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2. The legal profession

a. Integrated Bar of the Philippines

1) Organization

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines is the official national body composed of all persons whose names now appear or may hereafter be included in the Roll of Attorneys of the Supreme Court. (Section 1, Rule 139-A, Rules of Court)

2) Purposes

The fundamental purposes of the Integrated Bar shall be to elevate the standards of the legal profession, improve the administration of justice, and enable the Bar to discharge its public responsibility more effectively. (Section 2, Rule 139-A, Ibid.)

3) Non-political Bar

The Integrated Bar shall be strictly non-political, and every activity tending to impair this basic feature is strictly prohibited and shall be penalized accordingly. No lawyer holding an elective, judicial, quasi-judicial, or prosecutory office in the Government or any political subdivision or instrumentality thereof shall be eligible for election of appointment to any position in the Integrated Bar or any Chapter thereof shall be considered ipso facto resigned from his position as of the moment he files his certificate of candidacy for any elective public office or accepts appointment to any judicial, quasi-judicial, or prosecutory office in the Government or any political subdivision or instrumentality thereof. (Section 13, Rule 139-A, Ibid.)

4) Positions, honorary

Except as may be specifically authorized or allowed by the Supreme Court, no Delegate or Governor and no national or local Officer or committee member shall receive any compensation, allowance or emolument from the funds of the Integrated Bar for any service rendered therein or be entitled to reimbursement for any expense incurred in the discharge of his functions. (Section 14, Rule 139-A, Ibid.)

5) Voluntary Bar Associations

All voluntary Bar associations now existing or which may hereafter be formed may co-exist with the Integrated Bar but shall not operate at cross-purposes therewith. (Section 17, Rule 139-A, Ibid.)

b. Membership and dues

1) Effect of non-payment of dues

Subject to the provisions on Grievance procedures, default in the payment of annual dues for six months shall warrant suspension of membership in the Integrated Bar, and default in such payment for one year shall be a ground for the removal of the name of the delinquent member from the Roll of Attorneys. (Section 10, Rule 139-A, Ibid.)

2) Voluntary termination of membership; re-instatement

A member may terminate his membership by filing a written notice to that effect with the Secretary of the Integrated Bar, who shall immediately bring the matter to the attention of the Supreme Court. Forthwith he shall cease to be a member and his name shall be stricken by the Court from the Roll of Attorneys. Reinstatement may be made by the Court in accordance with rules and regulations prescribed by the Board of Governors and approved by the Court. (Section 11, Rule 139-A, Ibid.)

3) Grievance procedures

The Board of Governors shall provide in the By-Laws for grievance procedures for the enforcement and maintenance of discipline among all the members of the Integrated Bar, but no action involving the suspension or disbarment of a member or the removal of his name from the Roll of Attorneys shall be effective without the final approval of the Supreme Court. (Section 12, Rule 139-A, Ibid.)

c. Upholding the dignity and integrity of the profession

Canon 7: A lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession and support the activities of the Integrated Bar.

1) Uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession

A lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession. The trust and confidence necessarily reposed by clients requires in the attorney a high standard and appreciation of his duty to his clients, his profession, the courts and the public. The bar must maintain a high standard of legal proficiency as well as of honesty and fair dealing. Generally speaking, a lawyer can do honor to the legal profession by faithfully performing his duties to society, to the bar, to the courts and to his clients. To this end, members of the legal fraternity can do nothing that might tend to lessen in any degree the confidence of the public in the fidelity, honesty and integrity of the profession. (Tejada v. Palaña, A.C. No. 7434, 23 August 2007)

Canon 7 emphasize the high standard of honesty and fairness expected of a lawyer not only in the practice of the legal profession but in his personal dealings as well. A lawyer must conduct himself with great propriety, and his behavior should be beyond reproach anywhere and at all times. For, as officers of the courts and keepers of the public’s faith, they are burdened with the highest degree of social responsibility and are thus mandated to behave at all times in a manner consistent with truth and honor. Likewise, the oath that lawyers swear to impresses upon them the duty of exhibiting the highest degree of good faith, fairness and candor in their relationships with others. Thus, lawyers may be disciplined for any conduct, whether in their professional or in their private capacity, if such conduct renders them unfit to continue to be officers of the court. (Ong v. Delos Santos, A.C. No. 10179, 04 March 2014)

Rule 7.01: A lawyer shall be answerable for knowingly making a false statement or suppressing a material fact in connection with his application for admission to the bar.

