FACTS: Petitioner initiated a complaint against Elizabeth Catu and Antonio Pastor who were occupying one of the units in a building in Malate which was owned by the former. The said complaint was filed in the Lupong Tagapamayapa of Barangay 723, Zone 79 of the 5th District of Manila where respondent was the punong barangay. The parties, having been summoned for conciliation proceedings and failing to arrive at an amicable settlement, were issued by the respondent a certification for the filing of the appropriate action in court. Petitioner, thus, filed a complaint for ejectment against Elizabeth and Pastor in the Metropolitan Trial Court of Manila where respondent entered his appearance as counsel for the defendants. Because of this, petitioner filed the instant administrative complaint against the respondent on the ground that he committed an act of impropriety as a lawyer and as a public officer when he stood as counsel for the defendants despite the fact that he presided over the conciliation proceedings between the litigants as punong barangay. In his defense, respondent claimed that as punong barangay, he performed his task without bias and that he acceded to Elizabeth’s request to handle the case for free as she was financially distressed. The complaint was then referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) where after evaluation, they found sufficient ground to discipline respondent. According to them, respondent violated Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and, as an elective official, the prohibition under Section 7(b) (2) of RA 6713. Consequently, for the violation of the latter prohibition, respondent committed a breach of Canon 1. Consequently, for the violation of the latter prohibition, respondent was then recommended suspension from the practice of law for one month with a stern warning that the commission of the same or similar act will be dealt with more severely.
ISSUE: Whether or not the foregoing findings regarding the transgression of respondent as well as the recommendation on the imposable penalty of the respondent were proper.
HELD: No. First, respondent cannot be found liable for violation of Rule 6.03 the Code of Professional Responsibility as this applies only to a lawyer who has left government service and in connection to former government lawyers who are prohibited from accepting employment in connection with any matter in which [they] had intervened while in their service. In the case at bar, respondent was an incumbent punong barangay. Apparently, he does not fall within the purview of the said provision.
Second, it is not Section 90 of RA 7160 but Section 7(b) (2) of RA 6713 which governs the practice of profession of elective local government officials. While RA 6713 generally applies to all public officials and employees, RA 7160, being a special law, constitutes an exception to RA 6713 .Moreover, while under RA 7160,certain local elective officials (like governors, mayors, provincial board members and councilors) are expressly subjected to a total or partial proscription to practice their profession or engage in any occupation, no such interdiction is made on the punong barangay and the members of the sangguniang barangay. Expressio unius est exclusio alterius since they are excluded from any prohibition, the presumption is that they are allowed to practice their profession. Respondent, therefore, is not forbidden to practice his profession.
Third, notwithstanding all of these, respondent still should have procured a prior permission or authorization from the head of his Department, as required by civil service regulations. The failure of respondent to comply with Section 12, Rule XVIII of the Revised Civil Service Rules constitutes a violation of his oath as a lawyer: to obey the laws. In acting as counsel for a party without first securing the required written permission, respondent not only engaged in the unauthorized practice of law but also violated a civil service rules which is a breach of Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility:
- Rule 1.01 - A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.
For not living up to his oath as well as for not complying with the exacting ethical standards of the legal profession, respondent failed to comply with Canon 7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility:
- CANON 7. A LAWYER SHALL AT ALL TIMES UPHOLD THE INTEGRITY AND THE DIGNITY OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION AND SUPPORT THE ACTIVITIES OF THE INTEGRATED BAR.
A lawyer who disobeys the law disrespects it. In so doing, he disregards legal ethics and disgraces the dignity of the legal profession. Every lawyer should act and comport himself in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity of the legal profession. A member of the bar may be disbarred or suspended from his office as an attorney for violation of the lawyer's oath and/or for breach of the ethics of the legal profession as embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility.
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Vicente G. Rellosa is hereby found GUILTY of professional misconduct for violating his oath as a lawyer and Canons 1 and 7 and Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. He is therefore SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of six months effective from his receipt of this resolution. He is sternly WARNED that any repetition of similar acts shall be dealt with more severely.
Respondent is strongly advised to look up and take to heart the meaning of the word delicadeza.