Saturday, February 25, 2012

Buted vs. Hernando

Facts: In an action for partition instituted by Generosa as compulsory heir of the deceased Teofilo Buted, respondent was counsel for Luciana Abadilla and a certain Angela Buted. Respondent ultimately succeeded in defending Luciana Abadilla's claim of exclusive ownership over Lot 9439-B. When Luciana died, respondent withdrew his appearance from that partition case. It appears that Luciana Abadilla sold the lot to Benito Bolisay and a new Transfer Certificate of Title over the lot was issued in the name of complainant spouses. When an action for specific performance was lodged by a couple named Luis Sy and Elena Sy against Benito Bolisay as one of the defendants, the latter retained the services of respondent Atty. Hernandor and claims that he rendered his services to Benito Bolisay free of charge. It appears that the Sy's were claiming that the lease extended to the aforementioned lot. Respondent avers that the relationship between himself and Benito Bolisay as regards this case was terminated on 4 December 1969. , Respondent Hernando, seeks the cancellation of the Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) of complainant spouses over the lot. Carlos, Dionisia and Francisco were Luciana's registered co-owners in the original certificate of title covering Lot No. 9439-B. respondent Hernando testified that if the petition for cancellation of TCT was granted, Lot 9439-B would no longer be owned by complainant spouses but would be owned in common by all the heirs of Luciana Abadilla. Complainant, upon learning of respondent's appearance against them in the cadastral proceeding, manifested their disapproval thereof in a letter dated 30 July 1974. respondent Hernando admitted his involvement in the cadastral case as counsel for the Abadillas but denied having seen or taken hold of the controversial Transfer Certificate of Title, and having availed himself of any confidential information relating to Lot 9439-B. 

Issue: Whether or not respondent Hernando had a conflict of interests under the circumstances described above. 

Held: Although the first and second cases handled by respondent, does not constitute conflict of interest, the same cannot be said with respect to the action for specific performance and the cadastral proceeding. By respondent's own admission, he defended the right of ownership over Lot 9439-B of complainant Benito Bolisay in the action for specific performance. He assailed this same right of ownership when he subsequently filed a petition for cancellation of complainants' Transfer Certificate of Title over that same lot. Respondent Hernando was in a conflict of interest situation. It is clear from the Canons of Professional Ethics that in cases where a conflict of interests may exist, full disclosure of the facts and express consent of all the parties concerned are necessary. The present Code of Professional Responsibility is stricter on this matter considering that consent of the parties is now required to be in written form. In the case at bar, such consent was wanting. Moreover, the absence of monetary consideration, as what the respondent contests, does not exempt the lawyer from complying with the prohibition against pursuing cases where a conflict of interest exists. The prohibition attaches from the moment the attorney-client relationship is established and extends beyond the duration of the professional relationship. 

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