[A.C. No. 4585. November 12, 2004]
MICHAEL P. BARRIOS, complainant, vs. ATTY. FRANCISCO P. MARTINEZ, respondent
D E C I S I O N
This is a verified petition for
disbarment filed against Atty. Francisco Martinez for having been convicted by
final judgment in Criminal Case No. 6608 of a crime involving moral turpitude
by Branch 8 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
The dispositive portion of the same states:
WHEREFORE, this Court finds the accused Francisco Martinez guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime for (sic) violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 charged in the Information. He is imposed a penalty of one (1) year imprisonment and fine double the amount of the check which is EIGHT THOUSAND (8,000.00) PESOS, plus payment of the tax pursuant to Section 205 of the Internal Revenue Code and costs against the accused.
Complainant further submitted our Resolution dated 13 March 1996 and the Entry of Judgment from this Court dated 20 March 1996.
On 03 July 1996, we required respondent to comment on said petition within ten (10) days from notice. On 17 February 1997, we issued a second resolution requiring him to show cause why no disciplinary action should be imposed on him for failure to comply with our earlier Resolution, and to submit said Comment. On 07 July 1997, we imposed a fine of P1,000 for respondents failure to file said Comment and required him to comply with our previous resolution within ten days. On 27 April 1998, we fined respondent an additional P2,000 and required him to comply with the resolution requiring his comment within ten days under pain of imprisonment and arrest for a period of five (5) days or until his compliance. Finally, on 03 February 1999, or almost three years later, we declared respondent Martinez guilty of Contempt under Rule 71, Sec. 3[b] of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure and ordered his imprisonment until he complied with the aforesaid resolutions.
On 05 April 1999, the National Bureau of Investigation reported
that respondent was arrested in
In the said Comment dated 16 March 1999, respondent stated that:
1. He failed to respond to
our Resolution dated 17 February 1997 as he was at that time undergoing medical
treatment at Camp Ruperto Kangleon in Palo,
2. Complainant Michael Barrios passed away sometime in June 1997; and
3. Said administrative complaint is an offshoot of a civil case which was decided in respondents favor (as plaintiff in the said case). Respondent avers that as a result of his moving for the execution of judgment in his favor and the eviction of the family of herein complainant Michael Barrios, the latter filed the present administrative case.
In the meantime, on 11 September 1997, a certain Robert Visbal of the Provincial Prosecution Office of Tacloban City submitted a letter to the First Division Clerk of Court alleging that respondent Martinez also stood charged in another estafa case before the Regional Trial Court of Tacloban City, Branch 9, as well as a civil case involving the victims of the Doa Paz tragedy in 1987, for which the Regional Trial Court of Basey, Samar, Branch 30 rendered a decision against him, his appeal thereto having been dismissed by the Court of Appeals.
In the said Decision of Branch 30 of the Regional Trial Court of
Said trial court also made particular mention of
On 16 June 1999, we referred the present case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report, and recommendation.
The report of IBP Investigating Commissioner Winston D. Abuyuan stated in part that:
Several dates for the hearing of the case were scheduled but none of the parties appeared before the Commission, until finally it was considered submitted for resolution last 27 June 2002. On the same date respondent filed a motion for the dismissal of the case on the ground that the complainant died sometime in June 1997 and that dismissal is warranted because the case filed by him does not survive due to his demise; as a matter of fact, it is extinguished upon his death.
We disagree with respondents contention.
Pursuant to Section 1, Rule 139-B of the Revised Rules of Court, the Honorable Supreme Court or the IBP may motu proprio initiate the proceedings when they perceive acts of lawyers which deserve sanctions or when their attention is called by any one and a probable cause exists that an act has been perpetrated by a lawyer which requires disciplinary sanctions.
As earlier cited, respondent lawyers propensity to disregard or ignore orders of the Honorable Supreme Court for which he was fined twice, arrested and imprisoned reflects an utter lack of good moral character.
Respondents conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude (estafa and/or violation of BP Blg. 22) clearly shows his unfitness to protect the administration of justice and therefore justifies the imposition of sanctions against him (see In re: Abesamis, 102 Phil. 1182; In re: Jaramillo, 101 Phil. 323; In re: Vinzon, 19 SCRA 815; Medina vs. Bautista, 12 SCRA 1, People vs. Tuanda, Adm. Case No. 3360, 30 Jan. 1990).
WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is respectfully recommended that respondent Atty. Francisco P. Martinez be disbarred and his name stricken out from the Roll of Attorneys immediately.
