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March 6, 2017

Benguet vs. Flores

Facts:

  • This involves an administrative case filed by Benguet Electric Cooperative against Atty. Flores.
  • The complaint was for the removal of his name in the Roll of Attorneys by reason of forum shopping which amounted to grave misconduct and delay in the administration of justice.
  • There was a case GR. No. 89070 wherein Benguet Electric Cooperative was the winner. 
  • There was a writ of execution ordering the losing board members of  Benguet Cooperative to pay the amount of P344,000 which it paid to one Peter Cosalan during the pendency of the said case.
  • Now, Atty. Flores was the legal counsel of two of the losing board members namely Abundlo Awal and Nicasio Aliping.
  • As the lawyer for Awal and Aliping, Atty. Flores instituted Civil Case No. 2738-R with the RTC of Baguio seeking to enjoin Clerk of Court and others from levying on their properties. However, this was dismissed. (prayer: issuance of TRO and or preliminary writ of injunction pending the resolution of the main action)
  • Thereafter, separate complaints for Judicial Declaration of Family Home Constituted to exempt a property from being levied as a result of the enforcement of the judgment.
  • It was the claim of Benguest that there was forum shopping by reason of the fling of the said complaints as well as there was  a groundless suit for damages against the Sheriff since the said sheriff was only performing his job.
  • The IBP found Atty. Flores guilty and ordered his suspension for 6 months.


Issue: Whether or not there was forum shopping. YES

Held: 

IBP RULING:
There was no CNFS filed together with the Civil Case 2738-R
It lacks the certification required by Supreme Court Circular No. 28-91 which took effect on January 1, 1992 to the effect that "to the best of his knowledge, no such action or proceeding is pending in the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals or different divisions thereof or any tribunal or agency. If there is any other action pending, he must state the status of the same. If he should learn that a similar action or proceeding has been filed or pending before the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals or different divisions thereof or any tribunal or agency[,] he should notify the court, tribunal or agency within five (5) days from such notice." 

Under the Circular, a lawyer may be subjected to disciplinary proceedings non-compliance
Among the other penalties, the said circular further provides that the lawyer may also be subjected to disciplinary proceedings for non- compliance thereof.

Atty. Flores violated Canons 10 and 12 of the Code of Professional Responsibility
xxx under which the lawyer owes candor, fairness and good faith to the court and exert[s] every effort and consider[s] it his duty to assist in the speedy and efficient administration of justice.

SUPREME COURT RULING: It adopted the IBP ruling but increased the penalty from 6 months suspension to 1 year.

The complaint filed by Atty. Flores in the RTC of Baguio did not contain a CNFS but there was no violation of CIRCULAR 28-91 for CNFS is required only for petitions filed before the CA and SC 
BUT Respondent is still guilty of forum shopping for violating the Rules of Court
The prohibition is found in Section 1(e) of Rule 16 and Section 4 of Rule 2 of the 1964 Rules of Court, which provide: In a long line of cases, this Court has held that: 
forum shopping exists when, as a result of an adverse opinion in one forum, a party seeks a favorable opinion (other than by appeal or certiorari) in another,or 
when he institutes two or more actions or proceedings grounded on the same cause, on the gamble that one or the other court would make a favorable disposition.

The most important factor in determining the existence of forum shopping is the "vexation caused the courts and parties- litigants by a party who asks different courts to rule on the same or related causes or grant the same or substantially the same reliefs." 

VIOLATIONS:
Atty. Flores filed an injunction suit for the issuance of TRO
When his action was dismissed, he filed two identicalbut separate actions both entitled "Judicial Declaration of Family Home Constituted, ope lege, Exempt from Levy and Execution; with Damages, etc (THESE ARE GROUNDLESS SUITS)

The suits were asking for identical reliefs
The suits for the constitution of a family home were notonly frivolous and unnecessary; they were clearly asking for reliefs identical to the prayer previously dismissed by another branch of the RTC, i.e, to forestall the execution of a final judgment of the labor arbiter. That they were filed ostensibly for the judicial declaration of a family home was a mere smoke screen; in essence, their real objective was to restrain or delay the enforcement of the writ of execution.

 In his deliberate attempt to obtain thes ame relief in two different courts, Respondent Flores was obviously shopping for a "friendly" forum which would capitulate to his improvident plea for an injunction and was thereby trifling with the judicial process.

What are the duties under the CPR?
duty to assist in thespeedy and efficient administration of justice
enjoins him from unduly delaying a case by impeding the execution of a judgment or by misusing court processes

Atty. Flores is also guilty of falsehood
In the administrative case, he stated in his comment that he had xxx xxx xxx not "perfected an appeal on the dismissal" of his petition for injunction. The indelible fact, however, is that respondent did file an appeal which was perfected later on. The original records of the injunction suit had been transmitted to the appellate court.34 Moreover, the Court of Appeals issued a resolution dismissing the appeal. Thus, in denying that he had appealed the decision of the RTC, respondent was making a false statement.

NOTE:
A lawyer must be a disciple of truth. Under the Code of Professional Responsibility, he owes candor, fairness and good faith to the courts.37 He shall neither do any falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any. He also has a duty not to mislead or allow the courts to be misled by any artifice.

Citation:
  • BENGUET ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE, INC. complainant, vs. ATTY. ERNESTO B. FLORES, respondent.
  • A.C. No. 4058
  • March 12, 1998
  • En Banc

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