Monday, March 26, 2012

Magno vs. Velasco-Jacoba [A.C. No. 6296 November 22, 2005]

Facts: Atty. Evelyn J. Magno, President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Nueva Ecija Chapter had a disagreement with her uncle, Lorenzo Inos, over a landscaping contract they had entered into. During the conciliation/confrontation proceeding, Atty. Olivia Velasco-Jacoba appeared on the strength of a Special Power of Attorney signed by Lorenzo Inos. Atty. Magno objected to Atty. Jacoba’s appeareance in the conciliation but the latter interpose that Lorenzo Inos is entitled to be represented by a lawyer inasmuch as complainant is herself a lawyer. 

Complainant enumerated specific instances, with supporting documentation, tending to prove that respondent had, in the course of the conciliation proceedings before the Punong Barangay, acted as Inos Lorenzo’s counsel instead of as his attorney-in-fact. 

Thus, this petition for willful violation of (a) Section 415 of the Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991 and (b) Canon 4 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. 

Issue: Whether or not Atty. Olivia Velasco-Jacoba violated the Local Government Code and the Code of Professional Responsibility. 

Held: Section 415 of the LGC of 1991, on the subject Katarungang Pambarangay, provides: 

Section 415. Appearance of Parties in Person. - In all katarungang pambarangay proceedings, the parties must appear in person without the assistance of the counsel or representative, except for minors and incompetents who may be assisted by their next of kin who are not lawyers. 

The above-quoted provision clearly requires the personal appearance of the parties in katarungan pambarangay conciliation proceedings, unassisted by counsel or representative. The rationale behind the personal appearance requirement is to enable the lupon to secure first hand and direct information about the facts and issues, the exception being in cases where minors or incompetents are parties. There can be no quibbling that laymen of goodwill can easily agree to conciliate and settle their disputes between themselves without what sometimes is the unsettling assistance of lawyers whose presence could sometimes obfuscate and confuse issues. Worse still, the participation of lawyers with their penchant to use their analytical skills and legal knowledge tend to prolong instead of expedite settlement of the case. 

Doubtless, respondent’s conduct tended to undermine the laudable purpose of the katarungan pambarangay system. What compounded matters was when respondent repeatedly ignored complainant’s protestation against her continued appearance in the barangay conciliation proceedings. Hence, Atty. Jacoba was ordered to fine P5,000 and warned that commission of similar acts of impropriety on her part in the future will be dealt with more severely. 


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