A.C. No. 8330, March 16, 2015
TERESITA B. ENRIQUEZ, Complainant, v. ATTY. TRINA DE VERA, Respondent.
R E S O L U T I O N
For resolution is an administrative complaint for disbarment or suspension filed by complainant Teresita B. Enriquez against Atty. Trina De Vera. We resolve whether Atty. Trina De Vera committed serious misconduct and should be held administratively liable for the issuance and dishonor of several post-dated checks.
Teresita B. Enriquez (Teresita) filed her Complaint-Affidavit1 on June 26, 2009 before this court. The Complaint prayed for Atty. Trina De Vera's (Atty. De Vera) disbarment or suspension in relation to the latter's issuance of worthless checks and non-payment of a loan.2cralawred
According to Teresita, she is a businesswoman involved in building cell site towers. She is acquainted with Atty. De Vera through the business by subcontracting the cell site acquisition to Atty. De Vera.3cralawred
Sometime in April 2006, Atty. De Vera borrowed P500,000.00 from Teresita with interest of P20,000.00 per month until fully paid.4 Hbwever, Teresita did not have the full amount. Atty. De Vera persuaded her to borrow the amount from a common friend, Mary Jane D. Luzon (Mary Jane), by mortgaging her property located in Lucena City.5 Atty. De Vera issued IBank6 Check No. 310571 post-dated July 31, 2006 for P500,000.00. Atty. De Vera also issued at least two more checks to cover the interest agreed upon.7cralawred
Teresita alleges that in June 2006, Atty. De Vera obtained another loan from Teresita's sister in the amount of P100,000.00. Teresita guaranteed the loan. Atty.De Vera issued IBank Check No. 317689 post-dated July 14, 2006 for P100,000.00 to Teresita. Teresita claimed that she paid her sister the amount borrowed by Atty. De Vera.8cralawred
Upon maturity of the checks, Teresita presented the checks for payment. However, the checks "bounced" for being drawn against insufficient funds. Teresita attempted to encash the checks for a second time. However, the checks were dishonored because the account was closed.9cralawred
Teresita demanded payment from Atty. De Vera. However, she failed to settle her obligations, prompting Teresita to file complaints against Atty. De Vera for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 and estafa under Article 315, paragraph 2(d) of the Revised Penal Code.10cralawred
The Quezon City Prosecutor's Office issued the Resolution dated March 4, 2008 finding probable cause for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 and Article 315, paragraph 2(d) of the Revised Penal Code. On the same day, an Information for estafa under Article 315, paragraph 2(d) of the Revised Penal Code was filed before the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City. Subsequently, a warrant of arrest was issued by the trial court.11cralawred
In her administrative complaint, Teresita prays that Atty. De Vera be disbarred or suspended for violation of her oath under Rule 138, Section 27 of the Rules of Court.12cralawred
On July 29, 2009, this court required Atty. De Vera to comment on the Complaint.13cralawred
Atty. De Vera filed her Answer14 dated June 24, 2010. She presented her version of the facts.
According to Atty. De Vera, in February 2006, Teresita awarded a Site Acquisition and Permitting Project to Atty. De Vera's group. The project involved twenty-nine (29) Globe' Telecom sites across Northern and Southern Luzon.15cralawred
Atty. De Vera alleges that Teresita could not pay the required 15% downpayment per site. Thus, they agreed that Atty. De Vera would advance the costs for mobilization and survey, while Teresita would cover the costs for application of building permits. Teresita, thus, owed her P195,000.00 per site.16cralawred
Teresita had not paid Atty. De Vera the downpayment by March 2006.17 At that time, Teresita had to deliver at least five (5) cell sites to Globe Telecom.18 However, Teresita did not have the funds required for the application of building permits that costs around P10,000.00 for each cell site.19cralawred
Teresita was constrained to borrow P500,000.00 from Mary Jane. Subsequently, Teresita approached Atty. De Vera and asked that the latter lend Teresita checks to guaranty the loan. The main reason Teresita gave was that she had been frequently arguing with her husband regarding the loan.20cralawred
Atty. De Vera denies the P100,000.00 loan from Teresita's sister.21 She only lent Teresita another check as "additional guaranty for the five sites[.]"22cralawred
Atty. De Vera argues that the checks were not drawn, issued, and delivered to Teresita for value. The checks were not meant to be deposited.23cralawred
Furthermore, Atty. De Vera claims that the present administrative case is baseless. She points out that the proceedings before the Quezon City Prosecutor's Office were under reinvestigation since she' did not have the opportunity to answer the criminal complaint.24cralawred
Moreover, "nowhere in both the affidavit-complaint for Estafa/BP 22 and the administrative complaint was there any proof that . . . [Atty. De Vera] had in any manner breached her oath as a lawyer [or] abused her position against the interests of the complainant."25cralawred
Atty. De Vera alleges that she was the one who was abused.26 In addition, "[a] 11 the bare allegations that [Atty. De Vera] was the one who enticed [Teresita] to mortgage her property and that the checks issued by [Atty. De Vera] will be honored upon maturity do not constitute deceitful conduct on the part of [Atty. De Vera]."27cralawred
On August 25, 2010, this court noted Atty. De Vera's Answer and referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for "investigation, report and recommendation or decision within ninety (90) days from receipt of [the] records[.]"28cralawred
The Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines scheduled mandatory conferences where the parties defined the issues, stipulated on facts, and marked exhibits.29 Upon the termination of the mandatory conferences, the parties were "directed to submit their respective verified position papers within a period of thirty (30) days from receipt of the Order."30.
