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504 Phil. 346


[ G. R. NO. 147550, August 16, 2005 ]




The charges for contempt and violation of Canon 10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility subject of the present Resolution are an offshoot of this Court's Decision of January 26, 2005 denying petitioner Mario Victoria's appeal by certiorari[1] for, among other things, having been filed out of time:
As earlier noted, this Court granted petitioner an extended period to file the petition, conditioned, however, on the timeliness of the filing of the Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition for Review on Certiorari. It is a basic rule of remedial law that a motion for extension of time must be filed before the expiration of the period sought to be extended. Where a motion for extension of time is filed beyond the period for appeal, the same is of no effect since there would no longer be any period to extend, and the judgment or order to be appealed from will have become final and executory.

In the case at bar, an examination of the records reveals that the reglementary period to appeal had in fact expired almost 10 months prior to the filing of petitioner's motion for extension of time on April 10, 2001. The Registry Return Receipt of the Resolution of the CA dismissing the CA Certiorari Petition shows that the same was received by counsel for petitioner's agent on June 5, 2000. Hence, petitioner had only until June 20, 2000 within which to file an appeal or a motion for new trial or reconsideration.

Clearly, the Court of Appeals committed no error when it denied petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration for having been filed two days after the expiration of the reglementary period on June 22, 2000.

Similarly, the instant petition for review must likewise be dismissed for having been filed on May 12, 2001, almost 11 months after the expiration of the period to appeal on June 20, 2000. (Emphasis supplied; underscoring in the original; citations omitted)
In the same Decision, this Court noted that petitioner, with the aid of his counsel, Atty. Abdul A. Basar, made misleading statements in his Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition for Review on Certiorari and in his subsequent Petition respecting the timeliness of his appeal and the status of the Resolutions of the Court of Appeals.
Finally, this Court notes with consternation petitioner's attempts, with the aid of his counsel, Atty. Abdul A. Basar, to deliberately mislead this Court as to the material dates and status of the decision appealed from, thereby impeding if not frustrating the ends of justice.

In his Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition for Review on Certiorari, petitioner declared under oath that: (1) he had "filed a timely Motion for reconsideration" of the Court of Appeals' Resolution denying his petition for certiorari, and (2) the notice of the denial by the Court of Appeals of his Motion for Reconsideration "was received by petitioner only [on] March 28, 2001;" thus making it appear that he had until April 12, 2001 within which to perfect his appeal.

Significantly, petitioner did not disclose, either in his motion for extension of time or in his subsequent petition, the date on which he received the Resolution of the Court of Appeals denying his petition for certiorari; thereby concealing the actual period for appeal from the Court processor.

As already noted, petitioner's motion for reconsideration failed to suspend the running of the reglementary period since it was filed two days too late. Worse, the Registry Return Receipt of the Resolution denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration before the Court of Appeals shows that it was received by counsel for petitioner's agent on September 20, 2000, and not March 28, 2001 as claimed by petitioner. In fact, by Resolution dated May 7, 2001, the Court of Appeals had ordered the issuance of an Entry of Judgment in this case; which was later withdrawn by Resolution of October 23, 2001 following receipt by the appellate court of the instant Petition on May 15, 2001.

It cannot be overemphasized that parties and their counsel are duty-bound to observe honesty and truthfulness in all their pleadings, motions and statements before the courts. Canon 10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility states, "A lawyer owes candor, fairness and good faith to the court;" while Rules 10.01 and 10.03 of the same provide:
Rule 10.01 - A lawyer shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in Court; nor shall he mislead, or allow the Court to be misled by any artifice.

x x x

Rule 10.03 - A lawyer shall observe the rules of procedure and shall not misuse them to defeat the ends of justice. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
Consequently, this Court ordered petitioner and his counsel, Atty. Abdul A. Basar, to show cause, within 10 days from receipt of the Decision, why they should not be held in contempt of court and disciplinarily dealt with for violation of Canon 10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, respectively.

