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433 Phil. 138


[ A.C. No. 2841, July 03, 2002 ]




“Membership in the bar is in the category of a mandate to public service of the highest order. A lawyer is an oath-bound servant of society whose conduct is clearly circumscribed by inflexible norms of law and ethics, and whose primary duty is the advancement of the quest for truth and justice, for which he has sworn to be a fearless crusader.”[1] These were the eloquent words of the late Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro in exalting the sacred and honorable legal profession. But he laments the pathetic and deplorable fact that, “many a law practitioner, forgetting his sacred mission as a sworn public servant and his exalted position as an officer of the court, has allowed himself to become an instigator of controversy and a predator of conflict instead of a mediator for concord and a conciliator for compromise, a virtuoso of technicality in the conduct of litigation instead of a true exponent of the primacy of truth and moral justice, a mercenary purveying the benefits of his enlightened advocacy in direct proportion to a litigant’s financial posture instead of a faithful friend of the courts in the dispensation of equal justice to rich and poor alike.”[2] Here, Atty. Samuel C. Occeña, as later shown by his disgraceful and outrageous conduct, is one such lawyer who has become an apostate to his exalted position as an officer of the court. He thus deserves to be weeded out from the legal profession to protect its sanctity and nobility.

This administrative case stemmed from the settlement of the estate of testator William C. Ogan which has since been pending in the Court of First Instance (CFI), now Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 4, Tagbilaran City, docketed as Special Proceedings No. 423. In 1976, Judge Fernando S. Ruiz took over the case from Judge Paulino S. Marquez who, in turn, inherited it from Judge Antonio Beldia. Noting that the proceedings have been pending for thirteen (13) years, Judge Ruiz then inquired into the principal causes of the delay. He found out, as will be shown later in detail, that Atty. Samuel C. Occeña caused the delay by disobeying lawful court orders and by willfully prolonging the litigation through his various maneuvers, in gross violation of his oath as a lawyer that he will not willingly sue any groundless, false, or unlawful suit, or delay any man’s cause for money or malice.

Going back to Special Proceedings No. 423, under the terms of the Last Will and Testament of the late William C. Ogan, his residuary estate was divided among his seven children. One of them, Necitas Ogan-Occeña, was named in the will as executrix of the estate. As such, she retained her husband, Atty. Samuel C. Occeña, as her lawyer.

The estate consists of bank deposits, securities (both here and in the United States of America), and real estate in Cebu City and in Ohio, U.S.A. The deceased left no debt. Thus, the settlement of the estate should have been simple and speedy. However, since the death of the testator on February 1, 1963, the settlement of his estate has not yet been terminated owing largely to the dilatory tactics of Atty. Occeña.

Looking into the causes of the delay, Judge Ruiz learned that the executrix, Necitas Ogan-Occeña, filed a project of partition on August 4, 1967. On September 22, 1967, the probate court approved the project except certain portions. The executrix then interposed an appeal. In view of the delay caused by the pendency of the appeal, the other heirs filed several motions praying that the estate’s remaining P250,000.00 cash as well as its shares of stocks in the Philippines and in the United States be distributed among all the heirs. The executrix, through her husband Atty. Occeña, vehemently opposed the motions, asserting that the P250,000.00 cash had already been earmarked for her husband’s attorney’s fee and other expenses, and that the shares of stocks could not be distributed among the heirs because the stock certificates were not in her possession. The dispute between the executrix, on the one hand, and the other heirs, on the other, which delayed the proceedings, centered mainly on the P250,000.00 cash and the shares of stocks.

Records also show that the executrix, through Atty. Occeña, interposed numerous appeals from the orders of the probate court. For their part, the heirs repeatedly prayed in their motions for the release of the shares of stocks and the remaining cash. But the executrix and Atty. Occeña opposed the same, thus prolonging the proceedings. In CA-GR No. 48716-R (December, 1974), the Court of Appeals, in remanding the case to the probate court, had this to say:
“It is, however, earnestly hoped, and the parties are urged, to settle their differences with the view to closing the estate which has been pending since 1963. The executrix, the heirs, and the lawyers, are reminded that the prolongation of administrative proceedings can only benefit the executor or administrator or the counsels for the contending parties. It always results in the diminution of the share of each of the heirs because the estate is burdened with the expenses of the administration proceedings, the heir must have to pay attorney’s fee and the longer the proceedings the bigger the attorney’s fee.”[3]
Obviously, the main causes of the delay in the probate proceedings were Atty. Occeña’s claim for attorney’s fee in the amount of P250,000.00 and the executrix’s refusal, through her husband, to account for the shares of stocks belonging to the estate which, according to her, were not in her possession. The other heirs could not accept that explanation because as executrix, she was charged with the responsibility of collecting all the assets of the estate.

