A.C. No. 5246 - March 20, 2003
EDGAR O. PEREA, Complainant, vs. ATTY. RUBEN ALMADRO, Respondent.
R E S O L U T I O N
Before the Court is a complaint for disbarment filed by Edgar O. Perea against Atty. Ruben Almadro for gross neglect of his duties as lawyer of herein complainant.
Complainant narrates: Respondent was his counsel before the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City (Branch 99) where he (complainant Perea) is being charged with the crime of Frustrated Homicide. On February 26, 1996, the said RTC issued an order granting Atty. Almadros motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence within ten (10) days from said date. All the while, complainant thought that respondent filed said demurrer and the case against him dismissed. It was only sometime in 1999 that complainant learned that Atty. Almadro failed to file any demurrer. The trial court ordered the herein complainant to present evidence in his defense. Later, a warrant was issued for his arrest prompting him to surrender to the court and post bail. Complainant suffered financially and emotionally due to respondents neglect of his duties. Respondent has not attended any of his hearings which led complainant to plead with respondent to withdraw formally as his counsel so he could hire another lawyer. Because of Atty. Almadros neglect, complainant is now facing the loss of his freedom and livelihood.1
Respondent filed three motions for extension of time to file comment.2 On November 13, 2000, the Court resolved to grant the said motions with a warning that no further extensions shall be granted.3 On November 17, 2000, respondent, through the law firm Sua and Alambra, filed a Manifestation and Motion that respondent has not yet received a copy of the complaint hence it asked the Court to order the complainant to furnish them a copy.4
On December 20, 2000, respondent through said law firm submitted an Answer5 to the complaint, contending that: two days after the RTC granted the manifestation of defense to file motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence, he had finished the draft of the motion and the accompanying pleading which he stored in a magnetic computer diskette intended for editing prior to its submission in court; a few days before the deadline, herein respondent tried to retrieve the draft from the diskette but said drafts were nowhere to be found despite efforts to retrieve them; this led him to believe that the drafts must have been finalized and the edited versions accordingly filed since it is his practice to expunge from the diskette drafts that were already finalized and acted upon; meanwhile, the presiding judge of the RTC retired, as a consequence, actions on pending cases were held in abeyance; moreover, communications with the herein complainant had become rarer; thereafter, towards the end of 1997 up to the next five months of 1998, respondent was preoccupied with the congressional elections in Biliran where he ran and subsequently lost; then he was offered a position at the Philippine Stock Exchange as head of the Compliance and Surveillance Division which he accepted; his time and attention was spent in the performance of his demanding job at the PSE as well as in the preparation of his testimony before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee in connection with the "BW" scam; anent the case of herein complainant, he offered on several occasions to withdraw as one of the defense counsel of the complainant even to the extent of offering to return his acceptance fee which the latter however refused;6 it is not true that complainant pleaded with respondent to withdraw as his counsel, the truth being that it was complainant who refused to let go of respondent as his counsel; also, while he is a counsel of complainant in the criminal case before the RTC, he was merely a collaborating counsel, the lead counsel being Atty. Solomon Villanueva;7 finally, he was actually mulling over the possible procedural steps to take with regard to complainants case when he received instead, a copy of the present complaint.8
On February 28, 2001, the Court issued a Resolution9 referring the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for investigation, report and recommendation.
On June 13, 2001, the IBP through Commissioner Renato G. Cunanan submitted its report, pertinent portions of which are quoted verbatim:
The report was adopted and approved by the Board of Governors of the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline with some modifications thus:
Respondent filed a motion for reconsideration on September 11, 2002, this time in his own behalf, of the above quoted IBP Board Resolution.12 This was denied on October 19, 2002.13
We are in full accord with the findings and recommendation of the IBP.
As clearly stated in the Code of Professional Responsibility -
It is plain from the records that respondent lawyer failed to submit a demurrer to evidence for which he had earlier asked permission from the trial court and which his client, herein complainant was relying on. More than that, he failed to contact his client and to apprise the latter about the developments of the case leaving complainant completely surprised and without any protection when years later, he received summons from the trial court asking him to present evidence in his defense and, not long after, the trial court issued a warrant for his arrest.
In the recent case of Sps. Galen et al. vs. Atty. Paguirigan14 the Court is explicit in its pronouncement that:
In other cases, the Court also held that while a lawyer may decline a person to become his client for valid reasons, once he agrees to take up the cause of a client, he begins to owe fidelity to such cause and must always be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him. As a lawyer, he must serve the client with competence and diligence, and champion the latters cause with wholehearted fidelity, care and devotion. Indeed, he owes entire devotion to the interest of his client, warm zeal in the maintenance and defense of his clients rights, and the exertion of his utmost learning and ability to the end that nothing be taken or withheld from his client, save by the rules of law legally applied.16 His client is entitled to the benefit of any and every remedy and defense that is authorized by the law of the land and he may expect his lawyer to assert every such remedy or defense.17
Respondents negligence is compounded by his attempt to have this tribunal believe the story of how his draft, stored in a magnetic diskette, mysteriously disappeared and how the absence of such file in his diskette led him to believe that the same was already filed in court. In his Answer, he even tried to depict himself as a conscientious lawyer by stating that he was actually mulling on the procedural steps he would undertake regarding complainants case when instead he received a copy of this complaint for disbarment. Such story, as observed by the IBP, is not only outrageous but is contemptuous as it makes a mockery of the Court.
Again, the Code of Professional Responsibility is explicit on this matter:
In Benguet Electric Cooperative, Inc. vs Atty. Flores,18 the Court, aside from citing Canon 10 above stated that "a lawyer must be a disciple of truth." Indeed, it cannot be stressed enough how important it is for a lawyer as an officer of the court to observe honesty at all times, especially before the courts.
Respondent would have this Court believe a very preposterous story of how his draft disappeared, all the time avoiding the simple fact that he failed to submit the necessary pleading before the trial court. Such behavior cannot be countenanced and deserves stern penalty therefor.
The act of the IBP in requiring Atty. Kenton Sua and Atty. Alan Alambra to show cause why they should not be held in contempt of court for deliberate falsehood and misrepresentation in the preparation of the Answer for herein respondent is appropriate. Records reveal that both Attys. Sua and Alambra have filed their joint Explanation.19
WHEREFORE, finding respondent Atty. Ruben Almadro guilty of serious neglect of his duties as a lawyer and of open disrespect for the court and the authority it represents, as embodied in Canon 18, Rules 18.03 and 18.04 and Canon 10, Rule 10.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, he is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for one (1) year and FINED in the amount of Ten Thousand (P10,000.00) Pesos, with a WARNING that any or similar acts of dishonesty would be dealt with more severely.
Let a copy of the Resolution be attached to the personal records of Atty. Alambra in the Office of the Bar Confidant and copies be furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and all the courts in the country for their information and guidance.
Let the records of herein case be remanded to the Office of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for further action on the contempt proceedings against Atty. Kenton Sua and Atty. Alan Alambra.
Bellosillo, (Chairman), Mendoza, Quisumbing and Callejo, Sr., JJ., concur.
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