solemn duty, amongst others, to determine the rules for admission to the practice of law. Inherent in this prerogative is the corresponding authority to discipline and exclude from the practice of law those who have proved themselves unworthy of continued membership in the Bar. Thus –
The power to discipline attorneys, who are officers of the court, is an inherent and incidental power in courts of record, and one which is essential to an orderly discharge of judicial functions. To deny its existence is equivalent to a declaration that the conduct of attorneys towards courts and clients is not subject to restraint. Such a view is without support in any respectable authority, and cannot be tolerated. Any court having the right to admit attorneys to practice and in this state that power is vested in this court-has the inherent right, in the exercise of a sound judicial discretion to exclude them from practice. 23
This, because the admission of a lawyer to the practice of law is a representation to all that he is worthy of their confidence and respect. So much so that –
… whenever it is made to appear to the court that an attorney is no longer worthy of the trust and confidence of the public and of the courts, it becomes, not only the right, but the duty, of the court which made him one of its officers, and gave him the privilege of ministering within its bar, to withdraw the privilege. Therefore it is almost universally held that both the admission and disbarment of attorneys are judicial acts, and that one is admitted to the bar and exercises his functions as an attorney, not as a matter of right, but as a privilege conditioned on his own behavior and the exercise of a just and sound judicial discretion. 24
Indeed, in this jurisdiction, that power to remove or suspend has risen above being a mere inherent or incidental power. It has been elevated to an express mandate by the Rules of Court. 25
Our authority and duty in the premises being unmistakable, we now proceed to make an assessment of whether or not the utterances and actuations of Atty. Almacen here in question are properly the object of disciplinary sanctions.
The proffered surrender of his lawyer’s certificate is, of course, purely potestative on Atty. Almacen’s part. Unorthodox though it may seem, no statute, no law stands in its way. Beyond making the mere offer, however, he went farther. In haughty and coarse language, he actually availed of the said move as a vehicle for his vicious tirade against this Court. The integrated entirety of his petition bristles with vile insults all calculated to drive home his contempt for and disrespect to the Court and its members. Picturing his client as “a sacrificial victim at the altar of hypocrisy,” he categorically denounces the justice administered by this Court to be not only blind “but also deaf and dumb.” With unmitigated acerbity, he virtually makes this Court and its members with verbal talons, imputing to the Court the perpetration of “silent injustices” and “short-cut justice” while at the same time branding its members as “calloused to pleas of justice.” And, true to his announced threat to argue the cause of his client “in the people’s forum,” he caused the publication in the papers of an account of his actuations, in a calculated effort ;to startle the public, stir up public indignation and disrespect toward the Court. Called upon to make an explanation, he expressed no regret, offered no apology. Instead, with characteristic arrogance, he rehashed and reiterated his vituperative attacks and, alluding to the Scriptures, virtually tarred and feathered the Court and its members as inveterate hypocrites incapable of administering justice and unworthy to impose disciplinary sanctions upon him.
The virulence so blatantly evident in Atty. Almacen’s petition, answer and oral argumentation speaks for itself. The vicious language used and the scurrilous innuendoes they carried far transcend the permissible bounds of legitimate criticism. They could never serve any purpose but to gratify the spite of an irate attorney, attract public attention to himself and, more important of all, bring ;this Court and its members into disrepute and destroy public confidence in them to the detriment of the orderly administration of justice. Odium of this character and texture presents no redeeming feature, and completely negates any pretense of passionate commitment to the truth. It is not a whit less than a classic example of gross misconduct, gross violation of the lawyer’s oath and gross transgression of the Canons of Legal Ethics. As such, it cannot be allowed to go unrebuked. The way for the exertion of our disciplinary powers is thus laid clear, and the need therefor is unavoidable.
We must once more stress our explicit disclaimer of immunity from criticism. Like any other Government entity in a viable democracy, the Court is not, and should not be, above criticism. But a critique of the Court must be intelligent and discriminating, fitting to its high function as the court of last resort. And more than this, valid and healthy criticism is by no means synonymous to obloquy, and requires detachment and disinterestedness, real qualities approached only through constant striving to attain them. Any criticism of the Court must, possess the quality of judiciousness and must be informed -by perspective and infused by philosophy. 26
It is not accurate to say, nor is it an obstacle to the exercise of our authority in ;the premises, that, as Atty. Almacen would have appear, the members of the Court are the “complainants, prosecutors and judges” all rolled up into one in this instance. This is an utter misapprehension, if not a total distortion, not only of the nature of the proceeding at hand but also of our role therein.