1) False civil status, a gross misrepresentation

A married bar applicant’s declaration in his application for Admission to the 1981 Bar Examinations that he was “single” was a gross misrepresentation of a material fact made in utter bad faith, for which he should be made answerable. That false statement, if it had been known, would have disqualified him outright from taking the Bar Examinations as it indubitably exhibits lack of good moral character. (Leda v. Tabang, A.C. No. 2505, 21 February 1992)

2) Bar passer not allowed to practice law until he signs roll of attorneys

Where a bar passer who had not yet signed the roll of attorneys entered appearance as counsel, he was denied admission to the Philippine Bar. (Aguirre v. Rana, B.M. No. 1036, 10 June 2003)

Rule 7.02: A lawyer shall not support the application for admission to the bar of any person known by him to be unqualified in respect to character, education, or other relevant attribute.

Rule 7.03: A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor shall he whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession.

1) Disciplinary action extends to both professional and private capacity

A lawyer may be disciplined or suspended for any misconduct, whether in his professional or private capacity. Public confidence in the law and lawyers may be eroded by the irresponsible and improper conduct of a member of the Bar. Thus, every lawyer should act and comport himself in such a manner that would promote public confidence in the integrity of the legal profession. (Rivera v. Corral, A.C. No. 3548, 04 July 2002)

That his act involved a private dealing with Ong did not matter. His being a lawyer invested him – whether he was acting as such or in a non- professional capacity – with the obligation to exhibit good faith, fairness and candor in his relationship with others. There is no question that a lawyer could be disciplined not only for a malpractice in his profession, but also for any misconduct committed outside of his professional capacity. His being a lawyer demanded that he conduct himself as a person of the highest moral and professional integrity and probity in his dealings with others. (Ong v. Delos Santos, supra.)

d. Courtesy, fairness, and candor towards professional colleagues

Canon 8: A lawyer shall conduct himself with courtesy, fairness, and candor towards his professional colleagues, and shall avoid harassing tactics against opposing counsel.

1) Civility with other lawyers

Lawyers should treat their opposing counsels and other lawyers with courtesy, dignity and civility. A great part of their comfort, as well as of their success at the bar, depends upon their relations with their professional brethren. Since they deal constantly with each other, they must treat one another with trust and respect. Any undue ill feeling between clients should not influence counsels in their conduct and demeanor toward each other. Mutual bickering, unjustified recriminations and offensive behavior among lawyers not only detract from the dignity of the legal profession, but also constitute highly unprofessional conduct subject to disciplinary action. (Reyes v. Chiong, A.C. No. 5148, 01 July 2003)

Where a lawyer handling a criminal case instituted a civil complaint impleading the other party’s counsel and the prosecutor to gain leverage, he was held liable for harassing opposing counsel. It appears that respondent-lawyer took the estafa case as a personal affront and used the civil case as a tool to return the inconvenience suffered by his client. His actions demonstrate a misuse of the legal process. The aim of every lawsuit should be to render justice to the parties according to law, not to harass them. (Ibid.)

Rule 8.01: A lawyer shall not, in his professional dealings, use language which is abusive, offensive or otherwise improper.

1) Privileged only if pertinent and relevant

Utterances, petitions and motions made in the course of judicial proceedings have consistently been considered as absolutely privileged, however false or malicious they may be, but only for so long as they are pertinent and relevant to the subject of inquiry. (Saberon v. Larong, A.C. No. 6567, 16 April 2008)

a) Test of relevancy

As to the degree of relevancy or pertinency necessary to make alleged defamatory matters privileged the courts favor a liberal rule. The matter to which the privilege does not extend must be so palpably wanting in relation to the subject matter of the controversy that no reasonable man can doubt its relevancy and impropriety. In order that matter alleged in a pleading may be privileged, it need not be in every case material to the issues presented by the pleadings. It must, however, be legitimately related thereto, or so pertinent to the subject of the controversy that it may become the subject of inquiry in the course of the trial. (Ibid.)

2) No to offensive and abusive language

While a lawyer is entitled to present his case with vigor and courage, such enthusiasm does not justify the use of offensive and abusive language. Language abounds with countless possibilities for one to be emphatic but respectful, convincing but not derogatory, and illuminating but not offensive. (Gimeno v. Zaide, A.C. No. 10303, 22 April 2015)

On many occasions, the Court has reminded members of the Bar to abstain from all offensive personality and to advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which he is charged. In keeping with the dignity of the legal profession, a lawyer’s language even in his pleadings must be dignified. (Saberon v. Larong, supra.)

A lawyer was held liable for use of offensive and abusive language after he wrote in his pleading that the complainant was a “notorious extortionist” and, in another case, he characterized the opposing counsel as follows: “Her declaration in Public put a shame, DISGRACE, INDIGNITY AND HUMILIATION in the whole Justice System, and the Department of Justice in particular, where the taxpayers paid for her salary over her incompetence and poor performance as a prosecutor…This is a clear manifestation that the Public prosecutor suffers serious mental incompetence as regard her mandate as an Assistant City Prosecutor.” (Gimeno v. Zaide, supra.)

