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LEGAL PROFESSION CASE 23

ROYONG VS. OBLENA


AC No. 376 April 30, 1963
En Banc, Barrera

FACTS:
Complainant Josefina Royong charge the respondent Ariston Oblena, a member of the bar and bench,
with rape. The Solicitor General immediately conducted an investigation and found out that there was no
rape, the carnal knowledge between complainant and respondent seems to be consensual sex.
In view of his own findings as a result of his investigation, that even if respondent did not commit the
alleged rape, nevertheless, he was guilty of other misconduct. The Solicitor General made another
complaint charging the respondent of falsely and deliberately alleging in his application for admission to
the bar that he is a person of good moral character, of living adulterously with Briccia Angeles at the same
time maintaining illicit relations with the 18 year old Josefina Royong. Thus rendering him unfit to
practice law, praying that this Court render judgment ordering the permanent removal of the respondent as
lawyer and judge.

ISSUE:
Whether or not the illicit relation of the respondent with Josefina Royong and the adulterous cohabitation
of respondent with Briccia Angeles warrants disbarment.

HELD:
Ariston Oblena was disbarred.

RATIO:
The continued possession of a fair private and professional character or a good moral character is a
requisite condition for the rightful continuance in the practice of law for one who has been admitted, and
its loss requires suspension or disbarment even though the statutes do not specify that as ground for
disbarment.
Respondent's conduct though unrelated to his office and in no way directly bearing on his profession, has
nevertheless rendered him unfit and unworthy of the privileges of a lawyer.
Fornication, if committed under such scandalous or revolting circumstances as have proven in this case,
as to shock common sense of decency, certainly may justify positive action by the Court in protecting the
prestige of the noble profession of the law.
As former Chief Justice Moran observed: An applicant for license to practice law is required to show
good moral character, or what he 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.
Respondent, therefore, did not possess a good moral character at the time he applied for admission to the
bar. He lived an adulterous life with Briccia Angeles, and the fact that people who knew him sqemed to
have acuuiesced to his utatus, did noq render him a person of good moral character. It is of no moment
that his immoral state was discovered then or now as he is clearly not fit to remain a member of the bar.

Spouses FRANKLIN and LOURDES OLBES, complainants, vs. Atty. VICTOR V.


DECIEMBRE, respondent.
Facts: In their Petition, Spouses Olbes allege that they were government employees working at the
Central Post Office, Manila; and that Franklin was a letter carrier receiving a monthly salary of P6,700,
and Lourdes, a mail sorter, P6,000.[5]
Through respondent, Lourdes renewed on July 1, 1999 her application for a loan from Rodela Loans, Inc.,
in the amount of P10,000. As security for the loan, she issued and delivered to respondent five Philippine
National Bank (PNB) blank checks (Nos. 0046241-45), which served as collateral for the approved loan
as well as any other loans that might be obtained in the future. [6]
On August 31, 1999, Lourdes paid respondent the amount of P14,874.37 corresponding to the loan plus
surcharges, penalties and interests, for which the latter issued a receipt, [7]herein quoted as follows:
August 31, 1999
Received the amount of P14,874.37 as payment of the loan of P10,000.00 taken earlier by Lourdes Olbes.
(Sgd.) Atty. Victor V. Deciembre
8-31-99
P10,000.00
PNB Check No. 46241 8/15/99[8]
Notwithstanding the full payment of the loan, respondent filled up four (of the five) blank PNB Checks
(Nos. 0046241, 0046242, 0046243 and 0046244) for the amount of P50,000 each, with different dates of
maturity -- August 15, 1999, August 20, 1999, October 15, 1999 and November 15, 1999, respectively.[9]
On October 19, 1999, respondent filed before the Provincial Prosecution Office of Rizal an Affidavit-
Complaint against petitioners for estafa and violation of Batas Pambansa (BP) 22. He alleged therein that
on July 15, 1999, around one-thirty in the afternoon at Cainta, Rizal, they personally approached him and
requested that he immediately exchange with cash their postdated PNB Check Nos. 0046241 and
0046242 totaling P100,000.[10]
Several months after, or on January 20, 2000, respondent filed against petitioners another Affidavit-
Complaint for estafa and violation of BP 22. He stated, among others, that on the same day, July 15,
1999, around two oclock in the afternoon at Quezon City, they again approached him and requested that
he exchange with cash PNB Check Nos. 0046243 and 0046244 totaling P100,000.[11]
Petitioners insisted that on the afternoon of July 15, 1999, they never went either to Cainta, Rizal, or to
Quezon City to transact business with respondent. Allegedly, they were in their office at the time, as
shown by their Daily Time Records; so it would have been physically impossible for them to transact
business in Cainta, Rizal, and, after an interval of only thirty minutes, in Quezon City, especially
considering the heavy traffic conditions in those places. [12]
Petitioners averred that many of their office mates -- among them, Juanita Manaois, Honorata Acosta and
Eugenia Mendoza -- had suffered the same fate in their dealings with respondent. [13]
In his Comment,[14] respondent denied petitioners claims, which he called baseless and devoid of any
truth and merit. Allegedly, petitioners were the ones who had deceived him by not honoring their
commitment regarding their July 15, 1999 transactions. Those transactions, totaling P200,000, had
allegedly been covered by their four PNB checks that were, however, subsequently dishonored due to
ACCOUNT CLOSED. Thus, he filed criminal cases against them. He claimed that the checks had
already been fully filled up when petitioners signed them in his presence. He further claimed that he had
given them the amounts of money indicated in the checks, because his previous satisfactory transactions
with them convinced him that they had the capacity to pay.
Moreover, respondent said that the loans were his private and personal transactions, which were not in
any way connected with his profession as a lawyer. The criminal cases against petitioners were allegedly
private actions intended to vindicate his rights against their deception and violation of their obligations.
He maintained that his right to litigate should not be curtailed by this administrative action.
ISSUE: Whether or not respondent lawyer is guilty of gross misconduct and violation of Rules 1.01 and
7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

