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Opinion

Upholding the dignity of the profession

A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison - The Philippine Star

Lawyers owe fidelity to the cause and should be entirely devoted to the interest of their client. They should be zealous in the defense of their client’s right. But such devotion and zeal should not be at the expense of truth and the administration of justice. They should not forget that they are, first and foremost, officers of the court, bound to exert every effort to assist in the speedy administration of justice. Their responsibility does not warrant ill motives and malicious intentions against the other party. To maintain the dignity of the legal profession, they must conduct themselves honorably and fairly, render service and give advice that meets the strictest principles of moral law. This is the tenet applied in this disbarment complaint filed against Atty. Lina Trinidad.

Atty. Trinidad is the lawyer of Leo who has been separated from his wife Aida. The estranged couple has been living in separate condominiums located in two cities in Metro Manila. In fact, Leo, through Atty. Trinidad, has already filed a petition for declaration of nullity of his marriage to Aida.

After about a year of living separately and while Aida was in another city down south, Aida received a frantic phone call from the building administrator of the condominium informing her that Leo, accompanied by three other persons, were at the lobby and trying to enter her unit. So Aida called Teddy Castro, her personal body guard, to stop them from forcibly entering the unit. Leo angrily scolded Teddy, who told him that he was merely instructed by Aida. About five to seven armed men also arrived and threatened Teddy but left when the responding policemen arrived.

Not long after, Atty. Trinidad arrived and talked to the policemen. And when the policemen left, Leo and Atty. Trinidad were able to enter the unit by forcibly opening the door with the assistance of a locksmith whom they called.

Later on, Aida discovered that 12 pieces of her assorted first class handbags were missing. So on the basis of the police report and the sworn statement of her bodyguard Teddy she filed, among others, a complaint for disbarment of Atty. Lina Trinidad. In support thereof, she executed a sworn statement enumerating what happened based on the report of Teddy and the policemen, narrating the alleged intimidation and grave misconduct of Atty. Trinidad, especially in the forcible opening of Aida’s condominium.

After proper investigation, the board of governors of the IBP recommended the suspension of Atty. Lina Trinidad. But on the latter’s motion for reconsideration on the ground that she was merely fulfilling her duty as counsel of Leo, the BOG adopted the original recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner to merely admonish Atty. Trinidad with stern warning that a repetition of the same or equivalent acts shall be dealt with more severely.

After a judicious review of the report of the Investigating Commissioner, the Supreme Court (SC) affirmed said recommendation. The SC said that the complaint against Atty. Trinidad is mainly based on the affidavit of Teddy and the police report. In said documents, however, the name of Atty. Trinidad was not categorically mentioned, Teddy made no declaration as to the alleged intimidation and participation of Atty. Trinidad. They only said that Leo instructed his men to destroy the padlock and entered the house and that Leo took pictures then left the unit and padlocked the doors. There is, therefore, an undeniable uncertainty surrounding the issues of whether Atty. Trinidad indeed threatened Aida’s bodyguard and participated in the forceful opening of the subject condominium.

What has been established are the facts that Leo and Aida have been living separately and Leo has in fact filed a petition for declaration of nullity of his marriage to Aida. Accordingly, while it cannot be ruled with certainty that Atty. Trinidad truly engaged in threats, intimidation and forcible entry into the subject condominium, she could have advised her client Leo to file and make the proper representation before the court instead of surreptitiously entering the premises.

The lawyer’s responsibility to protect and advance the interests of their client does not warrant a course of action propelled by ill motives and malicious intentions against the other party. Mandated to maintain the dignity of the legal profession, they must conduct themselves honorably and fairly. They advance the honor of their profession and the best interests of their clients when they render service or give advice that meets the strictest principles of moral law. Thus Atty. Trinidad should be admonished with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or equivalent acts shall be dealt more severely in the future (Ortega vs. Tadena, A.C. No. 12018, Jan. 29, 2020).

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Email: js0711192@gmail.com

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