Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cervantes vs. Sabio [A.C. No. 7828 August 11, 2008]

Facts: Respondent filed motions for inhibition on complainant judge on the ground that EDC (a party to the case handled by Atty. Sabio) gave complainant a house and lot putting into serious doubt his impartiality, independence and integrity. The motions were denied. Later on in his affidavit of complaint, Atty. Sabio submitted an affidavit stating certain instances pointing out irregularities with the handling of his case under Judge Cervantes. The complaint was dismissed. 

A complaint for disbarment was later filed by Judge Cervantes against Sabio alleging that (1) the complaint for bribery filed by the latter against the former were unsubstantiated and motivated by plain unfounded suspicion, and, (2) such complaints were filed after the effectivity of his optional retirement. 

The complaint by Judge Cervantes was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation. 

Issue: Whether or not the respondent is guilty under the Code of Professional Responsibility for filing a malicious, false and untruthful complaint. 

Held: YES. The IBP established that by filing the groundless bribery charge against complainant, respondent violated the proscription of the Code of Professional Responsibility against "wittingly or willingly promoting or suing any groundless suit" including baseless administrative complaints against judges and other court officers and employees. 

The Court found the action taken by the IBP Board of Governors well taken. 

Respondent ought to be aware that if a court official or employee, or a lawyer, is to be disciplined, the evidence against him should be substantial, competent and derived from direct knowledge, not on mere allegations, conjectures, suppositions, or on the basis of hearsay. 

No doubt, it is the Court's duty to investigate the truth behind charges against judges and lawyers. But it is also its duty to shield them from unfounded suits which are intended to, among other things, harass them.

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