By registered mail dated March 15, 2005, petitioner Mario Victoria submitted his Paliwanag[2] (Explanation) in Filipino, stating, among other things, that:
  1. In accordance with the wishes of his siblings, petitioner substituted his mother, Isidra Vda. De Victoria, who passed away during the pendency of the ejectment case before the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Calauan, Laguna.[3]

  2. After the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) rendered its Decision[4] ordering petitioner to abandon "the portions of the real property covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-140417 and immediately delivered its possession to the plaintiffs," petitioner obtained the services of Atty. Abdul A. Basar, who filed a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition [With Prayer for Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and a Writ of Preliminary Injunction] with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Calamba, Laguna.[5]

  3. In August of 1998, before the RTC of Calamba, Laguna could issue an order of injunction, petitioner was advised by the Sheriff that a Writ of Execution (pending appeal) had been issued by the MTC of Calauan, Laguna, in obedience to which he voluntarily vacated the disputed property and transferred residence to Bae, Calauan, Laguna.[6]

  4. After the RTC rendered its Decision[7] of August 13, 1999 dismissing the petition for certiorari, petitioner, a simple farmer with limited funds and without a clear understanding of the appellate process, nevertheless informed Atty. Basar of his desire to appeal the case to the higher courts. At the same time, petitioner found it difficult to travel to Manila to consult with Atty. Basar and was frequently late in signing the papers and pleadings to be filed by the latter.[8]
Petitioner thus pleads for understanding and clemency from this Court with regard to any violation of the Rules of Court that he may have committed. He stresses that he had no intention whatsoever to transgress the law or violate the rules, much less delay the proceedings in the instant case.[9]

For his part, Atty. Basar, after two motions for extension of time[10] totaling 60 days, submitted his Respectful Compliance by registered mail on April 19, 2005 and proffered the following explanation:
1. Sometime in July 1998, herein counsel's distant relative by the name of Jimmy Casan asked him to help his (Casan['s]) in-laws who were about to be evicted from their parcel of land awarded to them by the Department of Agrarian Reform and titled in the name of their parents, by virtue of the Writ of Execution issued on June 1, 1998 notwithstanding the appeal interposed by them through their lawyer in the lower court;

x x x

6. Unfortunately, on August 13, 1999, the Regional Trial Court, Branch 37, Calamba, Laguna, rendered its decision dismissing the petition for certiorari, copy of which was received by herein counsel on September 18, 1999;

7. On September 28, 1999, herein counsel without wasting any time, filed a Motion for Reconsideration from the said decision [of] the Regional Trial Court of Calamba, Laguna, Branch 37, but it was likewise denied in an order dated December 7, 1999, copy of which was received by one of the staffs (sic) of AL AMIN International Manpower Services owned by a fellow muslim brother Mr. Amin Ali who was occupying Rm. 203 (adjacent room of counsel's office) on January 29. Since herein counsel was still in his province in Lanao del Sur at that time and his office was closed, he came to know [of] the said decision upon his return in Manila on February 4, 2000 in the afternoon when it was handed to him. He immediately tried his best and exerted all his efforts to contact his distant relative Mr. Casan to inform him [of] the said order denying their Motion for Reconsideration but he failed. For lack of material time to file the intended appeal either by personally filing the same to [sic] the Regional Trial Court of Calamba, Laguna, or by registered mail, as it was already past five (5:00) o'clock in the afternoon at the time, he decided to just file a Special Civil Action [f]or Certiorari before the Honorable Court of Appeals;

x x x

9. However, on May 25, 2000, the Honorable Court of Appeals promulgated its resolution denying the petition for certiorari for it was allegedly filed out of time. Since herein counsel has no secretary, and his office is usually closed every time he is not around attending hearings in different courts. Again, the said copy of the said resolution was allegedly received on June 15, 2000 by one of the staff of Al Amin International Manpower Services, Inc.;

10. Relying to (sic) the said employee of Al Amin International Manpower Services, Inc., as to the date of receipt of the said Resolution, herein counsel on June 23, 2000, filed a Motion for Reconsideration with the Honorable Court of Appeals;

