Supreme Court Disbars Lawyer for Representing to Client He Can Bribe a Judge

July 4, 2019

The Supreme Court in their En Banc session on 02 July 2019 and in a decision written by Associate Justice Francis H. Jardeleza, disbarred from the practice of law, lawyer Jose A. Diño, Jr.

The decision was in connection with the following consolidated cases: 

Vantage Lighting Philippines, Inc., John Paul Fairclough and Ma. Cecilia G. Roque, Complainants, vs. Atty. Jose A. Diño, Jr., Respondent. (A.C. No. 7389)

Atty. Jose A. Diño, Jr., Complainantvs. Atty. Paris G. Real; and Sherwin G. Real, Respondents. (A.C. No. 10596)

Jose A. Diño, Jr. (“Diño”) was the former counsel of Vantage Lighting Philippines, Inc. (“Vantage”) in a civil case filed before the Regional Trial Court (“RTC”) of Parañaque City. Ma. Cecila G. Roque (“Roque”) was the Vice-President of Vantage. Roque, Vantage and John Paul Fairclough (“Fairclough”) are the complainants in the disbarment case filed against Diño. 

Apparently after the civil case was filed with the RTC in September 5, 2006, Diño informed Roque that Vantage would need to pay P150,000.00 to the judge to whom the case will be raffled and for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (“TRO”).

A series of text messages exchanged between Diño and Roque with respect to the delivery and receipt of the P150,000.00. Diño ended up initially advancing the amount of P20,000.00 which was reimbursed by Vantage believing that it was for a legitimate legal expense or fee.

The TRO was eventually issued by the RTC on September 19, 2006. Diño immediately sought reimbursement from Vantage of additional expenses which he purportedly incurred, including the amount of P130,000.00 he claims to have given to “fixers” as alleged payment to the judge who issued the TRO. When Roque told Diño that she will relay the matter to higher management, Diño was outraged. 

Because of the misunderstanding between Vantage and Diño, the latter withdrew as counsel of Vantage on September 21, 2006 and sent a formal billing statement. When the bill remained unsettled, Diño filed several harassment complaints, both criminal and civil, against Vantage, Roque, and Fairclough.

On 02 January 2007, Vantage, Roque, and Fiarclough (“Complainants”) filed a verified disbarment complaint against Diño before the Supreme Court and the same was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (“IBP”) for investigation, report, and recommendation. Complainants argue that: 1.) The groundless suits and actions filed by Diño are sufficient justifications to disbar him from the legal profession for gross misconduct; 2.) Diño violated Rule 20.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility when he filed several cases against complainants instead of settling with them his financial concerns; 3.) Diño committed serious fraud, gross dishonesty, and gross misrepresentation when he accused Attys. Paris G. Real and Sherwin G. Real (“Reals”) of ascribing authorship to him of a letter sent to the Bureau of Immigration which stated that Fairclough is the subject of an estafa case and had molested a child.

On 16 January 2007, Diño filed a disbarment complaint against the Reals who were then the lawyers of Vantage. The two disbarment cases were consolidated. 

On 20 March 2013, the IBP Board of Governors unanimously adopted and approved with modifications the report and recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner, and proposed the suspension of Diño from the practice of law for a year. On the other hand, the complaint filed by Diño against the Reals was dismissed. 

However, the Supreme Court did not agree with the recommended penalty of the IBP on Diño. According to the Supreme Court, Diño was guilty of gross misconduct for filing vexatious suits against his clients and their counsel, the Reals. The court also agreed with the finding of the IBP Investigating Commissioner that Diño tainted the image of the judiciary by invoking that the P150,000.00 to be collected from Vantage will be used to facilitate the issuance of the TRO. Thus, the Supreme Court ruled:

By claiming to complainants that he can secure the issuance of a TRO by bribing the judge P150,000.00, Atty. Diño violated Canon 13 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which provides:

CANON 13 – A lawyer shall rely upon the merits of his cause and refrain from impropriety which tends to influence, or gives the appearance of influencing the court. 

As an officer of the court, Atty., Diño has a paramount duty to protect the court’s integrity and to assist it in the administration of justice according to law. He should not espouse a belief that the judicial system can be bought nor propagate such belief. Unfortunately, instead of relying on the merits of his client’s cause, Atty. Diño represented to his clients that the judicial system can be bribed. This inexcusable, shameful and flagrant unlawful conduct alone of Atty. Diño constituted gross misconduct.

The Supreme Court further said:

In view of Atty. Diño’s acts of professional malpractice and gross misconduct and the gravity of his acts, we find that Atty. Diño’s conduct warrants disbarment from the practice of law. A three-year suspension from the practice of law is too light a penalty for a lawyer who, instead of protecting the integrity and independence of the court, besmirched its reputation by claiming that a member of the judiciary is for sale. Atty. Diño is unfit to discharge the duties of an office of the court; hence, he deserves the ultimate penalty of disbarment.

According to the Supreme Court, this disbarment case is a warning to all lawyers that it will treat seriously any imputation that would harm the integrity of the judicial system.  

The court voted unanimously on this matter except for Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo who was on official leave.

The actual decision/resolution of the case will be released as soon as it has gone through the formal administrative processes.