MANILA, Philippines (Eagle News) — The Supreme Court (SC) suspended attorneys Rose-Beatrix Cruz-Angeles and Wylie Paler from the practice of law for three years. SC Public Information Office Chief Theodore Te made the announcement. The decision said that Angeles and Paler “violated Rule 1.01., Canons 1, 7 and 11, and Rule 18.03, Canon 18, and Rules 16.01 and 16.03, Canon 16” of the Lawyer’s Code of Professional Responsibility.
The rules and canon violated state the following:
Rule 1.01 – A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral, or deceitful conduct.
Canon 1 – A lawyer shall uphold the constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect for law of and legal processes.
Canon 7 – A lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession and support the activities of the Integrated Bar.
Canon 11 – A lawyer shall observe and maintain the respect due to the court and to judicial officers and should insist on similar conduct by others.
Rule 18.03 – A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.
Canon 18 – A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence.
Rule 16.01 – A lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or received for or from the client.
Rule 16.03 – A lawyer shall deliver the funds and property of his client when due or upon demand. However, he shall have a lien over the funds and may apply so much thereof as may be necessary to satisfy his lawful fees and disbursements, giving notice promptly thereafter to his client. He shall also have a lien to the same extent on all judgments and executions he has secured for his client as provided for in the Rules of Court.
Canon 16 – A lawyer shall hold in trust all moneys and properties of his client that may come into his profession.
The decision stemmed from a complaint filed by Angeles and Paler’s former client Cleo Dongga-as. According to the statement released by the SC-PIO the “complainant engaged the services of respondents to handle the annulment of his marriage. He paid a total of 350,000 Pesos to respondents (in installments), which amounts were duly received. Despite constant follow-ups, respondents were unable to produce a petition for annulment, with various reasons being given by respondents for their failure to do so, including that there was no record of marriage (which was a false statement as verified by complainant). Upon demand for a refund of the aggregate amount of 350,000 pesos from respondents, Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler refused to return the said amount and even sent him two billing statements (one of which included a fee for “consultants (prosecutors)” amounting to 45,000 Pesos. In view of respondents’ actions, complainant filed the corresponding complaint with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Committee on Bar Discipline.”
The IBP Investigating Committee found that respondents Atty. Cruz-Angeles and Atty. Paler were liable administratively and recommended a four-month suspension from the practice of law. The IBP Board of Governors sustained the finding of liability but recommended a higher penalty of two years suspension from the practice of law.The Court adopted the findings of the IBP but imposed a higher penalty of three years suspension from the practice of law.
The court also directed Angels and Paler “to return to complainant Dongga-as the legal fees they received from the latter in the aggregate amount of P350,000.00 within ninety (90) days from the finality of this decision. Failure to so comply will warrant the imposition of a heavier penalty.”