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Abaqueta vs. Florido

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LEGAL ETHICS
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   ABAQUETA v. FLORIDOYNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:  This is an administrative complaint[1] against Atty. Bernardito A. Florido fled with the Integrated Bar o the Philippines IBP! ommission on Bar #iscipline$ praying that appropriate sanctions %e imposed on respondent or representing con&icting interests. omplainant is a Filipino %y %irth who had ac'(ired American citi)enship. *e resides at 1+,+- . 1+th /ay$ Phoeni0$ Ari)ona ,+22$ 3.4.A. 5espondent is a practicing lawyer %ased in e%( ity.6n ovem%er 2,$ 17,8$ complainant engaged the proessional services o respondent thro(gh his attorney9in9act$ :rs. harito ;. Baclig$ to represent him in 4pecial Proceedings o. 87<195$ entitled$ =Inthe :atter o the Intestate >state o #eceased Boniacia A%a'(eta$[2] 4(sana 3y Tra)o$ petitioner? %eore the 5egional Trial co(rt o e%(.[8]Accordingly$ respondent entered his appearance in 4pecial Proceedings o. 87<195 as co(nsel or herein complainant.[@] 4(%se'(ently$ he fled complainants =6%ections and omments to Inventory and Acco(nting$? registering complainants o%ection C. . . to the incl(sion o the properties (nder Items 1 to + contained in the inventory o the administratri0dated ovem%er 7$ 17,8. These properties are the sole and e0cl(sive properties o the oppositor per the latest ta0 declarations already marDed as >0hi%its =2?$ =8$ =@?$ =+? and =-? in the Formal 6Eer o >0hi%its %y oppositor in writing dated A(g(st 1<$ 17,8 000.[+]4everal years later$ :ilagros ;ap A%a'(eta fled an action or s(m o money against complainant$ docDeted as ivil ase o. >B911@+8 and entitled$ =:ilagros ;ap A%a'(eta vs. amaliel A%a'(eta and asiano erona.?[-] 5espondent signed the omplaint as co(nsel or plaintiE :ilagros ;ap A%a'(eta$ averring$ inter alia$ thatGPlaintiE and deendant amaliel A%a'(eta are the con(gal owners o those certain parcels o land$ more partic(larly as ollowsH The =parcels o land? reerred to as con(gal property o complainant and :ilagros ;ap9A%a'(eta are the very same parcels o land in 4pecial Proceedings o. 87<195 which respondent$ as lawyer o complainant$ alleged as the =sole and e0cl(sive properties? o complainant. In short$ respondent lawyer made allegations in ivil ase o. >B911@+8 which were contrary to and in direct con&ict with his averments as co(nsel or complainant in 4pecial Proceedings o. 87<195. omplainant (rther averred that respondent admitted he was never a(thori)ed %y the ormer to appear as co(nsel or complainants e09wie in ivil ase o. >B911@+8 that respondent ailed to indicate in the omplaint the tr(e and correct address o herein complainant$ which respondent Dnew as ar %acD as A(g(st 2$ 177$ when he wrote a letter to the complainant at the said address.[<] onse'(ently$ complainant ailed to receive s(mmons and was declared in dea(lt in ivil ase o. >B911@+8. /hile the order o dea(lt was event(ally set aside$ complainant inc(rred e0penses to travel to the Philippines$ which were conservatively estimated at J1$.. *e arg(es that respondents cond(ct constit(te proessional miscond(ct and malpractice as well as tri&ing with co(rt processes.In his deense$ respondent claims in his Answer[,] that he always acted in good aith in his proessional relationship with complainant in spite o the act that they have not personally met. *e %ased the matters he wrote in the omplaint on inormation and doc(ments s(pplied %y :rs. harito ;.Baclig$ complainants sister9in9law and attorney9in9act$ indicating that he was sole and e0cl(sive ownero the properties. This was sometime in ovem%er 17,8. o aKdavit o ad(dication was ever  (rnished respondent %y complainant and this was apparently s(ppressed %eca(se it wo(ld show that the properties ormed part o the estate.