Thus, on August 8, 1977, Judge Ruiz issued an order directing the executrix to comment why the securities were not in her possession. She filed her comment, through her husband, that some Philippine and American securities were not in her possession. To determine which securities were in her possession, Judge Ruiz on October 22, 1977, issued an order requiring her to submit within 30 days the latest inventory of all the securities of the estate. However, she failed to comply with the order. Judge Ruiz then issued another order on February 6, 1978, “directing her to take possession of all certificates of stocks or their replacements belonging to the estate and to make an up-to-date inventory thereof with a statement of their nature and their value.” Again, she did not comply with the order.

Determined to block the release of the P250,000.00 to the heirs, the executrix, through Atty. Occeña, appealed the numerous interlocutory orders of the probate court to the Court of Appeals, hence, adding to the delay. Because of the propensity of the executrix, through Atty. Occeña, to elevate interlocutory orders to the Court of Appeals, Judge Ruiz issued an order on June 16, 1978 directing her to “refrain from instituting any action or proceeding without first informing the court.” The executrix and her husband disobeyed this order. In fact, he filed six cases with the Court of Appeals and one with this Court.

On August 15, 1979, Judge Ruiz issued an order authorizing Nancy Ogan-Gibson, one of the heirs, to go to Vinton County, Ohio, U.S.A., to take proper action on the five parcels of land owned by the estate and to submit a report to the probate court. To provide money for the purpose, the court ordered the executrix to release to Nancy Ogan-Gibson the sum of $1,000.00 from the estate fund, the same to be liquidated with supporting receipts upon her submission of her report on or before September 30, 1979. The executrix assailed the order before the Court of Appeals in a petition for prohibition and certiorari, docketed therein as CA-G. R. No. SP-10326. Dismissing the petition on January 13, 1981 for lack of merit, the Court of Appeals said:
“Indeed it is surprising why petitioner as executrix should oppose such an order of the court which is and would be for the benefit of the estate and the heirs. All the other heirs completely agreed with what the trial court did. xxx

“Thus, rather than accuse respondent judge of grave abuse of discretion in issuing the questioned orders he should be complimented in finding ways and means of promptly and expeditiously determining the assets of the estate to be ultimately distributed among the heirs.”
On May 12, 1981, Judge Ruiz cited the executrix for contempt of court for her failure to obey the orders of October 22, 1977, December 8, 1977, February 6, 1978 and October 16, 1979 and directed her to report to the court which securities were and were not in her possession and to give the reason therefor.

On February 11, 1982, the executrix and Atty. Occeña were held in contempt of court and fined P250.00 each for disobeying the court order of August 15, 1979 requiring the executrix to release $1,000.00 to Nancy Ogan-Gibson. Both were given the chance to explain their failure to comply with the order, but they did not submit any explanation. On January 13, 1981, this order was affirmed by the Court of Appeals in CA-G. R. No. SP-10326. It bears emphasis that this incident delayed the proceedings for four (4) years.

On October 16, 1979, the probate court issued an order requiring the executrix to distribute immediately among the heirs all the shares of stocks of the estate in the Batangas-Laguna Transportation Co., the Masonic Hall, Inc. and the Motor Service Co.; to report her compliance within 10 days from notice; and within the same period, to file a written report to the court stating (a) what other certificates of stocks belonging to the estate are in her possession; and (b) which certificates of stocks are not with her, giving the reasons therefor. Again, the executrix and her husband, Atty. Occeña, did not comply with the said order. The probate court thus ordered her to explain why she should not be punished for contempt of court. After several postponements at her instance and that of her husband, the incident was set for hearing on April 20, 1981. But neither of them appeared, thus delaying the proceedings for about a year and a half. Finding the executrix unfaithful in the performance of her duties, the probate court, on May 12, 1981, adjudged her in contempt of court.