HELD: YES.
Respondent lawyer violated Rules 1.01 and 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for he
seriously transgressed by his malevolent act of filling up the blank checks by indicating amounts that had
not been agreed upon at all and despite full knowledge that the loan supposed to be secured by the checks
had already been paid. His was a brazen act of falsification of a commercial document, resorted to for his
material gain. Respondent is clearly guilty of serious dishonesty and professional misconduct. He
committed an act indicative of moral depravity not expected from, and highly unbecoming a member of
the bar. His propensity for employing deceit and misrepresentation is reprehensible. His misuse of the
filled-up checks that led to the detention of one petitioner is loathsome. Respondent is hereby indefinitely
SUSPENDED from the practice of law.

JOSEPH SAMALA, complainant, vs. ATTY. ANTONUITTI K. PALAA, respondent.


Facts: ometime in February 2001, complainant was looking for a company where he could invest his
dollar savings. He met Raymond Taino, a trader-employee of First Imperial Resources, Inc. (FIRI), a
company located at Legaspi Village, Makati City. Taino introduced him to FIRI Manager Jun Agustin,
Chief Trader Diosdado Bernal, and Legal Officer Antonuitti K. Palaa, the respondent herein.
Complainant expressed his concern to the said three officers of FIRI about having been warned of
numerous fraudulent businesses in the Philippines. Respondent assured him that through FIRI he would
be directly putting his investment with Eastern Vanguard Forex Limited, a reputable company based in
the Virgin Islands which has been in the foreign exchange business for 13 years. The three officers
presented to him their company profile and documents purporting to establish their relationship with
Eastern Vanguard Forex Limited.
Due to the personal representations and assurances of respondent, Agustin, and Bernal, complainant was
convinced and he invested his dollar savings with FIRI on March 9, 2001.
Subsequently, complainant decided to pull out his investment. On April 5, 2001, he sent FIRI a letter
requesting the withdrawal of his investment amounting to US$10,000 and giving FIRI 10 days to prepare
the money.
On April 15, 2001, complainant asked Agustin when his money would be returned. Agustin told him that
the request was sent to Thomas Yiu of Eastern Vanguard at Ortigas Center. Complainant went to see
Thomas Yiu at his office. Yiu was surprised when he saw the documents involving complainants
investment. Yiu phoned Agustin and demanded an explanation as to where the money was. Agustin said
that he would return complainants investment at FIRIs office in Makati. On the same day, in the
presence of respondent, Agustin delivered to complainant a check in the amount of P574,045.09, as the
peso equivalent of complainants investment with FIRI. On May 2, 2001, the said check was dishonored
because it was drawn against insufficient funds.
Complainant informed respondent of the dishonor of the check. Respondent assured him that the check
would be replaced. On June 1, 2001, respondent, as legal officer of FIRI, gave complainant P250,000 in
cash and a check in the amount of P329,045.09. Respondent told complainant that the check was signed
by FIRI President Paul Desiderio in his (respondents) presence and assured complainant that the check
would be funded. But on June 28, 2001, the check was dishonored because it was drawn against
insufficient funds.
On July 14, 2001, complainant charged Paul Desiderio of Estafa and Violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang
22 at the Prosecutors Office of Makati. On November 4, 2001, Judge Evelyn Arcaya-Chua of the
Metropolitan Trial Court, Makati City, issued a warrant of arrest against Paul Desiderio.
On March 5, 2002, complainant joined three police officers in serving the warrant of arrest against Paul
Desiderio at No. 10 Damascus St., Northeast Executive Village, B.F. Homes, Paraaque City.
Complainant got the said address of Paul Desiderio from the documents of FIRI. Although there was a
street named Damascus in the said village, there was no residence numbered 10. The police officers
checked the existence of the said address and resident at the office of the subdivision association. They
were told that no such address existed and that no resident named Paul Desiderio lived in the subdivision.
Complainant alleged that respondents act of representing himself to be the legal officer of FIRI and his
assurance that the check he personally delivered to him was signed in his presence by FIRI Officer Paul
Desiderio, when no such person appears to exist, is clearly fraudulent and violative of the Canons of
Professional Ethics.[1]
Complainant requested the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for a thorough investigation of respondent as
a member of the bar.
In an Order dated January 27, 2003, Director for Bar Discipline Victor C. Fernandez required respondent
to submit his Answer to the Complaint within 15 days from receipt thereof. Despite receipt of said order
as evidenced by a registry return receipt dated February 3, 2003, respondent did not submit an Answer.