>ight years later$ in ovem%er 1771$ long ater 4pecial Proceedings o. 87<195 was settled and the attorney9client relationship %etween complainant and respondent was terminated$ :rs. :ilagros A%a'(eta thro(gh :rs. Baclig$ engaged his services to fle ivil ase o. >B911@+8. :rs. Baclig presented to him a deed o a%sol(te sale dated L(ly <$ 17<+$[7] showing that the properties s(%ect hereo were not complainants e0cl(sive property %(t his con(gal property with his wie$ the same having %een ac'(ired d(ring the s(%sistence o their marriage. Th(s$ in all good aith$ respondent alleged in the complaint that said properties were con(gal assets o the spo(ses.5espondent (rther pointed o(t that his law frm handles on the average eighty new co(rt cases ann(ally and personally interviews o(r or fve clients$ prospective clients andMor witnesses daily e0cept 4at(rdays and 4(ndays. It reg(larly closes to the p(%lic at <G p.m.$ %(t worD contin(es sometimes (ntil ,G8 p.m. This has %een going on or the last twenty9fve years o(t o respondents thirty9three years o private practice. The a%sence o personal contact with complainant and the lapse o eight years res(lted in the oversight andMor lapse o respondents memory that complainant was a ormer client. F(rthermore$ the caption o the 4pecial Proceeding was not in the name o complainant %(t was entitled$ =In the :atter o the Intestate >state o Boniacia Payahay A%a'(eta.?5espondent e0pressed regret over the oversight and averred that immediately ater discovering that he ormerly represented complainant in 4pecial Proceeding o. 87<195$ he fled a motion to withdraw as co(nsel or plaintiE$ which was granted %y the trial co(rt.[1] *e denied any malice in his acts and alleged that it is not in his character to do malice or alsehood partic(larly in the e0ercise o his proession.In his ommentsM6%servations on 5espondents Answer$[11] complainant averred that respondents cond(ct was geared towards ins(ring a co(rt victory or :ilagros ;ap in ivil ase o. >B911@+8$ wherein he deli%erately stated that complainants address was 728 5iverside Nodge #rive$ *o(ston$  Te0as$ <<,8$ 3.4.A.$ when he Dnew (lly well that complainants tr(e and correct address was cMo O.A. *ospital$ <th 4treet  Italian 4chool 5oad$ Phoeni0$ Ari)ona$ ,+18$ 3.4.A. By alsely stating and concealing his tr(e and correct address$ respondent event(ally s(cceeded in o%taining a dea(lt  (dgment in avor o his client.#(ring the pendency o these proceedings %eore the IBP$ it appeared that respondents son got married to the da(ghter o IBP ational President Arth(r #. Nim. Th(s$ Atty. Nim inhi%ited himsel rom participating in the resol(tion o the case.[12] 4(%se'(ently$ a 5esol(tion was iss(ed re'(iring the IBPto elevate the entire records o the case within thirty 8! days rom notice.[18] The main iss(e to %e resolved in the case at %ar is whether or not respondent violated 5(le 1+.8 o the ode o Proessional 5esponsi%ility. The investigating commissioner o(nd that respondent clearly violated the prohi%ition against representing con&icting interests and recommended that he %e s(spended rom the practice o law or a period o three 8! months. /e fnd the recommendation well9taDen.5(le 1+.8 o the ode o Proessional 5esponsi%ility e0plicitly provides that C53N> 1+.8. C A lawyer shall not represent con&icting interests e0cept %y written consent o all concerned given ater a (ll disclos(re o the acts. There is a con&ict o interest i there is an inconsistency in the interests o two or more opposing parties. The test is whether or not in %ehal o one client$ it is the lawyers d(ty to fght or an iss(e or  claim %(t it is his d(ty to oppose it or the other client.[1@] In short$ i he arg(es or one client$ this arg(ment will %e opposed %y him when he arg(es or the other client.[1+] There is a representation o con&icting interests i the acceptance o the new retainer will re'(ire the attorney to do anything which will in(rio(sly aEect his frst client in any matter in which he represents him and also whether he will %e called (pon in his new relation$ to (se against his frst client any Dnowledge ac'(ired thro(gh their connection.[1-]As pointed o(t %y the investigating commissioner$ respondent does not deny that he represented complainant in 4pecial Proceedings o. 87<195. *e also does not deny that he is the lawyer o :ilagros ;ap A%a'(eta in ivil ase o. >B911@+8$ fled against complainant and involving the same properties which were litigated in 4pecial Proceedings o. 87<195. 