502 Phil. 292
Mr. Chief Justice, I believe the manner the Court comported itself in the aforesaid case is totally execrable and atrocious, entirely unworthy of the majesty and office of the highest tribunal of the land. It is the action not of men of reason or those who believe in the rule of law, but rather of bullies and tyrants from whom "might is right." I say, shame on the High Court, for shoving down a hapless suitor's throat a ruling which, from all appearances, it could not justify.Reacting to the above, the Court, in an en banc Resolution dated August 14, 2001, required Atty. Sorreda to show cause why he should not be properly disciplined "for degrading, insulting and dishonoring the Supreme Court by using vile, offensive, intemperate and contemptuous derogatory language against it".
"SOMETHING HAS GOT TO BE SERIOUSLY AND TERRIBLY WRONG WITH THE COUNTRY'S JUSTICE SYSTEM"Persistent in imputing to the Court and its Justices offensive and uncalled remarks, Atty. Sorreda again went on a rampage in his subject letter of February 21, 2005:
"WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THE JUSTICE SYSTEM IN THIS COUNTRY, MR. CHIEF JUSTICE?
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I therefore deplore and condemn in the strongest term such strong-handed actuations as the Honorable Court has displayed. They are as one might expect in a dictatorship or authoritarian regime."
xxx xxx xxxUpon instructions of the Chief Justice, Atty. Sorreda's aforesaid letter of 21 February 2005 was included in the March 15, 2005 en banc agenda of the Court.
Mr. Chief Justice, I do not doubt that these ten cases are among the most palpably meritorious cases that have ever been brought before the Supreme Court, or any court of justice for that matter. I cannot doubt that were it not for the Sollegue "miscounting," and the other incidents that ensued from it, at least some of these ten cases would have met with entirely different endings, so obvious and patent are their merits to any reasonable and impartial mind.
In short, Mr. Chief Justice, it is obvious that the High Court has taken it personally against me. To the detriment of my innocent clients. And of justice.
Mr. Chief Justice, why should this be? If the Court had anything against me, I stood ready to have the ax fall on my own neck, if it came to that. As I had stated in one communication-[I]f there is one thing I agree with in the High Court's position, it is that x x x if indeed I had wronged the Court in the way it had described, and if indeed my explanations and arguments "lack merit," I should indeed be disciplined; and surely no less than DISBARMENT will do. It should also be done as swiftly as possible, given the gravity of the charge and the high dignity and importance of the institution attacked. Now on January 22, 2002 and May 7, 2002, the Court has resolved to deny to the undersigned the "full opportunity" for self-defense that he request ... therefore he is now left without any defense, and he can only wonder why no sanction has come down until the present time.Might it be because I had continued, "Of course, I shall also only expect that such judgment, when it does come, will be a fully-reasoned one, as thoroughly discussed perhaps as that in In re Almacen, 31 SCRA 562, for the proper guidance of all concerned"- and the Court knows that it is not able to give such a "fully-reasoned judgment" as I ask? But rather than admit it has done wrong and rectify the same, it would rather "get back" at me by means of unfavorable rulings in the cases I elevate to it- let the innocent litigants, whose only mistake was to hire me as their counsel, and the cause of justice suffer as they may.
Mr. Chief Justice, that is not only unjust; that is craven cowardice, to deal with an adversary like that. It is not something I would have expected from the supreme judges of the land.
I can only view other happenings in the Honorable Court in such light. The same verifications that were previously unfaulted, suddenly became course for dismissal. What other interpretation can I give it, than that the court had run out of excuses to dismiss, since I was being careful not to repeat the same adjudged "shortcomings"; and was now scrounging every which way for one, just so to make sure I continue to get my "comeuppance."
That of the first nine cases, not one was assigned to the Third Division- only either to the Second Division, then chaired by Justice Josue N. Bellosillo, which handled the Sollegue case; or the First Division, chaired by the Chief Justice, to whom I have directly written afterwards. Could it be only a coincidence - or is it a more likely explanation that the powers-that-be in the Court wanted to be very sure I never get favorable ruling? Especially when it is considered that, following Justice Bellosillo's retirement on November 12, 2003, for the first time in the history of the nation's judiciary a vacancy in the Supreme Court was filled up way beyond the constitutionally prescribed period of 90 days- and after so much mystery and intrigue has surrounded the appointment of his successor, Justice Minita V. Chico-Nazario. In fact Justice Nazario was sworn in on July 14, 2004, just one day before a new retirement took place, this time of Justice Jose C. Vitug. It was only following this latest retirement, that for the first time this counsel had a case assigned to other than the First and Second Division. Could it be that Justice Vitug, then Chairman of the Third Division, and Justice Nazario, erstwhile presiding Justice of the Sandiganbayan, had redoubtable reputations for independent-mindedness; and the powers-that-be in the court exercised their utmost influence to at least prevent the both of them sitting in the bench at the same time, lest together they should "buck the system" and divide the Court, if not successfully sway the Court to favorably rule on the undersigned counsel's cases before it?