11. On March 28, 2001, a certain Mr. Alikan Guro, an employee of Al Amin International Manpower Services, Inc., handed to herein counsel the resolution rendered by the Honorable Court of Appeals promulgated on July 12, 2000, allegedly received by him on even date. Upon reading the said resolution, herein counsel discovered the date of actual receipt [on September 20, 2000] of the resolution promulgated on May 25, 2000, but he could not do anything because the one who received the same is not his employee but an employee of his fellow muslim brother who owned the office adjacent to him. Again, relying to (sic) Mr. Alikan Guro that the resolution of the Honorable Court of Appeals dated July 12, 2000 was received by him on March 28, 2001, herein counsel on April 10, 2001, filed a Motion for Extension of Time to file Petition for Review on Certiorari before this Honorable Court. Thereafter, a Petitioner (sic) for Review on Certiorari was filed before this Honorable Supreme Court;

x x x (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
By the last paragraph of the immediately-quoted portions of Atty. Basar's explanation, he admitted having discovered the actual date of receipt of the July 12, 2000 of the CA Resolution - September 20, 2000, - not March 28, 2001, as allegedly represented to him.

Indeed, as the record of the case shows, the July 12, 2000 Resolution of the CA was received by petitioner's agent on September 20, 2000.

The abuse of court processes and improper conduct which tends to impede, obstruct and degrade the administration of justice is punishable as criminal contempt of court.[11] There can be no doubt that the filing of a motion for extension of time to file a petition for review on certiorari[12] after the period to appeal has already expired constitutes abuse of process and improper conduct impeding the administration of justice.

Be that as it may, there are two considerations arising from the particular facts of this case which militate against a finding of contempt against petitioner Mario Victoria.

First, although he signed the attached Verification and certified as to the truth of the contents of the Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition for Review on Certiorari, petitioner Mario Victoria, being a resident of Bae, Calauan, Laguna, would not have personal knowledge of the material dates mentioned in the said pleading. On this score, Atty. Basar acknowledges:
8. Moreover, it is to be pointed out here that petitioner Mario Victoria has nothing to do with the said actual receipts of the said resolutions of the Honorable Court of Appeals and he is not at fault because he only affixed his signatures on every documents presented to him by herein counsel for signature;[13]
Second and more importantly, petitioner's voluntary act of vacating the contested premises in compliance with the MTC's ejectment order concretely supports his assertion that he had no intention to defy the rules or to unduly delay the proceedings in the instant case. Intent is a necessary element in criminal contempt, and no one can be punished for criminal contempt unless the evidence makes it clear that he intended to commit it.[14]

Given the foregoing circumstances, petitioner Mario Victoria is absolved of the charge of indirect contempt of court. He is hereby warned, however, to be more circumspect in his future actions as a party-litigant. Nothing herein should, however, be taken as diminishing the importance of a verification or reducing the solemnity of an affidavit. Every party should make an effort to thoroughly examine and understand the pleadings, motions and submissions made on his or her behalf. The requirements in Section 4, Rule 7[15] of the Rules of Court regarding verified pleadings should not be complied with perfunctorily, but should be fulfilled with due deliberation; this Court will hold all parties liable for their statements made under oath.

Sequeing now to the charge against Atty. Abdul A. Basar:

As part of his or her oath,[16] every lawyer pledges to act with "candor, fairness and good faith to the court." Thus, a lawyer is honor bound to act with the highest standards of truthfulness, fair play and nobility in the conduct of litigation and in his relations with his client, the opposing part and his counsel, and the court before which he pleads his client's cause.[17]

Moreover, the Code of Professional Responsibility obligates lawyers to "observe the rules of procedure and ... not misuse them to defeat the ends of justice."[18] As this Court observed in Eternal Gardens Memorial Park Corp. v. Court of Appeals:[19]
We note that while lawyers owe entire devotion to the interest of their clients and zeal in the defense of their client's right, they should not forget that they are officers of the court, bound to exert every effort to assist in the speedy and efficient administration of justice. They should not, therefore, misuse the rules of procedure to defeat the ends of justice or unduly delay a case, impede the execution of a judgment or misuse court processes. (Underscoring supplied)
It is, therefore, lamentable that Atty. Basar, by misrepresenting the timeliness of an appeal from a final and executory Resolution of the Court of Appeals, chose to disregard the foregoing fundamental tenets of the legal profession.

