By Rey Panaligan
The Supreme Court (SC) has disbarred a lawyer for his continued refusal, despite repeated demands, to remit to his client the settlement proceeds in a case.
Disbarred was lawyer Jude Francis V. Zambrano for violations of several rules in the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR).
Zambrano’s name was ordered stricken off from the Roll of Attorneys and was directed to immediately remit P250,000 to complainant Diwei “Bryan” Huang with six percent interest from the finality of the decision.
A summary of the case released by the SC’s public information office (PIO) stated:
“Sometime in October 2014 Huang, a citizen of Singapore engaged Atty. Zambrano’s services for P50,000 to file a criminal case for estafa against several individuals before the Office of the City Prosecutor of Pasig City.
“On or about the first week of January 2015, Atty. Zambrano informed Huang that the respondents in the estafa case were willing to pay Huang P250,000 settlement.
“Huang then suggested that respondents either directly deposit the settlement money to his account or for Atty. Zambrano to give the money after the latter collected the same from the respondents to his (Huang’s) friend Ang Kevin Kar Wai.
“Atty. Zambrano rejected both suggestions, claiming that as to the first option, payment must first be coursed to him before to Huang; and as to the second option, that he would be unable to track the money once given to Ang, whom he does not know.
“Despite the respondents having already given Atty. Zambrano the settlement money, the latter did not turn over the money to Huang, telling the latter that the estafa case had not yet been formally dismissed and citing his (Atty. Zambarano’s) busy schedule as well as personal and family issues.
“Realizing that his demands for his money were futile, Huang filed the present disbarment proceedings with the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (CBD-IBP). Despite notice, Atty, Zambrano did not file an answer to the complaint or submit his brief for the scheduled mandatory conference.
“The CBD-IBP Investigating Commissioner eventually recommended Atty. Zambrano’s suspension from law practice for two years and ordered him to pay Huang. The IBP Board of Governors adopted the findings and recommendation.
“The SC agreed with the CBD-IBP Investigating Commissioner and the IBP Board of Governors’ factual findings but found the recommended two-year suspension ‘too benevolent.’”
In its decision, the SC found that Zambrano violated Rules 1.01, 16.01, and 16.03 of the CPR.
Rule 1.01 of the CPR provides that “a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral, or deceitful conduct,” Rule 16.01 states that “a lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or received for or from the client,” and Rule 16.03 mandates that “a lawyer shall deliver the funds and property of his client when due or upon demand….”
The SC said Atty. Zambrano’s ignoring of “consecutive follow-ups and demands from the client without any acceptable reason corrodes the client’s trust and stains the legal profession.”