SC: 80-year-old lawyer cannot practice law again after having 17-year-old girlfriend

[A.C. No. 3405, March 18, 2014, 730 Phil. 1 ]

Before this Court is a “Petition for Readmission” to the practice of law filed by Dominador M. Narag (Respondent).

On November 13, 1989, Julieta B. Narag (Julieta) filed an administrative complaint for disbarment against her husband, herein respondent, whom she accused of having violated Rule 1.01[1] in relation to Canons 1[2] and 6[3] of the Code of Professional Responsibility. She claimed that the respondent, who was then a college instructor in St. Louis College of Tuguegarao and a member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Cagayan, maintained an amorous relationship with a certain Gina Espita (Gina) – a 17-year old first year college student. Julieta further claimed that the respondent had already abandoned her and their children to live with Gina. The respondent denied the charge against him, claiming that the allegations set forth by Julieta were mere fabrications; that Julieta was just extremely jealous, which made her concoct stories against him.On June 29, 1998, the Court rendered a Decision, which directed the disbarment of the respondent. The Court opined that the respondent committed an act of gross immorality when he abandoned his family in order to live with Gina. The Court pointed out that the respondent had breached the high and exacting moral standards set for members of the legal profession.

A Motion for the Re-opening of the Administrative Investigation, or in the Alternative, Reconsideration of the Decision was filed by the respondent on August 25, 1998. He averred that he was denied due process of law during the administrative investigation as he was allegedly unjustly disallowed to testify in his behalf and adduce additional vital documentary evidence. Finding no substantial arguments to warrant the reversal of the questioned decision, the Court denied the motion with finality in the Resolution dated September 22, 1998.

On November 29, 2013, the respondent filed the instant petition for reinstatement to the Bar. The respondent alleged that he has expressed extreme repentance and remorse to his wife and their children for his misgivings. He claimed that his wife Julieta and their children had already forgiven him on June 10, 2010 at their residence in Tuguegarao City. The respondent presented an undated affidavit prepared by his son, Dominador, Jr., purportedly attesting to the truth of the respondent’s claim.

The respondent averred that he has been disbarred for 15 years already and that he has been punished enough. He alleged that he is already 80 years old, weak and wracked with debilitating osteo-arthritic pains.  That he has very limited mobility due to his arthritis and his right knee injury.

He further claimed that he enlisted in the Philippine Air Force Reserve Command where he now holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel; that as member of the Reserve Command, he enlisted in various rescue, relief and recovery missions. The respondent likewise submitted the various recommendations, testimonials and affidavits in support of his petition for readmission.[4]

“Whether the applicant shall be reinstated in the Roll of Attorneys rests to a great extent on the sound discretion of the Court. The action will depend on whether or not the Court decides that the public interest in the orderly and impartial administration of justice will continue to be preserved even with the applicant’s reentry as a counselor at law. The applicant must, like a candidate for admission to the bar, satisfy the Court that he is a person of good moral character, a fit and proper person to practice law. The Court will take into consideration the applicant’s character and standing prior to the disbarment, the nature and character of the charge/s for which he was disbarred, his conduct subsequent to the disbarment, and the time that has elapsed between the disbarment and the application for reinstatement.”[5]

The extreme penalty of disbarment was meted on the respondent on account of his having committed a grossly immoral conduct, i.e., abandoning his wife and children to live with his much younger paramour. Indeed, nothing could be more reprehensible than betraying one’s own family in order to satisfy an irrational and insatiable desire to be with another woman. The respondent’s act was plainly selfish and clearly evinces his inappropriateness to be part of the noble legal profession.

More than 15 years after being disbarred, the respondent now professes that he had already repented and expressed remorse over the perfidy that he had brought upon his wife and their children. That such repentance and remorse, the respondent asserts, together with the long years that he had endured his penalty, is now sufficient to enable him to be readmitted to the practice of law.

