Monday, March 05, 2012

Manalang vs. Angeles [A.C. No. 1558, March 10, 2003]

Facts: In this administrative complaint filed on November 11, 1975, against Atty. Francisco F. Angeles for grave misconduct as a lawyer, respondent stands charged with infidelity in the discharge of fiduciary obligations to his clients, herein complainants Honorio Manalang and Florencio Cirillo. 

Manalang and Cirillo alleged that they were the complainants in a case for overtime and separation pay filed against their employer, the Philippine Racing Club Restaurant, before the National Labor Relations Commission Region IV Office, docketed as NLRC-RO 4 No. 4-2417-74. Respondent was their counsel. Judgment was rendered in their favor, in the amount of P6,500. After the decision became final, a writ of execution issued. However, without authority from his clients, respondent compromised the award and was able to collect P5,500 only. 

Complainants said they made several demands upon respondent to turn over to them the amount collected minus the agreed upon attorney's fees of thirty percent (30%), but Atty. Angeles refused and offered to give them only the sum of P2,650. 

Complainants then instituted the instant case, with the assistance of the then Citizens Legal Assistance Office (CLAO) of the Department of Justice. 

In his answer, filed on December 15, 1975, respondent stated that he offered to give complainants their money, but they insisted that he "deduct from this attorney's fees the amount of P2,000, representing the amount discounted by the counsel of the Philippine Racing Club Restaurant, together with sheriff legal fees and other administrative expenses." Respondent claimed that to accept complainants' proposition meant that he "would not be compensated for prosecuting and handling, the case." 

Issue: Whether or not respondent Atty. Francisco F. Angeles should be suspended from the practice of law because of grave misconduct related to his clients' funds 

Held: YES. As found by the IBP Committee on Bar Discipline, respondent only offered to remit to complainants the amount of P2,650 or P1,325 each, an amount substantially less than the P2,275 that each complainant was entitled to receive under the judgment. On this score, respondent failed to establish any credible defense. Moreover, he consistently failed to appear at the hearings scheduled by the CBD. Hence, his excuse for failing to give the money due his clients merit scant consideration. 

A lawyer shall hold in trust all moneys and properties of his client that may come into his possession. In the instant case, the records clearly and abundantly point to respondent's receipt of and failure to deliver upon demand, the amount of P4,550 intended for his clients. This is a clear breach of Rule 16.03, Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. 

Atty. Francisco F. Angeles is suspended from the practice of law for a period of six (6) months, effective immediately upon his receipt of this Resolution. He is also ordered to pay the sum of two thousand two hundred seventy five pesos (P2,275.00) each to complainants Honorio Manalang and Florencio Cirillo, with interest of six percent (6%) per annum from the time of filing this complaint until fully paid. 

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