A.C. No. 4334 - July 7, 2004
SUSAN CUIZON, Complainant, vs. ATTY. RODOLFO MACALINO, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
The saga of a client's one decade-long travails caused by a recalcitrant lawyer who defrauds his client and flouts the directives of the highest court of the land must deservedly end in tribulation for the lawyer and in victory for the higher ends of justice. The opening verses of the narrative may have been composed by the lawyer, but it is this Court that will have to, as it now does, write finis to this sordid tale, as well as to the lawyer's prized claim as a member of the Bar.
This administrative case against respondent Atty. Rodolfo Macalino was initiated by a letter-complaint1 dated October 27, 1994 filed by Susan Cuizon with the Office of the Court Administrator charging the respondent with Grave Misconduct.
The antecedents2 are as follows:
In compliance with this directive, the complainant reported that the respondent had not changed his residence. In fact, upon the information given by his own son, the respondent comes home at midnight and leaves at dawn.3
In the Resolution4 dated July 27, 1998, the Court resolved to consider the Resolution of December 10, 1997 finding the respondent guilty of contempt of court and ordering his imprisonment until he complies with the Resolution of February 12, 1997, requiring him to pay a fine of
The Investigating Commissioner forthwith filed her Report and Recommendation5 dated October 27, 1998 finding the respondent unfit to remain a member of the Bar and recommending that he be disbarred. The IBP adopted the Report and Recommendation with the modification that the respondent instead be suspended from the practice of law for three (3) years.6
In its Resolution7 dated July 19, 2000, the Court resolved to return the case to the IBP which, in turn, remanded the case to the Investigating Commissioner for further investigation and compliance with procedural due process.8
As directed, the Investigating Commissioner conducted further investigation and submitted her Report and Recommendation9 dated November 16, 1999 stating that the respondent failed to appear during the scheduled hearings on January 5, 1999 and March 23, 1999. Moreover, despite his counsel's motion for extension of time within which to file a comment on the complaint having been granted, the respondent failed to file his comment. Hence, the Investigating Commissioner reiterated her recommendation that the respondent be disbarred.
The IBP modified the Investigating Commissioner's recommendation and urged instead that the respondent be suspended from the practice of law for five (5) years.10 The Court noted the recommendation in its Resolution11 dated September 8, 2003.
It is axiomatic that no lawyer is obliged to act either as adviser or advocate for every person who may wish to become his client. However, once he agrees to take up the cause of a client, the lawyer owes fidelity to such cause and must always be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him. He must serve his client with competence and diligence, and champion the latter's cause with whole-hearted fidelity.12 Among the fundamental rules of ethics is the principle that an attorney who undertakes to conduct an action impliedly stipulates to carry it to its conclusion.13
In the instant case, after agreeing to represent the complainant's husband, taking possession of their car and persuading the complainant to sell the same to him for a nominal amount, the respondent refused to carry out his duties as counsel prompting the complainant to secure the services of another lawyer to defend her husband. The respondent clearly breached his obligation under Rule 18.03, Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which provides: A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.
The respondent's infraction is compounded by the fact that he issued a check in favor of the complainant's husband which was later dishonored for having been drawn against a closed account.14 Such conduct indicates the respondent's unfitness for the trust and confidence reposed on him, shows such lack of personal honesty and good moral character as to render him unworthy of public confidence and constitutes a ground for disciplinary action.15
The fact that the respondent went into hiding in order to avoid service upon him of the warrant of arrest issued by the Court exacerbates his offense. His repeated failure to comply with the Court's Resolutions requiring him to file his comment on the complaint should also be taken into account. By his repeated cavalier conduct, the respondent exhibited an unpardonable lack of respect for the authority of the Court.16
As an officer of the court, it is a lawyer's duty to uphold the dignity and authority of the court. The highest form of respect for judicial authority is shown by a lawyer's obedience to court orders and processes.17 A lawyer who willfully disobeys a court order requiring him to do something may not only be cited and punished for contempt but may also be disciplined as an officer of the court.18
Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court provides that:
The foregoing acts of the respondent constitute gross misconduct which renders him unfit to discharge the duties of his office and unworthy of the trust and confidence reposed on him as an officer of the court.19 His disbarment is consequently warranted.20
WHEREFORE, respondent Rodolfo Macalino is hereby DISBARRED. Let a copy of this decision be attached to the respondent's personal records and furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and all courts in the country.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Vitug, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, and Tinga, JJ., concur.
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