Accent should be laid on the fact that disciplinary proceedings like the present are sui generis. Neither purely civil nor purely criminal, this proceeding is not – and does not involve – a trial of an action or a suit, but is rather an investigation by the Court into the conduct of its officers. 27 Not being intended to. inflict punishment, it is in no sense a criminal prosecution. Accordingly, there is neither a plaintiff nor a prosecutor therein It may be initiated by the Court motu proprio. 28 Public interest is its primary objective, and the real question for determination is whether or not the attorney is still a fit person to be allowed the privileges as such. Hence, in the exercise of its disciplinary powers, the Court merely calls upon a member of the Bar to account for his actuations as an officer of the Court with the end in view of preserving the purity of the legal profession and the proper and honest administration of justice by purging the profession of members who by their misconduct have proved themselves no longer worthy to be entrusted with the duties and responsibilities pertaining to the office of an attorney. 29 In such posture, there can thus be no occasion to speak of a complainant or a prosecutor.
Undeniably, the members of the Court are, to a certain degree, aggrieved parties. Any tirade against the Court as a body is necessarily and inextricably as much so against the individual members thereof. But in the exercise of its disciplinary powers, the Court acts as an entity separate and distinct from the individual personalities of its members. Consistently with the intrinsic nature of a collegiate court, the individual members act not as such individuals but. only as a duly constituted court. Their distinct individualities are lost in the majesty of their office. 30 So that, in a very real sense, if there be any complainant in the case at bar, it can only be the Court itself, not the individual members thereof – as well as the people themselves whose rights, fortunes and properties, nay, even lives, would be placed at grave hazard should the administration of justice be threatened by the retention in the Bar of men unfit to discharge the solemn responsibilities of membership in the legal fraternity.
Finally, the power to exclude persons from the practice of law is but a necessary incident of the power to admit persons to said practice. By constitutional precept, this power is vested exclusively in this Court. This duty it cannot abdicate just as much as it cannot unilaterally renounce jurisdiction legally invested upon it. 31 So that even if it be conceded that the members collectively are in a sense the aggrieved parties, that fact alone does not and cannot disqualify them from the exercise of that power because public policy demands that they., acting as a Court, exercise the power in all cases which call for disciplinary action. The present is such a case. In the end, the imagined anomaly of the merger in one entity of the personalities of complainant, prosecutor and judge is absolutely inexistent.
Last to engage our attention is the nature and extent of the sanctions that may be visited upon Atty. Almacen for his transgressions. As marked out by the Rules of Court, these may range from mere suspension to total removal or disbarment. 32 The discretion to assess under the circumstances the imposable sanction is, of course, primarily addressed to the sound discretion of the Court which, being neither arbitrary and despotic nor motivated by personal animosity or prejudice, should ever be controlled by the imperative need that the purity and independence of the Bar be scrupulously guarded and the dignity of and respect due to the Court be zealously maintained.
That the misconduct committed by Atty. Almacen is of considerable gravity cannot be overemphasized. However, heeding the stern injunction that disbarment should never be decreed where a lesser sanction would accomplish the end desired, and believing that it may not perhaps be futile to hope that in the sober light of some future day, Atty. Almacen will realize that abrasive language never fails to do disservice to an advocate and that in every effervescence of candor there is ample room for the added glow of respect, it is our view that suspension will suffice under the circumstances. His demonstrated persistence in his misconduct by neither manifesting repentance nor offering apology therefor leave us no way of determining how long that suspension should last and, accordingly, we are impelled to decree that the same should be indefinite. This, we are empowered to do not alone because jurisprudence grants us discretion on the matter 33 but also because, even without the comforting support of precedent, it is obvious that if we have authority to completely exclude a person from the practice of law, there is no reason why indefinite suspension, which is lesser in degree and effect, can be regarded as falling outside of the compass of that authority. The merit of this choice is best shown by the fact that it will then be left to Atty. Almacen to determine for himself how long or how short that suspension shall last. For, at any time after the suspension becomes effective he may prove to this Court that he is once again fit to resume the practice of law.
ACCORDINGLY, IT IS THE SENSE of the Court that Atty. Vicente Raul Almacen be, as he is hereby, suspended from the practice of law until further orders, the suspension to take effect immediately.
Let copies of this resolution. be furnished the Secretary of Justice, the Solicitor General and the Court of Appeals for their information and guidance.
Concepcion,. C.J., Reyes, J.B.L., Dizon, Makalintal, Zaldivar, Sanchez, Teehankee, Barredo and Villamor JJ., concur.
Fernando, J., took no part.