Ting-Dumali v. Torres : AC 5161 : Arpil 14, 2004 : Per Curiam : En Banc
[A.C. NO. 5161.
April 14, 2004]
ATTY. ROLANDO S. TORRES,
R E S O L U T I O N
In a Complaint-Affidavit1 filed on 22 October 1999 with this Court, complainant Isidra Ting-Dumali charges
respondent Atty. Rolando S. Torres with presentation of false testimony;
participation in, consent to, and failure to advise against, the forgery of
complainants signature in a purported Deed of Extrajudicial Settlement; and gross
misrepresentation in court for the purpose of profiting from such forgery, thereby
violating his oath as a lawyer and the canons of legal and judicial ethics.
The complainant is one of the six children of the late spouses
Julita Reynante and Vicente Ting.
siblings are Marcelina T. Rivera; Miriam T. Saria; Felicisima T. Torres, who is
married to herein respondent; Vicente Ting, Jr.; and Eliseo Ting.
Their parents diedintestate and left several parcels of land, to wit:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
a) One half of Lot 1586 of the San Francisco
de Malabon Estate, containing an area of 43,908 square meters more or less, and
covered at that time by TCT No. (T-6203) RT-19151 of the Registry of Deeds
b) Lot 1603 of the San Francisco de Malabon
Estate, containing an area of 16,073 square meters, more or less, and covered
at that time by TCT No. (T-6425) RT-7688 of the Registry of Deeds of Cavite;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
c) Lot 1605 of the San Francisco de Malabon
Estate, containing an area of 22,131 square meters, more or less and covered at
that time by TCT No. T- 1869 of the Registry of Deeds of Cavite.
According to the complainant, the respondent took advantage of
his relationship with her and her brothers and used his profession to deprive them
of what was lawfully due them even if it involved the commission of an illegal,
unlawful, or immoral act. She attributes to the respondent the following acts
participated in, consented to, and failed to advise against, the perjury
committed by his wife Felicisima and his sister-in-law Miriam when they executed
a Deed of
Extrajudicial Settlement of
11 November 1986, wherein
the two made it appear that they were the sole heirs of the late spouses Julita
Reynante and Vicente Ting, knowing fully well that the same was false. He
presented that document to the Register of Deeds of Cavite for the transfer of
the title over Lot No. 1586 in the names of his wife and Miriam. The lot was
later sold to Antel Holdings Inc. for
P1,195,400. Payment was already
made to, and received by, Felicisima and Miriam.
participated in, consented to, and failed to advise against, the forgery of complainants
signature in a purported Deed of Extrajudicial Settlement dated 17 March 1995 involving
Lot 1603 when he knew that she was in Italy at that time working as an overseas
contract worker. He even presented the falsified document to the Register of
of Cavite to transfer the title
over the property in favor of his wife Felicisima and sister-in-law Marcelina.
The forgery or falsification was made to enable them to sell Lot 1603 to Antel
Payment was received and
misappropriated by Felicisima
3.In LRC Rec. No. 5964
entitled In Re:Petition for Judicial Reconstitution of the Original Copy and
Owners Duplicate Copy of TCT No. T-1869 Covering Lot No. 1605 of the Registry
of Deeds for the Province of Cavite, filed by complainants sisters Marcelina
and Felicisima on 24 October 1995, the respondent made gross misrepresentation
and offered false testimony to the effect that Marcelina and Felicisima are the
only children and legal heirs of the late spouses Vicente Ting and Julita
Reynante for the purpose of obtaining a new title in their names. With the
reconstituted title, and with the express conformity of the respondent, Felicisima
and Marcelina were able to sell Lot 1605
Antel Holdings, Inc., for
profited from the sale
to the exclusion of their other siblings. Partial
payment was even received
4.On 20 November 1996, the
respondent made gross and false misrepresentations for the purpose of profiting
therefrom when he requested the buyer through a certain Mrs. Ong to release the
full payment for Lot 1605 under the pretense that the order of reconstitution would
be released within a month when he knew that it would be impossible because he
presented evidence in the reconstitution case only on 12 August 1997.
To facilitate the release of the money, he
even used the stationery of the Philippine National Bank, of which he was an
In his Comment,2 the respondent denies the allegations of the complaint and asserts that he did
not take advantage of his profession to deprive any of the co-heirs of his wife
of the estate left by his parents-in-law.