3) Applies to courts, quasi-judicial agencies, and offices

It is of no consequence that the allegedly malicious statements of respondent were made not before a court but before the BSP. A similar submission that actuations of and statements made by lawyers before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) are not covered by the Code of Professional Responsibility, the NLRC not being a court, was struck down. (Saberon v. Larong, supra.)

Rule 8.02: A lawyer shall not, directly or indirectly, encroach upon the professional employment of another lawyer, however, it is the right of any lawyer, without fear or favor, to give proper advice and assistance to those seeking relief against unfaithful or neglectful counsel.

1) Encroachment

Where a lawyer, who was not a counsel on record for either party, constantly checked the transmittal of the records of a Civil Case, it was held that he deliberately encroached upon the legal functions of the counsel of record of that case. It does not matter whether he did so in good faith. (Dallong-Galicinao v. Castro, A.C. No. 6396, 25 October 2005)

Where a lawyer, through his paralegal, convinced clients of another to switch counsels with the promise of financial assistance or loan in the amount of Php50,000.00, he encroached on the professional practice of the other lawyer. (Linsangan v. Tolentino, A.C. No. 6672, 04 September 2009)

e. No assistance in unauthorized practice of law

Canon 9: A lawyer shall not, directly or indirectly, assist in the unauthorized practice of law.

1) Requirements to practice law

Requirements to practice law:

1) Pass the bar exam

2) Oath-Taking

3) Signing of roll of attorneys (Section 17 and 19, Rule 138, Rules of Court)

2) Unauthorized practice of law

While a reading of Canon 9 appears to merely prohibit lawyers from assisting in the unauthorized practice of law, the unauthorized practice of law by the lawyer himself is subsumed under this provision, because at the heart of Canon 9 is the lawyer’s duty to prevent the unauthorized practice of law. This duty likewise applies to law students and Bar candidates. As aspiring members of the Bar, they are bound to comport themselves in accordance with the ethical standards of the legal profession. (In Re: Petition to Sign in the Roll of Attorneys, Michael A. Medado, B.M. No. 2540, 24 September 2013)

Where a bar passer took the attorney’s oath in 1980, failed to appear on his schedule for signing the attorney’s rolls after misplacing his Notice to Sign the Roll of Attorneys, several years later found the notice and realized that what he signed at the PICC entrance was probably just an attendance record, during the entire time he was doing mostly corporate and taxation work without actively participating in litigation, and in 2005 when required to present his roll number during a Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE), he filed a petition praying to be allowed to sign the roll of attorneys. He was considered to have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. While he was allowed to sign, he was fined and suspended for one (1) year after becoming a full-fledged lawyer. (Ibid.)

a) Public interest and policy

The lawyer’s duty to prevent, or at the very least not to assist in, the unauthorized practice of law is founded on public interest and policy. Public policy requires that the practice of law be limited to those individuals found duly qualified in education and character. The permissive right conferred on the lawyer is an individual and limited privilege subject to withdrawal if he fails to maintain proper standards of moral and professional conduct. The purpose is to protect the public, the court, the client, and the bar from the incompetence or dishonesty of those unlicensed to practice law and not subject to the disciplinary control of the Court. It devolves upon a lawyer to see that this purpose is attained. Thus, the canons and ethics of the profession enjoin him not to permit his professional services or his name to be used in aid of, or to make possible the unauthorized practice of law by, any agency, personal or corporate. And, the law makes it a misbehavior on his part, subject to disciplinary action, to aid a layman in the unauthorized practice of law. (Noe-Lacsamana v. Busmente, A.C. No. 7269, 23 November 2011)

b) No practice of law during suspension

Where a suspended lawyer participated in an auction sale and negotiations thereto on behalf of clients, it was an unauthorized practice of law. It is true that being present in an auction sale and negotiating matters relating to the same may not be exclusively for lawyers. However, in this case, Atty. Era’s acts clearly involved the determination by a trained legal mind of the legal effects and consequences of each course of action in the satisfaction of the judgment award. Precisely, this is why his clients chose Atty. Era to represent them in the public auction and in any negotiation/settlement with the corporation arising from the labor case as stated in the SPA being invoked by Atty. Era. Such trained legal mind is what his clients were relying upon in seeking redress for their claims. This is evident from the fact that they agreed not to enter into any amicable settlement without the prior written consent of Atty. Era, the latter being their lawyer. It could readily be seen that the said SPA was executed by reason of Atty. Era being their legal counsel. Thus, We are one with the Board’s submission that the said SPA cannot be invoked to support Atty. Era’s claim that he was not engaged in the practice of law in performing the acts above-cited as such SPA cunningly undermines the suspension ordered by this Court against Atty. Era, which the Supreme Court cannot countenance. (Bonifacio v. Era, A.C. No. 11754, 03 October 2017)

