Perla Compania De Seguros, Inc. v Saquilabon A.M. No. 3907, April 10, 1997

Fact: Complainant has charged Respondent with having violated his oath of office and, in particular, his commitment 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.”.  The Court referred the matter to the IBP for investigation, report and recommendation. Respondent was the legal counsel of complainant in Civil referred to as the “Buco” case and “Natividad” case. An adverse decision was rendered against complainant in Buco. Not satisfied with the decision, complainant, through respondent, sought relief from the Court of Appeals. In 1988, the appeal was dismissed for failure to file the required appeal brief. Complainant moved for reconsideration of the dismissal. The appellate court reconsidered and gave complainant a non-extendible period of fifteen days within which to finally submit the brief. Respondent lawyer again failed to comply constraining anew the Court of Appeals to dismiss, Complainant’s subsequent motions for reconsideration were denied. The complainant was ultimately made to pay certain amounts to the spouses Buco.

The IBP Commission on Bar Discipline (“CBD”) exonerated respondent in the Natividad case but concluded that there was gross negligence on his part in Buco, warranting a six month suspension from the practice of the legal profession. The report and recommendations of CBD were approved by the IBP.

Issue: Whether the respondent, due to the failure of the Complainant’s employees, failed to execute his duty is an inexcusable violation of his Oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Held: Yes, In Buco case, respondent lawyer truly was negligent in handling the case. It had behooved him to make certain that the appeal brief was filed on time. His excuse that he relied instead on an employee, albeit a branch manager, of his client is unacceptable. The Code of Professional Responsibility  which states that “a lawyer shall not, after obtaining extensions of time to file pleadings, memoranda or briefs, let the period lapse without submitting the same or offering an explanation for his failure to do so.” and “a lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.” An attorney is bound to protect his client’s interest to the best of his ability and with utmost diligence. A failure to file brief for his client certainly constitutes inexcusable negligence on his part. The respondent has indeed committed a serious lapse in the duty owed by him to his client as well as to the Court not to delay litigation and to aid in the speedy administration of justice. His arrangements with Quinto did not relieve respondent from his responsibility to ensure that his client’s cause is not unnecessarily put to possible jeopardy. Quinto’s failure to submit the appeal brief on time should have been enough warning for respondent not to entrust to anyone else, definitely not to Quinto, the filing of the brief following the reconsideration of the dismissal by the appellate court and the grant of the non-extendible period of fifteen days. Respondent appears to have been short of scrupulous candor. In asking for the reconsideration of the 1989 resolution dismissing the appeal for the second time, he did not blame Quinto but has averred that the non-filing of the brief on the extended period granted to have been due to the fault of his secretary, “whose poor physical health forced her to render services to counsel intermittently.” The recommendation of the IBP for respondent’s suspension from the practice of law for a period of six (6) months is more than justified.

 

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