A.C. No. 9226 (Formerly CBD 06-1749), June 14, 2016
MA. CECILIA CLARISSA C, ADVINCULA, Complainant, v. ATTY. LEONARDO C. ADVINCULA, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
This administrative case stemmed from the complaint for disbarment dated June 16, 2006 brought to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) against Atty. Leonardo C. Advincula (Atty. Advincula) by no less than his wife, Dr. Ma. Cecilia Clarissa C. Advincula (Dr. Advincula).
In her complaint,1 Dr. Advincula has averred that Atty. Advincula committed unlawful and immoral acts;2 that while Atty. Advincula was still married to her, he had extra-marital sexual relations with Ma. Judith Ortiz Gonzaga (Ms. Gonzaga);3 that the extra-marital relations bore a child in the name of Ma. Alexandria Gonzaga Advincula (Alexandria);4 that Atty. Advincula failed to give financial support to their own children, namely: Ma. Samantha Paulina, Ma. Andrea Lana, and Jose Leandro, despite his having sufficient financial resources;5 that he admitted in the affidavit of late registration of birth of Alexandria that he had contracted another marriage with Ms. Gonzaga;6 that even should Atty. Advincula prove that his declaration in the affidavit of late registration of birth was motivated by some reason other than the fact that he truly entered into a subsequent marriage with Ms. Gonzaga, then making such a declaration was in itself still unlawful;7 that siring a child with a woman other than his lawful wife was conduct way below the standards of morality required of every lawyer;8 that contracting a subsequent marriage while the first marriage had not been dissolved was also an unlawful conduct;9 that making a false declaration before a notary public was an unlawful conduct punishable under the Revised Penal Code;10 and that the failure of Atty. Advincula to provide proper support to his children showed his moral character to be below the standards set by law for every lawyer.11 Dr. Advincula prayed that Atty. Advincula be disbarred.12chanrobleslaw
In his answer,13 Atty. Advincula denied the accusations. He asserted that during the subsistence of his marriage with Dr. Advincula but prior to the birth of their youngest Jose Leandro, their marital relationship had deteriorated; that they could not agree on various matters concerning their family, religion, friends, and respective careers; that Dr. Advincula abandoned the rented family home with the two children to live with her parents; that despite their separation, he regularly gave financial support to Dr. Advincula and their children; that during their separation, he got into a brief relationship with Ms. Gonzaga; and that he did not contract a second marriage with Ms. Gonzaga.14chanrobleslaw
Atty. Advincula further acknowledged that as a result of the relationship with Ms. Gonzaga, a child was bom and named Alexandra;15 that in consideration of his moral obligation as a father, he gave support to Alexandra;16 that he only learned that the birth of Alexandra had been subsequently registered after the child was already enrolled in school;17 that it was Ms. Gonzaga who informed him that she had the birth certificate of Alexandria altered by a fixer in order to enroll the child;18 that he strived to reunite his legitimate family, resulting in a reconciliation that begot their third child, Jose Leandro; that Dr. Advincula once again decided to live with her parents, bringing all of their children along; that nevertheless, he continued to provide financial support to his family and visited the children regularly; that Dr. Advincula intimated to him that she had planned to take up nursing in order to work as a nurse abroad because her medical practice here was not lucrative; that he supported his wife's nursing school expenses;19 that Dr. Advincula left for the United States of America (USA) to work as a nurse;20 that the custody of their children was not entrusted to him but he agreed to such arrangement to avoid further division of the family;21 that during the same period he was also busy with his law studies;22 that Dr. Advincula proposed that he and their children migrate to the USA but he opposed the proposal because he would not be able to practice his profession there;23 that Dr. Advincula stated that if he did not want to join her, then she would just get the children to live with her;24 that when Dr. Advincula came home for a vacation he was not able to accompany her due to his extremely busy schedule as Chief Legal Staff of the General Prosecution Division of the National Bureau of Investigation;25cralawred and that when they finally met arguments flared out, during which she threatened to file a disbarment suit against him in order to force him to allow her to bring their children to the USA.26 Atty. Advincula prayed that the disbarment case be dismissed for utter lack of merit.27chanrobleslaw
The IBP Board of Governors unanimously adopted the findings and recommendations of the Investigating Commissioner with slight modification of the penalty, thus:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
Based on Rule 1.01, Canon 1, Code of Professional Responsibility for Lawyers comes this provisions (sic): "A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct."
This means that members of the bar ought to possess good moral character. Remember we must (sic) that the practice of law is a mere privilege. The moment that a lawyer no longer has the required qualifications foremost of which is the presence of that character earlier mentioned, the Honorable Supreme Court may revoke the said practice.
No doubt, Respondent Leanardo (sic) C. Advincula, probably due to the weakness of the flesh, had a romance outside of marriage (sic) with Ma. Judith Ortiz Gonzaga. This he admitted.
From such affair came a child named Ma. Alexandria. He supported her as a moral obligation.