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But this time, in these ten cases I have recounted, I am wholly convinced that the court is in the wrong. I cannot but thus be filled with both acute sadness and burning indignation. Sadness as counsel, to come to the realization that the high institution of which I am an officer has sunk to such a low. Indignation as a citizen, that the public officers who are supposed to serve him and help him find justice, should instead give judgments that so insult the intelligence and glare with iniquity.
Mr. Chief Justice, whatever gave the Court the notion that it could pronounce 29 days as greater than 60 days, and not to have to account for it? Who can believe that the supposedly most illustrious legal minds of the land, would miss seeing grave abuse of discretion in the actions of an agency that directly contravened numerous laws and rules all at once? How could democracy's vaunted "last bulwark" suffer a widow and her children to thereafter live in their toilet, by sanctioning the plainly void sale and illegal demolition of their erstwhile family home? Did the court pause for even three minutes to put itself in the shoes of an evidently innocent man kept locked up for three years now on a manifestly false and fabricated charge, before it so blandly invoked its "discretion" not to entertain his appeal at all? Where did the Court get such brazenness, such shameless boldness, as to dismiss on the ground that the docket fees had not been paid, when the evidence clearly show they in fact were? What manner of men are you- even challenging the citizenry to inform on the corrupt, and the bar to become like "Frodo" in the fight against society's evils in your public speeches and writings, and yet you yourselves committing the same evils when hidden from public view. Are all these rulings in the ten cases not the clearest manifestation that the supreme magistrates have bought into the "What-are-we-in-power-for" mentality? (Underscoring ours)
CANON 11 - A lawyer shall observe and maintain the respect due to the courts and to judicial officers and should insist on similar conduct by others.While a lawyer owes absolute fidelity to the cause of his client, full devotion to his client's genuine interest and warm zeal in the maintenance and defense of his client's rights, as well as the exertion of his utmost learning and ability, he must do so only within the bounds of the law. A lawyer is entitled to voice his criticism within the context of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech which must be exercised responsibly. After all, every right carries with it the corresponding obligation. Freedom is not freedom from responsibility, but freedom with responsibility. The lawyer's fidelity to his client must not be pursued at the expense of truth and orderly administration of justice. It must be done within the confines of reason and common sense.
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Rule 11.03 - A lawyer shall abstain from scandalous, offensive or menacing language or behavior before the courts.
Rule 11.04 - A lawyer shall not attribute to a judge motives not supported by the record or having no materiality to the case.
By now, a lawyer's duties to the Court have become commonplace. Really, there could hardly be any valid excuse for lapses in the observance thereof. Section 20(b), Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, in categorical terms, spells out one such duty: "To observe and maintain the respect due to the courts of justice and judicial officers." As explicit is the first canon of legal ethics which pronounces that "[i]t is the duty of the lawyer to maintain towards the Courts a respectful attitude, not for the sake of the temporary incumbent of the judicial office, but for the maintenance of its supreme importance." That same canon, as a corollary, makes it peculiarly incumbent upon lawyers to support the courts against "unjust criticism and clamor." And more. The attorney's oath solemnly binds him to a conduct that should be "with all good fidelity xxx to the courts." Worth remembering is that the duty of an attorney to the courts "can only be maintained by rendering no service involving any disrespect to the judicial office which he is bound to uphold."In Surigao Mineral Reservation Board vs. Cloribel, Justice Sanchez further elucidated:
A lawyer is an officer of the courts; he is, "like the court itself, an instrument or agency to advance the ends of justice." His duty is to uphold the dignity and authority of the courts to which he owes fidelity, "not to promote distrust in the administration of justice." Faith in the courts a lawyer should seek to preserve. For, to undermine the judicial edifice "is disastrous to the continuity of government and to the attainment of the liberties of the people." Thus has it been said of a lawyer that "[a]s an officer of the court, it is his sworn and moral duty to help build and not destroy unnecessarily that high esteem and regard towards the courts so essential to the proper administration of justice."Likewise, in Zaldivar vs. Gonzales, we held:
Respondent Gonzales is entitled to the constitutional guarantee of free speech. No one seeks to deny him that right, least of all this Court. What respondent seems unaware of is that freedom of speech and of expression, like all constitutional freedoms, is not absolute and that freedom of expression needs an occasion to be adjusted to and accommodated with the requirement of equally important public interests. One of these fundamental public interests is the maintenance of the integrity and orderly functioning of the administration of justice. There is no antimony between free expression and the integrity of the system of administering justice. For the protection and maintenance of freedom of expression itself can be secured only within the context of a functioning and orderly system of dispensing justice, with the context, in other words, of viable independent institutions for delivery of justice which are accepted by the general community.As officer of the court, Atty. Sorreda has the duty to uphold the dignity and authority of the courts and to promote confidence in the fair administration of justice. No less must this be and with greater reasons in the case of the country's highest court, the Supreme Court, as the last bulwark of justice and democracy