Fact: Complainant alleged that in 1995, while respondent was still connected with the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID), she and her three sons, who are all American citizens, applied for Philippine Visas under Section 13[g] of the Immigration Law. Respondent told complainant that in order that their visa applications will be favorably acted upon by the BID they needed to deposit a certain sum of money for a period of one year which could be withdrawn after one year. Believing that the deposit was indeed required by law, complainant deposited with respondent on six different occasions from April 1995 to April 1996 the total amount of US$20,000. Respondent prepared receipts/vouchers as proofs that he received the amounts deposited by the complainant but refused to give her copies of official receipts despite her demands. After one year, complainant demanded from respondent the return of US$20,000 who assured her that said amount would be returned. Respondent promised to return the money and issued worthless checks. Thus, a complaint for disbarment was filed by complainant in the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP). On 5 November 2004, Investigating Commissioner Milagros V. San Juan submitted her report recommending the disbarment of respondent. On 4 November 2004, the IBP Board of Governors approved the Investigating Commissioner’s report with modification.
Issue: Whether the Respondent, a Government Officer and a Lawyer is liable thus must be Disbarred in the Practice of Law.
Held: Yes, The court agree with the IBP Board of Governors that respondent should be severely sanctioned. We begin with the veritable fact that lawyers in government service in the discharge of their official task have more restrictions than lawyers in private practice. Want of moral integrity is to be more severely condemned in a lawyer who holds a responsible public office. Respondent’s act of asking money from complainant in consideration of the latter’s pending application for visas is violative of Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which prohibits members of the Bar from engaging or participating in any unlawful, dishonest, or deceitful acts. Moreover, said acts constitute a breach of Rule 6.02 of the Code which bars lawyers in government service from promoting their private interest. Promotion of private interest includes soliciting gifts or anything of monetary value in any transaction requiring the approval of his office or which may be affected by the functions of his office. Respondent’s conduct in office betrays the integrity and good moral character required from all lawyers, especially from one occupying a high public office. A lawyer in public office is expected not only to refrain from any act or omission which might tend to lessen the trust and confidence of the citizenry in government; he must also uphold the dignity of the legal profession at all times and observe a high standard of honesty and fair dealing. Otherwise said, a lawyer in government service is a keeper of the public faith and is burdened with high degree of social responsibility, perhaps higher than his brethren in private practice.
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