The respondent’s pleas, however, are mere words that are hollow and bereft of any substance. The Court, in deciding whether the respondent should indeed be readmitted to the practice of law, must be convinced that he had indeed been reformed; that he had already rid himself of any grossly immoral act which would make him inept for the practice of law. However, it appears that the respondent, while still legally married to Julieta, is still living with his paramour – the woman for whose sake he abandoned his family. This only proves to show that the respondent has not yet learned from his prior misgivings.

That he was supposedly forgiven by his wife and their children would likewise not be sufficient ground to grant respondent’s plea. It is noted that only his son, Dominador, Jr., signed the affidavit which was supposed to evidence the forgiveness bestowed upon the respondent. Thus, with regard to Julieta and the six other children of the respondent, the claim that they had likewise forgiven the respondent is hearsay. In any case, that the family of the respondent had forgiven him does not discount the fact that he is still committing a grossly immoral conduct; he is still living with a woman other than his wife.

Likewise, that the respondent executed a holographic will wherein he bequeaths all his properties to his wife and their children is quite immaterial and would not be demonstrative that he had indeed changed his ways. Verily, nothing would stop the respondent from later on executing another last will and testament of a different tenor once he had been readmitted to the legal profession.

In fine, the Court is not convinced that the respondent had shown remorse over his transgressions and that he had already changed his ways as would merit his reinstatement to the legal profession. Time and again the Court has stressed that the practice of law is not a right but a privilege. It is enjoyed only by those who continue to display unassailable character.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, the Petition for Reinstatement to the Bar filed by Dominador M. Narag is hereby DENIED.


Sereno, C.J., Carpio, Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-De Castro, Brion, Peralta, Castillo, Villarama, Jr., Perez, Mendoza, and Reyes, JJ., concur.
Leonen, J., see dissenting opinion.
Bersamin, and Abad, JJ., join the dissent of J. Leonen.
Perlas-Bernabe, J., on official leave.

[1] Rule 1.01 – A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.

[2] CANON 1 – A lawyer shall uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect for law and legal processes.

[3] CANON 6 – These canons shall apply to lawyers in government service in the discharge of their official duties.

[4] (1) Recommendation of the IBP Cagayan Chapter; (2) Affidavit of Dominador, Jr. with a copy of the holographic will executed by the petitioner leaving all his properties to Julieta and their children; (3) Testimonial of Justice Hilarion L. Aquino; (4) Testimonial of Archbishop Emeritus Diosdado Talamayan of Tuguegarao Archdiocese; (5) Testimonial of Brigadier General Antonio L Tamayo, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of University of Perpetual Help System; (6) Testimonial of Major General Lino H.E. Lapinid, Past Commander of the Philippine Air Force Reserve Command; (7) Testimonial of retired Regional Trial Court Judge Antonio Eugenio, former President of the Philippine Judges Association; (8) Joint Testimonial of Dr. Roger Perez (former President of Cagayan State University) and Dr. Victor Perez (President, University of Cagayan Valley); and (9) Testimonial of Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, former Chair of the Department of Jurisprudence and Legal Philosophy of the Philippine Judicial Academy.

[5] Bernardo v. Atty. Mejia, 558 Phil. 398, 401 (2007), citing Cui v. Cui, 120 Phil. 725, 731 (1964).



"But mercy is above this sceptred sway; It is enthroned in the hearts of kings, It is an attribute to God himself; And earthly power doth then show likest God's When mercy seasons justice. "

- William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice (Act IV, Scene I)

Mercy tempers justice. It is mercy that assures that our institutions are cloaked with humane compassion strengthening courts with a mantle of respect and legitimacy.

I disagree with my esteemed colleagues that Dominador M. Narag's plea for judicial clemency (in the form of a petition for readmission to the practice of law) should be denied. He has been disbarred and unable to practice his chosen profession for 15 years. He presents an affidavit to support his claim that his wife and children have forgiven him. He alleges that during the time that he was unable to practice, he volunteered his time and services to the community especially those who were affected by disasters.

Dominador M. Narag is also already 80 years old.

He has suffered enough. I vote to grant his petition and, thus, allow him judicial clemency.

