Ricafort v. Bansil : AC 6298 : May 27, 2004 : J. Austria-Martinez :
Second Division : Resolution
[A.C. NO. 6298 : May 27, 2004]
FEDERICO D. RICAFORT, Complainant, v. ATTY. EDDIE R. BANSIL, Respondent.
R E S O L U T I O N
On March 17, 2003, Atty. Federico D. Ricafort filed with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
(IBP) ,a verified complaint against respondent Atty. Eddie R. Bansil for
misconduct and for violation of theConstitution on the right of the people to information
on matters of public concern and R.A. No. 6713, otherwise known as the Code of
Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
The case, docketed as CBD Case No. 03-1071,
was referred by the Commission on Bar Discipline to Investigating Commissioner Rebecca Villanueva-Maala for investigation,
report and recommendation.
The factual and procedural antecedents are summarized by the
Investigating Commissioner as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
Complainant alleged that respondent has been commissioned as a
Notary Public for Guagua, Pampanga, with the obligation to submit his notarial
book and documents every month and each time he applies for a re-commission to
the Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court of Guagua, Pampanga.
According to the RTC Clerk of Court of Guagua, Atty. Jorge Bacani
respondent submitted his notarial book and documents but the
same were returned to him for safekeeping considering that there was no space
in the Office of the Clerk of Court to accommodate the notarial books and
documents. However, they are required to bring them to the Clerk of Court when
needed for inspection/verification of documents upon request.
Complainant has requested the Clerk of Court, Atty. Bacani, to send
word to respondent that he wanted to verify some documents purportedly
notarized by respondent particularly the documents contained in Notarial Book
No XV, Series of 2002 and to bring the same to the Office of the Clerk of
Court. The request was made to respondent on several occasions, the last of
which was on 20 May 2003. Atty. Bacani repeatedly called up respondent
regarding the request of complainant but respondent repeatedly failed and
refused to heed the request.
On 20 February 2003, complainant sent a formal letter reiterating
his request to examine respondents Notarial Book XV, Series of 2002 for
verification purposes at the office of the clerk of court on 28 February 2003.
However, despite the fact that respondent received the said letter on 3 March
2003, respondent still failed and refused the request without any justifiable
reason and did not even responded (sic) to the said letter.
Hence, this complaint.
In his Answer, respondent states that there was no failure and
refusal to heed the request, and the reason of inability to bring for
verification the said Notarial Book CXV, Series of 2002 is the fact of lost
(sic) thereof attributable to heavy flooding from July 6 to 20, 2002.
The letter-request was lately shown to him by a member of his
household, however, complainant did not mention any particular document or he
could have readily extended the desired help for verification or certification.
Respondent contends that he is ready and willing to be of help to complainant
if shown the particular document necessitating verification and/or
Complainant claims that how can respondent help verify the
genuineness or veracity of the documents notarized by him, if respondent
alleged that the same were lost in a flood. Complainant avers that the
certification issued as to the existence of flood in Guagua, Pampanga in 6 to
20 July 2002 deals only with the flood in the town proper and did not say that
the house of respondent in San Antonio, Guagua, was hit by the flood.
The streets were flooded but not the house
of respondent which is situated on a higher ground.The town of Guagua, Pampanga has been perennially flooded during
rainy season for which reason respondent who had to bring his notarial books at
his house in San Antonio, Guagua, could have guarded the same against such
A Notary Public should
always place his books and documents in a safe place at his residence,
otherwise this could aggravate the suspicion that he was grossly negligent in
keeping his books which are public documents and destruction of public
documents is punishable by law.
At the hearing held on 4 June 2003 only complainant appeared.
Respondents notice for the reason of his
absence was belatedly received by the office.
Parties were directed to submit their Position Paper and thereafter the
case was submitted for report and recommendation.
In her Report and Recommendation submitted to the IBP Board of
Governors, Commissioner Villanueva-Maala found the respondent administratively
liable for his failure to attend to the request of complainant to look into his
notarial book and recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of
law for a period of one year.
In its resolution dated October 25, 2003, the IBP Board of
Governors adopted the findings of Commissioner Villanueva-Maala but reduced the
recommended penalty to a mere reprimand; and referred the same to this Court.
Except for the penalty recommended, the Court agrees with the
findings of the IBP Board of Governors that respondent should be held
administratively liable for not attending to complainants request to look into
his notarial book.
Before delving into the main issue of the case, we deem it proper
to discuss two preliminary matters.
First, it is noted that at the hearing scheduled on June 4, 2003,
only the complainant appeared.1 As a matter of procedure, the Investigating Commissioner should have proceeded
with the investigation ex parte pursuant to the provisions of Section 8,
Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court.2 The Investigating Commissioner should have required the complainant to present
evidence to substantiate his allegations. However, instead of proceeding with
the hearing, the Investigating Commissioner issued an order requiring both
parties to submit their respective memoranda within 15 days from the date of
issuance of the order, with respect to the complainant, and within 15 days from
notice with respect to respondent.
Despite due receipt of the said order on June 18, 2003, respondent
failed to submit the required memorandum. The Investigating Commissioners
Report and Recommendation was dated September 16, 2003 while the resolution of
the IBP Board of Governors adopting and approving said Report and
Recommendation was passed on October 25, 2003.