Forthwith, Atty. Occeña and his wife, filed with the then CFI of Davao City, Civil Case No. 14456 for damages (P200,000.00 as moral damages and expenses of litigation) against Judge Ruiz. But, on October 13, 1981, the court dismissed the complaint for lack of merit.

After the dismissal of Civil Case No. 14456, Atty. Occeña filed with the Tanodbayan a letter-complaint against Judge Ruiz, charging him with knowingly rendering unjust interlocutory orders, in that without prior notice and hearing, he punished the executrix for indirect contempt of court and censured her for non-compliance with the probate court’s order of October 16, 1979. For lack of merit, Atty. Occeña’s complaint was dismissed by then Tanodbayan Bernardo P. Fernandez in a Resolution dated November 19, 1984.

On November 13, 1979, Atty. Occeña filed with this Court Administrative Case No. 2345-CFI against Judge Ruiz for gross inefficiency and dishonesty. In a Resolution dated October 11, 1982, this Court dismissed the complaint for failure of Atty. Occeña to substantiate his charges during the investigation.

Unhappy with what Judge Ruiz stated in his comment on the said administrative complaint, Atty. Occeña and his wife filed with the CFI of Davao City Civil Case No. 14957 for damages against the former. The couple alleged that they suffered damages upon reading the judge’s comment filed with the Supreme Court. On June 11, 1982, the CFI dismissed the complaint for lack of cause of action, the comment being an absolutely privileged communication.

By filing the said civil actions, criminal charge, and administrative complaints, found to be groundless, Atty. Occeña further delayed with malice the probate proceedings and inflicted hardship and pain upon Judge Ruiz.

More telling is the fact that by deliberately delaying the proceedings, Atty. Occeña has inflicted greater harm to the other heirs, with the executrix herself as his willing partner.

From the start of the testate proceedings in 1963, no less than 13 petitions were filed with this Court and the Court of Appeals by Atty. Occeña, questioning the interlocutory orders of the probate court. But most, if not all, were without merit.

Aside from Judge Ruiz, his predecessor, the late Judge Antonio Beldia, in the same probate proceedings, was also harassed by Atty. Occeña with groundless administrative charges and suits, both criminal and civil. These cases, while pending, were then utilized by Atty. Occeña in securing restraining orders from the Court of Appeals or as grounds for the judge’s inhibition.

Pursuant to Section 28, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court providing inter alia that the CFI may suspend an attorney from the practice of law for cause, Judge Ruiz, on May 26, 1982, filed with the same probate court Administrative Case No. 44 charging Atty. Occeña with gross misconduct, violation of his oath as a lawyer and willful disobedience of lawful court orders. Instead of filing an answer, he submitted a motion praying for the inhibition of Judge Ruiz. This motion was denied. Atty. Occeña was then directed to file his answer within 15 days from notice which was extended to another 15 days upon his motion. Still, he did not file an answer. What he submitted was a motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. But it was denied for lack of merit.

Administrative Case No. 44 was set for hearing on December 2 and 3, 1982, morning and afternoon. Upon Atty. Occeña’s motion, he was given an extension of 15 days from November 3, 1982 within which to file his answer. However, he did not comply. Neither did he appear during the hearing.

Eventually, further hearing of the case was suspended when this Court issued a temporary restraining order in G. R. No. 62453, “Samuel Occeña vs. District Judge Fernando S. Ruiz, CFI-4, Bohol” for prohibition. However, on August 15, 1983, this Court dismissed Atty. Occeña’s petition for lack of merit. The hearing of the administrative case was set on January 30 and 31, 1984, but again, he did not appear.