Clemency is not unprecedented.

In Bernardo v. Atty. Mejia,[1] this court disbarred Atty. Ismael F. Mejia for misappropriating and converting funds, falsifying documents, and issuing insufficiently funded checks. Fifteen years after his disbarment, then 71-year-old Atty. Mejia filed a petition for readmission to the practice of law, "begging for [this court's] forgiveness."[2]According to Atty. Mejia, "he ha[d] long repented'and x x x ha[d] suffered enough"[3] and that readmission to the practice of law would "redeem the indignity that [his children had] suffered due to his disbarment."[4]

This court readmitted Atty. Mejia to the practice of law, taking into account Atty. Mejia's rehabilitation and that he was "already of advanced years."[5] This court said:
xxx While the age of the petitioner and the length of time during which he has endured the ignominy of disbarment are not the sole measure in allowing a petition for reinstatement, the Court takes cognizance of the rehabilitation of Mejia. Since his disbarment in 1992, no other transgression has been attributed to him, and he has shown remorse. Obviously, he has learned his lesson from this experience, and his punishment has lasted long enough. Thus, while the Court is ever mindful of its duty to discipline its erring officers, it also knows how to show compassion when the penalty imposed has already served its purpose. After all, penalties, such as disbarment, are imposed not to punish but to correct offenders.[6]
In In Re: Quinciano D. Vailoces,[7] this court disbarred Atty. Vailoces for acknowledging the execution of a forged last will and testament. Twenty-one years after his disbarment, then 69-year-old Atty. Vailoces filed a petition for readmission to the practice of law, "[pledging] with all his honor xxx [that] he will surely and consistently conduct himself honestly, uprightly and worthily."[8] With favorable endorsements from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, testimonials from the provincial governor of Negros Oriental, and municipal and barrio officials of Bindoy, Negros Oriental of his "active participation in civic and social undertakings in [his] community,"[9] this court readmitted Atty. Vailoces to the practice of law.

In In Re: Atty. Tranquilino Rovero,[10] this court disbarred Atty. Rovero after he had been found guilty of smuggling under Section 2703 of the Revised Administrative Code.[11] Twenty-eight years after his disbarment, then 71-year-old Atty. Rovero filed a petition for readmission to the practice of law, "[asking] humbly and earnestly of the Court to [reinstate him] in the Roll of Attorneys 'before crossing the bar to the great beyond.'"[12] To prove his "moral rehabilitation and reformation,"[13] he involved himself in civic and educational organizations and "held high positions of trust in commercial establishments."[14] With testimonials of his good conduct from members of his community and an absolute and unconditional pardon for his crime granted by President Ramon Magsaysay,[15] this court readmitted Atty. Rovero to the practice of law. According to this court, Atty. Rovero uha[d] been sufficiently punished and disciplined."[16]

In this case, 80-year-old Dominador M. Narag filed his petition for readmission to the practice of law 15 years after his disbarment. In his petition for readmission, he expressed remorse and asked for complainant Julieta's and their children's forgiveness. He annexed to his petition a copy of an affidavit executed by his son, Dominador, Jr., attesting that complainant Julieta and their children had forgiven him. He also executed a holographic will in favor of complainant Julieta and their children.

Dominador M. Narag enlisted in the Philippine Air Force Reserve Command and joined in its rescue, relief, recovery, and other humanitarian missions. He also submitted to this court favorable recommendations, testimonials, and affidavits attesting to his moral reformation. Among the testimonials given was one from Archbishop Emeritus Diosdado A. Talamayan of Tuguegarao. In his letter dated November 30, 2011, he testified that:
Due to my closeness to the couple, I had the opportunity to watch closely their married life. They both worked for the education of their children. All were happy. Dr. Narag was a concerned father and a loving husband. He would bring his wife along to all important religious, civic, cultural and social events. He made it a point to go with her, regularly on vacations to other parts of the country.

But an indiscretion on his part led to a broken family. Many times I was called to negotiate, as their spiritual father, in their family disputes. The misdeed of Dr. Narag led Mrs. Julieta Narag to file disbarment from Law Practice. On June 29, 1998, in an administrative case No. 3405, Dr. Narag was disbarred.

