The Supreme Court has disbarred a lawyer who had abandoned his wife and family and cohabited with another with whom he had two children.
In a per curiam decision, the Court En Banc found Atty. Allan C. Contado guilty of gross immorality in violation of Rule 1.01 and Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR). His name was ordered stricken off from the Roll of Attorneys.
Rule 1.01 states that “a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct,” while Rule 7.03 states that “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.”
The administrative case stemmed from the complaint filed by the woman with whom Atty. Contado cohabited and had two daughters.
The complainant alleged that in 2003 she met Atty. Contado who courted her and represented that he was already separated-in-fact from his wife. She said that Atty. Contado had told her that he was already working out the dissolution of his marriage through a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage or through annulment.
In 2010, the complainant agreed with Atty. Contado’s proposal to live together as husband and wife. During that time, however, she discovered that he was also cohabiting with and impregnated other women. Despite such, she admitted to have continued living with him and they had two children born in 2011 and 2013. When they had financial problems, Atty. Contado left her alone in settling the obligations and they subsequently terminated their relationship. Furthermore, she alleged that she and her children no longer received support from Atty. Contado and that he had took her Ford Expedition vehicle.
For his defense, Atty. Contado denied the allegations and claimed that the allegations were not supported by evidence and were meant to exact revenge for a relationship that had gone sour. He admitted to having met her in 2003 and represented that he was already separated- in-fact from his wife. He claimed to have provided support to his two daughters within his means.
As for the vehicle, he claimed that the vehicle is still with him but the same could not be transported to Manila because it needs major
repairs due to wear and tear. He insisted that the subject vehicle was brought to him voluntarily by the complainant for his use when he successfully ran for mayor of the Municipality of Balangkayan, Eastern Samar in 2013.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) ruled that Atty. Contado was guilty of immorality as he had children with the complainant despite having a legal wife. It further ruled that his failure to return the vehicle constituted unbecoming of a member of the Bar. The CBD, however, said that there was no sufficient evidence to prove the allegations of non-support, noting that Atty. Contado had presented receipts and deposit slips to prove his financial support.
The IBP Board of Governors adopted the findings of act and recommendation but increased the penalty to disbarment. The Supreme Court agreed with this.
For the imposition of the penalty of disbarment on the ground of immorality, the conduct complained of must not only be immoral, but must be grossly immoral. It is well-settled that a married person’s abandonment of his or her spouse to live with and cohabit with another constitutes gross immorality as it amounts to either adultery or concubinage.
The Court noted that Atty. Contado made statements in his Position Paper as filed with the IBP affirming the complainant’s allegations that they cohabited. It held that that Atty. Contado admitted the fact of his relationship with the complainant, while being married to his wife. In so admitting, he effectively admitted to living a life of deceit and immorality. He also admitted that their relationship resulted in having two daughters.
“The Court finds Atty. Contado guilty of violating the CPR: for his abandonment of his legal wife and family in order to cohabit with another woman; and for failure to return the subject vehicle despite demand. The Court therefore imposes the penalty of disbarment upon respondent,” the Court said.
The Court, however, took exception to IBP’s recommendation of returning the subject vehicle to complainant. The Court said that it cannot order such because “this is not the proper forum” considering that the “instant case is a disciplinary proceeding, the issue of which is confined on whether Atty. Contado is still fit to continue to be a member of the Bar.” The proper remedy would be a civil or criminal case before the trial courts for its recovery.
(AC No. 10731, Hosoya v. Atty. Contado, October 5, 2021)
FULL TEXT: https://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/23248/