ANTINIW, Dionisio C.
Re: Legal Opinion; Effect of Disbarment;
R.A. No. 1080; First Grade Eligibility
RESOLUTION NO. 020520
Dionisio C. Antiniw, Nancamilaran East, Urdaneta City, Pangasinan, appeals the opinion rendered by the Civil Service Commission Urdaneta Field Office that the disbarment of a lawyer does not only prevent him from practicing law but includes the revocation of his BAR Eligibility.
The pertinent portions of the said letter-opinion, provides:
"As provided in the Webster Dictionary, the meaning of disbar is to expel from the bar or the legal profession or deprives a lawyer of legal status or privilege.
" x x x
" . . . this Office opines that a person who is disbarred cannot be appointed to the City Administrator position. He does not meet the requirement of the position."
The appeal of Antiniw reads, in part, as follows:
"We do not contest the definition as quoted. But it is erroneous of her to have deviated from the mandate of the law she was bound to implement or enforce. The law is emphatic and does not need the held of the dictionary. On the contrary, the definition in fact states that it deprives a lawyer of legal status or privilege. The privilege here means the practice of law and not to take away, cancel or revoke the ELIGIBILITY that inherently attaches to or is already vested, upon his passing the bar examinations or his obtaining a Bachelors Degree in law because they were acquired thru (sic) merit and prior schooling by the passer.
" x x x
"WHEREFORE . . . it is respectfully prayed that the OPINION of the Honorable Director II, VIOLETA NIPAL MENDOZA, be REVERSED and SET ASIDE and a new ruling be entered, sustaining the PETITIONER that his First Grade Eligibility conferred upon him by operation of Republic Act No. 1080 through his then passing the bar examinations in 1967 be UPHELD, qualifying him to be appointed as City Administrator of the City of Urdaneta or to any position which requires that the Appointee be a First Grade Eligibility."
Records show that on October 14, 1974, Constancia Valencia filed a disbarment proceeding (docketed as Administrative Case No. 1391) against then Atty. Dionisio Antiniw for his participation in the forgery of Compraventa Definitiva and his subsequent introduction of the said document as evidence for his client. In the case of Valencia vs. Cabanting1 the Supreme Court found Antiniw guilty of the said offense and disbarred him from the practice of law.
The pertinent portions of the said case read, as follows:
"It is asserted by Paulino that Atty. Antiniw asked for and received the sum of P200.00 in consideration of his executing the document Compraventa Definitiva which would show that Paulino bought the property. This charge, Atty. Anitniw simply denied. It is settled jurisprudence that affirmative testimony is given greater weight than negative testimony . . . When an individuals integrity is challenged by evidence, it is not enough that he deny the charges against him; he must meet the issue and overcome the evidence for the relator and show proofs that he still maintains the highest degree of morality and integrity which at all time is expected of him.
"Although Paulino was a common farmer who finished only Grade IV, his testimony, even if not corroborated by another witness, deserves credence and can be relied upon. His declaration dwelt on a subject which was so delicate and confidential that it would be difficult to believe the he fabricated his evidence.
"There is a clear preponderant evidence that Atty. Antiniw committed falsification of a deed of sale, and its subsequent introduction in court prejudices his prime duty in the administration of justice as an officer of the court.
" x x x
" . . . Atty. Antiniw failed to live up to the high standards of the law profession.
"WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered declaring . . . Dionisio Antiniw DISBARRED from the practice of law, and his name is ordered stricken off from the roll of attorneys . . . "
Apparently, Antiniw applied for the position of City Administrator in Urdaneta City. Moreover, the said position requires the appointee to possess a first grade eligibility. Further, Antiniw used his BAR Eligibility in lieu of the required first grade eligibility in accordance with Republic Act No. 1080 (AN ACT DECLARING THE BAR AND BOARD EXAMINATIONS AS CIVIL SERVICE EXAMINATIONS). Since Antiniw was disbarred from the practice of law and does not possess any other eligibility, the said agency requested an opinion from the Civil Service Urdaneta Field Office on whether a lawyer who was disbarred from the practice of law may used his BAR Eligibility in lieu of the required first grade eligibility and may be appointed to the position of City Administrator. On July 5, 2001, the said office answered the query by saying that Antiniw cannot be appointed as City Administrator.