Atty. Basar's proffered explanation - that he failed to act in a timely manner because he was away on other business and did not personally receive the May 25, 2000 Resolution of Court of Appeals denying the petition for certiorari - is wholly unacceptable.[20] Suffice it to say that the administration of justice cannot be made to grind to a halt merely to suit the convenience of one attorney.

Just as Atty. Basar's disclaimer of the receipt of the various orders and resolutions by the employees of Al Amin International Manpower Services, Inc. is unacceptable. For it is clearly gathered from Atty. Basar's explanation that he had an arrangement with Al Amin International Manpower Services, Inc., whereby the latter's employees would receive communications on his behalf. As he, himself, stated in his Respectful Compliance:
5. Anent to the actual receipts of the resolutions rendered by the Honorable Court of Appeals, herein counsel neither concealed it to [sic] the Honorable Court processor nor intentionally mislead this Honorable Court. His only fault is his complete reliance and trust to (sic) the employee of Al Amun International Manpower Services, Inc., who received the said resolutions particularly Mr. Alikan Guro. And he has reasons to believe and trust said employee of Al Amin International Manpower Services, Inc. because aside from the fact the owner of Al Amin International Manpower Services, Inc. and his employees are all muslim brothers, herein counsel is also one of the legal counsel[s] of Al Amin International Manpower Services, Inc., and such misinformation was (sic) only happened in this present case. ...[21] (Emphasis supplied)
In fact, from Atty. Basar's explanation, he was well aware that the reglementary period for appeal from the Decision of the RTC had already lapsed, but he nevertheless persisted in filing a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 65:
... For lack of material time to file the intended appeal either by personally filing the same to (sic) the Regional Trial Court of Calamba, Laguna, or by registered mail, as it was already past five (5:00) o'clock in the afternoon at the time, he decided to just file a Special Civil Action [f]or Certiorari before the Honorable Court of Appeals;

x x x
This, despite the basic rule that a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 is not a substitute for a lost appeal.[22]

Moreover and despite his protestations to the contrary, Atty. Basar has not adequately explained: (1) his failure to indicate the date (September 20, 2000) of receipt of the CA Resolution denying his petition for certiorari, despite his confessed awareness thereof, in either the Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition for Review on Certiorari or in the subsequent Petition; and (2) his representation in the motion for extension of time that he had "filed a timely Motion for Reconsideration on the order of dismissal." These omissions and misrepresentation, taken together, misled this Court into unnecessarily entertaining a petition for review of a Resolution of the Court of Appeals, which had already become final and executory on October 6, 2000, after the 15-day period to appeal had expired, when petitioner filed before this Court on April 10, 2001 his Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition for Review on Certiorari.

That Atty. Basar was motivated by a sincere desire to champion the cause of his client does not excuse his actions. As this Court stated in Arangco v. Baloso:[23]
" There is need, it would appear, for Members of the Bar to temper their enthusiasm in seeking appellate review whether by an ordinary appeal or through a writ of certiorari. It is well that they keep in mind that as officers of the court, they are required to exercise the utmost care and to undertake the most through preparation to assure that all the learning at their command be brought to bear on the legal questions that might be raised, or, in their opinion, could be raised, for the resolution of a higher court. To act otherwise would show less than full compliance with their duty to the bench. Moreover, in the end, it might only signify that in their unbounded optimism they plant seeds of hope in their client's minds which, unfortunately, may never grow. For obviously unless they could show the merit in such an appeal, all that they would have accomplished would be to increase unnecessarily the burden on appellate tribunals. In the final analysis then, the utmost fidelity to a client's cause requires a more discriminating appraisal of the matter, as in more cases than not, the prospect for reversal is dim, not to say nonexistent. Nor should there be any hesitancy in so informing the disappointed litigant that most likely the verdict would not be altered. "
The Court thus finds Atty. Abdul A. Basar guilty of gross misconduct under Section 27 of Rule 138[24] of the Rules of Court, and hereby suspends him from the practice of law for Two (2) Months.

