Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cantiller vs. Potenciano (180 SCRA 246)

Facts: Humberto V. Potenciano is a practicing lawyer and a member of the Philippine Bar under Roll No. 21862. He is charged with deceit, fraud, and misrepresentation, and also with gross misconduct, malpractice and of acts unbecoming of an officer of the court. 

An action for ejectment was filed against Peregrina Cantiller. The court issued a decision against the latter. A notice to vacate was then issued against Cantiller. 

Cantiller then asked the respondent to handle their case. The complainant was made to sign by respondent what she described as a "[h]astily prepared, poorly conceived, and haphazardly composed petition for annulment of judgment”. 

The petition was filed with the Regional Trial Court in Pasig, Manila. Respondent demanded from the complainant P l,000.00 as attorney's fee. However the judge of the said court asked the respondent to withdraw as counsel by reason of their friendship. 

Later, Cantiller paid Potenciano P2,000.00 as demanded by the latter which was allegedly needed to be paid to another judge who will issue the restraining order but eventually Potenciano did not succeed in locating the judge. 

Complainant paid P 10,000.00 to Potenciano by virtue of the demand of the latter. The amount was allegedly to be deposited with the Treasurer's Office of Pasig as purchase price of the apartment and P 1,000.00 to cover the expenses of the suit needed in order for the complainant to retain the possession of the property. But later on Cantiller found out that the amounts were not necessary to be paid. A demand was made against Potenciano but the latter did not answer and the amounts were not returned. 

Contrary to Potenciano’s promise that he would secure a restraining order, he withdrew his appearance as counsel for complainant. Complainant was not able to get another lawyer as replacement. Hence, the order to vacate was eventually enforced and executed. 

Issue: Whether or not Potenciano breached his duties as counsel of Cantiller. 

Held: When a lawyer takes a client's cause, he thereby covenants that he will exert all effort for its prosecution until its final conclusion. The failure to exercise due diligence or the abandonment of a client's cause makes such lawyer unworthy of the trust which the client had reposed on him. The acts of respondent in this case violate the most elementary principles of professional ethics. 

The Court finds that respondent failed to exercise due diligence in protecting his client's interests. Respondent had knowledge beforehand that he would be asked by the presiding judge to withdraw his appearance as counsel by reason of their friendship. Despite such prior knowledge, respondent took no steps to find a replacement nor did he inform complainant of this fact. 

Lawyers should be fair, honest, respectable, above suspicion and beyond reproach in dealing with their clients. The profession is not synonymous with an ordinary business proposition. It is a matter of public interest. 

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1 comments: on "Cantiller vs. Potenciano (180 SCRA 246)"

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