Subsequently in a letter dated July 13, 2001, Antiniw requested the Commission to render an opinion on the same matter. The said letter reads, in part, as follow:
"This is to request for your legal opinion as to the correct interpretation and application of the phrase a first grade civil service eligible or its equivalent in relation to the provisions of Section 480 of the Local Government Code setting forth the qualifications of a Provincial or City Administrator
"Among the qualifications of a Provincial or City Administrator . . . (1) he must be a holder of a college degree preferably in public administration, law, or any other related course from a recognized college or university; and (2) a first grade civil service eligible or its equivalent. Membership of (sic) the Bar or practice of law is not one among them, unlike a City or Provincial Legal Officer.
"I understand that passing the bar examinations confers upon the bar passer first grade civil service eligbility whether he does not take his oath as a lawyer or he take his oath, but is disbarred from the practice of law.
"Should an applicant for the office of Provincial or City Administrator who is a bar passer but was subsequently disbarred from the practice of law be deemed as being DEPRIVED or DIVESTED of his earned eligibility (by his passing the bar examinations) and of his law degree . . ."
Under Section 5 (5), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution, the Supreme Court has the power to promulgate rules concerning the admission to the practice of law and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP). Giving due recognition to this authority, the Commission requested the said Court to render an opinion on the matter in a letter dated August 24, 2001. Moreover as culled from the records, Antiniw also made the same request with the said Court, in a letter dated September 20, 2001. However, in a resolution dated February 12, 2002 the said Court refused to render an advisory opinion on the matter.
The material portions of the said resolution read, as follows:
"The Court can only thus resolve actual controversies brought before it, and it will thus refrain from rendering advisory opinions.
"WHEREFORE, the Court NOTES (a) the letter, dated 24 August 2001, of CSC Assistant Commissioner Jesse Caberoy and (b) letter of 20 September 2001 of Mr. Antiniw, and DIRECTS the Clerk of Court to furnish Assistant Commissioner Caberoy and Mr. Antiniw with a copy of this resolution."
Nevertheless, the Commission by virtue of its power to strengthen the merit and reward system, integrate all human resources development programs for all levels and ranks2, render opinions and ruling on all personnel and other Civil Service matters, prescribe all forms for Civil Service examinations and take appropriate action on all appointments and other personnel matters,3 is obliged to render an opinion on the issue at hand.
The issues to be resolved are the following:
Relevant to the first issue is Section 27, Rule 133 of the Revised Rules of Court, which provides:
"SEC. 27. Disbarment or suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court, grounds therefore. A member of the bar may be disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any deceit, malpractice, or other gross misconduct in such office, grossly immoral conduct, or by reason of his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he is required to take before admission to practice, or for a willful disobedience appearing as an attorney for a party to case without authority to do so. The practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice.
Disbarment is the act of the court in withdrawing from an attorney the right to practice law4. A disbarment proceeding is a quasi-summary proceeding instituted and prosecuted before an appropriate court for the purpose of depriving an attorney of his license to practice his profession by reason of misconduct.5
The two primary objects of disbarment are:6
In the case of Noriega vs. Sison, 125 SCRA 293 (1983), the Supreme Court defined the purpose of disbarment, as follows:
"Disbarment is not meant as a punishment depriving him (the disbarred lawyer) of a source of livelihood but is rather intended to protect the administration of justice by requiring that those who exercise this function should be competent, honorable and reliable in order that courts and the public may rightly repose confidence in them."
From the foregoing discussion it can be concluded that the disbarment of a lawyer merely serves to revoke his/her license to practice law. Thus, although the disbarment of a lawyer from the practice of law shall deprive him of all the rights and privileges appurtenant to membership in the Philippine Bar7 and results in the striking off his name from the Roll of Attorneys,8 nothing from what has thus far been said indicates that it includes revocation of his BAR Eligibility.
On the other hand, pertinent to the second issue is Number 1 of Civil Service Commission Resolution No. 143, Series of 1975 which provides:
"1. General civil service eligibilities resulting from examinations given by the Civil Service Commission which require at least four years of college studies shall be appropriate for professional and technical positions in the second level not covered by examinations as required by law, provided that the persons appointed to these positions possess the education, experience, training, and other qualifications required for the positions. The civil service eligibilities shall include First Grade, Career Service (Professional) and Supervisor."