Insofar as Lot 1586 is concerned, the respondent affirms that
Felicisima and Miriam were not motivated by any desire to solely profit from
the sale. Neither can he be faulted by the execution of the Deed of
Extrajudicial Settlement dated 17 March 1995 involving Lot 1603 because he had
no part in the execution of the document. All the while he believed in good
faith that the Ting sisters had already agreed on how to dispose of the said
lot. If ever complainants signature was affixed on that document, it was done
in good faith.
The respondent admits that he was the counsel of Marcelina Ting
Rivera, et. al., in LRC Case No. 5964 for the reconstitution of TCT No. T-1869.
The false testimony of Marcelina in
that case that she and Felicisima were the only children of spouses Vicente
Ting and Julita Reynante could not be faulted on him because such was a clear
oversight. Moreover, the sale of Lot 1605 to Antel Holdings, Inc., was the
decision of Marcelina and his wife.
conformity through his signature was pro-forma
because the property was a paraphernal property of Marcelina and his wife.
Anent his alleged gross and false misrepresentation that the order of
reconstitution would be released by the end of November 1996, suffice it to say
that the assurance was made by the Clerk of Court, Mr. Rosauro Morabe. Besides,
petitions for reconstitution are usually uncontested and granted by courts.
Finally, the respondent believes that complainant intended to
harass him in bombarding him with numerous lawsuits, i.e., this
administrative case; Civil Case No. TM-855 for Annulment of Documents, Titles, and Reconveyance plus Damages; and a criminal case for Estafa and
Falsification of Public Documents.
In her reply, the complainant denies the presence of toka
or verbal will allegedly made by her mother and allegedly implemented by their eldest
brother Eliseo in view of the following circumstances: (1) her mother met a
sudden death in 1967; and partition of the properties in total disregard of
their father was morally reprehensible, since the latter was still alive; (2)
when their mother died, four of the siblings were still minors including
respondents wife herself; (3) on 5 February 2000, Eliseo wrote his siblings,
in response to the previous letter of Felicisima, Marcelina, and Miriam,
denying the existence of a toka. She further states that the respondent
was not merely a passive onlooker but, as he admitted, the administrator of the
properties of the Ting spouses.
On 14 June 2000, this Court referred the case to the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report, and recommendation or
On 9 January 2003, after due hearing and consideration of the
issues presented by both parties, Investigating Commissioner Milagros V. San
Juan of the Commission on Bar Discipline of the IBP found the actuations of the
respondent to be violative of Rules 1.01 and 1.02 of Canon 1 and Rule 10.01 of
Canon 10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Thus she recommended that
the respondent be disbarred from the practice of law.4 cralawred
In its Resolution No. XV-2003-3335 of 21 June 2003, the Board of Governors of the IBP approved and adopted
Commissioner San Juans report, but reduced the penalty to suspension from the
practice of law for six years.
We fully agree with the Investigating Commissioner in her
findings of facts and conclusion of culpability. The respondent has sufficiently
demonstrated that he is morally and legally unfit to remain in the exclusive
and honorable fraternity of the legal profession. In his long years as a lawyer,
he must have forgotten his sworn pledge as a lawyer. It is time once again that the Court inculcate in the hearts of
all lawyers that pledge; thus:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
do solemnly swear that I will maintain allegiance to
the Republic of the Philippines; I will support its Constitution and obey the
laws as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities therein; I
will do no falsehood, nor consent to its commission; I will not wittingly or
willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit nor give aid
nor consent to the same; I will delay no man for money or malice, and will
conduct myself as a lawyer according to the best of my knowledge and discretion
with all good fidelity as well to the courts as to my clients; and I impose
upon myself this voluntary obligation without any mental reservation or purpose
SO HELP ME GOD.
This oath to which all lawyers have subscribed in solemn
agreement to dedicate themselves to the pursuit of justice is not a mere
ceremony or formality for practicing law
to be forgotten afterwards; nor is it mere words, drift and hollow, but
a sacred trust that lawyers must uphold and keep inviolable at all times.
By swearing the lawyers oath, they become
guardians of truth and the rule of law, as well as instruments in the fair and
impartial dispensation of justice.6 This oath is firmly echoed and reflected in
the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
CANON 1 A lawyer shall uphold the constitution, obey the laws of
the land and promote respect for law and for legal processes.
Rule 1.01 A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest,
immoral or deceitful conduct.
Rule 1.02 A lawyer shall not counsel or abet activities aimed at
defiance of the law or at lessening confidence in the legal system.
