Wake Up, Philippines!

Lawyer’s lack of good moral character

Posted in Legal/Judicial Issues by Erineus on February 27, 2009

By Judge Gabriel T. Ingles
Cebu Daily News
First Posted 11:33:00 02/26/2009

[A.C. No. 7022. June 18, 2008.]

MARJORIE F. SAMANIEGO, complainant, vs. ATTY. ANDREW V. FERRER, respondent.

We agree with the IBP on Atty. Ferrer’s failure to give support to his daughter with Ms. Samaniego. We also agree with the Office of the Bar Confidant that Atty. Ferrer’s affair with Ms. Samaniego showed his lack of good moral character as a member of the bar. We dismiss, however, Ms. Samaniego’s charge of abandonment since Atty. Ferrer did not abandon them. He returned to his family.

Atty. Ferrer admitted his extra-marital affair; in his words, his indiscretion which ended in 2000. We have considered such illicit relation as a disgraceful and immoral conduct subject to disciplinary action. 15 The penalty for such immoral conduct is disbarment, 16 or indefinite 17 or definite 18 suspension, depending on the circumstances of the case. Recently, in Ferancullo v. Ferancullo, Jr., 19 we ruled that suspension from the practice of law for two years was an adequate penalty imposed on the lawyer who was found guilty of gross immorality. In said case, we considered the absence of aggravating circumstances such as an adulterous relationship coupled with refusal to support his family; or maintaining illicit relationships with at least two women during the subsistence of his marriage; or abandoning his legal wife and cohabiting with other women.

In this case, we find no similar aggravating circumstances. Thus we find the penalty recommended by the IBP and Office of the Bar Confidant as adequate sanction for the grossly immoral conduct of respondent.

On another point, we may agree with respondent’s contention that complainant was not entirely blameless. She knew about his wife but blindly believed him to be unmarried. However, that one complicit in the affair complained of immorality against her co-principal does not make this case less serious since it is immaterial whether Ms. Samaniego is in pari delicto. 21 We must emphasize that this Court’s investigation is not about Ms. Samaniego’s acts but Atty. Ferrer’s conduct as one of its officers and his fitness to continue as a member of the Bar.

Finally, it is opportune to remind Atty. Ferrer and all members of the bar of the following norms under the Code of Professional Responsibility:

x x x

Rule 1.01 — A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.

x x x

Canon 7 — A lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession and support the activities of the integrated bar.

x x x

Rule 7.03 — A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor shall he, whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession.

x x x

Needless to state, respondent ought always to keep in mind the responsibilities of a father to all his children. If there be a resultant hardship on them because of this case, let it be impressed on all concerned that the direct cause thereof was his own misconduct.

WHEREFORE, we find respondent Atty. Andrew V. Ferrer GUILTY of gross immorality and, as recommended by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of the Bar Confidant, SUSPEND him from the practice of law for six (6) months effective upon notice hereof, with WARNING that the same or similar act in the future will be dealt with more severely.