Section 1 of Republic Act No. 1080 as amended (AN ACT DECLARING THE BAR OR BOARD EXAMINATIONS AS CIVIL SERVICE EXAMINATIONS) reads, as follows:
"SECTION 1. The bar examinations and the examinations given by the various boards of examiners of the Government are declared as civil service examinations, and shall, for purposes of appointment to positions in the classified service the duties of which involve knowledge of the respective professions, except positions requiring highly specialized knowledge not covered by the ordinary board examinations, be considered as equivalent to the first grade regular examination given by the Bureau of Civil Service if the profession requires at least four years of study in college, and as equivalent to the second grade regular examination if the profession requires less than four years of college study: Provided, however, That such bar or board examination shall be equivalent to the next lower grade of civil service examination when the person is to be employed in a position other than one requiring his professional knowledge: And provided, further, That if under any law, a person is exempted from the examinations given by the various boards of examiners, and a certificate of registration for or admission to the practice of his profession is issued in his favor by the corresponding board of examiners, he shall be deemed for all legal purposes to have passed the required board examinations for the practice of his profession."
Also applicable is Number 1, Specialized Eligibilities, Eligibility Requirement of Civil Service Commission Memorandum Circular No. 42, S. 1998 (FRAMEWORK FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF POLICIES ON QUALIFICATION STANDARDS) provides:
"Board/Bar (RA 1080)
"Eligibilities resulting from passing the board/bar examinations shall be required for appointment to positions, the duties of which constitute the practice of a profession regulated by the Philippine Board or Bar laws. These eligibilities shall also be considered for other career service positions in both first and second levels provided that the appointees meet the other requirements of the positions."(Underlining ours)
From the foregoing, it can be concluded that a first grade eligibility is equivalent to a Career Service Professional. Moreover, an eligibility resulting from passing the bar examinations shall also be considered for other career service positions (not involving practice of law) and may be used in lieu of the required first grade eligibility.
Thus, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of David vs. Dancel9 that:
"Pursuant to Section 1 of Republic Act No. 1080, as amended by Republic Act No. 1844, petitioner, who is a member of the Philippine Bar, is considered a first grade eligible "the duties of which involve knowledge of the respective professions."
Therefore, it is safe to conclude that a disbarred lawyer may still use his BAR Eligibility in lieu of the first grade eligibility in accordance with R.A. No. 1080. In the present case, although the eligibility required for the position of City Administrator (Section 480, Article X, Chapter 3, Title III, Book III of the Local Government Code of 1991)10 is a first grade civil service eligibility, since Antiniw still possesses his BAR Eligibility then in accordance with RA 1080, he may still be appointed to the said position under permanent status.
Verily, an applicant who is a member of the bar but was subsequently disbarred and does not possess any other eligibility equivalent to first grade level, may be appointed to the position of City Administrator.
It is noted, however, that since Antiniw was found guilty of Falsification of Public Document then, he may be liable for the administrative offense of Disgraceful, Immoral or Dishonest Conduct Prior to Entering the Service.11 The filing of the administrative charge will be at the discretion of the disciplining authority.
WHEREFORE, the Commission hereby rules that the disbarment of a private lawyer from the practice of law does not include the revocation of his BAR Eligibility. Moreover, a disbarred lawyer may still use his BAR Eligibility in lieu of the required eligibility in accordance with Republic Act No. 1080 for employment in the government service, without prejudice to the filing of an administrative charge against him/her for Disgraceful, Immoral or Dishonest Conduct Prior to Entering the Service. Accordingly, the opinion of the Civil Service Commission Urdaneta Field Office is hereby reversed.
Quezon City, April 11, 2002
J. WALDEMAR V. VALMORES
JOSE F. ERESTAIN, JR.
1 196 SCRA 302 (1991)
2 Section 3, Article IX-B of the 1987 Constitution
3 Section 12 (5), (8) and (14), Chapter 3, Subtitle A, Title I, Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987
4 Black's Law Dictionary, p. 371
5 Ballantine Dictionary, p. 379
6 Ex Parte Brounsall, 66 C. J. 581
7 LT. Lamberto P. Villaflor vs. Alvin T. Sarita (Administrative Case Number 471 dated June 10, 1999)
8 Ban Hua U. Flores vs. Atty. Enrique S. Chua (Administrative Case Number 4500 dated April 30, 1999)
9 17 SCRA 696 (1966)
10 Republic Act No. 7160
11 Pursuant to Section 52 (C) (7), Rule IV of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service
(Civil Service Commission Resolution No. 99-1936 dated August 31, 1999)