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381 Phil. 373


[ A.C. No. 3808, February 02, 2000 ]




In a verified complaint filed with the Office of the Bar Confidant on March 17, 1992, complainant Raymundo T. Magdaluyo accused respondent Atty. Enrique T. Nace of acts amounting to deceit and gross misconduct.

Complainant alleged that he is the registered owner of parcels of land situated in Antipolo, Rizal. In 1991, he conducted dialogues with squatters - among them respondent - living on said land and offered to relocate them to another portion of the land. The squatters refused, and on August 21, 1991, filed a complaint against complainant before the Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (PARAB). They claimed to be tenants on complainant's land and, thus, could not be forcibly ejected.

Almost three months later on November 14, 1991, the squatters - again including respondent - also filed a case against complainant before the Regional Trial Court of Antipolo for the annulment or cancellation of complainant's land titles. This time, they claimed to be owners, not mere tenants, of the land. They traced their alleged ownership to an old Spanish title.

In view of the conflicting causes of action in the agrarian and the civil cases, the DAR Provincial Adjudicator dismissed the squatters' complaint before the PARAB for lack of jurisdiction. At the same time, the civil case was also dismissed for lack of cause of action. The RTC ruled that the squatters' claim of ownership based on an old Spanish title could not defeat complainant's claim under a Torrens title.

Complainant filed this complaint against respondent inasmuch as he was a party to both the agrarian and civil suits. He accused respondent of having deliberately committed a falsehood and of forum-shopping, and prayed that proper disciplinary sanctions be imposed against respondent.

Respondent denied complainant's allegations. He stated that the agrarian case was filed not by him but by a federation of farmers and, therefore, not his personal responsibility. He denied having committed forum-shopping since, according to him, the two cases involved different causes of action.

This matter was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for the proper investigation, report, and recommendation.

In its report, the IBP notes that respondent failed to appear during any of the hearings of the case, prompting complainant to present his evidence ex parte and thereafter submit the case for resolution.

Said the IBP in its investigation report:
"...while it may be true at different causes of action are indeed involved, it is their total inconsistency, nay, total opposition with each other which raises doubts about the respondent's sincerity. It escapes this Commission [on Bar Discipline] how Respondent can, in good faith, allege to be a lawful tenant one moment, and be an owner the next.

Respondent herein, as a lawyer, was remiss in his duty to correctly inform the court of the law and the facts of this case. He failed to allege in his complaint the fact that a prior dispute had been existing between the parties before the PARAB, thus deceiving the court and giving it an inaccurate appreciation of facts.

Lastly, respondent was delinquent in his duty as a lawyer to maintain only such suits as appears to him to be just and such defenses only as he believes to be honestly debatable. It has long been settled that Spanish titles cannot be used as evidence of land ownership. Yet respondent dares raise the same in his complaint to defeat Complainant's duly registered certificate of title. Any lawyer would know that a Spanish title would have no legal leg to stand on in the face of Transfer Certificate of Title over the same parcel of land."[1]
The IBP recommends that respondent be reprimanded for his unprofessional and improper acts. Being fully supported by the evidence on record, we concur with the IBP's findings and recommendation.

Clearly, respondent violated the prohibition in the Code of Professional Responsibility against engaging in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.[2] He was, indeed, less than sincere in asserting two conflicting rights over a portion of land that, in all probability, he knew not to be his. What made matters worse was his participation in bringing such claims to court, knowing them to be contradictory and therefore cannot both be true, though both could be totally false. In this he is guilty of consenting to if not actual commission of a falsehood before a court, again in violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility:[3]

As a lawyer, respondent is bound by his oath to do no falsehood or consent to its commission and to conduct himself as a lawyer according to the best of his knowledge and discretion. The lawyer's oath is a source of obligations and violation thereof is a ground for suspension, disbarment,[4] or other disciplinary action.[5] Respondent's acts are clearly in violation of his solemn oath as a lawyer that this Court will not tolerate.

WHEREFORE, as recommended, respondent Atty. Enrique L. Nace is hereby REPRIMANDED for his misconduct, with a warning that a repetition of the same or similar act shall be more severely dealt with.


Bellosillo, (Chairman), Mendoza, Buena, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.

[1] Records, Vol. I, Report of the IBP Committee on Bar Discipline, p, 4.


[3] Id., Canon 10, Rule 10.01.

[4] Adez Realty, Inc. v. CA, 215 SCRA 301 (1992); Richards v. Asoy, 152 SCRA 45, 50 (1987); Diaz v. Gerong, 141 SCRA 46, 49 (1986)

[5] Reyes v. Gaa, 246 SCRA 64, 67 (1995)

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