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041 Canon 7: Conduct Affecting fitness to practice law; Requisites of good moral character

DOCTRINE: Although the term "good moral character" admits of broad dimensions, it has been defined as
"including at least common honesty" It has also been held that no moral qualification for bar membership is more
important than truthfulness or candor.
Tan vs, Sabandal,
Bar Matter No. 44, February 24, 1992
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On 29 November 1983, * this Court sustained the charge of unauthorized practice of law filed against respondent
Sabandal and accordingly denied the latter's petition to be allowed to take the oath as member of the Philippine
Bar and to sign the Roll of Attorneys.
The Court, in 1989, after considering his plea for mercy and forgiveness, reconsidered its earlier Resolution and
finally allowed him to take the lawyer's oath. One of the considerations in allowing respondent to take his oath,
was a testimonial from the IBP Zamboanga del Norte Chapter, certifying that respondent was "acting with
morality and has been careful in his actuations in the community."
However, before a date could be set for Sabandal's oath-taking, complainants Tan, Dagpin and Boquia each filed
separate motions for reconsideration of the Resolution of the court.
Complainant Tan maintains that said IBP testimonial was signed only by the then President of the IBP,
Zamboanga del Norte Chapter, Atty. Senen O. Angeles, without authorization from the Board of Officers of said
Chapter; and that Atty. Angeles was respondent's own counsel as well as the lawyer of respondent's parents-in-law
Attached to Complainant's Motion for Reconsideration was a Certification, signed by the IBP Zamboanga del
Norte Chapter President, stating that "the present Board of Officers with the undersigned as President had not
issued any testimonial attesting to the good moral character and civic consciousness of Mr. Nicolas Sabandal.
The Court directed the executive judge of the province where Sabandal is domiciled to submit a comment on
respondent's moral fitness to be a member of the Bar.
In compliance therewith, the executive judge stated in his comment that he is not aware of any acts committed by
the respondent as would disqualify him to from admission to the Bar.
However, he added that respondent has a pending civil case before his court for cancellation/reversion
proceedings, in which respondent, then working as Land Investigator of the Bureau of Lands, is alleged to have
secured a free patent and later a certificate of title to a parcel of land which, upon investigation, turned out to be a
swampland and not susceptible of acquisition under a free patent, and which he later mortgaged to the bank.
The mortgage was later foreclosed and the land subsequently sold at public auction and respondent has not
redeemed the land since then.
The civil case however was settled amicably and the respondent was not charged of any crime. Subsequently, Tan
already forgave the respondent and withdrew her opposition for the taking of oath of office of the respondent
while the other 2 petitioners leave upon the court to decide.
RTC of Zamboanga del Norte, certifying that Sabandal has no pending case with his Court and that he has no
cause to object to his admission to the Philippine Bar.

ISSUE(S): WON Sabandal should be allowed to take oath of office


HELD: NO,
Time and again, it has been held that the practice of law is not a matter of right. It is a privilege bestowed upon individuals
who are not only learned in the law but who are also known to possess good moral character:
The Supreme Court and the Philippine Bar have always tried to maintain a high standard for the legal profession,
both in academic preparation and legal training as well as in honesty and fair dealing. The Court and the licensed lawyers
themselves are vitally interested in keeping this high standard; and one of the ways of achieving this end is to admit to the
practice of this noble profession only those persons who are known to be honest and to possess good moral character. . .
Although the term "good moral character" admits of broad dimensions, it has been defined as "including at least
common honesty" It has also been held that no moral qualification for bar membership is more
important than truthfulness or candor.
It turns out that Civil Case entitled "Republic of the Philippines v. Nicolas Sabandal" was instituted by the Government in
1985 and was brought about because of respondent's procurement of a certificate of free patent over a parcel of land
belonging to the public domain and its use as security for a mortgage in order to obtain a loan. The controversy was
eventually settled by mere compromise.

It should be recalled that Sabandal worked as Land Investigator at the Bureau of Lands. Said
employment facilitated his procurement of the free patent title over property which he could not but
have known was public land.
This was manipulative on his part and does not speak well of his moral character. It is a manifestation of
gross dishonesty while in the public service, which cannot be erased by the termination of the case filed
by the Republic against him where no determination of his guilt or innocence was made because the suit
had been compromised.
There are testimonials attesting to his good moral character, yes. But these were confined to lack of knowledge of the
pendency of any criminal case against him and were obviously made without awareness of the facts and
circumstances surrounding the case instituted by the Government against him.
Those testimonials cannot, therefore, outweigh nor smother his acts of dishonesty and lack of good moral character.
That the other complainants, namely, Moises Boquia (in SBC 606) and Herve Dagpin (in SBC 619) have
not submitted any opposition to his motion to take the oath, is of no moment. They have already expressed
their objections in their earlier comments. That complainant Tan has withdrawn her objection to his taking the
oath can neither tilt the balance in his favor, the basis of her complaint treating as it does of another
subject matter.