Where a counsel assisted a suspended lawyer from unauthorized practice of law, the counsel is likewise liable. (Ibid.)

c) Indirect contempt

The regulation of the practice of law is unquestionably strict. In Beltran, Jr. v. Abad, a candidate passed the bar examinations but had not taken his oath and signed the Roll of Attorneys. He was held in contempt of court for practicing law even before his admission to the Bar. Under Section 3 (e) of Rule 71 of the Rules of Court, a person who engages in the unauthorized practice of law is liable for indirect contempt of court. (Aguirre v. Rana, B.M. No. 1036, 10 June 2003)

(1) Formal charge, required

Under the Rules of Court, the unauthorized practice of law by one’s assuming to be an attorney or officer of the court, and acting as such without authority, may constitute indirect contempt of court, which is punishable by fine or imprisonment or both. Such a finding, however, is in the nature of criminal contempt and must be reached after the filing of charges and the conduct of hearings. In this case, while it appears quite clearly that petitioner committed indirect contempt of court by knowingly engaging in unauthorized practice of law, we refrain from making any finding of liability for indirect contempt, as no formal charge pertaining thereto has been filed against him. (In Re: Petition to Sign in the Roll of Attorneys, Michael A. Medado, supra.)

Rule 9.01: A lawyer shall not delegate to any unqualified person the performance of any task which by law may only be performed by a member of the bar in good standing.

1) Notary Public

Respondent-lawyer’s delegation of his notarial function of recording entries in his notarial register to his secretary is a clear contravention of the explicit provision of the notarial rules that such duty should be fulfilled by him and not by anyone else. This is a direct violation of Canon 9, Rule 9.01 of the Code. (Roabuenafe v. Lirazan, A.C. No. 9361, 20 March 2019)

Respondent-lawyer averred in his position paper that it had been his consistent practice to course through clerical staff documents to be notarized. Upon referral, said clerical staff investigates whether the documents are complete as to the fundamental requirements and inquires as to the identity of the individual signatories thereto. If everything is in order, they ask the parties to sign the documents and forward them to him and he again inquires about the identities of the parties before affixing his notarial signature. It is also his clerical staff who records entries in his notarial report. As aforesaid, respondent is mandated to observe with utmost care the basic requirements in the performance of his duties as a notary and to ascertain that the persons who signed the documents are the very same persons who executed and personally appeared before him to attest to the contents and truth of what are stated therein. In merely relying on his clerical staff to determine the completeness of documents brought to him for notarization, limiting his participation in the notarization process to simply inquiring about the identities of the persons appearing before him, and in notarizing an affidavit executed by a dead person, respondent is liable for misconduct. Under the facts and circumstances of the case, the revocation of his notarial commission, disqualification from being commissioned as a notary public for a period of two years and suspension from the practice of law for one year are in order. (Ang v. Gupana, A.C. No. 4545, 05 February 2014)

Rule 9.02: A lawyer shall not divide or stipulate to divide a fee for legal services with persons not licensed to practice law, except: (a) Where there is a pre-existing agreement with a partner or associate that, upon the latter’s death, money shall be paid over a reasonable period of time to his estate or to persons specified in the agreement; or (b) Where a lawyer undertakes to complete unfinished legal business of a deceased lawyer; or (c) Where a lawyer or law firm includes non-lawyer employees in a retirement plan even if the plan is based in whole or in part, on a profit-sharing agreement.

1) No sharing of attorney’s fees to non-lawyers

Respondent-lawyer’s admission that he divided the legal fees with two other people, who are non-lawyers, as a referral fee does not release him from liability. A lawyer shall not divide or stipulate to divide a fee for legal services with persons not licensed to practice law, except in certain cases. (Lijauco v. Terrado, A.C. No. 6317, 31 August 2006)

2) Estate

If there is a pre-existing agreement with a partner or associate that, upon the latter’s death, money shall be paid over a reasonable period of time to his estate or to persons specified in the agreement, the amount forms part of the estate, which in turn is paid to the heirs or assignees. (Ibid.)

3) Retirement plan

If a lawyer or law firm includes non-lawyer employees in a retirement plan even if the plan is based in whole or in part, on a profit-sharing agreement, the amount is in the character of deferred salaries/compensation. (Ibid.)

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