The hearing was reset but once more, Atty. Occeña failed to appear. Upon his telegraphic request, the hearing was reset on December 13 and 14, 1984. On December 7, 1984, he filed his Answer and Motion for Referral to the Solicitor General or the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. His motion was denied. The hearing was reset on May 8 and 9, 1985. Upon another telegraphic request of Atty. Occeña, the hearing was postponed to August 14 and 15, 1985. Again, he did not appear. Thus, in its order of August 15, 1985, the probate court considered his failure to appear as a waiver of his right to present evidence.[4]

On November 14, 1985, based on the evidence presented ex parte, showing that Atty. Occeña has “abused, misused and overused the judicial system,”[5] Judge Ruiz rendered a decision suspending[6] him from the practice of law for three (3) years. The decision[7] unfolded a long list of his administrative offenses, thus:

Willful disobedience of lawful orders of the court;
gross misconduct in office

During the probate proceedings, respondent Occeña, on behalf of his wife executrix, filed with the Court of Appeals six (6) cases; and with the Supreme Court one (1) case, assailing the order of the probate court directing the said executrix to provide Nancy Ogan, authorized to determine the assets of the estate in the U.S., $1,000.00 to be taken from the estate; and the order ordering the same executrix to report to the probate court the securities belonging to the estate. Atty. Occeña’s refusal to obey the said orders and elevating the same to the higher courts unnecessarily delayed the probate proceedings.


Wittingly or willingly promoted or sued groundless
suits and gave aid or consent to the same; delayed
persons for money or malice

Respondent, together with his wife, filed against the judge of the probate court two actions for damages which were both dismissed for lack of merit and lack of cause of action. Respondent also filed with the Tanodbayan a letter-complaint charging the judge of the probate court with knowingly rendering unjust interlocutory orders. The complaint was likewise dismissed for lack of merit. Respondent also filed with this Court an administrative complaint which was again dismissed for failure of respondent to substantiate the charge.

By filing the above-cited civil actions for damages, administrative complaint and criminal charge which were found to be groundless and unsubstantiated, respondent unduly delayed the settlement of the estate proceedings by harassing Judge Ruiz who had to spend time, effort and money to defend himself against said frivolous and unmeritorious cases.

In fact, respondent’s propensity to file groundless administrative charges, as well as civil and criminal suits, harassed not only Judge Ruiz but also the previous judges who handled the case. As a measure of self defense, these judges were compelled to prepare and file pleadings or comments thereby using time which could have been devoted to expediting the closure of the estate proceedings.

Finally, since the start of the testate proceedings in 1963, no less than 13 petitions were filed with the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals questioning the interlocutory orders of the probate court. Most, if not all of these petitions, were determined to be groundless and without merit.


Disobeying the laws

Respondent violated his lawyer’s oath of office by flagrantly disobeying the clear provision of Rule 140, Section 6, Revised Rules of Court, entitled “Charges Against Judges of First Instance,” which reads as follows:
“Sec. 6. Confidential - Proceedings against judges of first instance shall be private and confidential.”
During the pendency of the administrative complaint (Adm. Matter No. 23345-CFI, Exh. “Z”) filed by respondent against Judge Ruiz in the Supreme Court, he violated the private and confidential nature thereof three (3) times, to wit:
  1. On April 1, 1980, respondent filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for prohibition and certiorari, entitled “Estate of William C. Ogan, et al. vs. Hon. Fernando S. Ruiz, et al., CA-G.R. No. SP-10604”, questioning an interlocutory order of the probate court (No. 2, Exh. “V”) to which he attached as Annex “AW” a complete copy of his aforesaid administrative complaint against Judge Ruiz albeit the same is completely immaterial to the issue raised in said petition.

  2. In another petition for prohibition and certiorari, entitled “Estate of William C. Ogan, et al. vs. Hon. Fernando S. Ruiz, et al., CA-G.R. No. SP-13162” (No. 4, Exh. “V”), impugning an interlocutory order of the probate court, he attached as Annex “C” thereof a true and complete copy of the said administrative complaint although not relevant to the question therein raised; and

  3. On March 29, 1982, when respondent filed a letter-criminal complaint with the Tanodbayan (Exh. “Y”), he also attached as Annex “A” thereof a true and complete copy of said administrative complaint against Judge Ruiz even if said administrative complaint is not germane to the charge (Page 2, No. 1, Exh. “Y”).
By repeatedly violating said provision of the Rules of Court, respondent, as an officer of the court, put to naught one of the principal purposes thereof which is to protect the personal and professional reputation of judges from the baseless charges of disgruntled, vindictive and irresponsible clients, litigants and counsels (In re Abistado, 57 Phil. 668; Murillo vs. Superable, Adm. Case No. 341, March 23, 1960; Moran, Rules of Court, 1963 Ed., Vol. VI, page 260). Respondent committed gross misconduct in office and has not conducted himself as a lawyer according to the best of his knowledge and discretion.