The records of the case do not show that from June 18, 2003 until
October 25, 2003, respondent had taken any action or that he submitted the
is deemed to have waived not only his right to file said memorandum but also
the right to a hearing.
Second, the complaint against respondent is in connection with
the discharge of his functions as a notary public, and not as an elected
Thus, the Code of
Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees invoked by
complainant will not apply to the present administrative complaint against
Respondent, as a lawyer and
a notary public, is covered by the Code of Professional Responsibility and Code
of Professional Ethics.
Coming to the main issue in the instant case, despite absence of
reception of evidence, as required by Sec. 8, Rule 139-B, Rules of Court, we
find the following admissions made by the respondent in his Answer to the
complaint, to wit:
(1) He has been commissioned as a Notary Public
for Guagua, Pampanga with obligation to submit his notarial book and documents
every month and each time he applies for a commission to the Clerk of Court,
Regional Trial Court of Guagua, Pampanga;3
(2) His notarial books covering 2001-2002 were
presented before the Clerk of Court for the renewal of his notarial commission
for the succeeding year but was returned to him after verification because of
limited working space in the office of the Clerk of Court which is shared by
Branch 53, RTC, Guagua, Pampanga;4
(3) He was notified by Clerk of Court Bacani
regarding the request of complainant to examine some notarized documents in his
notarial book;5 cralawred
sufficient to hold him liable for
violating the Code of Professional Responsibility.
Respondent likewise admitted in his Answer that he received
complainants letter-request dated February 20, 2003. However, he claims that
said letter-request was belatedly shown to him by a member of his
We find this a lame excuse.
Granting that complainants letter-request was belatedly shown to respondent,
elementary rules of courtesy still dictate that respondent should have, at the
least, responded to complainants request to look at his notarial book. This is
expected from respondent especially when the one requesting is a colleague in
the same profession. Moreover, respondent admitted that Clerk of Court Bacani
had earlier notified him of the request of complainant.
Respondent simply ignored the requests of
both complainant and Clerk of Court Bacani.
Even if the subject notarial book was, as claimed by him, indeed
lost by reason of flooding in his place of residence, although there is no
evidence to prove this belated self-serving assertion, respondent could have
easily written a letter or called up Clerk of Court Bacani to inform him of
such loss so that the complainant may be informed thereof in due time.
Respondent further contends that he could have easily helped
complainant had the latter personally gone to see him and showed him the
particular document that needed to be verified.Respondents contention and inaction smacks of arrogance and
dereliction of his duty to bring the notarial books and documents to the Clerk
of Court upon request of the latter. Worse, it speaks of his failure to live up
to the exacting standards of conduct demanded from each and every member of the
legal profession as mandated by the Code of Professional Responsibility and the
Code of Professional Ethics.
Canon 8 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides that
a lawyer shall conduct himself with courtesy, fairness and candor toward his
professional colleagues and shall avoid harassing tactics against opposing
Canon 22 of the Canons of
Professional Ethics provides that the conduct of a lawyer before the court and
with other lawyers should be characterized by candor and fairness.
Indeed, the obligations of a member of the
bar include the observance of honorable, candid and courteous dealing with
other lawyers, fidelity to known and recognized customs and practices of the
profession, and performance of duties to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.6 cralawred
Thus, respondent is guilty of unprofessional conduct.
Unprofessional conduct in an attorney is
that which violates the rules or ethical code of his profession or which is
unbecoming a member of that profession.7 cralawred
Under the circumstances, a mere reprimand is not sufficient.
We deem it proper to impose on respondent a
fine in the amount of
P5,000.00 not only for his unprofessional conduct
but also because his unjustified failure to heed complainants request or to
inform complainant or the Clerk of Court that the subject notarial books were
lost in the flood, forced the latter to go to the extent of filing the instant
administrative case thereby wasting the time and resources not only of the
complainant and the IBP, but also of the Court.
WHEREFORE, we find
respondent Atty. Eddie R. Bansil GUILTY OF UNPROFESSIONAL CONDUCT and FINED in
the amount of Five Thousand Pesos (
with a warning that a
commission of the same or similar acts in the future will be dealt with more
Once again, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines is admonished
to see to it that Section 8, Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court is observed by
its Investigating Commissioners.
Quisumbing, (Acting Chairman),
Callejo, Sr., and TINGA, JJ., concur.
Puno, (Chairman), J., on
1 Respondent filed by registered mail an Urgent Ex-Parte Motion for Postponement
on June 2, 2003, which was received by the IBP only on June 16, 2003.
2 Sec. 8. Investigation. Upon joinder of issues or upon failure of the
respondent to answer, the Investigator shall, with deliberate speed, proceed
with the investigation of the case. He shall have the power to issue subpoenas
and administer oaths. The respondent shall be given full opportunity to defend
himself, to present witness 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. (Emphasis supplied)cralawlibrary
3 Paragraph 2, Answer, p. 8, Rollo.
4 Id., Annex 1, p. 11, Rollo.
5 Paragraph 3, Answer, p. 5, Rollo.
6 Legal Ethics, Agpalo, Fourth Edition, 1989, p. 92.
7 Tan Tek Beng vs. David, 126
SCRA 389, 393 (1983).
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