You are on page 1of 2

ISSUE

WON Respondent violated the Coce of Responsibility


14) Complainant appealed the Resolution of the IBP Board of Governors to this
FACTS Court via a petition filed on March 7, 2007, under Section 12 (c) of Rule 139-
1) Complainant filed before the BSP a Petition [2] against Surigaonon Rural B[12] of the Revised Rules of Court.
Banking Corporation (the bank) and Alfredo Tan Bonpin (Bonpin), whose 15) Complainant challenges the IBP Board of Governors Resolution as illegal and
family comprises the majority stockholders of the bank, for cancellation of the void ab initio for violating the mandatory requirements of Section 12(a) of Rule
banks registration and franchise. 139-B of the Revised Rules of Court that the same be reduced to writing,
2) The Petition, he said, arose from the banks and/or Bonpins refusal to return clearly and distinctly stating the facts and the reasons on which it is based.
various checks and land titles, which were given to secure a loan obtained by 16) Finding the ruling of the Investigating Commissioner that respondent is guilty
his (complainants) wife, despite alleged full payment of the loan and interests. of grave misconduct to be in accordance with the evidence, complainant
nevertheless submits that the recommended penalty of suspension should be
3) Respondent, in-house counsel and acting corporate secretary of the bank, filed modified to disbarment. The offense committed by respondent, he posits,
an Answer with Affirmative Defenses[3] to the Petition stating, inter alia, manifests an evil motive and is therefore an infraction involving moral
turpitude.
5. That this is another in the series of blackmail suits 17) In his Comment to [the] Petition for Review, respondent states that the
filed by plaintiff [herein complainant Jose C. Saberon] and his wife administrative complaint against him is a harassment suit given that it was in
to coerce the Bank and Mr. Bonpin for financial gain his capacity as counsel for the bank and Bonpin that he filed the Answer
objected to by complainant.
x x x x.[4] (Emphasis and underscoring supplied) 18) Moreover, respondent claims that the purportedly offensive allegation was a
statement of fact which he had backed up with a narration of the chronological
incidents and suits filed by complainant and his wife against his clients. That
4) Respondent made statements of the same tenor in his Rejoinder [5] to being the case, he contends that the allegation made in the Answer must be
complainants Reply. considered absolutely privileged just like allegations made in any complaint or
5) Finding the aforementioned statements to be totally malicious, viscous [sic] initiatory pleading.
and bereft of any factual or legal basis, complainant filed the present 19) Respondent in fact counters that it was complainant himself who had made
complaint. serious imputations of wrongdoing against his clients the bank for allegedly
6) Complainant contends that he filed the Petition before the BSP in the being engaged in some illegal activities, and Bonpin for misrepresenting
legitimate exercise of his constitutional right to seek redress of his himself as a Filipino.
grievances; and that respondent, as in-house counsel and acting corporate 20) Nonetheless, respondent pleads that at the time the allegedly abusive and
secretary of the bank, was fully aware that the loan obtained by his offensive language was used, he was only two years into the profession, with
(complainants) wife in behalf of her children had been paid in full, hence, nary an intention of bringing dishonor to it. He admits that because of some
there was no more reason to continue holding the collaterals. infelicities of language, he may have stirred up complainants indignation for
7) Complainant adds that respondent aided and abetted the infliction of damages which he asked the latters and this Courts clemency.
upon his wife and her children who were thus deprived of the use of the 21) In his Reply,[13] complainant counters that respondents Comment reveals the
mortgaged property. latters propensity to deliberately state a falsehood; and that respondents claim
8) In his Comment[6] to the present complaint against him, respondent argues that the administrative complaint was a harassing act, deducible from the fact
that: (1) there was nothing abusive, offensive or otherwise improper in the way that [it] post-dates a series of suits, none of which has prospered x x x against
he used the word blackmail to characterize the suit against his clients; and (2) the same rural bank and its owner, is bereft of factual basis.
when a lawyer files a responsive pleading, he is not in any way aiding or 22) Complainant goes on to argue that respondent, as counsel for Bonpin, knew of
abetting the infliction of damages upon the other party. the two criminal cases he and his wife had filed against Bonpin and, as
9) By Resolution of March 16, 2005,[7] the Court referred the case to the Integrated admitted by respondent, of the criminal charges against him for libel arising
Bar of the Philippines for investigation, report and recommendation. from his imputations of blackmail, extortion or robbery against him and his
10) In his Report and Recommendation dated June 21, 2006,[8] IBP Investigating wife.
Commissioner Dennis A. B. Funa held that the word blackmail connotes 23) Finally, complainant refuses to accede to respondents entreaty for clemency.
DECISION
something sinister and criminal. Unless the person accused thereof is YES
criminally charged with extortion, he added, it would be imprudent, if not This Court finds respondent guilty of simple misconduct for using intemperate language in his pleadings.
offensive, to characterize that persons act as blackmail. The Code of Professional Responsibility mandates:

11) Commissioner Funa stressed that a counsel is expected only to present factual
arguments and to anchor his case on the legal merits of his clients claim or CANON 8 - A lawyer shall conduct himself with courtesy, fairness and candor toward his professional colleagues, and
defense in line with his duty under Rule 19.01 of the Code of Professional shall avoid harassing tactics against opposing counsel.
Responsibility, as follows:
Rule 8.01 - A lawyer shall not, in his professional dealings, use language which is abusive, offensive or otherwise
A lawyer shall employ only fair and honest means to improper.
attain the lawful objectives of his client and shall not present,
participate in presenting or threaten to present unfounded
CANON 11 - A lawyer shall observe and maintain the respect due to the courts and to judicial officers and should
criminal charges to obtain an improper advantage in any case or insist on similar conduct by others.
proceeding.