WHEREFORE, Atty. Abdul A. Basar is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for Two (2) Months with a WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar offenses will be dealt with more severely.

Let a copy of this Resolution be furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and all the courts in the Philippines, and entered in the personal records of Atty. Basar in the Office of the Bar Confidant.


Panganiban, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Corona, , and Garcia, JJ., concur.

[1] Under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.

[2] Rollo at 167-180.

[3] 3. Na akin pong natatandaan na noong yumao po ang aming ina na si Isidra Vda. De Victoria habang nililitis pa ang kasong ejectment na inihain laban sa kanya, ako po ang humalili o pumalit sa kanya sa kagustuhan na rin ng lahat ng aking mga kapatid, upang ipagpatuloy na ipaglaban ang aming kapirasong lupa na siyang aming sinasaka at kinatitirikan ng aming bahay.

[4] Rollo at 34-51.

[5] 4. Na noong magkaroon po ng hatol ang Municipal Trial Court ng Calauan, Laguna, bagamat kami po ay naghain ng apila, pinagbigyan po ng nasabing hukuman ang kahilingan ng nagdemanda sa amin na magkaroon agad ng Writ of Execution at Demolition sa kadahilanan na di nga po kami nakapaglagak ng tinatawag na supersedeas bond sanhi po ng kawalang muwang kung paano umapila sa tamang paraan at dahil na rin sa kakapusan naming sa pananalapi.

5. Nang dahil po dito, at sa kadahilanang kami ay wala pong sapat na salapi upang ipangtustos sa aming kaso, humingi po ng tulong ang aking bayaw na isang muslim sa kamaganak niyang abogado na si Atty. Abdul A. Basar, na hindi naman po nagdalawang isip na kami ay tulungan at ang unang hakbang po na ginawa niya ay ang paghain ng isang petition for certiorari sa Regional Trial Court ng Calamba, Laguna, upang ipawalang bisa ang nasabing desisyon at ang kautusan na nagbibigay ng Writ of Execution at Demolition at upang kami ay makakuha ng TRO. Ginawa po lahat ni Atty. Basar ang kanyang magagawa subalit hindi po agad kami nabigyan ng Writ of Preliminary Injunction ng RTC, Branch 37, Calamba, Laguna.

[6] 6. Noon pong buwan ng Agosto 1998, kami po ay inabisuhan ni Mr. Edgardo M. Torres, Sheriff IV ng RTC, Calamba, Laguna, na umalis na sa aming lupa sa loob ng labing limang (15) araw, ibinigay din po niya sa amin ang kopya ng Writ of Execution na iginawad ng MTC, Calauan, Laguna. Na bilang pagsunod po sa nasabing kautusan ng nasabing Kagalanggalang na Hukuman, kusa po naming nilisan ang aming lupa, bagamat napakasakit po para sa amin, kami nga po ay lumipat sa Bae, Calauan, Laguna.

[7] Rollo at 70-72.

[8] 9. Datapwat nagbigay po ng Writ of Preliminary Injunction ang RTC, Calamba, Laguna noong Abril 1999, ito po ay huli na dahil nilisan na nga po naming [sic] ang aming lupa kahit labag sa aming kalooban subalit ginawa namin iyon bilang pagsunod sa kautusan ng Hukuman. At noon nga pong Agosto 1999, nagkaroon po ng desisyon ang RTC, Calamba Laguna kung saan ay dinismis po ang aming petitisyon [sic].

10. Nanlumo po kami ng malaman namin ito mula kay Atty. Basar subalit wala naman po kaming magawa una dahil po sa kawalan ng sapat na salapi at kami nga po ay nahihiya kay Atty. Basar dahil inaabonohan po niya ang mga nagagastos at nababayaran lang naming iyon kapag kami ay nakaluwag o nakapangutang. Kaya nga po bukod sa nahihiya kami, hindi rin kami agad makapunta at magpakita kay Atty. Basar kapag may kailangang kaming pirmahan na ihahain na papeles dahil pati po pamasahe ay pinoproblema namin. Kaya madalas po ay huli na palagi kung mapirmahan namin ang mga papeles na dapat ay ihahain niya.

