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EN BANC

A. C. No. 2884 January 28, 1998

IRENE RAYOS-OMBAC, Complainant, vs. ATTY. ORLANDO A. RAYOS, Respondent.

 

PUNO, J.:

This case stemmed from a petition for disbarment filed with this Court by Mrs. Irene Rayos-Ombac against her nephew, Atty. Orlando A. Rayos, a legal practitioner in Metro Manila, for "his failure to adhere to the standards of mental and moral fitness set up for members of the bar." 1

The records show that in January 1985, respondent induced complainant who was then 85 years old to withdraw all her bank deposits and entrust them to him for safekeeping. Respondent told her that if she withdraws all her money in the bank, they will be excluded from the estate of her deceased husband and his other heirs will be precluded from inheriting part of it.

Acting on respondent's suggestion, complainant preterminated all her time deposits with the Philippine National Bank on January 18, 1985. She withdrew P588,000.00.

Respondent then advised complainant to deposit the money with Union Bank where he was working. He also urged her to deposit the money in his name to prevent the other heirs of her husband from tracing the same.

Complainant heeded the advice of respondent. On January 22, 1985, respondent deposited the amount of P588,000.00 with Union Bank under the name of his wife in trust for seven beneficiaries, including his son. The maturity date of the time deposit was May 22, 1985.

On May 21, 1985, complainant made a demand on respondent to return the P588,000.00 plus interest. Respondent told her that he has renewed the deposit for another month and promised to return the whole amount including interest on June 25, 1985. Respondent, however, failed to return the money on June 25, 1985.

On August 16, 1985, respondent informed complainant that he could only return P400,000.00 to be paid on installment. Complainant acceded to respondent's proposal as she was already old and was in dire need of money.

On the same date, respondent and complainant executed a memorandum of agreement stating:

WHEREAS, on January 22, 1985, (complainant) entrusted for safekeeping to (respondent) the sum of FIVE HUNDRED EIGHTY EIGHT THOUSAND PESOS (P588,000.00) which sum of money was withdrawn by the parties from the Philippine National Bank on said date.

WHEREAS, the said amount was deposited by (respondent) with the consent of (complainant) with the UNION BANK, J.P. Rizal Branch, Makati, Metro Manila.

WHEREAS, upon mutual agreement of the parties, they have agreed as they hereby agree on the following terms for the purpose of disposing of the above sum, to wit:

1. Of the sum of P588,000.00 received in trust, (respondent) shall return only the sum of P400,000.00 to (complainant) in the following manner:

a) P100,000.00 upon execution of this agreement;

b) P200,000.00 on or before October 19, 1985, to be covered by postdated check;

c) P100,000.00 on or before November 19, 1985, to be covered by a postdated check.

2. (Respondent) hereby undertakes and guarantees that at the time the aforesaid postdated checks fall due, the same should be backed up with sufficient funds on a best efforts basis.

3. That the remaining balance of P188,000.00, (respondent) hereby acknowledges the same as his indebtedness to (complainant) to be paid by the former when able or at his option. (Complainant) however assures (respondent) that she will not institute any collection suit against (respondent) (sic), neither will she transmit the same by way of testamentary succession to her heirs, neither are (respondent's) heirs liable.

4. That the parties have executed this agreement with the view of restoring their previous cordial filial relationship. 2

In accordance with the memorandum of agreement, respondent issued to complainant the following checks:

1. UCPB Check No. 487974 dated August 19, 1985 in the amount of P100,000.00;

2. UCPB Check No. 487975 dated October 19, 1985 in the amount of P200,000;

3. UCPB Check No. 487976 dated November 19, 1985 in the amount of P100,000.00.

Complainant was not able to encash UCPB Check No. 487974 as it was dishonored due to insufficient funds.

Respondent, nonetheless, asserted that he was not duty-bound to fund the check because under paragraph 2 of the memorandum of agreement, he only guaranteed that the checks shall be "backed up with sufficient funds on a best efforts basis." This prompted the other relatives of respondent and complainant to intervene in the brewing dispute between the two. They begged respondent to pay his obligation to complainant. Heeding their plea, respondent replaced UCPB Check No. 487974 with two new checks, one for P64,800.00 and another for P35,200.00. Complainant was able to encash the first check but not the second because it was dishonored by the drawee bank. The remaining checks, UCPB Check No. 487975 and UCPB Check No. 487976, were likewise dishonored by the drawee bank for lack of funds.

On November 15, 1985, complainant filed a complaint for estafa against respondent and a corresponding information was filed against him by the provincial fiscal.

Respondent thereafter made a proposal to complainant for an amicable settlement. To pay his debt, respondent offered to complainant two second hand cars and cash amounting to P40,000.00. Complainant refused the offer because she needed cash to provide for her daily needs.

The records also show that respondent filed several suits against complainant.

First, in February 1985, respondent filed a criminal case for estafa against complainant. It appears that respondent has previously told the tenants of a parcel of land owned by complainant that she had promised to sell them the land and that she had authorized him to negotiate with them. He obtained from the tenants advance payment for the lots they were occupying. Respondent then prepared a special power of attorney 3 authorizing him to sell the land and asked complainant to sign it. Complainant, however, refused to sign because she did not intend to make respondent her attorney-in-fact. Hence, the tenants sued respondent for estafa. Respondent, in turn, sued complainant for estafa for allegedly reneging on her promise to sell the land.

