Sitaca v. Palomares : AC 5285 : April 14, 2004 : J. Vitug : Third
Division : Decision
A. C. No. 5285.
JUDGE NIMFA P. SITACA,
ATTY. DIEGO M. PALOMARES,
D E C I S I O N
Judge Nimfa Penaco-Sitaca seeks the disbarment of Atty. Diego M.
Palomares, Jr., for having filed a falsified bail bond.
Judge Nimfa Penaco-Sitaca was the Acting Presiding Judge of
Branch 35 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Ozamis City.
Among the cases in her sala was
Criminal Case No. RTC-1503 for murder against Dunhill Palomares, a son of Atty.
Diego M. Palomares, Jr., herein respondent.
Sometime in September 1997, Atty. Palomares, in representation of
Dunhill, filed a bail bond of P200,000.00 to secure the latters release.
The bail bond was purportedly signed and
approved by the late Judge Nazar U. Chavez, then Presiding Judge of RTC Branch
18 of Cagayan de Oro City, and with it was a corresponding order of release
signed by RTC Branch 18 Clerk of Court Atty. Glenn Peter C. Baldado.
When informed of the filing by Atty.
Palomares of the bail bond, ostensibly signed by Judge Chavez, Judge Sitaca
approved the release of the accused.
When RTC Branch 35 Clerk of Court Atty. Roy P. Murallon later
requested Atty. Baldado to forward to the Ozamis City RTC the original records
and supporting documents on the bail bond, Atty. Baldado, by then already a
practicing lawyer, disavowed the existence of the bail bond.
Atty. Baldado wrote to say that per the
official records of Cagayan de Oro RTC, Branch 18, the bail bond did not exist,
that no approval was made by Judge Chavez, and that no order for the release of
Dunhill was issued.
concluded that the bail bond was a forged document.
Judge Sitaca directed Atty. Palomares to explain.
In his letter to Judge Sitaca, Atty.
Palomares stated that he was the corporate legal counsel of Bentley House
International Corporation, and when the bail application was approved for
P200,000.00, he requested the amount from Jonathon Stevenz and Cristina Q.
Romarate, Chief Operations Officer and Treasurer, respectively, of Bentley
House International Corporation.
Instead of giving the money, Stevenz and Romarate proposed to utilize
the services of William Guialani.
Guialani then delivered the
release order, which Atty. Palomares immediately presented to the Branch 35
clerk of court of RTC Ozamis City.
clerk of court read the release order and then issued the corresponding order
for the release of Dunhill Palomares.
Atty. Palomares denied any wrongdoing in connection with the submission
of the falsified bail bond and offered, in any event, to replace the bail bond
with a cash bond.
Judge Sitaca, finding the explanation unsatisfactory, filed
disbarment proceedings against Atty. Palomares.
The Court, in its 02nd August 2000 resolution,
required Atty. Palomares to comment on the complaint for disbarment.
In his comment, Atty. Palomares reiterated
his previous explanation to Judge Sitaca.
In addition, he intimated that Judge Sitaca was covering up for the
negligence of her clerk of court.
claimed that Judge Sitaca was not around when the release order was issued
because it was a Saturday and only a skeletal force was in the office.
Atty. Palomares said that he had asked the
help of Atty. Manuel Ravanera to prove that the bail bond was secured by
Guialani who could have possibly been in cahoots with some court employees.
In its resolution of 19 March 2003, the Court referred the case
to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and
In a Report and Recommendation, dated 24 July 2003, Commissioner
Milagros V. San Juan held that there was no doubt that the bail bond and order
of release were "fictitious.
stated that while there was no conclusive proof that Atty. Palomares had been
the author of the fictitious bail and release order, it could not be denied,
however, that it was he who presented the papers to the court.
Atty. Palomares failed to satisfactorily
explain, she stated, why he had to take a circuitous route and secure the
services of Guialani despite his claim that he could have easily availed
himself of the facilities of other insurance companies.
She recommended that Atty. Palomares be
suspended from the practice of law for a period of eighteen (18) months.
The recommendation was adopted by the IBP
Board of Governors on 30 August 2003 in its Resolution No. XVI-2002-81.
Administrative complaints for disbarment are referred to the IBP
for formal investigation by the Court after an evaluation by it of the
pleadings submitted.1 An ex-parte investigation may only be conducted when the respondent fails to
appear despite reasonable notice.2 In this case, it would appear that
no investigation, not even just an ex-parte investigation, was conducted
by the Commission on Bar Discipline.
The prevailing procedure for investigation is that expressed in
Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court some pertinent provisions of which read:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
Duties of the
National Grievance Investigator. The National Grievance Investigators
shall investigate all complaints against members of the Integrated Bar referred
to them by the IBP Board of Governors.
x x x
dismissal. If the complaint appears to be meritorious, the Investigator
shall direct that a copy thereof be served upon the respondent, requiring him
to answer the same within fifteen (15) days from the date of service.
If the complaint does not merit action, or
if the answer shows to the satisfaction of the Investigator that the complaint
is not meritorious, the same may be dismissed by the Board of Governors upon
A copy of the
resolution of dismissal shall be furnished the complainant and the Supreme
Court which may review the case motu proprio or upon timely appeal of
the complainant filed within 15 days from notice of the dismissal of the
No investigation shall be interrupted or terminated by reason of
the desistance, settlement, compromise, restitution, withdrawal of the charges,
or failure of the complainant to prosecute the same.
x x x x x xx x x
Upon joinder of issues or upon failure of the respondent to answer, the
Investigator shall, with deliberate speed, proceed with the investigation of
He shall have the power to
issue subpoenas and administer oaths.
The respondent shall be given full opportunity to defend himself, to present
witnesses on his behalf and be heard by himself and counsel.
However, if upon reasonable notice, the
respondent fails to appear, the investigation shall proceed ex parte.
The Investigator shall terminate the investigation within three
(3) months from the date of its commencement, unless extended for good cause by
the Board of Governors upon prior application.
Willful failure to refusal to obey a subpoena or any other lawful
order issued by the Investigator shall be dealt with as for indirect contempt
The corresponding charge
shall be filed by the Investigator before the IBP Board of Governors which
shall require the alleged contemnor to show cause within ten (10) days from
The IBP Board of Governors may
thereafter conduct hearings, if necessary, in accordance with the procedure set
forth in this Rule for hearings before the Investigator.
Such hearing shall as far as practicable be
terminated within fifteen (15) days from its commencement.
Thereafter, the IBP Board of Governors shall
within a like period of fifteen (15) days issue a resolution setting forth its
findings and recommendations, which shall forthwith be transmitted to the
Supreme Court for final action and if warranted, the imposition of penalty.
The Court must call for the due observance of the foregoing
rules, and it is thus constrained to remand the case to the IBP for further
WHEREFORE, the instant
administrative case is REMANDED to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for
further proceedings; it is also directed to act on this referral with dispatch.
Sandoval-Gutierrez, Corona, and
Carpio-Morales, JJ., concur.
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