Saturday, February 25, 2012

Gonato vs. Adaza

Facts: Sometime in February, 1993, complainants engaged the services of respondent as their counsel in Civil Case No. 92-263 entitled Goking vs. Yacapin, et al." Complainants among others alleged that respondent demanded from them the sum of P15,980.00 to be used in paying the docket fee and other court fees in connection with the aforementioned case. Complainants asked for the official receipts evidencing the amount of court fees purportedly paid by respondent. However, only photocopies was provided to them. Dissatisfied, complainant personally went to respondent's law office at least three times, and asked for the original copies of the receipts, but to no avail. It was discovered that the triplicate original copies of the receipts did not reflect the same amount contained on the photocopies of the receipts given by respondent. to conform to the amount paid by complainant which was P15,980.00. Complainants demanded the return of P15,980.00 but respondent refused to do so. Thus, in April, 1993, complainants urged respondent to withdraw as counsel due to loss of trust and confidence. Respondent on the other hand, after a careful study contest that the counterclaim is compulsory and not permissive, and so, applied instead the aforesaid sum of P15,690.00 to his acceptance and appearance fees. 

Issue: Whether or not respondent Atty. Adaza is guilty of malpractice and violation of trust. 

Held: Respondent Atty. Cesilo A. Adaza is hereby suspended from the practice of law for a period of six (6) months from notice, with the warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts will be dealt with more severely. 

Canon 7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility mandates that "a lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession." The trust and confidence necessarily reposed by clients require in the lawyer a high standard and appreciation of his duty to them. To this end, nothing should be done by any member of the legal fraternity which might tend to lessen in any degree the confidence of the public in the fidelity, honesty, and integrity of the profession. 

The facts and evidence obtaining in this case glaringly reveal respondent's failure to live up to his duties as a lawyer in consonance with the strictures of his oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility, particularly Canon 16 which provides that "a lawyer shall hold in trust all moneys and properties of his client that may come into his possession." As a member of the Bar, respondent was and is expected to always live up to the standards embodied in said Code particularly Canons 15, 16, 17 and 20, for the relationship between an attorney and his client is highly fiduciary in nature and demands utmost fidelity and good faith. The Court believes that a longer period of suspension than that recommended by the IBP is called for under the circumstances.

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