Eustaquio vs. Rimorin, A.C. No. 5081, 399 SCRA 422

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  SYNOPSIS   Respondent is charged with grave misconduct for allegedly falsifying certaindocuments which enabled him to sell complainant's land without their knowledge andconsent. That in 1991, while complainants were in the United States, respondentexecuted a spurious Special Power of Attorney purportedly notarized and by virtue of which, respondent executed a Deed of Absolute Sale over complainant's property infavor or spouses So Hu who was then issued a TCT. In 1997, while in the Philippinesfor a brief visit and without knowledge of the earlier transaction, complainant Aliciawas persuaded to sign a Memorandum of Agreement for the sale of the subject property to spouses So Hu.The Court agreed with complainant's allegation that the execution of theMemorandum of Agreement was made to remedy the fraud committed by respondentin the execution of the Special Power of Attorney and to give it semblance of legality.Thus, respondent was suspended from the practice of law for five years and hiscommission as Notary Public is revoked. Further, he was perpetually disqualifiedfrom appointment as Notary Public.   SYLLABUS   1.LEGAL ETHICS; MEMBERSHIP IN THE BAR; REQUIRES GOOD MORALCHARACTER.  —  Time and again, we have stressed the settled principle that the practice of law is not a right but a privilege bestowed by the State on those who show thatthey possess, and continue to possess, the qualifications required by law for theconferment of such privilege. Membership in the bar is a privilege burdened withconditions. A high sense of morality, honesty, and fair dealing is expected and requiredof a member of the bar. Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility providesthat, A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. The nature of the office of a lawyer requires that he shall be of good moral character.This qualification is not only a condition precedent to the admission to the legal profession, but its continued possession is essential to maintain one's good standing in the profession. A lawyer can be deprived of his license for misconduct ascertained anddeclared by judgment of the Court after giving him the opportunity to be heard. ACIDTE   2.ID.; POWER OF THE COURT TO DISCIPLINE LAWYERS SHOULD NOT BEEXERCISED IN AN ARBITRARY AND DESPOTIC MANNER.  —  The power of theCourt to discipline lawyers should not be exercised in an arbitrary and despotic manner. Neither should it be exercised at the pleasure of the Court or from passion, prejudice or  personal hostility. The Court's power to discipline members of the bar should betempered by a sound and just judicial discretion, whereby the rights and independence of the bar may be scrupulously guarded and maintained by the Court as the rights anddignity of the Court itself. In  Montano v. Integrated Bar of the Philippines , we said that  the power to disbar must be exercised with great caution. Only in a clear case of misconduct that seriously affects the standing and character of the lawyer as an officer of the Court and member of the bar will disbarment be imposed as a penalty. It should never  be decreed where a lesser penalty, such as temporary suspension, would accomplish theend desired.   3.ID.; DECEITFUL CONDUCT OF RESPONDENT MAKES HIM LESS THANWORTHY OF HIS CONTINUED PRACTICE OF LAW.  —  Respondent's deceitfulconduct makes him less than worthy of his continued practice of law. A lawyer isexpected at all times to uphold the integrity of the legal profession. Commission of grossly immoral conduct and deceit are grounds for suspension or disbarment of lawyers.Whenever it is made to appear to the Supreme Court that an attorney is no longer worthyof the trust and confidence of the public, it becomes not only the right but the duty of theCourt which made him one of its officers and gave him the privilege of ministeringwithin its bar to withdraw the privilege.  Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT  ManilaEN BANC A.C. No. 5081 March 24, 2003   EMILIANA M. EUSTAQUIO, PIORILLO GUTIERREZ RUBIS and ALICIAMONTERO RUBIS, complainants,vs. ATTY. REX C. RIMORIN, respondent. R E S O L U T I O N   QUISUMBING, J  .:  In a verified complaint 1 filed before this Court on June 17, 1999, complainants Emiliana M.Eustaquio, Piorillo G. Rubis, and Alicia M. Rubis charged Atty. Rex C. Rimorin with gravemisconduct for allegedly falsifying certain documents which enabled him to sell complainants’ land without their knowledge and consent.It appears from the records that on July 30, 1979, the spouses Piorillo Gutierrez Rubis and AliciaMontero Rubis were given title to a parcel of land