The case was referred to Commissioner Lydia A. Navarro of the Commission on Bar Discipline for
investigation. Respondent failed to appear when the case was set for hearing on April 8, 2003, despite
due notice. Hence, respondent was declared in default and the case was heard ex parte.
Held: Respondent was found to have violated Rule 7.03 of Canon 7 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, which states:
Rule 7.03 A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor
shall he, whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal
profession.
The Code of Professional Responsibility mandates that a lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity
and dignity of the legal profession. To this end, nothing should be done by any member of the legal
fraternity which might tend to lessen in any degree the confidence of the public in the fidelity, honesty
and integrity of the profession.
In this case, respondent assured complainant that by investing his dollar savings with FIRI, his investment
was in a stable company, even if, as it was later discovered, the by-laws of FIRI prohibited it from
engaging in investment or foreign exchange business and its primary purpose is to act as consultant in
providing professional expertise and reliable data analysis related to partnership and so on.
When complainant decided to withdraw his investment from FIRI, the first check given to him in the
amount of his total investment bounced. Thereafter, respondent, as legal officer of FIRI, gave
complainant P250,000 in cash and a check for P329,045.09. Respondent assured complainant that the
second check was a good check and that it was signed by Paul Desiderio, the alleged president of FIRI.
However, the said check bounced because it was drawn against insufficient funds, and the drawer of the
check, Paul Desiderio, could not be located when sought to be served a warrant of arrest since his identity
was unknown and his residential address was found to be non-existent.
Hence, it is clear that the representations of respondent as legal officer of FIRI caused material damage to
complainant. In so doing, respondent failed to uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession and
lessened the confidence of the public in the honesty and integrity of the same.
DAHLIA S. GACIAS, Complainant, vs. ATTY. ALEXANDER BULAUITAN, Respondent.
Facts: Herein respondent Atty. Alexander Bulauitan used to own a parcel of land with
an area of 1,242 square meters located at Tuguegarao City and covered by Transfer
Certificate of Title No. T-79190. Sometime in February 1996, complainant and
respondent entered into an agreement for the purchase, on installment basis, of a
92-square meter portion of the 1,242-square meter lot at a unit price of P3,500.00
per square meter. Out of the total consideration of P322,000.00, complainant
initially paid respondent, as down payment, US$3,100.00, or its equivalent
of P82,000.00, as evidenced by a receipt dated February 28, 1996. Subsequent
installment payments were remitted, as mutually agreed upon, to the Bank of
Philippine Islands, Kamuning Branch, under the account of respondents daughter,
Joan Christine. All told, complainant had, as of November 1996, paid the
respondent, in cash and in kind, the peso equivalent of US$6,950.00, which, per
complainants computation, using the $1:P43 dollar-peso rate of exchange,
amounted to P300,000.00.
As complainant would also allege in her affidavit-complaint dated April 23, 2001, 1 as amended,2 she
asked for the copy of the title over the 92-square meter portion upon learning about the mortgage the
respondent constituted over his Tuguegarao property. According to complainant, respondents inability to
produce the desired title impelled her not to complete payment anymore and to request the return of the
amount she had already paid the respondent. Complainant further alleged that the respondent agreed, but
has not made good his undertaking, to make reimbursement. Her request for assistance from the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) proved futile, too. Meanwhile, the mortgagee bank, China Bank,
foreclosed the mortgage constituted on the respondents property, then consolidated the title over it in its
name.
Held: The Code of Professional Responsibility enjoins a lawyer from engaging in unlawful, dishonest
or deceitful conduct.4 The complementing Rule 7.03 of the Code, on the other hand, provides that "a
lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law." Respondent
had shown, through his dealing with the complainant involving a tiny parcel of land, a want of
professional honesty. Such misdeed reflects on the moral stuff which he is made of. His fitness to
continue in the advocacy of law and manage the legal affairs of others are thus put in serious doubt
too. The private nature of the transaction or the fact that the same was concluded without the
respondent taking advantage of his legal profession is really of little moment. For, a lawyer may be
suspended or disbarred for any misconduct, even if it pertains to his private activities, as long as it
shows him wanting in honesty, probity or good demeanor.