Did falsehood and consented to the
doing of same in court.

In his complaint for damages against Judge Ruiz (Civil Case No. 14456 (Exh. “W”), respondent alleged in paragraph IV-7b thereof (Exh. “W-1”) that his wife-executrix Necitas Ogan Occeña was held in contempt and censured, “without any hearing,” for not obeying the probate court’s order of October 16, 1979 (Exh. “N”).

However, the records of the Ogan estate proceedings (Sp. Proc. No. 423) would show that in the order of February 26, 1980, the probate court directed said executrix to explain within 5 days from notice why she should not be cited for contempt (Exh. “O”). In the order of April 8, 1980, the contempt charge was set for hearing on June 23, 1980, at 9:00 o’clock in the morning (Exh. “P”) but was reset to October 22, 1980 after the lifting of the restraining order of the Court of Appeals (Exh. “Q”). This was again reset to April 20, 1981, subsequent to the denial by the Supreme Court of the respondent’s petition for review impugning the Court of Appeals’ decision. As stated in the order of May 12, 1981, page 2, paragraph 3 (Exh. “R”), copies of the order setting the hearing of the contempt charge on said date (April 20, 1981) were received by the respondent and his wife-executrix on March 24, 1981. On the date of the hearing, neither the executrix nor respondent appeared. The following day (April 21, 1981), the court received executrix’s motion for postponement of the hearing, which was denied for lack of merit. Subsequently, the order of May 12, 1981 (Exh. “R”) was rendered holding the executrix in contempt and penalized with censure.

In fine, there was hearing with notice but the executrix and her counsel did not attend.

Meanwhile, respondent once more, committed falsehood when he subsequently alleged under oath in his letter-complaint to the Tanodbayan, dated March 29, 1982, against Judge Ruiz (Exh. “Y”) that “without prior notice and without any hearing,” Judge Ruiz adjudged executrix Necitas Ogan Occeña guilty of contempt and censuring her (page 2, paragraph 2, Exh. “Y-2”; page 5, paragraph 9b, Exh. “Y-3”).

Furthermore, in order to avoid complying with the probate court order of August 15, 1979 (Exh. “C”), directing said executrix to remit immediately the sum of $1,000.00 to her co-heir Nancy Ogan-Gibson with which to meet whatever necessary expenses that she might incur in inquiring into the status of the 5 parcels of land owned by the estate at Vinton County, Ohio, U.S.A., respondent and his wife-executrix committed falsehood when they stated in their petition filed with the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. SP-10326 that the said order was issued “without hearing” and thus a violation of procedural due process. The Court of Appeals, in its decision which has become final (Exh. “E”), confirmed this falsehood when it held that the petitioner-executrix “was not deprived of her right to be heard when the respondent judge issued the two orders in question” (Page 6, Exh. “E”).
In accordance with the provisions of Section 29, Rule 138[8] and Section 9, Rule 139[9] of the Revised Rules of Court, Judge Ruiz, on November 26, 1985, transmitted to this Court a certified true copy of the order of suspension and a full statement of facts.[10]

On February 11, 1986, this Court, upon Atty. Occeña’s motion, restrained Judge Ruiz from enforcing his decision of November 14, 1985. The case then has remained pending so that on May 30, 1989, this Court issued an Order[11] requiring “the parties to move in the premises, by informing the Court about the status of the decision or order suspending  Atty. Samuel C. Occeña from the practice of law, Judge Ruiz particularly indicating if he still pursues the instant case, within ten (10) days from notice.”

On June 2, 1989, Judge Ruiz filed a comment that he has been waiting for this Court’s action on his decision suspending Atty. Occeña.