CANON 7 A lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and
dignity of the legal profession, and support the activities of the Integrated
Rule 7.03 A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely
reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor should he, whether in public or
private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal
CANON 10 A lawyer owes candor, fairness and good faith to the
Rule 10.01 A lawyer shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to
the doing of any in court; nor shall he mislead or allow the court to be misled
by any artifice.
All of these underscore the role of a lawyer as the vanguard of
our legal system. When the respondent took the oath as a member of the legal
profession, he made a solemn promise to so stand by his pledge. In this
covenant, respondent miserably failed.
The records show that Felicisima and Miriam stated in the
Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate dated 11 November 1986
that they are the children of Julita
Reynante and thus adjudicated only between them Lot No. 1586 to the exclusion
of their other siblings.7 There was concealment of the fact that there were other compulsory heirs to the
estate of the deceased. Significantly, the respondent is the brother-in-law of
complainant. Being married to complainants sister, he knew of his wifes
siblings. In fact, he declared that the complainant stayed with them while she
was in the Philippines.8 Yet, the respondent presented that document to the Register of Deeds of General
Trias, Cavite, to effect the transfer of the title of the lot in question in
the name of his wife and his sister-in-law Miriam.
It also bears noting that the respondent was consulted9 regarding the falsification of complainants signature in the Extrajudicial
Settlement10 dated 17 March 1995 involving Lot 1603, which contains a purported waiver by
the complainant of her right over the property. Marcelina admitted that she
signed complainants name in that document.11 Such act of counterfeiting the complainants signature to make it appear that
the complainant had participated in the execution of that document is
tantamount to falsification of a public document.12 cralawred
Instead of advising Marcelina to secure a written special power
of attorney and against committing falsification, he presented13 such document to the Registry of Deeds to secure a new title for the lot in
favor of Marcelina and his wife.14 He himself, therefore, may also be held liable for knowingly using a falsified
document to the damage of the complainant and her other co-heirs.15 Notably, he also admitted in an affidavit dated 22 May 1995 that he prepared
the legal documents for the transfer of Lot 1603.16 cralawred
Respondent did not advise his wife and his sisters-in-law from
doing acts which are contrary to law.
must have kept in mind the first and foremost duty of a lawyer, which is to
maintain allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines, uphold the Constitution, and obey the laws of the land. The Code of Professional Responsibility
underscores the primacy of such duty by providing as its canon that a lawyer
shall uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land, and promote respect
for law and legal processes.17 For a lawyer is the servant of the law and belongs to a profession to which
society has entrusted the administration of law and the dispensation of
justice.18 As such, he should make himself more an exemplar for others to emulate.19 He should not, therefore, engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral, or deceitful
conduct.20 He makes himself unfit to remain in the profession who commits any such
unbecoming act or conduct.21 cralawred
Respondents argument that the non-declaration by his wife and
his sister- in-law Marcelina of the other siblings in LRC Rec. No. 5964 for the
reconstitution of title involving Lot 1605 was a mere oversight does not
deserve credence in view of the following circumstances: First, the petition clearly names only Felicisima and Marcelina as the
petitioners when there were six siblings who were heirs of the unpartitioned
lot.22 Second, during the hearing of said
case when the respondent asked Marcelina whether she has brothers and sisters
other than Felicisima, the latter said none. The transcript of that hearing
QMadame Witness, are you
the only child or daughter of the deceased Sps. Vicente Ting, Jr. and Julita
We are two, Felicisima Torres and I.
QDo you have other
brothers and sisters?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
ANone, sir.23 cralawred
The respondent allowed Marcelina to commit a crime by giving false
testimony24 in court, and he never corrected the same despite full knowledge of the true
facts and circumstances of the case.25 Moreover, in knowingly offering in evidence such false testimony, he himself
may be punished as guilty of false testimony.26 cralawred
Moreover, under Canon 10 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, a lawyer owes candor, fairness, and good faith to the court.
He shall not do any falsehood, nor consent
to the doing of any in court; nor shall he mislead or allow the court to be
misled by any artifice.27 This Rule was clearly and openly
violated by the respondent when he permitted Marcelina to falsely testify that
she had no siblings aside from Felicisima and when he offered such testimony in
the petition for reconstitution of the title involving Lot 1605.
The respondent must have forgotten that as an attorney he is an
officer of the court called upon to assist in the administration of justice.
Like the court itself, he is an instrument to advance its cause.
For this reason, any act on his part that
obstructs and impedes the administration of justice constitutes misconduct and
justifies disciplinary action against him.28 cralawred
It may not be amiss to mention that to further support the
reconstitution, he offered in evidence an Affidavit of Loss, which was executed
by Marcelina and notarized by him. During the hearing of this administrative
case, Marcelina admitted that her statement in that affidavit that the title
was in her possession was false, as she was never in possession of the title29 and would not, therefore, know that the same was lost.
