SC Disbars Two Lawyers, Suspends Another

May 17, 2019

In separate rulings, the Supreme Court has disbarred two lawyers and suspended another from the practice of law for committing various infractions.

In A.C. 12475, the High Court disbarred Atty. Jorge C. Sacdalan and ordered his name stricken off the Roll of Attorneys effective immediately for violating Rules 1.01, 16.04, and 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. It also ordered him to return to complainant Rosalie P. Domingo the P50,000, as legal deposit to cover the expenses related to the expected litigation, and P100,000, as cash advance chargeable against his appearance fees and other fees, with interest of 6% per annum reckoned from the date of the receipt of this Decision until full payment. Likewise, he was fined P5,000 for disobedience to the orders of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines–Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD).

Complainant Domingo engaged the services of Atty. Sacdalan in 2016 to recover possession of a parcel of land from illegal settlers in Binangonan, Rizal. She claimed that she even lent P100,000 to Sacdalan in the form of a cash advance charged against his appearance fees and other fees out of compassion since Sacdalan said the money was for his wife’s hospitalization. When Sacdalan did not give any updates on the status of her case, the complainant inquired directly with the Municipal Trial Court of Binangonan, Rizal and discovered that the former has yet to file any complaint for ejectment.

Sacdalan, after being confronted by Domingo, eventually filed a complaint for ejectment before the MTC, which dismissed the same for lack of jurisdiction. Dissatisfied, Domingo sought the services of another lawyer to communicate with Sacdalan, who despite agreeing to return the cash advance, still failed to do so despite several demands. Sacdalan also failed to file his answer to the complaint lodged against him despite being required by the IBP Commission.

“[T]he acts and omissions of respondent constitute malpractice, gross negligence and gross misconduct in his office as attorney. His incompetence and appalling indifference to his duty to his client, the courts and society render him unfit to continue discharging the trust reposed in him as a member of the Bar,” held the Court.

In A.C. No. 12457, the High Court also disbarred Atty. Renato B. Pagatpatan and fined him P5,000 for simple misconduct for his unethical behavior in writing a letter to the Bishop of the Diocese of Tandag, Surigao Del Sur against complainant Rev. Fr. Jose P. Zafra III.

Atty. Pagatpatan was the counsel on record of the respondents in the estafa case filed by Fr. Zafra with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Tandag City, Surigao Del Sur, Br. 40. While the said criminal case was pending, Pagatpatan wrote the Bishop of Tandag requesting an investigation of Fr. Zafra for the latter’s activities, alleging the latter to have concocted stories against his clients. Fr. Zafra, who was embarrassed because of Atty. Pagatpatan’s “malicious” letter, was eventually investigated by the Board of Consultors with the Bishop, where he was able to clear his name.

Fr. Zafra filed a complaint against Pagatpatan with the IBP-CBD for stirring controversies by making the said letter, adding that the latter engaged in the unauthorized practice of law despite a 2005 suspension order by the SC.

“Atty. Pagatpatan has made a mockery of this Court’s authority by defying this Court’s suspension order for over eleven (11) years. If Fr. Zafra had not filed the instant case, Atty. Pagatpatan would have continued disregarding the suspension order of this Court. His actions clearly constitute gross misconduct as defined under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, which is a sufficient cause for suspension or disbarment,” the Court held.

In A.C. No. 11641, the High Court suspended Atty. Jose M. Caringal from the practice of law for three years.

The suspension stemmed from the administrative case filed by Marilu C. Turla before the IBP-CBD. Turla was the petitioner in a special proceedings case before the RTC, Quezon City, Br. 222, wherein Atty. Caringal was the counsel for the oppositor. Turla accused Caringal of failing to attend the required Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) seminars for the Second (MCLE II) and Third (MCLE III) Compliance Periods, as required under Bar Matter No. 850 and for violation of his lawyer’s oath not to do any falsehood.

“When Atty. Caringal indicated that he was MCLE-exempt in the pleadings and motions he filed, although in fact he was not, he engaged in dishonest conduct which was also disrespectful of the court. He undoubtedly placed his clients at risk, given that pleadings with such false information produce no legal effect and can result in the expunction of the same. Undeniably, he did not stay true to the cause of his clients and actually violated his duty to serve his clients with competence and diligence,” the Court ruled.

(A.C. No. 12475, Domingo v. Sacdalan, March 26, 2019; A.C. No. 12457, Zafra v. Pagatpatan, April 2, 2019; A.C. No. 11641, Turla v. Caringal, March 12, 2019)