MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court (SC) disbarred a lawyer for grave misconduct and falsification of a decision on nullity of marriage and its certificate of finality.
In a nine-page per curiam decision in AC No. 11256 (Madria v. Atty. Rivera) promulgated on March 7, the Court also ordered that lawyer Carlos P. Rivera’s name be removed from the Roll of Attorneys, noting that its decision is immediately executory.
It also ordered copies of the decision be furnished to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) for dissemination to all courts nationwide for information and guidance, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Office of the Bar Confidant, and the Office of the Prosecutor General, Department of Justice for possible criminal prosecution of the respondent.
“Simulating or participating in the simulation of a court decision and a certificate of finality of the same decision is an outright criminal falsification or forgery. One need not be a lawyer to know so, but it was worse in the respondent’s case because he was a lawyer. Thus, his acts were legally intolerable,” the Court stressed.
The disbarment stemmed from the complaint of Rivera’s former client Flordeliza A. Madria. She was subject of an investigation of the National Bureau of Investigation and faced criminal charges for violation of the Philippine Passport Act in the Regional Trial Court in Tuguegarao City when she declared she was singled and used as supporting documents the forged decision and certificate when she applied for renewal of passport.
Madria sought Rivera’s legal services for PHP25,000 when she had her marriage annulled in 2002.She claimed that the respondent advised her to just wait for resolution and assured that she did not need to appear in court, explaining all court notices and processes would be sent to his office, and that he would regularly apprise her of the developments. Subsequently, she received from respondent a copy of the April 16, 2003 decision, purportedly signed by Judge Lyliha Abella Aquino of the RTC, Branch 4, Tuguegarao City, granting her petition for annulment, as well as a copy of the certificate of finality dated Sept. 26, 2003 signed by one Jacinto C. Danao of the RTC, Branch 4.
When she renewed her passport, her former partner filed a complaint charging that she had fabricated the decision for the annulment of her marriage. She later learned that the decision and certificate were indeed falsified per the letter signed by the Branch 4, Clerk of Court, RTC Tuguegarao.
The Court held that respondent acknowledged authorship of the petition for annulment of marriage, and of the simulation of the decision and certificate of finality. His explanation of having done so only upon the complainant’s persistent prodding did not exculpate him from responsibility.
Respondent violated Rules 1.01 and 1.02, Canon 1, and Rule 15.07 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Canon 1 mandates that “a lawyer shall uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect for law and legal processes.” Rule 1.01 states that “a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct,” while Rule 1.02 states that “a lawyer shall not counsel or abet activities aimed at defiance of the law or at lessening confidence in the legal system.” Rule 15.07 states that “a lawyer shall impress upon his client compliance with the law and the principles of fairness.”
The Court held that falsifying or simulating the court papers amounted to deceit, malpractice or misconduct in office, any of which was already a ground sufficient for disbarment under Section 27, Rule 38 of the Rules of Court.
The Court also noted that the respondent was previously sanctioned in 2006 for unprofessional conduct in Cruz-Villanueva v. Rivera, where he was suspended from the practice of law because he had notarized documents without a notarial commission. PNA