On 27 September 2003, the IBP Board of Governors passed a Resolution adopting and approving the report and recommendation of its Investigating Commissioner.
On 03 December 2003, respondent
1. The Report and Recommendation of the IBP Investigating Commissioner is tantamount to a deprivation of property without due process of law, although admittedly the practice of law is a privilege;
2. If respondent is given another chance to have his day in court and allowed to adduce evidence, the result/outcome would be entirely different from that arrived at by the Investigating Commissioner; and
3. Respondent is now 71 years of age, and has served the judiciary in various capacities (from acting city judge to Municipal Judges League Leyte Chapter President) for almost 17 years prior to resuming his law practice.
On 14 January 2004, we required complainant to file a comment within ten days. On 16 February 2004, we received a Manifestation and Motion from complainants daughter, Diane Francis Barrios Latoja, alleging that they had not been furnished with a copy of respondents Motion, notwithstanding the fact that respondent ostensibly lives next door to complainants family. Required to Comment on 17 May 2004, respondent has until now failed to do so.
The records show that respondent, indeed, failed to furnish a copy of said Motion to herein complainant. The records also show that respondent was given several opportunities to present evidence by this Court as well as by the IBP. Indeed, he only has himself to blame, for he has failed to present his case despite several occasions to do so. It is now too late in the day for respondent to ask this court to receive his evidence.
This court, moreover, is unwilling to exercise the same patience that it did when it waited for his comment on the original petition. At any rate, after a careful consideration of the records of the instant case, we find the evidence on record sufficient to support the IBPs findings.
Under Sec. 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, a member of the Bar may be disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any deceit, malpractice, or other gross misconduct in such office, grossly immoral conduct, or by reason of his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he is required to take before admission to practice, or for a willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court, or for corruptly or willfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority to do so.
In the present case, respondent has been found guilty and convicted by final judgment for violation of B.P. Blg. 22 for issuing a worthless check in the amount of P8,000. The issue with which we are now concerned is whether or not the said crime is one involving moral turpitude. 
Moral turpitude includes everything which is done contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals. It involves an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private duties which a man owes his fellow men, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and woman, or conduct contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals.
In People of the Philippines v. Atty. Fe Tuanda, where the erring lawyer was indefinitely suspended for having been convicted of three counts of violation of B.P. Blg. 22, we held that conviction by final judgment of violation of B.P. Blg. 22 involves moral turpitude and stated:
We should add that the crimes of which respondent was convicted also import deceit and violation of her attorney's oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility under both of which she was bound to "obey the laws of the land." Conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude might not (as in the instant case, violation of B.P. Blg. 22 does not) relate to the exercise of the profession of a lawyer; however, it certainly relates to and affects the good moral character of a person convicted of such offense (emphasis supplied)
Over ten years later, we reiterated the above ruling in Villaber v. Commission on Elections and disqualified a congressional candidate for having been sentenced by final judgment for three counts of violation of B.P. Blg. 22 in accordance with Sec. 12 of the Omnibus Election Code, which states:
SEC. 12. Disqualifications. Any person who has been declared by competent authority insane or incompetent, or has been sentenced by final judgment for subversion, insurrection, rebellion, or for any offense for which he has been sentenced to a penalty of more than eighteen months, or for a crime involving moral turpitude, shall be disqualified to be a candidate and to hold any office, unless he has been given plenary pardon or granted amnesty. (emphasis supplied)
Enumerating the elements of that crime, we held that the act of a person in issuing a check knowing at the time of the issuance that he or she does not have sufficient funds in, or credit with, the drawee bank for the check in full upon its presentment, is a manifestation of moral turpitude. Notwithstanding therein petitioners averment that he was not a lawyer, we nevertheless applied our ruling in People v. Tuanda, to the effect that
(A) conviction for violation of B.P. Blg. 22, imports deceit and certainly relates to and affects the good moral character of a person. [Indeed] the effects of the issuance of a worthless check, as we held in the landmark case of Lozano v. Martinez, through Justice Pedro L. Yap, 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 since the circulation of valueless commercial papers 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. Thus, paraphrasing Black's definition, a drawer who issues an unfunded check deliberately reneges on his private duties he owes his fellow men or society in a manner contrary to accepted and customary rule of right and duty, justice, honesty or good morals. (emphasis supplied)
In the recent case of Barrientos v. Libiran-Meteoro, we stated that:
(T)he issuance of checks which were later dishonored for having been drawn against a closed account indicates a lawyers unfitness for the trust and confidence reposed on her. It shows a lack of personal honesty and good moral character as to render her unworthy of public confidence. [Cuizon v. Macalino, A.C. No. 4334, 07 July 2004] The issuance of a series of worthless checks also shows the remorseless attitude of respondent, unmindful to the deleterious effects of such act to the public interest and public order. [Lao v. Medel, 405 SCRA 227] It also manifests a lawyers low regard for her commitment to the oath she has taken when she joined her peers, seriously and irreparably tarnishing the image of the profession she should hold in high esteem. [Sanchez v. Somoso, A.C. No. 6061, 03 October 2003]
Clearly, therefore, the act of a lawyer in issuing a check without sufficient funds to cover the same constitutes such willful dishonesty and immoral conduct as to undermine the public confidence in law and lawyers. And while the general rule is that a lawyer may not be suspended or disbarred, and the court may not ordinarily assume jurisdiction to discipline him for misconduct in his non-professional or private capacity, where, however, the misconduct outside of the lawyer's professional dealings is so gross a character as to show him morally unfit for the office and unworthy of the privilege which his licenses and the law confer on him, the court may be justified in suspending or removing him from the office of attorney.
