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Disbarment due to extramarital affairs

Dennis Gorecho - Kuwentong Peyups

Extramarital affairs of lawyers are always very interesting stories during the legal ethics sessions of the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE).

Lawyers are required every three years to complete at least 36 hours of continuing legal education activities.

The MCLE is required of members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) to ensure that throughout their career, they keep abreast with law and jurisprudence, maintain the ethics of the profession and enhance the standards of the practice of law.

Of the 36 hours, at least six hours shall be devoted to legal ethics while the rest involve trial and pretrial skills (4 hours), alternative dispute resolution (5 hours), substantive and procedural laws and jurisprudence (9 hours), legal writing and oral advocacy (4 hours), international law and international conventions (2 hours), and such subjects as may be prescribed by the MCLE Committee (6 hours).

Legal ethics establishes the principles and rules of conduct that lawyers shall at all times follow in fulfilling their professional responsibilities and in order to preserve the dignity of, and respect for, the legal profession.

Disciplinary proceedings are means of protecting the administration of justice by requiring those who carry out important function in the judicial system to be competent, honorable and reliable men in whom courts and clients may repose confidence.

The primary purposes of disciplinary proceedings are to protect the public, to foster public confidence in the Bar, to preserve the integrity of the profession, and to deter other lawyers from similar misconduct.

Maintaining an illicit relationship can be a ground for disciplinary proceedings against erring lawyers who may be penalized either by suspension or disbarment, depending on the circumstances of the case.

In case of suspension, the period would range from one year to indefinite suspension.

Disbarment is imposed where the misconduct and unrepentant demeanor shows a serious flaw in his character, the moral indifference to the sanctity of marriage and marital vows, and the outright defiance of established norms.

The conduct complained of must not only be immoral, but must be grossly immoral.

In the recent case of Hosoya v.  Atty. Contado, (AC No. 10731, October 5, 2021), the Supreme Court disbarred a lawyer who had abandoned his wife and family and cohabited with another with whom he had two children.

The Court affirmed the IBP ruling that the lawyer was guilty of immorality as he had children with the complainant despite having a legal wife.

The Court noted that the lawyer admitted the fact of his relationship with the complainant, while being married to his wife.

A married person’s abandonment of his or her spouse to live with and cohabit with another constitutes gross immorality as it amounts to either adultery or concubinage.

In so admitting, he effectively admitted to living a life of deceit and immorality.

Disbarment were also imposed by the Supreme Court on several cases as the conduct put the legal profession in disrepute and place the integrity of the administration of justice in peril.

In Toledo v. Toledo (117 Phil. 768), the lawyer abandoned his lawful wife and cohabited with another woman who had borne him a child.

In Obusan v. Obusan Jr. (213 Phil. 437), the lawyer had abandoned the wife and maintained an adulterous relationship with a married woman.

In Cojuangco Jr. v. Palma (481 Phil. 646), the lawyer abandoned his lawful wife and three children, lured an innocent woman into marrying him and misrepresented himself as a “bachelor” so he could contract marriage in a foreign land.

In Dantes v. Dantes, (482 Phil. 64) the lawyer maintained illicit relationships with two different women during the subsistence of his marriage to his legal wife.

In Villatuya v. Tabalingcos, (676 SCRA 37), the lawyer entered into marriage twice while his first marriage was still subsisting. The Court declared that he exhibited a deplorable lack of that degree of morality required of him as a member of the Bar. He made a mockery of marriage, a sacred institution demanding respect and dignity.

Extramarital affairs of lawyers are regarded as offensive to the sanctity of marriage, the family, and the community that blemish their ethics and morality.

Possession of good moral character is both a condition precedent and a continuing requirement to warrant admission to the Bar and to retain membership in the legal profession.

Peyups is the moniker of University of the Philippines. Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail info@sapalovelez.com, or call 09175025808 or 09088665786.

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