The Supreme Court has disbarred a lawyer for violating the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR) and his Lawyer’s Oath when he promised his client an antedated annulment of marriage ruling and failed to return the money paid for it.
In a per curiam Decision, the Court also ordered Atty. Ronaldo P. Salvado to return to complainant Roger D. Asuncion the amount of
P420,000, with interest at the legal rate of 6% per annum, he received from complainant for the decision/decree on annulment which he promised to deliver. Salvado’s disbarment from the practice of law is effective immediately.
In 2013, Roger sought the legal services of Salvado to annul the marriage of his mother. Roger, representing his mother Feliza Asuncion Ferrari, initially agreed to pay Salvado
P700,000 in exchange for certain legal documents which would show that her previous marriage to one Julio Asuncion in 1983 had already been dissolved and that she had no existing marriage at the time she contracted a second marriage in 1988. Salvado charged P70,000 as acceptance fee and, later, received various amounts totaling to P420,000, as evidenced by receipts he issued to Roger.
Complainant averred that Salvado guaranteed a favorable judgment in two months and submitted screenshots of their text messages to show that the
P700,000 legal fees included payment to Salvado’s connections for the promulgation of the said judgment. Salvado’s deal with his connections purportedly fell through when Roger failed to pay the amount in full.
Salvado did not deny the contents of these text messages nor the substantial factual allegations made by Roger as to their agreement, which led the Court to conclude that he impliedly admitted that he promised to deliver a favorable judgment annulling the marriage of Feliza with Julio through his connections within two months. The Court noted this conclusion is further bolstered by Salvado’s statement in his motion for reconsideration that the legal document he agreed to deliver to Roger is a decree/decision of annulment of the marriage.
The Court held that Salvado was aware from the start that a judgment would not be promulgated in a matter of two months from the filing of a petition for annulment; yet he agreed to deliver an antedated judgment on an annulment proceeding, which can only be procured through illegal means. The Court further held that the offense was consummated when Salvado accepted an engagement which would entail the commission of an act contrary to law, adding that his offense was further compounded by his failure to return the amount paid to him by his client when their agreement did not materialize.
The Court likewise noted that Salvado had already been sanctioned in previous disbarment cases. In Aca v. Salvado, the Court found him guilty of violating Rule 1.01, Canon 1 and Rule 7.03 of the CPR and suspended him from the practice of law for two years for issuing worthless checks in violation of BP 22. In Ereñeta v. Salvado, he was found guilty of violating Canons 17 and 18 of the CPR, and was suspended from the practice of law for two years, with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts shall give cause for his disbarment.
The Court lamented that Salvado lacks good moral character and is unworthy of being a member of the legal profession considering his previous violations of the CPR and the Lawyer’s Oath in Aca, Ereñeta, and the present case. The Supreme Court Public Information Office will upload the decision to the SC website once it receives an official copy from the Office of the Clerk of Court En Banc.