Both parties failed to file their position papers.31cralawred
The Investigating Commissioner of the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines found Atty. De Vera administratively liable for serious misconduct and recommended the penalty of suspension for one (1) year from the practice of law.32 The Investigating Commissioner ruled:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Respondent's assertion that the checks she issued to complainant were not security for the loans she obtained but mere guaranty checks and not for deposit deserves no credence; it is contrary to the ordinary experience.
. . .
. . . [T]he pieces of evidenc[e] on reco[r]d substantially shows [sic] that indeed respondent incurred monetary obligations from complainant, and she issued postdated checks to 'the latter as security for the payment of the loans.
Assuming . . . that respondent's version of facts were [sic] true, she is still guilty of serious misconduct.
The gravamen of the offense punished by B.P. Blg. 22 is the act of making and issuing . . . worthless check[s]; that is, a check that is dishonored upon its presentation for payment. The law is not intended or designed to coerce a debtor to pay his debt. The thrust of the law is to prohibit, under pain of penal sanctions, the making and circulation of worthless checks. . . . A check issued as an evidence of debt — though not intended to be presented for payment — has the same effect as an ordinary check and would fall within the ambit of B.P. Blg. 22.
As a lawyer, respondent is deemed to know the law, especially B.P. Blg. 22. By issuing checks in violation of the provisions of the law, respondent is guilty of serious misconduct.
. . .
[A] lawyer may be disciplined not only for malpractice in connection with his profession, but also for gross misconduct outside of his professional capacity[.]33 (Citation omitted)cralawlawlibrary
Cannon [sic] 1 - A lawyer shall uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect for the law and legal processes.
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.35cralawlawlibrary
WHEREFORE, premises considered, respondent is guilty of serious misconduct and it is recommended that she be suspended for a period of one (1) year from the practice of law.37cralawred
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 the B.P. 22 by issuing a worthless check, the Attorney's Oath and Canon 1, Rule 1.01, Canon 7 and Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, Atty. Trina De Vera is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for one (1) year.39 (Emphasis in the original)cralawlawlibrary
RESOLVED to DENY respective Motions for Reconsideration of Complainant and Respondent, there being no cogent reason to reverse the findings of the Commission and the resolution .subject of the motion, they being a mere reiteration of the matters which had already been threshed out and taken into consideration. Moreover, respondent's Motion for Reconsideration was filed out of time pursuant to his Motion for Extension of Time which is a prohibited pleading under Rule 139-B of the Rules and resorted to by lawyers at times to delay proceeding. Thus, Resolution No. XX-2013-612 dated May 11, 2013 is hereby AFFIRMED.43 (Emphasis in the original)
In the case at bar, no conviction for violation of B.P. Blg. 22 has as yet been obtained against respondent Collado.. We do not, however, believe that conviction of the criminal charges raised against her is essential, so far as either the administrative or civil service case or the disbarment charge against her is concerned. Since she had admitted issuing the checks when she did not have enough money in her bank account to cover the total amount thereof, it cannot be gainsaid that the acts with which she was charged would constitute a crime penalized by B.P. Blg. 22. We consider that issuance of checks in violation of the provisions of B.P. Blg. 22 constitutes serious misconduct on the part of a member of the Bar.46 (Emphasis supplied, citation omitted)cralawlawlibrary
Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 has been enacted in order to safeguard the interest of the banking system and the legitimate public checking account users. The gravamen of the offense defined and punished by Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 . . . is the act of making and issuing a worthless check, or any check that is dishonored upon its presentment for payment and putting it in circulation; the law is designed to prohibit and altogether eliminate the deleterious and pernicious practice of issuing checks with insufficient funds, or with no credit, because the practice is deemed a public nuisance, a crime against public order to be abated.
