Complainants sought the services of respondent in a case for reconstitution of title.
Respondent agreed if the complainants will give him a portion of their land as his fee for filing a petition for certiorari to nullify the order for the reconstitution of the lost title. The complainants agreed to give him a 250 square meter lot. Respondent subsequently asked them to sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) in which he was given a 300 square meter lot for his services. When they noticed this change, complainants asked for an amendment of the MOA. Respondent refused. Complainants also found out that instead of filing a petition for certiorari, respondent filed only a Manifestation for Information.
Feeling aggrieved, the complainants decided to bring their complaint against the respondent.
In due course, the IBP found the complaint against the respondent meritorious, and recommended that the respondent be suspended from the practice of law for one year for his unfair and injudicious treatment of the complainants as his clients.
Did the respondent violate his ethical duties as a member of the Bar in his dealings with the complainants?
We find and hold that the respondent grossly violated his Lawyer’s Oath and his ethical duties as an attorney because he did not observe candor and fairness in his dealings with his clients.
“A lawyer shall observe candor, honesty and fairness in dealing with the client, and shall only charge fair and reasonable fees for his legal services. In drawing up the terms of his professional engagement, he should not practice deceit. The clients are entitled to rescind the written agreement for his professional services if the terms thereol contravened the true agreement of the parties.”
The MOA which respondent made the complainants sign was not a contingency fee agreement, but an agreement for the immediate acquisition of their property as his attorney‘s fees. Moreover, the value of the said land was much more than the value of the services he has rendered which was only the filing of a Manifestation.
The circumstances in this case has established that the respondent was deceitful, dishonest and unreasonable in his dealings with the complainants as his clients. He thus violated his Lawyer’s Oath, whereby he vowed, among others, to do no falsehood, and not to consent to the doing of any falsehood, as well as not to delay any man’s cause for money or malice but to conduct himself as a lawyer according to the best of his knowledge and discretion “with all good fidelity as well to the courts as to [his] clients. He also breached the following canons of the Code of Professional Responsibility, to wit:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Rule 1.01 – A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest immoral or deceitful conduct.
Canon 15 A lawyer shall observe candor, fairness and loyalty in all his dealings and transactions with his clients.
Canon 17 A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he shall be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him.
Canon 18.03 A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.
Canon 20- A lawyer shall charge only fair and reasonable fees. Rule 20.4 A lawyer shall avoid controversies with clients concerning his compensation and shall resort to judicial action only to prevent imposition, injustice or fraud.
Atty. Emelie P. Bangot, Jr. was penalized with suspension from the practice of law for five (5) years.