11. Bilang pangkaraniwang tao at magsasaka lamang, tulad ko po ay hindi po namin alam at nauunawaan ang mga dapat gawin at kung paano ipaglalaban ang aming karapatan sa aming lupa. Lalong hindi po namin alam kung kailan dapat ihain ang mga dokumento o papeles. Magkaganon pa man, ipinagbigay alam po namin kay Atty. Basar ang hangarin naming ipaglaban ito hanggang sa Kagalanggalang na Kataastaasang Hukumang ito na siya na lamang natititra naming pag-asa upang mabawi ang aming kapirasong lupa. Iyon nga lang po dahil nga po sa kawalan, hindi po agad kami nakaluluwas ng Maynila kapag inaabisuhan kami ni Atty. Basar na magpunta sa kanya tuwing may pipirmahan na papeles na dapat isumite at isa pa po talagang nagdadalang hiya kami na pumunta sa kanya dahil nga po na wala man lang kaming maibigay sa kanya o kung minsan naman ay kulang pa at bukod pa po dito ang pamasahe.

[9] 12. Kaya ako po at sampu ng aking mga kapatid ay nagsusumamo sa Inyong Kagalanggalang na ako ay mapatawad ninyo kung ako man po ay mayroong nilabag na alituntuning pinaiiral at dahil po sa aming kasalatan sa buhay. Magkaganon pa man po, malinis po ang aming konsiyensiya, wala po kami o ako na anumang intensiyon na hindi sundin ang kautusan ng Inyong Kagalanggalang at lalong wala po akong hangarin na lapastanganin ang batas o ang alin mang hukuman o ang ano mang alituntunin ng hukuman. At lalong hindi po namin intension na patagalin ang paglilitis ng kasong ito bagkus ang tanging hangarin lang po namin ay maitama po ang pagkakamaling nabawi po ang lupang ipinagkaloob na at natituluhan na sa pangalan ng aming mga magulang.

[10] Rollo at 164-167; 183-185.

[11] Rules of Court, Rule 71, sec. 3, pars. (c) and (d); vide: Gabriel v. Court of Appeals, 72 SCRA 273, 275 (1976); People v. Godoy, 243 SCRA 64, 80 (1995).

[12] Rule 45, sec. 2.

[13] Rollo at 193.

[14] People v. Godoy, supra at 77.

[15] Section 4. Verification. - Except when otherwise specifically required by law or rule, pleadings need not be under oath, verified or accompanied by affidavit.

A pleading is verified by an affidavit that the affiant has read the pleading and that the allegations therein are true and correct of his personal knowledge or based on authentic records.

A pleading required to be verified which contains a verification based on "information and belief," or upon knowledge, information and belief," or lacks a proper verification, shall be treated as an unsigned pleading.

[16] Rules of Court, Rule 138, sec. 3.

[17] Director of Lands v. Adorable, 77 Phil. 468, 469 (1936).

[18] Code of Professional Responsibility, Rule 10.03.

[19] 293 SCRA 622, 632-633 (1998).

[20] Vide: Enriquez v. Bautista, 79 Phil. 220, 222 (1947).

[21] Rollo at 192.

[22] Presidential Commission on Good Government v. Sandiganbayan, 290 SCRA 639, 646 (1998); vide: Government Service Insurance System v. Olisa, 304 SCRA 421, 425 (1999); Cornejos v. Court of Appeals, 387 SCRA 142, 147 (2002).

[23] 49 SCRA 296, 304 (1973).

[24] Section 27. Disbarment or suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court; grounds therefor. - A member of the bar may be disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any deceit, malpractice, or other gross misconduct in such office, grossly immoral conduct, or by reason of his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he is required to take before admission to practice, or for a willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court, or for corruptly or willfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority so to do. The practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice.

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