ADEZ REALTY v. CA (G.R. No. 100643. October 30, 1992)

289 Phil. 766


[ G.R. No. 100643. October 30, 1992 ]




In Our Resolution of 14 August 1992, We directed ATTY. BENJAMIN M. DACANAY, counsel for petitioner Adez Realty, Inc., to "SHOW CAUSE within five (5) days from notice why he should not be disciplinarily dealt with for intercalating a material fact in the judgment of the court a quo[1] thereby altering and modifying its factual findings with the apparent purpose of misleading this Court in order to obtain a favorable judgment, and thus failing to live up to the standards expected of a member of the Bar."

In his EXPLANATION of 1 September 1992, Atty. Benjamin M. Dacanay "humbly prostrates himself before the Honorable Court and throws himself at its mercy," and explains that -

"x x x whenever he prepares petitions either for the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court, he dictates to his secretary and if portions of the decision or order to be appealed from have to be quoted, he simply instructs his said secretary to copy the particular pages of the said decision or order.“In the case at bar, he did instruct his secretary to copy the corresponding pages in the decision of the Court of Appeals. Somehow, however, some words were intercalated on a particular paragraph noted by the Honorable Court he regrettably is at a loss to explain. He remembers, however, that at the time he was preparing the petition at bar there were other pleadings necessitating equal if not preferential attention from him which could perhaps be the reason why his secretary committed a very grievous mistake. Such mistake though he does not condone and he feels upset at the turn of events.”[2]

Attached to his EXPLANATION as Annex "A" is an Affidavit[3] of Alicia A. Castro, purportedly his Secretary, stating among others that -

"3. x x x in the preparation of the petition for review on certiorari filed with the Supreme Court, it was Atty. Benjamin M. Dacanay who dictated to me the contents of said petition;“4. x x x in the preparation of the petition, he told me, as he is wont to do whenever he prepares a petition, to copy the particular pages in the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 23773 entitled ‘Adez Realty, Inc., petitioner versus The Hon. Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Morong, Rizal, Branch 79 (not 89 as stated in the Affidavit), et al., respondents;“5. x x x when I copied the particular pages of the decision of the Court of Appeals as instructed by Atty. Benjamin M. Dacanay, I did as instructed, but it was only after our office received the copy of the decision of the Supreme Court in G.R. No. 100643 x x x that Atty. Dacanay confronted me and asked me where I got that portion which was added to the particular paragraph noted by the Supreme Court; that it was only then that I realized the mistake I committed;x x x x"7. x x x I surmise that the error could have been due to the fact that ADEZ REALTY, Inc. has so many cases being handled by the law office that I presume I could have copied or my intention was distracted by other pleadings atop my table at the time.”

Upon receipt of the EXPLANATION of counsel, the First Division referred his case en consulta to the Court En Banc which accepted and took cognizance of it in view of the possible sanction that may be imposed on a member of the Bar.

After due deliberation, the Court En Banc brushed off as simply unsatisfactory and incredible counsel’s explanation that it was his secretary who committed the mistake. This "passing-the-buck" stance of counsel was already aptly treated in Adaza v. Barinaga,[4] where the Court observed thus -

"Making the law office secretary, clerk or messenger the scapegoat or patsy for the delay in the filing of pleadings, motions and other papers and for the lawyer's dereliction of duty is a common alibi of practising lawyers. Like the alibi of the accused in criminal cases, counsel's shifting of the blame to his office employee is usually a concoction utilized to cover up his own negligence, incompetence, indolence and ineptitude."

The case of petitioner is no better; it can be worse. For, how could the secretary have divined the phrase "without notice to the actual occupants of the property, Adez Realty," without counsel dictating it word for word? Could it have been a providential mistake of the secretary as it was very material, and on which could have hinged the fate of a litigant's cause? Whatever be the truth in this regard, counsel cannot elude administrative responsibility which borders on falsification of a judicial record to which, by his inveigling, he unfortunately drags his secretary. Indeed, by no means can he evade responsibility for the vicious intercalation as he admittedly dictated and signed the petition.

It is the bounden duty of lawyers to check, review and recheck the allegations in their pleadings, more particularly the quoted portions, and ensure that the statements therein are accurate and the reproductions faithful, down to the last word and even punctuation mark. The legal profession demands that lawyers thoroughly go over pleadings, motions and other documents dictated or prepared by them, typed or transcribed by their secretaries or clerks, before filing them with the court. If a client is bound by the acts of his counsel, with more reason should counsel be bound by the acts of his secretary who merely follows his orders.[5]

The instant case originated from a petition for reconstitution of title over a parcel of land. Section 13 of R.A. 26, in relation to Sec. 12 of the same statute, on which petitioner bases one of his causes of action, provides among others that notice should be given to the occupants or persons in possession of the property. Compliance therewith is a material requirement for granting a petition for reconstitution of title. The inserted phrase "without notice to the actual occupants of the property, Adez Realty," was just the right phrase intercalated at the right place, making it highly improbable to be unintentionally, much less innocently, committed; and by the secretary at that. All circumstances herein simply but strongly sustain Our belief. Certainly, making it appear that respondent Court of Appeals found that no notice was given to the occupants of subject property - when in fact it did not make such a finding - is a clear indication not merely of carelessness in lifting a portion of the assailed decision but a malicious attempt to gain undue advantage in the sporting arena of fairplay and, more importantly, to deceive and misguide this Court, which is the final arbiter of litigations.

