By Rey Panaligan
The Supreme Court (SC) has disbarred two lawyers and suspended another from the practice of law for three years for various violations of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
In separate rulings, disbarred by the SC were Atty. Jorge C. Sacdalan and Atty. Renato B. Pagatpatan. Suspended was Atty. Jose M. Caringal.
The summary of the rulings issued by the SC’s public information office (PIO) stated:
“The SC disbarred Sacdalan and ordered his name stricken off the Roll of Attorneys effective immediately for violating Rules 1.01, 16.04, and 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.”
“It also ordered him to return to complainant Rosalie P. Domingo the P50,000, as legal deposit to cover the expenses related to the expected litigation, and P100,000, as cash advance chargeable against his appearance fees and other fees, with interest of six per cent per annum…, and fined P5,000 for disobedience to the orders of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines–Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD).”
The summary stated that Sacdalan was hired by Domingo to file a case to recover a parcel of land from illegal settlers in Binangonan, Rizal. Domingo claimed that she even lent P100,000 to Sacdalan for his wife’s hospital expenses.
When Sacdalan failed to give updates on the case, Domingo said she inquired from the court only to find out that the lawyer has not filed any case for ejectment. Thus, Domingo said she was forced to hire another lawyer. Sacdalan even failed to return the money to Domingo despite demands.
“The acts and omissions of respondent (Sacdalan) constitute malpractice, gross negligence and gross misconduct in his office as attorney. His incompetence and appalling indifference to his duty to his client, the courts and society render him unfit to continue discharging the trust reposed in him as a member of the Bar,” the PIO said quoting from the SC ruling.
In the case of Pagatpatan, the PIO said the SC disbarred him for his “unethical behavior in writing a letter to the Bishop of the Diocese of Tandag, Surigao Del Sur against complainant Rev. Fr. Jose P. Zafra III.”
The PIO said: “Pagatpatan was the counsel on record of the respondents in the estafa case filed by Fr. Zafra with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Tandag City, Surigao Del Sur, Branch 40. While the said criminal case was pending, Pagatpatan wrote the Bishop of Tandag requesting an investigation of Fr. Zafra for the latter’s activities, alleging the latter to have concocted stories against his clients. Fr. Zafra, who was embarrassed because of Atty. Pagatpatan’s “malicious” letter, was eventually investigated by the Board of Consultors with the Bishop, where he was able to clear his name.”
It turned out that Pagatpatan engaged in the practice of law despite a suspension order issued by the SC.
“Atty. Pagatpatan has made a mockery of this Court’s authority by defying this Court’s suspension order for over eleven (11) years. If Fr. Zafra had not filed the instant case, Atty. Pagatpatan would have continued disregarding the suspension order of this Court. His actions clearly constitute gross misconduct as defined under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, which is a sufficient cause for suspension or disbarment,” the PIO said quoting from the SC resolution.
It said: “The suspension of Caringal stemmed from the administrative case filed by Marilu C. Turla before the IBP. Turla was the petitioner in a special proceedings case before the RTC, Quezon City, Branch 222, wherein Atty. Caringal was the counsel for the oppositor.”
“Turla accused Caringal of failing to attend the required Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) seminars for the Second (MCLE II) and Third (MCLE III) Compliance Periods, as required under Bar Matter No. 850 and for violation of his lawyer’s oath not to do any falsehood,” it said.
Quoting from the SC resolution, the PIO summary added:
“When Atty. Caringal indicated that he was MCLE-exempt in the pleadings and motions he filed, although in fact he was not, he engaged in dishonest conduct which was also disrespectful of the court. He undoubtedly placed his clients at risk, given that pleadings with such false information produce no legal effect and can result in the expunction of the same. Undeniably, he did not stay true to the cause of his clients and actually violated his duty to serve his clients with competence and diligence.”