SC Suspends Lawyer-Politician from CamSur for Neglect and Negligence

July 17, 2019

In a six-page resolution promulgated on June 3, 2019, the Supreme Court First Division through the ponencia of Associate Justice Mariano C. Del Castillo suspended from the practice of law for one year Atty. Ariel T. Oriño for neglecting a legal matter entrusted to him and his negligence in connection therewith, a violation of Rule 18.03 of Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR).

The High Court agreed with the finding of both the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) and IBP-Board of Governors (IBP-BOG) that Atty. Oriño failed to serve the complainants with industry and diligence in accordance with Canon 18 of the CPR. The Court noted that Atty. Oriño failed to attend a hearing and submit a position paper for the complainants’ ejectment case which resulted to the complainants’ defeat in the Municipal Circuit Trail Court (MCTC) of Libmanan-Cabusao, Camarines Sur, as well as failed to file a memorandum for complainants which resulted in the dismissal of the appeal even though he had already been paid Php20,000 as acceptance fee, Php1,500 as appearance fee, and live chickens and root crops. “[I]t is undisputed that a lawyer-client relationship was created when [Atty. Oriño] agreed to accept the complainants’ case and in consideration thereof, received from complainants payment in cash and in kind.”

The IBP-CBD recommended the suspension of Atty. Oriño from the practice of law for six months with a warning that a commission of the same or similar acts shall be dealt with more severely, which the IBP-BOG adopted. The Supreme Court adopted such findings but modified the penalty to a one-year suspension from the practice of law with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar wrongdoing will be dealt with more severely.

The Court also stressed that it has been held that mere failure of the lawyer to perform the obligations due to his client is considered per se a violation of the lawyer’s oath. “Indeed, lawyers are duty bound to attend to their client’s cause with diligence, care and devotion, whether they accept it for a fee or for free, so much so that a lawyer’s neglect of a legal matter entrusted to him constitutes inexcusable negligence for which he must be held administratively liable.”

In defending his actions, Atty. Oriño claimed that he decided to withdraw from the ejectment case because, in his view, the case was unmeritorious. However, he admitted that he failed to formally withdraw as counsel for complainants allegedly due to his hectic schedule during the 2010 elections. He also admitted he failed to file the position paper and the memorandum of appeal before the MCTC and RTC, respectively. Consequently, the case was eventually dismissed by the RTC. The High Court underscored that Atty. Oriño clearly fell short of the circumspection and diligence required of those privileged to practice law. On Atty. Oriño’s attribution of his shortcomings as a lawyer to his being a politician, the Court found such reason “unacceptable, if not a display of insolence and arrogance.”

The case stemmed from an administrative case filed by multiple complainants who were defendants in a civil case for forcible entry and damages with a prayer for temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction, lodged before the MCTC. They hired Atty. Oriño as a substitute lawyer in that case.

(A.C. No. 8907, Spouses Vargas, et al. v. Atty. Oriño, June 3, 2019)

READ the full-text at: http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/4812/