Legal Ethics

Jackiya Lao vs Berteni Causing

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A.C. No. 13453 – Legal Ethics – Legal Profession – Code of Professional Responsibility – Rule 8.01 – Improper Social Media Posts May Result in a Lawyer’s Suspension or Disbarment

In January 2019, Atty. Berteni Causing posted on his Facebook account a draft of a plunder complaint which he intended to file against Jackiya Lao. Lao was a candidate in the 2019 elections (congressional seat). The post painted Lao as a corrupt politician and the post subjected Lao to public ridicule.

Lao then filed a disbarment case against Causing. In his defense, Causing averred that his post was covered by free speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press (because he is a vlogger) and that he eventually filed the plunder case against Lao.

ISSUE: Whether or not Atty. Causing should be disciplined.

HELD: Yes. Atty. Causing’s defense is not tenable. As a member of the Bar, Atty. Causing ought to know that Facebook, or any other social medium, for that matter, is not the proper forum to air out his grievances, for a lawyer who uses extra-legal fora, is a lawyer who weakens the rule of law. In this case, Atty. Causing knew that the proper forum for his complaint is the Office of the Ombudsman.

The fact that Atty. Causing subsequently filed the complaint for Plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman is of no moment as the damage to the reputation of Lao had already been done.

Rule 8.01 of the CPR provides: A lawyer shall not, in his professional dealings, use language which is abusive, offensive or otherwise improper.

Since this is already Atty. Causing’s second offense of similar nature, the Supreme Court disbarred him.

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Lao vs Causing

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