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2. Lawyers who have been disbarred

a. CONCEPT

The power to disbar is always exercised with great caution and only for the most imperative reasons or in cases of clear misconduct affecting the standing and moral character of the lawyer as an officer of the court and member of the bar. (Madria v. Rivera, A.C. No. 11256, 07 March 2017)

No lawyer should ever lose sight of the verity that the practice of the legal profession is always a privilege that the Court extends only to the deserving, and that the Court may withdraw or deny the privilege to him who fails to observe and respect the Lawyer’s Oath and the canons of ethical conduct in his professional and private capacities. He may be disbarred or suspended from the practice of law not only for acts and omissions of malpractice and for dishonesty in his professional dealings, but also for gross misconduct not directly connected with his professional duties that reveal his unfitness for the office and his unworthiness of the principles that the privilege to practice law confers upon him. Verily, no lawyer is immune from the disciplinary authority of the Court whose duty and obligation are to investigate and punish lawyer misconduct committed either in a professional or private capacity. (Embido v. Pe, A.C. No. 6732, 22 October 2013)

1) Test

The test is whether the conduct shows the lawyer to be wanting in moral character, honesty, probity, and good demeanor, and whether the conduct renders the lawyer unworthy to continue as an officer of the Court. (Ibid.)

b. JUDICAL CLEMENCY

The principle which should hold true for lawyers, being officers of the court, is that judicial clemency, as an act of mercy removing any disqualification, should be balanced with the preservation of public confidence in the courts. (In Re: Rolando S. Torres, A.C. No. 5161, 11 July 2017)

1) Guidelines on Judicial Clemency

1) There must be proof of remorse and reformation. These shall include but should not be limited to certifications or testimonials of the officer/s or chapter/s of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, judges or judges associations and prominent members of the community with proven integrity and probity. A subsequent finding of guilt in an administrative case for the same or similar misconduct will give rise to a strong presumption of non-reformation.

2) Sufficient time must have lapsed from the imposition of the penalty to ensure a period of reform.

3) The age of the person asking for clemency must show that he still has productive years ahead of him that can be put to good use by giving him a chance to redeem himself.

4) There must be a showing of promise (such as intellectual aptitude, learning or legal acumen or contribution to legal scholarship and the development of the legal system or administrative and other relevant skills), as well as potential for public service.

5) There must be other relevant factors and circumstances that may justify clemency. (Ibid.)

2) Proof of reformation

The Supreme Court will grant judicial clemency only if there is a showing that it is merited. Proof of reformation and a showing of potential and promise are indispensable. (Ibid.)

Evidence of reformation is required before applicant is entitled to reinstatement, notwithstanding the attorney has received a pardon following his conviction, and the requirements of reinstatement had been held to be the same as for original admission to the bar, except that the court may require a greater degree of proof than in an original evidence. (In Re: Quinciano D. Vailoces, A.M. No. 439, 30 September 1982)

a) Case Law

1) Where a lawyer was disbarred after being convicted of falsification of a public document, he petitioned for readmission to the practice of law after rendering service of the sentence and receiving pardon from the President. He attached thereto copies, among others, of the following documents, to wit: the resolution of the Negros Oriental Bar Association signed by 78 members thereof, indorsing his plea for reinstatement; the certificate of the mayor of the municipality of Bindoy, Negros Oriental, where the lawyer has been residing, to the effect that the latter “is a person of exemplary moral character, a peace-loving and law-abiding citizen”, a certification of Governor William B. Villegas of Negros Oriental, attesting to the fact that since the grant of absolute pardon to the lawyer, “he has comported himself as a morally straight and respectable citizen and that he has been active and has cooperated in civic and social undertakings, sincere and honest in his desire to lead a decent and dignified life”; the certification of Dean Eduardo G. Flores of the College of Law, Siliman University, vouching to the lawyer’s “honest, upright and moral life… and because of his conduct he has earned the sympathy of the people of the community and regained the confidence of the people and of his other associates: the statement of Atty. Alexander G. Amor, former president of the Negros Oriental Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, certifying “that Mr. Quinciano D. Vailoces… is a person of good moral character, whose integrity is beyond question”; and the clearance certificates issued by Judge Romeo R. Solis of the City Court of Dumaguete, Provincial Fiscal Andrew S. Namukatkat of Negros Oriental, and City Fiscal Pablo E. Cabahug of Dumaguete City, to the effect that the lawyer “is a person of good moral character” and that since his release from the national penitentiary he “has never been accused or convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude.”… The lawyer’s conduct after disbarment can stand searching scrutiny. He has regained the respect and confidence of his fellow attorneys as well as of the citizens of his community. The favorable indorsements of both the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and its Negros Oriental Chapter, the testimonials expressed in his behalf by the provincial governor of Negros Oriental as well as the municipal and barrio officials of Bindoy, Negros Oriental, his active participation in civic and social undertakings in the community attest to his moral reform and rehabilitation and justify his reinstatement. The lawyer, now 69 years of age, has reached the twilight of his life. He has been barred from the practice of his profession for a period of 21 years. Adequate punishment has been exacted. The lawyer was reinstated. (Ibid.)

2) Where a disbarred lawyer, in support of the petition for reinstatement, he merely rehashed all the several testimonials and endorsements which he had already attached to his previous petitions, in addition to another endorsement, this time coming from the incumbent Secretary of Justice, stating that Torres “is a person of good moral character and a law abiding citizen.” However, these testimonials and endorsements do not prove whatsoever that Torres had already successfully reformed himself subsequent to his disbarment. Neither do they exhibit remorse towards the actions which caused his delisting from the Roll of Attorneys, i.e., the fraudulent acts he committed against his sister-in-law. In this regard, it is noteworthy to point out that since the promulgation of the Court’s August 25, 2015 Resolution, there was still no showing that Torres had reconciled or even attempted to reconcile with his sister-in-law so as to show remorse for his previous faults. Moreover, he also failed to present any evidence to demonstrate his potential for public service or that he – now being 70 years of age – still has productive years ahead of him that can be put to good use by giving him a chance to redeem himself. The petition was denied. (In Re: Rolando S. Torres, supra.)

c. PRESIDENTIAL PARDON

Presidential pardon does not warrant automatic reinstatement. (In Re: Quinciano D. Vailoces, supra.)

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