SC disbars ex-PAO lawyer

By Tetch Torres
Last updated 02:04pm (Mla time) 08/23/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court ordered the disbarment of a lawyer for handling a private case while employed with the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO).


The high court has also suspended two other lawyers for various offenses.


In a 12-page per curiam resolution, the high court en banc found lawyer Jose R. Imbang guilty of violating the lawyer’s oath, Canon 1, Rule 1.01 and Canon 18, Rule 18.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.


A “per curiam” decision is one delivered via an opinion issued in the name of the Court rather than specific justices.


Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides that “a lawyer shall uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land, and promote respect for the law and legal processes;” Rule 1.01 states that “a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct;” while Rule 18.01 states that “a lawyer should not undertake a legal service which he knows or should know that he is not qualified to render.”


The high court ordered Imbang’s name stricken from the Roll of Attorneys.


Imbang was also ordered to return to the complainant Diana Ramos P5,000, with interest at the legal rate reckoned from 1995, within 10 days of receiving the resolution.


“Lawyers in government service cannot handle private cases for they are expected to devote themselves full-time to the work of their respective offices…Respondent clearly violated the prohibition on private practice of profession,” the high court said.


The case dates back to 1992 when Imbang, while still with the PAO, Ramos sought his services to file a criminal complaint against a couple for which she paid him P5,000 and was issued a receipt.


“Acceptance of money from a client establishes an attorney-client relationship between him [Imbang] and the complainant,” the high court said.


However, Imbang, who resigned from the PAO in 1994, not only failed to file the complaint, he also led Ramos to believe that he had.


“These acts constituted dishonesty, a violation of the lawyer’s oath not to do any falsehood,” the Court said.


Meanwhile, lawyer Antoniutti K. Palaña was suspended for six months and ordered to settle his loan to petitioners-spouses Amador and Rosita Tejada within two months from the promulgation date of the decision against him.


In 2001, Palaña asked the couple to lend him P100,000 to reconstitute the torrens title of his land and promised they would get P70,000 more.


The Court said that it was clear that Palaña employed deceit in convincing the Tejadas to finance the reconstitution of the title and also disobeyed the provisions of the Civil Code when he failed to pay them back.


Palaña’s “unjustified withholding of petitioners’ money years after it became due and demandable demonstrates his lack of integrity and fairness, and this is further highlighted by his lack of regard for the charges brought against him,” the Court said.


On the other hand, the high court suspended lawyer Renato L. Gonzales for two years and permanently barred from being commissioned as Notary Public.


Gonzales was penalized for performing notarial services in Pasig City when the notarial commission issued to him was for Quezon City.


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