How, then, must we categorize his acts? It cannot be denied that he had committed an adulterous and immoral act.
Was his conduct grossly immoral?
Before answering that, let us recall what the highest Court of the Land defined as immoral conduct: "that conduct which is willful, flagrant or shameless and which shows a moral indifference to the opinion of the good and respectable members of the community."28chanrobleslaw
x x x x
It is the Commissioner's view that what he did pales when compared to Respondent Leo Palma's case earlier cited.
In that case, the Honorable Supreme Court stressed that Atty. Palma had made a mockery of marriage, a sacred institution demanding respect and dignity.
The highest Court of the Land intoned in the same case: "But what respondent forgot is that he has also duties to his wife. As a husband, he is obliged to live with her; observe mutual love, respect and fidelity: and render help and support."
Deemed favorable to Respondent's cause were the various exhibits he presented evidencing the fact that he supported their children financially. Such conduct could not illustrate him as having championed a grossly immoral conduct.
Another factor to consider is this: Complainant should share part of the blame why their marriage soured. Their constant quarrels while together would indicate that harmony between them was out of the question.
The possibility appears great that she might have displayed a temper that ignited the flame of discord between them.
Just the same, however, while this Commissioner would not recommend the supreme penalty of disbarment for to deprive him of such honored station in life would result in irreparable injury and must require proof of the highest degree pursuant to the Honorable Supreme Court's ruling in Angeles vs. Figueroa, 470 SCRA 186 (2005), he must be sanctioned.
And the proof adduced is not of the highest degree.
In the light of the foregoing disquisition, having, in effect, Respondent's own admission of having committed an extra-marital affair and fathering a child, it is respectfully recommended that he be suspended from the practice of law for at least one month with the additional admonition that should he repeat the same, a more severe penalty would be imposed.
It would be unjust to impose upon him the extreme penalty of disbarment. What he did was not grossly immoral.29chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and APPROVED, with modification, 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 respondent's admission of engaging in a simple immorality and also taking into account the condonation of his extra-marital affair by his wife, Atty. Leonardo C. Advincula is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for two (2) months.30chanroblesvirtuallawlibraryAtty. Advincula accepted the Resolution of the IBP Board of Governors as final and executory, and manifested in his compliance dated February 26, 2013, as follows:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
- That on 28 November 2011 this Honorable Court issued a resolution suspending the undersigned Attorney from the practice of law for two (2) months under "A.C. No. 9226 (formerly CBD Case No. 06-1749) (Ma. Cecilia Clarissa C. Advincula vs. Atty. Leonardo C. Advincula) x x x
- That on 30 October 2012 in faithful compliance with the above order, the undersigned attorney applied for Leave for two (2) months starting November up to December thereby refraining himself from the practice of law as Legal Officer on the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) x x x
- That the undersigned Attorney would like to notify this Honorable Court of his compliance with the above resolution/order so that he may be able to practice his law profession again.31
Rule 1.01 — A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.Accordingly, it is expected that every lawyer, being an officer of the Court, must not only be in fact of good moral character, but must also be seen to be of good moral character and leading lives in accordance with the highest moral standards of the community. More specifically, a member of the Bar and officer of the Court is required not only to refrain from adulterous relationships or keeping mistresses but also to conduct himself as to avoid scandalizing the public by creating the belief that he is flouting those moral standards. If the practice of law is to remain an honorable profession and attain its basic ideals, whoever is enrolled in its ranks should not only master its tenets and principles but should also, in their lives, accord continuing fidelity to them. The requirement of good moral character is of much greater import, as far as the general public is concerned, than the possession of legal learning.32chanrobleslaw
x x x x
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.
x x x x
Rule 7.03 — A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor should he, whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession.
1Rollo, pp. 1-5.
2 Id. at 1.
3 Id. at 2.
5 Id. at 3.
9 Id. at 4.
12 Id. at 5.
13 Id. at 14-22.
25cralawred Id. at 19.
27 Id. at 22.
28 Id. at 252.
29 Id. at 253-254.
30 Id. at 244.
32Dantes v. Dantes, A.C. No. 6486, September 22, 2004, 438 SCRA 582, 588-589.
33Narag v. Narag, A.C. No. 3405, June 29, 1998, 291 SCRA 451, 464.
34 A.C. No. 4256, February 13, 2004, 422 SCRA 527, 533.
35Guevarra v. Eala, A.C. No. 7136, August 1, 2007, 529 SCRA 1, 4.
36Ferancullo v. Ferancullo, A.C. No. 7214, November 30, 2006, 509 SCRA 1, 17.