The argument of respondent that to disbar him now is tantamount to a deprivation of property without due process of law is also untenable. As respondent himself admits, the practice of law is a privilege. The purpose of a proceeding for disbarment is to protect the administration of justice by requiring that those who exercise this important function shall be competent, honorable and reliable; men in whom courts and clients may repose confidence. A proceeding for suspension or disbarment is not in any sense a civil action where the complainant is plaintiff and the respondent lawyer is a defendant. Disciplinary proceedings involve no private interest and afford no redress for private grievance. They are undertaken and prosecuted solely for the public welfare, and for the purpose of preserving courts of justice from the official ministrations of persons unfit to practice them. Verily, lawyers must at all times faithfully perform their duties to society, to the bar, to the courts and to their clients. Their conduct must always reflect the values and norms of the legal profession as embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility. On these considerations, the Court may disbar or suspend lawyers for any professional or private misconduct showing them to be wanting in moral character, honesty, probity and good demeanor or to be unworthy to continue as officers of the Court.
Nor are we inclined to look with favor upon respondents plea that if given another chance to have his day in court and to adduce evidence, the result/outcome would be entirely different from that arrived at. We note with displeasure the inordinate length of time respondent took in responding to our requirement to submit his Comment on the original petition to disbar him. These acts constitute a willful disobedience of the lawful orders of this Court, which under Sec. 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court is in itself a cause sufficient for suspension or disbarment. Thus, from the time we issued our first Resolution on 03 July 1996 requiring him to submit his Comment, until 16 March 1999, when he submitted said Comment to secure his release from arrest, almost three years had elapsed.
It is revealing that despite the unwarranted length of time it took respondent to comply, his Comment consists of all of two pages, a copy of which, it appears, he neglected to furnish complainant. And while he claims to have been confined while undergoing medical treatment at the time our Resolution of 17 February 1997 was issued, he merely reserved the submission of a certification to that effect. Nor, indeed, was he able to offer any explanation for his failure to submit his Comment from the time we issued our first Resolution of 03 July 1996 until 16 March 1999. In fact, said Comment alleged, merely, that the complainant, Michael Barrios, passed away sometime in June 1997, and imputed upon the latter unsupported ill-motives for instituting the said Petition against him, which argument has already been resolved squarely in the abovementioned IBP report.
Moreover, the IBP report cited the failure of both parties to appear before the Commission as the main reason for the long delay, until the same was finally submitted for Resolution on 27 June 2002. Respondent, therefore, squandered away seven years to have his day in court and adduce evidence in his behalf, which inaction also unduly delayed the courts prompt disposition of this petition.
In Pajares v. Abad Santos, we reminded attorneys that there must be more faithful adherence to Rule 7, Section 5 of the Rules of Court [now Rule 7, Section 3] which provides that the signature of an attorney constitutes a certificate by him that he has read the pleading and that to the best of his knowledge, information and belief, there is good ground to support it; and that it is not interposed for delay, and expressly admonishes that for a willful violation of this rule an attorney may be subjected to disciplinary action. It is noteworthy that in the past, the Court has disciplined lawyers and judges for willful disregard of its orders to file comments or appellants briefs, as a penalty for disobedience thereof. 