On August 25, 1989, Atty. Occeña filed an Explanation and Motion praying that the case be referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for investigation and recommendation. This Court denied the motion and instead referred the case to Atty. Emilio Rebueno (now deceased), then Bar Confidant, for evaluation, report and recommendation. After going over the records, he recommended “that the temporary restraining order enjoining Judge Fernando S. Ruiz from enforcing the decision dated November 14, 1985 suspending Atty. Samuel C. Occeña from the practice of law for a period of three years be forthwith LIFTED, and that Atty. Samuel C. Occeña be DISBARRED from the practice of law for grave violation of his oath of office as attorney; likewise, that his name be DROPPED from the roll of attorneys.”

We sustain the evaluation, report and recommendation of the Office of the Bar Confidant, the same being supported by the facts on record.

Indeed, a lawyer may be disbarred or suspended for any misconduct showing any fault or deficiency in his moral character, honesty, probity or good demeanor.[12] His guilt, however, cannot be presumed.[13] It must indicate the dubious character of the acts done, as well as the motivation thereof. Furthermore, a disbarred lawyer must have been given full opportunity upon reasonable notice to answer the charges against him, produce witnesses in his own behalf, and to be heard by himself and counsel.[14] All these requirements have been complied with in the case at hand.

In fact, it was Atty. Occeña who did not bother at all to appear in the hearing of the administrative case against him which was postponed by Judge Ruiz so many times so that he could be accorded the full measure of due process. The court a quo, therefore, appropriately proceeded to hear the case ex parte as Atty. Occeña deliberately failed to appear and answer the accusations against him.

Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court mandates that a member of the Bar may be disbarred or suspended by this Court for any (1) deceit, (2) malpractice, (3) gross misconduct in office, (4) grossly immoral conduct, (5) conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, (6) violation of the lawyer’s oath, (7) willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court, and for (8) willfully appearing as an attorney for a party without authority to do so. Not only did Atty. Occeña commit deceit, malpractice, grossly immoral conduct and willful disobedience to a superior court. Beyond these transgressions, he violated the lawyer’s oath whereby he imposed upon himself the following duties, thus:
“I, __________________,of __________________,do
            (place of birth)

solemnly swear that I will maintain allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines; I will support its Constitution and obey the laws as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities therein; I will do no falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court; I will not wittingly or willing promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit, or give aid nor consent to the same; I will delay no man for money or malice, and will conduct myself as a lawyer according to the best of my knowledge and discretion, with all good fidelity as well to the court as to my clients; and I impose upon myself these voluntary obligations without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion. So help me God.”
As shown by the records, Atty. Occeña gravely violated his oath of office in his handling of Special Proceedings No. 423. The facts of the case succinctly show that through his atrocious maneuvers, he successfully delayed the disposition of the case for the last thirty-eight (38) years, causing untold hurt and prejudice, not only to the heirs, but also to Judges Ruiz and Beldia who heard the case. For respondent’s part and that of his wife, such prolonged litigation obviously benefited them. As aptly declared by the Court of Appeals, the delay “can only benefit the executor or administrator” and “the longer the proceedings, the bigger the attorney’s fees.” But the more tragic reality is the fact that Atty. Occeña has caused a mockery of the judicial proceedings and inflicted injury to the administration of justice through his deceitful, dishonest, unlawful and grossly immoral conduct. Indeed, he abused beyond measure his privilege to practice law.

This Court has held that a lawyer should not abuse his right of recourse to the courts for the purpose of arguing a cause that had been repeatedly rebuffed. Neither should he use his knowledge of law as an instrument to harass a party nor to misuse judicial processes, as the same constitutes serious transgression of the Code of Professional Responsibility. For while he owes fidelity to the cause of his client, it should not be at the expense of truth and the administration of justice.[15]

The practice of law is a sacred and noble profession. It is a special privilege bestowed only upon those who are competent intellectually, academically and morally.[16] A lawyer must at all times conduct himself, especially in his dealings with his clients and the public at large, with honesty and integrity in a manner beyond reproach.[17] He must faithfully perform his duties to society, to the bar, to the courts and to his clients. A violation of the high standards of the legal profession subjects the lawyer to administrative sanctions by this Court which includes suspension and disbarment.

Clearly, Atty. Occeña’s conduct has made him unfit to remain in the legal profession even for a single moment.