Rule 11.03 - A lawyer shall abstain from scandalous, offensive or menacing language or behavior before the Courts.
12) Moreover, he noted that in espousing a clients cause, respondent should not
state his personal belief as to the soundness or justice of his case pursuant to
Canon 15[9] of the Code of Professional Responsibility. To be sure, the adversarial nature of our legal system has tempted members of the bar to use strong language
13) The Investigating Commissioner also opined that by using words that were in pursuit of their duty to advance the interests of their clients.[14]
However, while a lawyer is entitled to present his case with vigor and courage, such enthusiasm does not
unnecessary and irrelevant to the case, respondent went overboard and justify the use of offensive and abusive language.[15] Language abounds with countless possibilities for one to
crossed the line of professional conduct. In view thereof, he recommended be emphatic but respectful, convincing but not derogatory, illuminating but not offensive.[16]
that respondent be found culpable of gross misconduct and suspended from On many occasions, the Court has reminded members of the Bar to abstain from all offensive personality and
to advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of
the practice of law for 30 days.
the cause with which he is charged.[17] In keeping with the dignity of the legal profession, a lawyers language
14) By Resolution No. XVII-2007-036 of January 18, 2007,[10] the IBP Board of even in his pleadings must be dignified.[18]
Governors disapproved the recommendation and instead dismissed the case It is of no consequence that the allegedly malicious statements of respondent were made not before a court but
for lack of merit. before the BSP. A similar submission that actuations of and statements made by lawyers before the National
Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) are not covered by the Code of Professional Responsibility, the NLRC
15) The Commission on Bar Discipline, by letter of March 26, 2007, transmitted the
not being a court, was struck down in Lubiano v. Gordolla,[19] thus:
records of the case to this Court.[11]

Saberon v Larong
Respondent became unmindful of the fact that in addressing the National Labor Relations Commission, he Respecting the assailed Resolution of the IBP Board of Governors, indeed only a Notice of Resolution was
nonetheless remained a member of the Bar, an oath-bound servant of the law, whose first duty is not to his transmitted to this Court, together with the Records of the case, which Notice simply stated that on January
client but to the administration of justice and whose conduct ought to be and must be scrupulously observant 18, 2007, the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution No. XVII-2007-036 in which it:
of law and ethics.[20]

The observation applies with equal force to the case at bar. RESOLVED to AMEND, as it is hereby AMENDED, the Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner,
and to APPROVE the DISMISSAL of the above-entitled case for lack of merit.

Upon such Notice, it is evident that there is no compliance with the procedural requirement that the IBP
Respecting respondents argument that the matters stated in the Answer he filed before the BSP were Board of Governors decision shall state clearly and distinctly the findings of facts or law on which the same is
privileged, it suffices to stress that lawyers, though they are allowed a latitude of pertinent remark or based. Thus Section 12 of Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court provides:
comment in the furtherance of the causes they uphold and for the felicity of their clients, should not trench
beyond the bounds of relevancy and propriety in making such remark or comment.[21]
True, utterances, petitions and motions made in the course of judicial proceedings have consistently been SEC. 12. Review and decision by the Board of Governors. - (a) Every case heard by an investigator shall be
considered as absolutely privileged, however false or malicious they may be, but only for so long as they are reviewed by the IBP Board of Governors upon the record and evidence transmitted to it by the Investigator
pertinent and relevant to the subject of inquiry.[22] The test of relevancy has been stated, thus: with his report. The decision of the Board upon such review shall be in writing and shall clearly and distinctly
state the facts and the reasons on which it is based. It shall be promulgated within a period not exceeding
thirty (30) days from the next meeting of the Board following the submittal of the Investigator's report.
x x x. As to the degree of relevancy or pertinency necessary to make alleged defamatory matters privileged the (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
courts favor a liberal rule. The matter to which the privilege does not extend must be so palpably wanting in The above requirement serves a very important function not just to inform the parties of the reason for the
relation to the subject matter of the controversy that no reasonable man can doubt its relevancy and decision as would enable them on appeal to point out and object to the findings with which they are not in
impropriety. In order that matter alleged in a pleading may be privileged, it need not be in every case material agreement, but also to assure the parties that the Board of Governors has reached the judgment through the
to the issues presented by the pleadings. It must, however, be legitimately related thereto, or so pertinent to process of legal reasoning.[24]
the subject of the controversy that it may become the subject of inquiry in the course of the trial x x x. [23] With regard to complainants plea that respondent be disbarred, this Court has consistently considered
disbarment and suspension of an attorney as the most severe forms of disciplinary action, which should be
imposed with great caution. They should be meted out only for duly proven serious administrative charges.
Granting that the proceedings before the BSP partake of the nature of judicial proceedings, the ascription of [25]
blackmail in the Answer and Rejoinder filed by respondent is not legitimately related or pertinent to the Thus, while respondent is guilty of using infelicitous language, such transgression is not of a grievous
subject matters of inquiry before the BSP, which were Bonpins alleged alien citizenship and majority character as to merit respondents disbarment. In light of respondents apologies, the Court finds it best to
stockholding in the bank. Those issues were amply discussed in the Answer with Affirmative Defenses temper the penalty for his infraction which, under the circumstances, is considered simple, rather than grave,
without need of the further allegation that the Petition was another in a series of blackmail suits . . . to coerce misconduct.
the Bank and Mr. Bonpin for financial gain. Hence, such allegation was unnecessary and uncalled for. More so,
considering that complainant and his wife were well within their rights to file the cases against the bank
and/or Bonpin to protect their interests and seek redress of their grievances. NOTES

Saberon v Larong