For the same reasons, we are disinclined to take respondents old age and the fact that he served in the judiciary in various capacities in his favor. If at all, we hold respondent to a higher standard for it, for a judge should be the embodiment of competence, integrity, and independence, and his conduct should be above reproach. The fact that respondent has chosen to engage in private practice does not mean he is now free to conduct himself in less honorable or indeed in a less than honorable manner.
We stress that membership in the legal profession is a privilege, demanding a high degree of good moral character, not only as a condition precedent to admission, but also as a continuing requirement for the practice of law. Sadly, herein respondent falls short of the exacting standards expected of him as a vanguard of the legal profession.
The IBP Board of Governors recommended that respondent be disbarred from the practice of law. We agree.
We come now to the matter of the penalty imposable in this case. In Co v. Bernardino and Lao v. Medel, we upheld the imposition of one years suspension for non-payment of debt and issuance of worthless checks, or a suspension of six months upon partial payment of the obligation. However, in these cases, for various reasons, none of the issuances resulted in a conviction by the erring lawyers for either estafa or B.P. Blg. 22. Thus, we held therein that the issuance of worthless checks constitutes gross misconduct, for which a lawyer may be sanctioned with suspension from the practice of law.
In the instant case, however, herein respondent has been found guilty and stands convicted by final judgment of a crime involving moral turpitude. In People v. Tuanda, which is similar to this case in that both respondents were convicted for violation of B.P. Blg. 22 which we have held to be such a crime, we affirmed the order of suspension from the practice of law imposed by the Court of Appeals, until further orders.
However, in a long line of cases, some of which were decided after Tuanda, we have held disbarment to be the appropriate penalty for conviction by final judgment for a crime involving moral turpitude. Thus:
1. In In The Matter of Disbarment Proceedings v. Narciso N. Jaramillo, we disbarred a lawyer convicted of estafa without discussing the circumstances behind his conviction. We held that:
There is no question that the crime of estafa involves moral turpitude. The review of respondent's conviction no longer rests upon us. The judgment not only has become final but has been executed. No elaborate argument is necessary to hold the respondent unworthy of the privilege bestowed on him as a member of the bar. Suffice it to say that, by his conviction, the respondent has proved himself unfit to protect the administration of justice.
2. In In Re: Dalmacio De
3. In Ledesma De Jesus-Paras v. Quinciano Vailoces, the erring lawyer acknowledged the execution of a document purporting to be a last will and testament, which later turned out to be a forgery. He was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of falsification of public document, which the Court held to be a crime involving moral turpitude, said act being contrary to justice, honesty and good morals, and was subsequently disbarred.
4. In In Re: Disbarment Proceedings Against Atty. Diosdado Q. Gutierrez, Atty. Gutierrez was convicted for murder. After serving a portion of the sentence, he was granted a conditional pardon by the President. Holding that the pardon was not absolute and thus did not reach the offense itself but merely remitted the unexecuted portion of his term, the court nevertheless disbarred him.
5. In In Re: Atty. Isidro P. Vinzon, Atty. Vinzon was convicted of the crime of estafa for misappropriating the amount of P7,000.00, and was subsequently disbarred. We held thus:
Upon the other hand, and dealing now with the merits of the case, there can be no question that the term moral turpitude includes everything which is done contrary to justice, honesty, or good morals. In essence and in all respects, estafa, no doubt, is a crime involving moral turpitude because the act is unquestionably against justice, honesty and good morals (In re Gutierrez, Adm. Case No. 263, July 31, 1962; Bouvier's Law Dictionary; In re Basa, 41 Phil. 275-76). As respondent's guilt cannot now be questioned, his disbarment is inevitable. (emphasis supplied)
6. In In Re: Attorney Jose Avancea, the conditional pardon extended to the erring lawyer by the Chief Executive also failed to relieve him of the penalty of disbarment imposed by this court.
7. In In Re Disbarment of Rodolfo Pajo, a lawyer was charged and found guilty of the crime of falsification of public document for having prepared and notarized a deed of sale of a parcel of land knowing that the supposed affiant was an impostor and that the vendor had been dead for almost eight years. We ruled that disbarment follows as a consequence of a lawyer's conviction by final judgment of a crime involving moral turpitude, and since the crime of falsification of public document involves moral turpitude, we ordered respondents name stricken off the roll of attorneys.
8. In Adelina T. Villanueva v. Atty. Teresita Sta. Ana, we upheld the recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors to disbar a lawyer who had been convicted of estafa through falsification of public documents, because she was totally unfit to be a member of the legal profession.
