Saturday, January 28, 2012

Santos, Jr. v. Llamas, A.C. No. 4749, January 20, 2000. 322 SCRA 529

Facts: This is a complaint for misrepresentation and non-payment of bar membership dues filed against respondent Atty. Francisco R. Llamas It appears that Atty. Llamas, who for a number of years now, has not indicated the proper PTR and IBP OR Nos. and data in his pleadings. If at all, he only indicated “IBP Rizal 259060” but he has been using this for at least 3 years already. On the other hand, respondent, who is now of age, averred that since 1992, he has engaged in law practice without having paid his IBP dues. He likewise admits that, as appearing in the pleadings submitted by complainant to this Court, he indicated "IBP-Rizal 259060" in the pleadings he filed in court, at least for the years 1995, 1996, and 1997, thus misrepresenting that such was his IBP chapter membership and receipt number for the years in which those pleadings were filed. He claims, however, that he is only engaged in a "limited" practice and that he believes in good faith that he is exempt from the payment of taxes, such as income tax, under R.A. No. 7432, as a senior citizen since 1992.

Issues:
(1) Whether respondent is exempt from paying his yearly dues to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

(2) Whether the respondent has misled the court about his standing in the IBP by using the same IBP O.R. number in his pleadings of at least six years and therefore liable for his actions.

Held:
(1) NO. Rule 139-A requires that every member of the Integrated Bar shall pay annual dues and default thereof for six months shall warrant suspension of membership and if nonpayment covers a period of 1-year, default shall be a ground for removal of the delinquent’s name from the Roll of Attorneys. It does not matter whether or not respondent is only engaged in “limited” practice of law. Moreover, While it is true that R.A. No. 7432, grants senior citizens "exemption from the payment of individual income taxes: provided, that their annual taxable income does not exceed the poverty level as determined by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for that year," the exemptionhowever does not include payment of membership or association dues.

(2)YES. By indicating "IBP-Rizal 259060" in his pleadings and thereby misrepresenting to the public and the courts that he had paid his IBP dues to the Rizal Chapter, respondent is guilty of violating the Code of Professional Responsibility which provides: Rule 1.01 – A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. His act is also a violation of Rule 10.01 which provides that: A lawyer shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court; nor mislead or allow the court to be misled by any artifice.

Respondent's failure to pay his IBP dues and his misrepresentation in the pleadings he filed in court indeed merit the most severe penalty. However, in view of respondent's advanced age, his express willingness to pay his dues and plea for a more temperate application of the law, we believe the penalty of one year suspension from the practice of law or until he has paid his IBP dues, whichever is later, is appropriate.

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