Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saura vs. Agdeppa

Facts: Two (2) complaints are related and arose from the handling of the respondent of a settlement case involving a piece of property owned in common by the petitioners with their other siblings, Macrina, Romeo and Amelita, all surnamed Saura, who were then the administrators of the said property of the late Ramon E. Saura who died intestate on May 15, 1992. Petitioners alleged that despite repeated demands, the vendors or their counsel, respondent herein, have refused to disclose the amount of the sale or account for the proceeds. This case was referred to the Integrated Bar by the Supreme Court in a resolution dated November 20, 1995, after its earlier resolution dated June 19, 1995, was returned unserved with the Postmaster’s notation that the same was "unclaimed". Several notice of appearance were issued but to date, no response has been forth coming from Atty. Agdeppa. For her continued defiance of orders of this Court for her to answer the administrative charges leveled against her, respondent was recommended to be penalized with a fine of P10,000.00 and suspension from practice for one (1) year in each of the two (2) cases pending against her. Respondent Agdeppa filed a motion for reconsideration alleging that the petitions should be dismissed because she was not accorded her right to due process and that she could not answer the administrative charges against her without divulging certain pieces of information in violation of the attorney-client privilege. Respondent does not convince. 

Issue: Whether or not respondent Atty. Agdeppa violates the lawyer’s oath and disregard the Canons of Professional Ethics and subsequently was denied due process. 

Held: For the refusal of Atty. Lalaine Lilibeth Agdeppa to comply with our Resolutions dated June 7 and 19, 1995 directing her to file an answer to the petitions, the Court hereby penalizes her with a FINE. 

The respondent was given notice on various occasions but she chose to ignore them and failed to exercise her right to be heard. Since respondent repeatedly ignored the notices sent to her by this Court,the court cannot be expected to wait indefinitely for her answer. While respondent may have changed her address and did not, thus, receive the previous notices, still, on March 2, 1998, she came to know of the Supreme Court Resolution dated June 19, 1995. The prudent thing for her to do was to file an answer immediately and not to delay the matter any further. Sadly, the respondent ignored the Resolution of the Supreme Court ordering her to file an answer thus, the contention that respondent was denied of due process cannot prosper. Moreover, the request for the information regarding the sale of the property and to account for the proceeds is not a violation of the attorney-client privilege. The information requested by petitioners is not privileged. The petitioners are only asking for the disclosure of the amount of the sale or account for the proceeds. Petitioners certainly have the right to ask for such information since they own the property as co-heirs of the late Ramon E. Saura and as co-administrators of the property. Hence, respondent cannot refuse to divulge such information to them and hide behind the cloak of the attorney-client relationship. 

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