9. In Victoriano P. Resurreccion v. Atty. Ciriaco C. Sayson, a lawyer was disbarred for having been convicted of estafa by final judgment for misappropriating the funds of his client.
In this case as well, we find disbarment to be the appropriate penalty. Of all classes and professions, the lawyer is most sacredly bound to uphold the laws. He is their sworn servant; and for him, of all men in the world, to repudiate and override the laws, to trample them underfoot and to ignore the very bands of society, argues recreancy to his position and office and sets a pernicious example to the insubordinate and dangerous elements of the body politic.
Atty. Francisco P. Martinez is hereby dISBARRED
and his name is ORDERED STRICKEN from the Roll of Attorneys. Let a copy of this Decision be entered in the
respondents record as a member of the Bar, and notice of the same be served on
the Integrated Bar of the
Davide, Jr., C.J., Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, Chico-Nazario, and Garcia, JJ., concur.
Puno, J., on official leave.
 16 May 1996, filed by Michael P. Barrios, Rollo, Vol. 1, pp. 1-3.
 Entitled People of the Philippines v. Francisco Martinez for violation of B.P. Blg. 22, affirmed by the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. 09899 and by this Court in G.R. No. 118049.
 Per Order, dated 10 May 1996, of Judge Mateo Leanda of the said trial court, Rollo, Vol. I, p. 4.
 Letter from NBI Supervising Agent Arlis Vela to Second Division Clerk of Court Teresita Magay-Dris, Id. at 100.
 Rollo, Vol. III, pp. 200-205.
 Resolutions dated 3 July 1996, 17 February 1997, 7 July 1997, 27 April 1998, 3 February 1999; supra, Note Nos. 4-8.
 IBP Order dated 08 February 2000, Records p. 156; Notice of Hearing dated 29 November 2001, Records, p. 163, Order dated 24 January 2002, Records, p. 169; Order dated 27 June 2002, Records, p. 183.
 In the Matter of Disbarment Proceedings v. Narciso N. Jaramillo, Adm. Case No. 229, 30 April 1957, 101 Phil 323; De Jesus-Paras v. Vailoces, Adm. Case No. 439, 12 April 1961, 111 Phil 569.
 In re Basa, 7 December 1920, 41 Phil. 275.
 Villaber v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 148326, 15 November 2001, 369 SCRA 126, citing Dela Torre v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 121592, 05 July 1996, 258 SCRA 483.
 Adm. Case No. 3360, 30 January 1990, 181 SCRA 692.
 Supra, Note No. 24.
 Adm. Case No. 6408, 31 August 2004.
 In re MacDougall, No. 1167, 16 December 1903, 3 Phil 70, 78.
 Ibid; Nakpil v. Valdes, Adm. Case No. 2040, 4 March 1998, 286 SCRA 758; Calub v. Suller, Adm. Case No. 1474, 28 January 2000, 323 SCRA 556; Cruz v. Jacinto, Adm. Case No. 5235, 22 March 2000, 328 SCRA 636.
 Manifestation and Motion of Diane Frances Barrios Latoja dated 06 February 2004, Rollo, Vol. III, pp. 253 to 255. Respondent has failed to comment within the period given him to do so.
 G.R. No. L-29543, 29 November 1969, 30 SCRA 748.
In The Matter Of Attorney Lope E. Adriano, Member of the Philippine Bar, People
 Rule 1.01, Canon 1, Code of Judicial Conduct, 05 September 1989.
 Canon 31, Canons of Judicial Ethics (Administrative Order No. 62, Department of Justice, 01 August 1946).
 Supra, Note No. 28; supra, Note No. 26.
 Supra, Note No. 25.
 Adm. Case No. 229, 30 April 1957, 101 Phil 323.
 Adm. Case No. 350, 07 August 1959, 106 Phil 1.
 Adm. Case No. 439, 12 April 1961, 111 Phil 569.
 Adm. Case No. 363, 31 July 1962, 115 Phil 647.
 Adm. Case No. 561, 27 April 1967, 126 Phil 96.
 Adm. Case No. 407, 15 August 1967, 127 Phil 426.
 Adm. Case No. 2410, 23 October 1982, 203 Phil 79.
 CBD Case No. 251, 11 July 1995, 245 SCRA 707.
 Adm. Case No. 1037, 14 December 1998, 300 SCRA 129.
Note No. 44, p. 651, citing Ex parte