A.C. No. 10179 (Formerly CBD 11–2985), March 04, 2014
BENJAMIN Q. ONG, Complainant, v. ATTY. WILLIAM F. DELOS SANTOS, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and APPROVED the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the above–entitled case, herein made part of this Resolution as Annex “A,” and finding the recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws and rules and considering that Respondent violated Canon 1, Rule 1.01 and Canon 7, Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, Atty. William F. Delos Santos is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for three (3) years and ORDERED to RETURN the amount of One Hundred Thousand (P100,000.00) Pesos to complainant with legal interest within thirty days from receipt of notice.
The effects of the issuance of a worthless check transcends the private interests of the parties directly involved in the transaction and touches the interests of the community at large. The mischief it creates is not only a wrong to the payee or holder, but also an injury to the public. The harmful practice of putting valueless commercial papers in circulation, multiplied a thousandfold, can very well pollute the channels of trade and commerce, injure the banking system and eventually hurt the welfare of society and the public interest.15 xxxBeing a lawyer, Atty. Delos Santos was well aware of the objectives and coverage of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22. If he did not, he was nonetheless presumed to know them, for the law was penal in character and application. His issuance of the unfunded check involved herein knowingly violated Batas Pambansa Blg. 22, and exhibited his indifference towards the pernicious effect of his illegal act to public interest and public order.16 He thereby swept aside his Lawyer’s Oath that enjoined him to support the Constitution and obey the laws. He also took for granted the express commands of the Code of Professional Responsibility, specifically Canon 1, Rule 1.01 and Canon 7, Rule 7.03, viz:
CANON 1 – A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, OBEY THE LAWS OF THE LAND AND PROMOTE RESPECT FOR THE LAW AND LEGAL PROCESSES.These canons, the Court has said in Agno v. Cagatan,17 required of him as a lawyer an enduring high sense of responsibility and good fidelity in all his dealings, thus:Rule 1.01 – A Lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.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.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.
The afore–cited canons 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.18That 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.19 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.20
COMM. DELA RAMA: What did you feel when you were issued a bounced check by the respondent?Atty. Delos Santos should always be mindful of his duty to uphold the law and to be circumspect in all his dealings with the public. Any transgression of this duty on his part would not only diminish his reputation as a lawyer but would also erode the public’s faith in the Legal Profession as a whole. His assuring Ong that he was in good financial standing because of his lucrative law practice when the contrary was true manifested his intent to mislead the latter into giving a substantial amount in exchange for his worthless post–dated check. Such actuation did not speak well of him as a member of the Bar.
MR. ONG: Actually, the reason I even loaned him money because actually he was not even my friend. He was just referred to me. The reason why I felt at ease to loan him money was because the sheriff told me that abogado eto. It is his license that would be at stake that’s why I lent him the money.21
x x x x
COMM. DELA RAMA: In other words, what you are saying is that you felt betrayed when the lawyer issued a bounced check in your favor.
MR. ONG : Yes, Commissioner.
COMM. DELA RAMA: Why, what is your expectation of a lawyer?
MR. ONG : They uphold the law, they know the law. He should not have issued the check if you know it cannot be funded because actually I have many lawyer friend[s] and I have always high regard for lawyers.22
* Acting Chief Justice per Special Order No. 1644 dated February 25, 2014.
1Rollo, pp. 2–3.
2 Id. at 3.
3 Id. at 6.
4 Id. at 3.
5 Id. at 4.
6 Id. at 55–60.
7 Id. at 56.
8 Id. at 55–56.
9 Id. at 54.
10Manaois v. Deciembre, Adm. Case No. 5364, August 20, 2008, 562 SCRA 359, 363–364; Rural Bank of Silay, Inc. v. Pilla, Adm. Case No. 3637, January 24, 2001, 350 SCRA 138, 145; Narag v. Narag, A.C. No. 3405, June 29, 1998, 291 SCRA 451, 463.
11Sebastian v. Bajar, A.C. No. 3731, September 7, 2007, 532 SCRA 435, 448.
12Re: Letter Dated 21 February 2005 of Atty. Noel S. Sorreda, A.M. No. 05–3–04–SC, July 22, 2005, 464 SCRA 32, 45; Grande v. De Silva, A.C. No. 4838, July 29, 2003, 407 SCRA 310, 313.
13Magno v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 96132, June 26, 1992, 210 SCRA 471, 478.
14 G.R. No. L–63419, 18 December 1986, 146 SCRA 323, 338.
15 Id. at 340.
16Santos–Tan v. Robiso, A.C. No. 6383, March 31, 2009, 582 SCRA 556, 564.
17 A.C. No. 4515, July 14, 2008, 558 SCRA 1.
18 Id. at 17–18
19Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation v. Carandang, A.C. No. 5700, January 30, 2006, 480 SCRA 512, 518.
20Fernandez v. Cabrera III, A.C. No. 5623, December 11, 2003, 418 SCRA 1, 5.
21Rollo, p. 45.
22 Id. at 47.
23 Id. at 39–43.
24 Supra note 19, at 519