Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Guevarra vs. Eala, A.C. No. 7136 , August 1, 2007

Facts: Joselano Guevarra filed a Complaint for Disbarment before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Committee on Bar Discipline (CBD) against Atty. Jose Emmanuel M. Eala a.k.a. Noli Eala (respondent) for "grossly immoral conduct and unmitigated violation of the lawyer's oath."

The complainant first met respondent in January 2000 when his (complainant's) then-fiancee Irene Moje (Irene) introduced respondent Atty. Eala, a lawyer and a sportscaster, to him as her friend who was married to Mary Ann Tantoco with whom he had three children.

 After his marriage to Irene, complainant noticed that Irene had been receiving from respondent cellphone calls, as well as messages some of which read "I love you," "I miss you," or "Meet you at Megamall." He also noticed that Irene habitually went home very late at night or early in the morning of the following day, and sometimes did not go home from work. When he asked about her whereabouts, she replied that she slept at her parents' house in Binangonan, Rizal or she was busy with her work. More so, complainant has seen Irene and respondent together on two occasions. On the second occasion, he confronted them following which Irene abandoned the conjugal house.

Moreover, Complainant later found, in the master's bedroom, a folded social card bearing the words "I Love You" on its face, which card when unfolded contained a handwritten letter dated October 7, 2000, the day of his wedding to Irene. Also, it was revealed that Irene gave birth to a girl in 2002 and Irene named respondent in the Certificate of Live Birth as the girl's father.

 In his answer, Respondent specifically denies having ever flaunted an adulterous relationship with Irene, the truth of the matter being that their relationship was low profile and known only to the immediate members of their respective families. He also said that his special relationship with Irene is neither under scandalous circumstances nor tantamount to grossly immoral conduct as would be a ground for disbarment. 

Issue: Whether the respondent be disbarred from the practice of Law.

Held: YES. The case at bar involves a relationship between a married lawyer and a married woman who is not his wife. It is immaterial whether the affair was carried out discreetly.

While it has been held in disbarment cases that the mere fact of sexual relations between two unmarried adults is not sufficient to warrant administrative sanction for such illicit behavior, it is not so with respect to betrayals of the marital vow of fidelity. Even if not all forms of extra-marital relations are punishable under penal law, sexual relations outside marriage is considered disgraceful and immoral as it manifests deliberate disregard of the sanctity of marriage and the marital vows protected by the Constitution and affirmed by our laws.

Respondent in fact also violated the lawyer's oath he took before admission to practice law. Furthermore, respondent violated Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which proscribes a lawyer from engaging in "unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct," and Rule 7.03 of Canon 7 of the same Code which proscribes a lawyer from engaging in any "conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law."

As a lawyer, respondent should be aware that a man and a woman deporting themselves as husband and wife are presumed, unless proven otherwise, to have entered into a lawful contract of marriage. In carrying on an extra-marital affair with Irene prior to the judicial declaration that her marriage with complainant was null and void, and despite respondent himself being married, he showed disrespect for an institution held sacred by the law. And he betrayed his unfitness to be a lawyer.

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