Spouses Rafols v. Barrios A.C. No. 4973, March 15, 2010

Facts:  Dismissed Judge Dizon Jr. extorted money from the complainant for the favorable outcome of their case under the Judge’s sala. The said Judge was introduced to the complainant by their lawyer respondent. In a resolution the Court approved the recommendations, and directed the Office of the Bar Confidant to investigate the actuations of the respondent, and to render its report and recommendation thereon. in the proceedings of the OBC, only the respondent appeared. Denying the charges against him, he sought the dismissal of the complaint and re-affirmed the contents of his comment. Despite notice, the complainants did not appear before the OBC. However, the complainants and the respondent had testified during the administrative hearing involving Judge Dizon, Jr. before Court of Appeals Associate Justice Jose Sabio Jr. In its Report and Recommendation of the OBC opined that the administrative case against the respondent could not be dismissed on the ground of failure to prosecute due to the complainants’ failure to appear in the scheduled hearing despite due notice. Based on the facts already established and identified, as rendered in the decision against the dismissed Judge Teodoro A. Dizon, the OBC rejected the respondent’s denial of any knowledge of the transaction between his clients and the judge.

Issue: Whether the OBC erred in finding the Respondent violating his oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility?

Held: No, the court find  the recommendation of the OBC to be fully and competently supported by the evidence adduced by the complainants and their witnesses, but we impose the supreme penalty of disbarment, which we believe is the proper penalty. To begin with, the respondent’s denial of knowledge of the transaction between the complainants and Judge Dizon, Jr. was not only implausible, but also unsubstantiated. It was the respondent himself who had introduced the complainants to the judge. His act of introducing the complainants to the judge strongly implied that the respondent was aware of the illegal purpose of the judge in wanting to talk with the respondent’s clients.

Secondly, the respondent’s insistence that he did not see the complainants’ act of handing the money to the judge is unbelievable. In his comment, the respondent even admitted having himself received the ₱80,000.00 from the complainants, and having kept ₱30,000.00 of that amount pursuant to the instruction of the judge as a token of the friendship between him and the judge. The admission proved that the respondent had known all along of the illegal transaction between the judge and the complainants, and belied his feigned lack of knowledge of the delivery of the money to the judge.

Thirdly, his attempt to explain that the complainants had given the money to the judge as a loan, far from softening our strong impression of the respondent’s liability, confirmed his awareness of the gross impropriety of the transaction. Being the complainants’ attorney in the civil case being heard before the judge, the respondent could not but know that for the judge to borrow money from his clients was highly irregular and outrightly unethical. If he was innocent of wrongdoing, as he claimed, he should have desisted from having any part in the transaction. Yet, he did not, which rendered his explanation unbelievable. Compounding the unworthiness of his explanation was his admission of having retained ₱30,000.00 of the “borrowed” money upon the judge’s instruction.

And, lastly, the OBC has pointed out that the respondent’s act of requesting the NBI Regional Office in Davao City to investigate was an afterthought on his part. We agree with the OBC, for the respondent obviously acted in order to anticipate the complainants’ moves against him and the judge. To be sure, the respondent sensed that the complainants would not simply forgive and forget the mulcting they had suffered at the hands of the judge and their own attorney from the time that the complainants assured him that they were no longer interested to get back their money despite their being very angry at the judge’s greed.

Overall, the respondent’ denials were worthless and unavailing in the face of the uncontradicted evidence showing that he had not only personally arranged the meeting between Manuel and Judge Dizon, Jr., but had also communicated to the complainants the judge’s illegal reason for the meeting. It is axiomatic that any denial, to be accepted as a viable defense in any proceeding, must be substantiated by clear and convincing evidence. This need derives from the nature of a denial as evidence of a negative and self-serving character, weightless in law and insufficient to overcome the testimony of credible witnesses on affirmative matters.

The conclusion that the respondent and the disgraced Judge Dizon, Jr. were conspirators against the former’s own clients, whom he was sworn to protect and to serve with utmost fidelity and morality, is inevitable for the Court to make in this administrative case. And, being conspirators, they both deserve the highest penalty. The disbarment of the respondent is in order, because such sanction is on par with the dismissal of Judge Dizon, Jr.

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