It is a time-honored rule that good moral character is not only a condition precedent to admission to the practice of law. Its continued possession is also essential for remaining in the legal profession.[18] Atty. Occeña has definitely fallen below the moral bar when he engaged in deceitful, dishonest, unlawful and grossly immoral acts. This Court has repeatedly stressed the importance of integrity and good moral character as part of a lawyer’s equipment in the practice of his profession,[19] because it cannot be denied that the respect of litigants for the profession is inexorably diminished whenever a member of the Bar betrays their trust and confidence.[20] Thus, for his serious administrative offenses, punishable under Section 27 of Rule 138, Atty. Occeña deserves the ultimate penalty, that of expulsion from the esteemed brotherhood of lawyers.

WHEREFORE, ATTY. SAMUEL C. OCCEÑA is DISBARRED from the practice of law. His name is STRICKEN from the Roll of Attorneys EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY.

Let copies of this Decision be furnished the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and all courts throughout the country.


Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, and Corona, JJ., concur.
Quisumbing, J., abroad (on leave).

[1] "Apostasy In The Legal Profession," address delivered by the late Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro to the Delegates to the IBP Greater Manila Regional Convention, held at the Magsaysay Hall, SSS Building, Quezon City on June 22, 1975; 64 SCRA 784, 790 (1975).

[2] Ibid..

[3] Records, p. 10.

[4] Rollo, pp. 2-4; Decision on Administrative Case No. 44, pp. 1-2.

[5] Rollo, p. 11; Decision on Administrative Case No. 44, p. 12.

[6] Pursuant to Sec. 28, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court, which provides:

"SEC. 28. Suspension of attorney by the Court of Appeals or a Court of First Instance.- The Court of Appeals or a Court of First Instance may suspend an attorney from practice for any of the causes named in the last preceding section, and after such suspension, such attorney shall not practice his profession until further action of the Supreme Court in the premises."

[7] Rollo, p. 2; Decision on Administrative Case No. 44 dated November 14, 1985.

[8] “SEC. 29. Upon suspension by Court of Appeals or Court of First Instance, further proceedings in Supreme Court. - Upon such suspension, the Court of Appeals or the Court of First Instance shall forthwith transmit to the Supreme Court a certified copy of the order of suspension and a full statement of the facts upon which the same was based. Upon the receipt of such certified copy and statement, the Supreme Court shall make full investigation of the facts involved and make such order revoking or extending the suspension, or removing the attorney from his office as such, as the facts warrant.” See also Tajan vs. Cusi, 57 SCRA 154 (1974).

[9] “SEC. 9. Procedure in Court of Appeals or Courts of First Instance. - As far as may be applicable, the procedure above outlined shall likewise govern the filing and investigation of complaint against attorneys in the Court of Appeals or in Courts of First Instance. In case of suspension of the respondent, the judge of first instance or Justice of the Court of Appeals shall forthwith transmit to the Supreme Court a certified copy of the order of suspension and a full statement of the facts upon which the same is based.”

[10] Rollo, p. 1.

[11] Rollo, p. 33.

[12] Maligsa vs. Cabanting, 272 SCRA 408 (1997); Mabuhay vs. Garcia, 330 SCRA 236, 240, 241 (2000).

[13] Manubay vs. Garcia, ibid., citing Gatchalian Promotions Talents Pool, Inc. vs. Atty. Primo R. Naldoza, 315 SCRA 406 (1999) and Santos vs. Dichoso,  84 SCRA 622 (1978).

[14] Sec. 30, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court.

[15] Marcias vs. Uy Kim, 45 SCRA 251 (1970); Gabriel vs. Court of Appeals, 72 SCRA 273 (1976).

[16] Resurrection vs. Sayson, Adm. Case No. 1037, December 14, 1998, 300 SCRA 129, 137; People vs. Santocildes, Jr., G. R. No. 109141, December 21, 1999, 321 SCRA 310, 316.

[17] Resurreccion vs. Sayson, ibid..

[18] People vs. Tuned, 181 SCRA 692 (1990); Lead vs. Tabang,  206 SCRA 395 (1992).

[19] Rivera vs. Angeles, 339 SCRA 149 (2000), citing Fernandez vs. Garcia,  223 SCRA 425 (1993).

[20] Busiños vs. Ricafort, 283 SCRA 407 (1997), cited in Rivera vs. Angeles, ibid..

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