5espondent also admitted that he did not sec(re the consent o complainant %eore he agreed to act as :ilagros ;ap A%a'(etas lawyer in ivil ase o. >B911@+8. The reasons proEered %y respondent are hardly pers(asive to e0c(se his clear representation o con&icting interests in this case. First$ the investigating commissioner o%served that the name =amaliel A%a'(eta? is not a common name. 6nce heard$ it will s(rely ring a %ell in ones mind i he came across the name again. In this case$ respondent actively prosec(ted the ca(se o complainant in4pecial Proceedings o. 87<195$ s(ch that it wo(ld %e impossi%le or respondent not to have recalled his name.4econd$ ass(ming arg(endo that respondents memory was indeed a(lty$ still it is incredi%le that he co(ld not recall that complainant was his client$ considering that :rs. harito Baclig$ who was complainants attorney9in9act and the go9%etween o complainant and respondent in 4pecial Proceedings o. 87<195$ was the same person who %ro(ght :ilagros ;ap A%a'(eta to him. >ven a person o average intelligence wo(ld have made the connection %etween :rs. Baclig and complainant (nder s(ch circ(mstances.Nastly$ the act that the s(%ect matter o ivil ase o. >B911@+8 and 4pecial Proceedings o. 87<195 are the same properties co(ld not have escaped the attention o respondent. /ith s(ch an a%(ndance o circ(mstances to aid respondents memory$ it simply strains cred(lity or him to have conveniently orgotten his past engagement as complainants lawyer. /hat rather appears$ given the prevailing acts o this case$ is that he chose to ignore them on the ass(mption that the long period o time spanning his past and present engagement wo(ld eEectively %l(r the memories o the parties to s(ch a discrepancy.It is a0iomatic that no lawyer is o%liged to act either as adviser or advocate or every person who may wish to %ecome his client. *e has the right to decline s(ch employment$[1<] s(%ect$ however$ to anon 1@ o the ode o Proessional 5esponsi%ility.[1,] 6nce he agrees to taDe (p the ca(se o the client$ the lawyer owes fdelity to s(ch ca(se and m(st always %e mind(l o the tr(st and confdence reposed in him.[17] *e m(st serve the client with competence and diligence[2] and champion the latters ca(se with wholehearted fdelity$ care and devotion.[21]A lawyer may not$ witho(t %eing g(ilty o proessional miscond(ct$ act as co(nsel or a person whose interest con&icts with that o his ormer client.[22] The reason or the prohi%ition is o(nd in the relation o attorney and client which is one o tr(st and confdence o the highest degree.[28] Indeed$ as we stated in 4i%(lo v. a%rera$[2@] =The relation o attorney and client is %ased on tr(st$ so that do(%le dealing$ which co(ld sometimes lead to treachery$ sho(ld %e avoided.?[2+] redence cannot$ however$ %e given to the charge that respondent ra(d(lently and malicio(sly alsifed the tr(e and correct address o the complainant notwithstanding respondents Dnowledge thereo. Nawyers normally do not have Dnowledge o the personal circ(mstances o a party in a case and (s(ally rely on the inormation s(pplied %y their clients. The act that respondent sent a letter to complainant at the latters correct address[2-] si0teen months %eore the fling o ivil ase o. >B9  11@+8 does not %y itsel prove malice on the part o respondent. A new address was (rnished %y :ilagros ;ap A%a'(eta days %eore the complaint was fled. 5espondent had no reason to do(%t the correctness o the address o the complainant given to him %y :ilagros ;ap A%a'(eta considering that she was complainants wie./*>5>F65>$ Atty. Bernardito A. Florido is 434P>#># rom the practice o law or Three 8! months. *e is (rther A#:6I4*># to e0ercise greater care and diligence in the perormance o his d(ties towards his clients and the co(rt. *e is warned that a repetition o the same or similar oEense will %e dealt with more severely.46 65#>5>#.

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Jul 26, 2017
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