Then, on April 5, 1986, respondent filed a pleading entitled "Motion to Review Acts of Administratrix as a Prelude for Formal Motion to (sic) her Discharge" in Special Proceedings No. 5544 for the settlement of the estate of complainant's husband, pending before the Regional Trial Court of Lingayen, Pangasinan. 4 Respondent filed the pleading although he was not a party to the case.

Finally, on May 19, 1986, respondent indicted complainant for "falsification by private individuals and use of falsified documents under Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code" for allegedly making untruthful statements in her petition for appointment as administratrix of the estate of her deceased husband. 5

Thus, in June 1986, complainant filed with this Court a complaint to disbar respondent on two grounds: (1) that respondent employed clever scheme to defraud complainant, and (2) that respondent filed frivolous cases against complainant to harass her.

Respondent subsequently filed a complaint for disbarment against complainant's counsel, Atty. Abelardo Viray. The complaint cited four causes of action: (1) assisting client to commit tax fraud; (2) use of unorthodox collection method; (3) ignorance of the law; and (4) subornation of perjury. 6

Both disbarment cases were consolidated and referred to the Office of the Solicitor General for investigation, report and recommendation.

The cases were transferred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation and disposition pursuant to Section 20 Rule 139-B which took effect on June 1, 1988.

After investigation, the Commission on Bar Discipline of the IBP recommended the suspension of respondent from the practice of law for two years. It also recommended the dismissal of the complaint to disbar Atty. Viray for lack of merit. 7

On January 27, 1996, the Board of Governors of the IBP passed Resolution No. XII-96-22 stating:

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby ADOPTED and APPROVED, the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the above entitled case, hereinmade part of this Resolution/Decision as Annex "A"; and, finding the recommendation therein to be supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws and rules, Respondent Atty. Orlando A. Rayos is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for two (2) years and the complaint against Atty. Abelardo V. Viray is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit. 8

On June 6, 1996, respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration with regard to Administrative Case No. 2884. 9 The Board of Governors of the IBP, however, denied the motion in Resolution No. XII-96-193. 10

On September 15, 1997, respondent filed with this Court a Motion to Lift Suspension for Two Years, alleging that complainant has executed an affidavit withdrawing the complaint for disbarment. 11

We deny the motion of respondent.

Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility states:

A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.

Rule 1.03 of the same Code, on the other hand, provides:

A lawyer shall not, for any corrupt motive or interest, encourage any suit or proceeding or delay any man's cause.

Respondent violated the Code of Professional Responsibility, as well as his oath as an attorney when he deceived his 85-year old aunt into entrusting to him all her money, and later refused to return the same despite demand. Respondent's wicked deed was aggravated by the series of unfounded suits he filed against complainant to compel her to withdraw the disbarment case she filed against him. Indeed, respondent's deceitful conduct makes him unworthy of membership in the legal profession. The nature of the office of a lawyer requires that he shall be of good moral character. This qualification is not only a condition precedent to admission to the legal profession, but its continued possession is essential to maintain one's good standing in the profession. 12

Considering the depravity of respondent's offense, we find the penalty recommended by the IBP to be too mild. Such offense calls for the severance of respondent's privilege to practice law not only for two years, but for life.

The affidavit of withdrawal of the disbarment case allegedly executed by complainant does not, in any way, exonerate the respondent. A case of suspension or disbarment may proceed regardless of interest or lack of interest of the complainant. What matters is whether, on the basis of the facts borne out by the record, the charge of deceit and grossly immoral conduct has been duly proven. 13 This rule is premised on the nature of disciplinary proceedings. A proceeding for suspension or disbarment is not in any sense a civil action where the complainant is a plaintiff and the respondent lawyer is a defendant. Disciplinary proceedings involve no private interest and afford no redress for private grievance. They are undertaken and prosecuted solely for the public welfare. They are undertaken for the purpose of preserving courts of justice from the official ministration of persons unfit to practice in them. The attorney is called to answer to the court for his conduct as an officer of the court. The complainant or the person who called the attention of the court to the attorney's alleged misconduct is in no sense a party, and has generally no interest in the outcome except as all good citizens may have in the proper administration of justice. 14 Hence, if the evidence on record warrants, the respondent may be suspended or disbarred despite the desistance of complainant or his withdrawal of the charges. In the instant case, it has been sufficiently proved that respondent has engaged in deceitful conduct, in violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, respondent is hereby DISBARRED. Let a copy of this decision be attached to respondent's record in the Bar Confidant's Office and furnished the IBP and all our courts.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Francisco, Panganiban and Martinez, JJ., concur.


Endnotes:

1 Rollo, pp. 1-8.

2 Rollo, p. 9.

3 Rollo, pp. 18-20.

4 Rollo, pp. 26-27.

5 Rollo, p. 28.

6 Docketed as Adm. Case No. 2938.

7 Rollo, pp. 90-99.

8 Rollo, pp. 88-89.

9 Rollo, pp. 100-104.

10 Rollo, p. 146.

11 Rollo, pp. 153-154.

12 Igual v. Javier, 254 SCRA 416 (1996); Villanueva v. Sta. Ana, 245 SCRA 707 (1995); People v. Tuanda, 181 SCRA 692 (1990); Melendrez v. Decena, 176 SCRA 662 (1989).

13 Tejada v. Hernando, 208 SCRA 517 (1992); Go v. Candoy, 21 SCRA 439 (1967).

14 De Vera v. Pineda, 213 SCRA 434 (1992); Tajan v. Cusi, Jr., 57 SCRA 154 (1974).




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