located at Dizon Subdivision, Baguio City andcovered by TCT No. T-30444 of the Baguio City Registry of Deeds.On June 22, 1991, while complainants Piorillo and Alicia Rubis were both in the United States,respondent Atty. Rex C. Rimorin executed a Special Power of Attorney 2 purportedly notarized,with the Rubis spouses present and appearing on June 22, 1991, before Notary Public E.M.Fallarme of Baguio City. 3 Using this spurious special power of attorney, respondent Rimorinsubsequently executed on July 3, 1991, a Deed of Absolute Sale 4 over the same property in favor of Mr. and Mrs. So Hu, of Baguio City. The execution of this deed of sale resulted in theissuance on July 5, 1991, of TCT No. 40835 5 over the land in favor of the So Hu spouses.In November 1997, complainant Alicia Rubis came to the Philippines for a brief visit. While shewas still unaware of the forgeries already perpetrated by respondent Atty. Rimorin, she wasinveigled into signing a memorandum of agreement 6 between complainants Rubis and So Huspouses dated November 29, 1997, containing the following provisions:That the FIRST PARTY (Plaintiff Alicia Montero Rubis) is the registered owner of a parcel of land situated at Dizon Subdivision, Baguio City, more particularly covered and described under TCT No. 30444 containing an area of FIVE HUNDRED SEVEN ( SIC  ) ONE (571) SQUARE METERS more or less….  That the FIRST PARTY who is now a resident of Virginia, USA, intends to sell theabove described property to any interested buyer and by these presents has offered the  said property for sale to the SECOND PARTY who agrees to purchase the same subject to the following terms and conditions….  On February 26, 1998 the title of the So Hu spouses was cancelled and in its place TCT No.69071 7 was issued in the name of spouses Danilo T. de Vera and Estrellita S. Mercado, both of Baguio City.On July 21, 1999, this Court issued a resolution 8 directing respondent Atty. Rimorin to file hiscomment on the instant complaint within ten (10) days from notice of the resolution. OnDecember 28, 1999, complainants filed a manifestation with motion 9 alleging that copies of   pleadings sent to respondent’s known address have been returned with a notation that respondent was abroad. 10 They also made reference to other processes and pleadings, in a civil and acriminal case, likewise filed by complainants against respondent, which were unsuccessfullyserved because respondent was in the United States as shown by attached return cards. Hence,complainants prayed respondent be deemed to have waived his right to comment and that, accordingly, investigation of the case be conducted even without respondent’s comment. 11  In a resolution 12 dated February 2, 2000, this Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of thePhilippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation. Subsequently, Commissioner Milagros V. San Juan of the Commission on Bar Discipline of the IBP issued an order  13  requiring respondent Atty. Rimorin to submit his duly verified answer within 15 days fromreceipt of the order. In another order  14 dated October 24, 2000, Commissioner San Juanreiterated her previous order. Because of respondent’s failure to file his answer, the Commission resolved to declare respondent to have waived his right to file an answer and the case was deemed submitted for resolution. Hearings were conducted and on November 13, 2001, the InvestigatingCommissioner found respondent Atty. Rimorin guilty of grave misconduct and recommended hisdisbarment. Thus:The execution of the memorandum of agreement dated November 29, 1997 was madeapparently to remedy the fraud committed in the execution of the Special Power of Attorney to give it semblance of legality. However, the dates of the documents is a clear give away that fraud has been committed. The Memorandum of Agreement is dated November 29, 1999 yet the Deed of Sale in favor of Spouses So Hu was executed July 3,1991; the Special Power of Attorney was executed on June 22, 1991; the executedfraudulent Special Power of Attorney resulted to the subsequent sales, all manipulated bythe respondent. These facts remain uncontroverted by the respondent.In view of all the foregoing, it is respectfully recommended that the respondent Atty. RexC. Rimorin be DISBARRED from practice of law. 15  On June 29, 2002, the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines passed aresolution 16 in Administrative Case No. 5081 resolving and adopting the report andrecommendation 17 of the Investigating Commissioner with modification that respondent besuspended instead of disbarred. Said resolution reads as follows:
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