Well-entrenched in our jurisprudence is the rule that, save in certain instances, factual findings of the Court of Appeals are binding upon this Court.[6] The distortion of facts committed by counsel, with the willing assistance of his secretary, is a grave offense and should not be treated lightly, not only because it may set a dangerous precedent but, rather, because it is a clear and serious violation of one's oath as a Member of the Bar, Rule 10.02, Canon 10, Chapter III, of the Code of Professional Responsibility directs that "[a] lawyer shall not knowingly misquote or misrepresent the contents of a paper, the language or the argument of opposing counsel, or the text of a decision or authority, or knowingly cite as a law a provision already rendered inoperative by repeal or amendment, or assert as a fact that which has not been proved" (underscoring supplied).

Misquoting or intercalating phrases in the text of a court decision constitutes willful disregard of the lawyer's solemn duty to act at all times in a manner consistent with the truth. A lawyer should never venture to mislead the court by false statements or quotations of facts or laws. Thus, in Bautista v. Gonzales,[7] We suspended respondent for six (6) months for, among others, submitting to the lower court falsified documents, representing them to be true copies. In Chavez v. Viola,[8] We suspended respondent counsel for five (5) months after he filed an Amended Application for Original Registration of Title which contained false statements.

The case at bar, although akin to the aforementioned cases, has more serious and far-reaching repercussions. Those who attempt to misguide this Court, the last forum for appeal, should be dealt with more severely lest We be made unwilling instruments of inequity and injustice. Indeed, counsel has demonstrated his wanton disregard for truth and fairplay even before the Highest Court of the land. Worse, he compounded his unprofessional mischief by laying the blame on his hapless secretary whose duty it was simply to obey him.

It is well to repeat, perhaps to the point of satiety, what We have already said -

“x x x that the practice of law is not a right but a privilege bestowed by the State on those who show that they possess, and continue to possess, the qualifications required by law for the conferment of such privilege. One of those requirements is the observance of honesty and candor. It cannot be gainsaid that candidness, especially towards the courts, is essential for the expeditious administration of justice x x x x A lawyer, on the other hand, has the fundamental duty to satisfy that expectation. Otherwise, the administration of justice would gravely suffer x x x x It is essential that lawyers bear in mind at all times that their duty is not to their clients but rather to the courts, that they are above all x x x sworn to assist the courts in rendering justice to all and sundry, and only secondarily are they advocates of the exclusive interests of their clients. For this reason, he is required to swear to do no falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court.”[9]

WHEREFORE, We find ATTY. BENJAMIN M. DACANAY, counsel for petitioner, guilty of intercalating a material fact in a judicial Decision elevated to Us on certiorari, thereby altering its factual findings with the apparent purpose, and no other, of misleading the Court in order to obtain a favorable judgment, and thus miserably failing to live up to the standards expected of him as a member of the Philippine Bar. Consequently, ATTY. BENJAMIN M. DACANAY is hereby DISBARRED effective immediately from the practice of law.

Let copies of this Resolution be served personally on Atty. Benjamin M. Dacanay at his given address at Mezzanine Floor, WIL-VIC Building, 125 Kamias Road, Quezon City, entered upon his personal records, and furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and all the courts throughout the country.


Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, Feliciano, Padilla, Bidin, GriƱo-Aquino, Medialdea, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Nocon, Bellosillo, Melo, and Campos, Jr., JJ., concur.
Narvasa, C.J., on leave.

[1] See Decision of the Twelfth Division, Court of Appeals, in CA-G.R. SP No. 23773, prom. 30 April 1991; Rollo, pp. 51-55.

[2] Rollo, p. 93.

[3] Annex “A”, EXPLANATION; Rollo, p. 96.

[4] Adm. Case No. 1604, May 29, 1981; 104 SCRA 684, and the cases cited therein.

[5] See Baring v. Cabahug, No. L-23229, July 20, 1967; 20 SCRA 696.

[6] Austria v. People, G.R. No. 83530, December 18, 1990; 192 SCRA 342.

[7] Adm. Matter No. 1625, February 12, 1990; 182 SCRA 151.

[8] Adm. Case No. 2152, April 19, 1991; 196 SCRA 10.

[9] Ibid, citing Casals v. Cusi, No. L-35766, July 12, 1973, 52 SCRA 58; and Panga v. Ramos, Adm. Case No. 1053, September 7, 1979, 93 SCRA 87.