Moreover, in a letter dated 20 November 1996 addressed to a
certain Mrs. Ong, the respondent requested the release of 50% of the remaining
balance for the sale of Lot 1605, relaying to Antel Holdings, Inc., through
Mrs. Ong that he was assured by the Clerk of Court that the order directing the
reconstitution of title for Lot 1605 would be released within the month.30 Respondents information was misleading because he presented evidence only on
12 August 1997, or almost a year after he sent the letter.31 Such act, therefore, shows lack of candor and honesty on the part of the respondent.
Respondents acts or omissions reveal his moral flaws and doubtless
bring intolerable dishonor to the legal profession.They constitute gross misconduct for which he may be disbarred or
suspended pursuant to Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, which
Sec. 27. Disbarmentor
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 the admission to practice, or for a willful
of any lawful order of a
superior court, or for corruptly or willfully appearing as an 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.
In the determination of the imposable disciplinary sanction
against an erring lawyer, we take into account the primary purpose of
disciplinary proceedings, which is to protect the administration of justice by
requiring that those who exercise this important function shall be competent,
honorable, and reliable men in whom courts and clients may repose confidence.32 While the assessment of what sanction may be imposed is primarily addressed to
our sound discretion, the sanction should neither be arbitrary or despotic, nor
motivated by personal animosity or prejudice. Rather, it should ever be controlled by the imperative need to
scrupulously guard the purity and independence of the bar.33 cralawred
Thus, the supreme penalty of disbarment is meted out only in
clear cases of misconduct that seriously affect the standing and character of
the lawyer as an officer of the court and member of the bar.
We will not hesitate to remove an erring
attorney from the esteemed brotherhood of lawyers where the evidence calls for
it.34 Verily, given the peculiar factual circumstances prevailing in this case, we
find that respondents gross misconduct calls for the severance of his
privilege to practice law for life, and we therefore adopt the penalty recommended
by the Investigating Commissioner.
IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, we find respondent Atty.
Rolando S. Torres guilty of gross misconduct and violation of the lawyers oath,
as well as Canons 1 and 10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, thereby rendering
him unworthy of continuing membership in the legal profession.
He is thus ordered DISBARREDfrom the practice of law, and his name is ordered
stricken off the Roll of Attorneys, effective immediately.
Let copies of this Resolution be furnished the Office of the Bar
Confidant, which shall forthwith record it in the personal files of the respondent;
all the courts of the Philippines; the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, which
shall disseminate copies thereof to all its Chapters; and all administrative
and quasi-judicial agencies of the Republic of the Philippines.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Vitug, Panganiban, Quisumbing,
Ynares-ASntiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-martinez, Corona,
Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, and
TINGA, JJ., concur.
Per the Report and Recommendation of Commissioner Milagros V. San Juan of the
IBP Commission on Bar Discipline; Rollo
Notice of Resolution signed by Jaime M. Vibar, National Secretary, IBP
Commission on Bar Discipline Board of Governors; Rollo
TSN, 25 September 2001, 76-78.
TSN, 30 May 2002, 20-21.
in relation to Art. 171, Revised Penal Code.
TSN, 4 April 2002, 37-38; TSN, 11 April 2002, 28-29.
in relation to Art. 171, Revised Penal Code.
Art. 172, last paragraph, in relation to Art. 171, Revised Penal Code.
Exh. R-1, Original Records (OR),
Vol. II, 65.
Canon 1, Code of Professional Responsibility.
Ruben E. Agpalo, Legal ethics 61
citing Comments of the IBP Committee that drafted
the Code of Professional Responsibility, pp. 1-2 (1980).
Rule 1.01, Code of Professional Responsibility; Collantes v
A.C. No. 3056, 16 August 1991, 200 SCRA 584.
In re Gutierrez, 115 Phil. 647, 651 (1962).
Art. 182, Revised Penal Code.
TSN, 16 May 2002, 33-35.
Art. 184, Revised Penal Code.
Rule 10.01, Code of Professional Responsibility.
. Jardin, 209 Phil. 134, 142 (1983).
TSN, 16 May 2002, 13-23.
TSN, 25 September 2001, 72.
In re MacDougall, 3 Phil. 70, 78 (1903).
In re Almacen, No. L-27654, 18 February 1970, 31 SCRA 562, 602.
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