37 A.C. No. 7022, June 18, 2008, 555 SCRA 1, 7.
[T]he same must be established by clear and convincing proof, disclosing a case that is free from doubt as to compel the exercise by the Court of its disciplinary power. . . . Likewise, the dubious character of the act done as well as the motivation thereof must be clearly demonstrated.8chanroblesvirtuallawlibraryThere are different aspects of morality. Morality may be religious or secular. In Perfecto v. Esidera:9
Morality refers to what is good or right conduct at a given circumstance. In Estrada v. Escritor, this court described morality as "'how we ought to live' and why."In the same case, this Court stated that the rule against immorality should have a secular basis. Our jurisdiction to determine what is moral or immoral should only be limited to conduct that affects public interest. Immoral conduct, if made the basis for imposing administrative penalty, should refer to conduct as officers of the court. It must be of such depravity as to reduce the public's confidence in our laws and in our judicial system,11 thus:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Morality may be religious, in which case what is good depends on the moral prescriptions of a high moral authority or the beliefs of a particular religion. Religion, as this court defined in Aglipay v. Ruiz, is "a profession of faith to an active power that binds and elevates man to his Creator." A conduct is religiously moral if it is consistent with and is carried out in light of the divine set of beliefs and obligations imposed by the active power.
Morality may also be secular, in which case it is independent of any divine moral prescriptions. What is good or right at a given circumstance does not derive its basis from any religious doctrine but from the independent moral sense shared as humans.10 (Citations omitted)
The non-establishment clause bars the State from establishing, through laws and rules, moral standards according to a specific religion. Prohibitions against immorality should be based on a purpose that is independent of religious beliefs. When it forms part of our laws, rules, and policies, morality must be secular. Laws and rules of conduct must be based on a secular purpose.Respondent had a relationship with another woman during his marriage with complainant. Out of that extra-marital relationship, a child was born. All these had happened before he became a lawyer.
In the same way, this court, in resolving cases that touch on issues of morality, is bound to remain neutral and to limit the bases of its judgment on secular moral standards. When laws or rules refer to morals or immorality, courts should be careful not to overlook the distinction between secular and religious morality if it is to keep its part in upholding constitutionally guaranteed rights.
There is the danger of "compelled religion" and, therefore, of negating the very idea of freedom of belief and non-establishment of religion when religious morality is incorporated in government regulations and policies. As explained in Estrada v. Escritor.Otherwise, if government relies upon religious beliefs in formulating public policies and morals, the resulting policies and morals would require conformity to what some might regard as religious programs or agenda. The non-believers would therefore be compelled to conform to a standard of conduct buttressed by a religious belief, i.e., to a "compelled religion" anathema to religious freedom. Likewise, if government based its actions upon religious beliefs, it would tacitly approve or endorse that belief and thereby also tacitly disapprove contrary religious or non-religious views that would not support the policy. As a result, government will not provide full religious freedom for all its citizens, or even make it appear that those whose beliefs are disapproved are second-class citizens. Expansive religious freedom therefore requires that government be neutral in matters of religion; governmental reliance upon religious justification is inconsistent with this policy of neutrality.. . . .
. . . . We have jurisdiction over matters of morality only insofar as it involves conduct that affects the public or its interest.
Thus, for purposes of determining administrative liability of lawyers and judges, "immoral conduct" should relate to their conduct as officers of the court. To be guilty of "immorality" under the Code of Professional Responsibility, a lawyer's conduct must be so depraved as to reduce the public's confidence in the Rule of Law. Religious morality is not binding whenever this court decides the administrative liability of lawyers and persons under this court's supervision. At best, religious morality weighs only persuasively on us.12 (Citations omitted)
1 Ponencia, p. 2.
2 RULES OF COURT, Rule 131, sec. 3(c).
3 CONST., art. III, sec. 1 provides:
chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrarySECTION 1. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.
4See Cordova v. Cordova, 259 Phil. 278, 281 (1989) [Per Curiam, En Banc]. See also Montagne v. Dominguez, 3 Phil. 577, 589 (1904) [Per J. McDonough, En Banc].
5See Vitug v. Atty. Rongcal, 532 Phil. 615, 633 (2006) [Per J. Tinga, Third Division].
6 159 Phil. 171 (1975) [Per J. Makasiar, First Division].
7 Id. at 177, citing RULES OF COURT (1964), Rule 138, sec. 27; Soberano v. Villanueva, 116 Phil. 1208, 1212 (1962) [Per J. Concepcion, En Banc]; Mortel v. Aspiras, 100 Phil. 587, 591-593 (1956) [Per J. Bengzon, En Banc]; Royong v. Oblena, 117 Phil. 865, 874 (1963) [Per J. Barrera, En Banc]; Bolivar v. Simbol, 123 Phil. 450, 457-458 (1966) [Per J. Sanchez, En Banc]; and Quingwa v. Puno, 125 Phil. 831, 838 (1967) [Per J. Regala, En Banc].
8 Id. at 178, citing Go v. Candoy, 128 Phil. 461, 465 (1967) [Per J. Castro, En Banc].
9 A.M. No. RTJ-15-2417, July 22, 2015 <http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/pdf/web/viewer.html?file=/jurisprudence/2015/july2015/RTJ-15-2417.pdf> [Per J. Leonen, Second Division].
10 Id. at 7-8.
11 Id. at 9.
12 Id. at 8-9.