(Question II, Legal and Judicial Ethics, 2018 Bar Exam)
In a complaint filed before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) against Atty. Cirilo Celis, a senior citizen, it was shown that: a) he failed to pay his IBP dues for six (6) years; b) he indicated uniformly in his pleadings for three (3) consecutive years “IBP Muntinlupa OR No. 12345” as proof of payment of his IBP fees; and c) he did not indicate any Professional Tax Receipt number to prove payment of his professional dues.
In his defense, Atty. Celis alleged that he is only engaged in a “limited” law practice, and his principal occupation, as disclosed in his income tax return, is that of a farmer of a 30-hectare orchard and pineapple farm in Camarines Sur. He also claimed that he believed in good faith that, as a senior citizen, he was exempt from payment of taxes, such as income tax, under Republic Act No. 7432 which grants senior citizens “exemption from the payment of individual income taxes provided that their annual taxable income does not exceed the poverty level as determined by the NEDA for that year.”
As a member of the IBP Board of Governors, decide on the following:
(a) the validity of his claim that, being engaged in a limited practice of law and being a senior citizen who is exempt from the payment of taxes, he is not required to pay his IBP and professional dues; (2.5%)
On the IBP fees, Atty. Celis is required to pay it annually to remain in good standing and to continue to practice law, even if on a “limited” practice. The exemption granted under R.A. 7432 is limited to taxes and subject to the condition that the annual taxable income does not exceed the poverty level as determined by NEDA. The IBP fees is a membership fee, not a tax.
(b) the obligations, if any, under the Rules of Court and the Code of Professional Responsibility that Atty. Celis may have violated. (2.5%)
Under the Rules of Court and the Code of Professional Responsibility, Atty. Celis violated the following obligations:
1) To pay annual membership dues with the IBP;
2) To remain in good standing with the IBP; and
3) To uphold, at all times, the integrity and dignity of the legal profession and support the activities of the Integrated Bar.
(Notice: The suggested answers simulate those that a bar examinee may provide, and thus specific citations are not provided. Notwithstanding, in the reviewers, the bar exam question is answered under the appropriate topic which discusses the concepts and principles, as well as provide for specific citations. Accordingly, please refer to it on the reviewer or in the Library.)
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