For the past thirteen years, I have been a witness to the remorse, repentance of Dr. Narag.

To my joy, on June 10, 2010, acting on the gesture of Dr. Narag to bequeath to Mrs. Julieta Narag and children, all properties personal or real, all belongings and realizing the sincerity of repentance, Mrs. Narag and children totally forgave Dr. Dominador Narag.

I sincerely believe Dr. Narag has paid enough for his indiscretion; meantime, for the past thirteen years of disbarment, he helped the University of Perpetual Help System grow and develop.

As he is in the twilight of his life, now being 78 years and feeling he can still be of service to people, I fully endorse his humble petition for readmission to the Philippine Bar and the restoration of his name in the Roll of Attorneys with the Supreme Court.[17]
I disagree with the majority that these manifestations are hollow. I also disagree that the affidavit of Dominador M. Narag's son and the holographic will he presents are not sufficient to prove the forgiveness that has been bestowed upon him by his family. They are the parties that have been wronged and in so far as the State is concerned, he has already suffered enough.

This, case does not deal with the question of whether we can impose disciplinary action on acts of immorality by members of the profession. Had it been at issue, I would think that the forgiveness given by the parties that have been wronged should have great bearing on our determination. After all, there are limits to the government's interference into arrangements of intimacies among couples. I fail to grasp the alleged continuing gross immorality and reprehensiveness committed by a remorseful 80-year-old man who has been forgiven by those he has emotionally wronged. I do not believe that the law should be read as being too callous and inflexible so as to be unable to accommodate the unique realities in this case.

What is at issue in this case is whether Dominador M. Narag has suffered enough from his acts. This court showed them compassion and reinstated them as members of the legal profession in many instances where those disbarred are of old age who suffered "the ignominy of disbarment"[18] long enough, showed remorse, and conducted themselves beyond reproach after their disbarment.

The legal order has had its pound of flesh from Dominador M. Narag. He has committed a transgression, but we have exacted enough retribution. The purpose of the penalty has already been achieved. He is in the twilight of his years when he is at his best to reflect on what his life has been. He is armed by the forgiveness of his family, and he is visited by remorse. In my view, not granting him the mitigation he asks for is a failure of human compassion.

For these reasons, I vote to grant him his plea and to reinstate him as a lawyer in good standing.

[1] 558 Phil. 398 (2007) [Per J. Nachura, En Banc].

[2] Id. at 401.

[3] Id.

[4] Id. at 402.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] 202 Phil. 322 (1982) [Per J. Escolin, En Banc].

[8] Id. at 328.

[9] Id.

[10] 189 Phil. 605 (1980) [Per J. Concepcion, Jr., En Banc].

[11] REVISED ADMINISTRATIVE CODE (1917), sec. 2703 states:

Sec. 2703. Various fraudulent practices against customs revenues. - Any person who makes or attempts to make any entry of imported or dutiable exported merchandise by means of any false or fraudulent invoice, declaration, affidavit, letter, paper, or by means of any false statement, written or verbal, or by means of any false or fraudulent practice whatever, or shall be guilty of any willful act or omission by means whereof the Government of the (Philippine Islands) Commonwealth of the Philippines might be deprived of the lawful duties, or any portion thereof, accruing from the merchandise or any portion thereof, embraced or referred to in such invoice, declaration, affidavit, letter, paper, or statement, or affected by such act or omission, shall, for each offense, be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand pesos or by imprisonment for not more than two years, or both.

[12] In Re: Atty. Tranquilino Rovero, 189 Phil. 605, 606 (1980) [Per J. Concepcion, Jr., En Banc].

[13] Id. at 607.

[14] Id.

[15] Id. at 608.

[16] Id.

[17] Rollo, petition for readmission, Annex "E".

[18] Bernardo v. Atty. Mejia, 558 Phil. 398, 402 (2007) [Per J. Nachura, En Banc].