. . .
Being a lawyer, [respondent] 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. He thereby swept aside his Lawyer's Oath that enjoined him to support the Constitution and obey the laws.49 (Citations omitted)cralawlawlibrary
CANON 1 - A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, OBEY THE LAWS OF THE LAND AND PROMOTE RESPECT FOR LAW AND LEGAL PROCESSES. 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.
1Rollo, pp. 1—4.
2 Id. at 1-2.
3 Id. at 1.
6 Id. at 8. The Complaint-Affidavit refers to (he drawee bank as "IBank." Records reveal that the drawee bank is the International Exchange Bank.
7 Id. at 1 and 9-11. In the Complaint, it was alleged that Atty. De Vera issued the following checks:
8 IBank Check No. 310568 post-dated May 30, 2006 for P20,000.00 as interest for June 2006 and IBank Check No. 310570 post-dated July 15, 2006 for P20,000.00 as interest for July 2006. Annexes to the Complaint show that Atty. De Vera issued three (3) checks at the value of P20,000.00 each for the months of May to July 2006.
8 Id. at 2.
12 Id. at 3.
13 Id. at 20.
14 Id. at 51-53.
15 Id. at 54 and 112.
19 Id. at 55 and 112.
21 Id. at 55 and 113.
24 Id. at 51.
28 Id. at 58.
29 Id. at 110.
32 Id. at 116.
33 Id. at 113-114.
34 Id. at 115.
36 Id. at 109-116.
37 Id. at 116.
38 Id. at 108.
40 Id. at 130-134.
41 Id. at 138-143.
42 Id. at 219-220.
43 Id. at 219.
44 Id. at 52.
45 A.C. No. 3806, December 16, 1992, 216 SCRA 619 [Per Curiam, En Banc].
46 Id. at 623-624.
47Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation v. Atty. Carandang, 516 Phil. 299, 306 (2006) [Per J. Sandoval-Gutierrez, Second Division].
48See Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation v. Atty. Carandang, 516 Phil. 299, 306 (2006) [Per J. Sandoval-Gutierrez, Second Division].
49 Ong v. Delos Santos, A.C. No. 10179, March 4, 2014, 717 SCRA 663, 668-669 [Per J. Bersamin, En Banc]; See Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation v. Atty. Carandang, 516 Phil 299, 305 (2006) [Per J. Sandoval-Gutierrez, Second Division].
50See Attorney's Oath "I,_________ do solemnly swear that 1 will maintain allegiance to the Republic
of the Philippines; I will support its Constitution and obey the laws as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities therein; I will do no falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court; I will not wittingly or willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit, or give aid nor consent to the same; I will delay no man for money or malice, and will conduct myself as a lawyer according to the best of my knowledge and discretion with all good fidelity as well to the courts as to my clients; and I impose upon myself this voluntary obligation without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion. So help me God."
51Rollo, pp. 139-142.
52Rollo, pp. 144-154. The January 20, 2011 Decision, docketed as Criminal Case No. 144629-31 and entitled People of the Philippines v. Teresita B. Enriquez, was penned by Presiding Judge Alfredo D. Ampuan of Branch 33, Metropolitan Trial Court of Metro Manila, Quezon City. The case pertains to three counts of violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22.
53 Id. at 154.
54 Id. at 144.
55 Id. at 147.
56Ong v. Delos Santos, A.C. No. 10179, March 4, 2014, 717 SCRA 663, 671 [Per J. Bersamin, En Banc].
57Lizaso v. Amante, A.C. No. 2019, June 3, 1991, 198 SCRA 1, 11 [Per Curiam, En Banc]; See Po Cham v. Atty. Pizarro, 504 Phil. 273, 286-287 (2005) [Per J. Carpio Morales, Third Division].