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Atty. Benjamin Dacanay was the lawyer of Adez Realty, Inc. in a reconstitution of title case. The Court of Appeals issued a decision adverse to them hence they appealed to the Supreme Court. The appeal was denied for lack of merit. At the same time, the SC issued a directive to Atty. Dacanay to explain why he should not be disciplined for misquoting the decision of the Court of Appeals. It appears that in the petition submitted by Atty. Dacanay, he alleged that the following were findings of facts by the CA:
After trial on the merits, the lower court rendered the questioned order dated November 20, 1984, without notice to the actual occupants of the property, Adez Realty, granting the applicant’s petition for reconstitution in the name of the deceased Elias Eugenio.
However, the SC found that the phrase “without notice to the actual occupant of the property, Adez Realty” was nowhere to be found in the text of the CA decision.
The SC felt that the insertion of the phrase was an attempt by Atty. Dacanay to mislead the SC which constitutes willful disregard of a lawyer’s solemn duty to act at all times in a manner consistent with truth.
Atty. Dacanay then submitted an Explanation where he humbly admitted that there was an intercalation. He however explained that the error was made by his secretary; that he dictated the text of the CA decision to his secretary but somehow the secretary intercalated the subject phrase. He attached the affidavit of his secretary who admitted the shortcoming.
ISSUE: Whether or not Atty. Dacanay is guilty of dishonesty.
HELD: Yes. He was disbarred.
Atty. Dacanay cannot simply pass the blame to his secretary. For, how could the secretary have divined the phrase “without notice to the actual occupants of the property, Adez Realty,” without Atty. Dacanay dictating it word for word? Could it have been a providential mistake of the secretary as it was very material, and on which could have hinged the fate of a litigant’s cause? Whatever be the truth in this regard, Atty. Dacanay cannot elude administrative responsibility which borders on falsification of a judicial record to which, by his inveigling, he unfortunately drags his secretary. Indeed, by no means can he evade responsibility for the vicious intercalation as he admittedly dictated and signed the petition.
It is the bounden duty of lawyers to check, review and recheck the allegations in their pleadings, more particularly the quoted portions, and ensure that the statements therein are accurate and the reproductions faithful, down to the last word and even punctuation mark. The legal profession demands that lawyers thoroughly go over pleadings, motions and other documents dictated or prepared by them, typed or transcribed by their secretaries or clerks, before filing them with the court. If a client is bound by the acts of his counsel, with more reason should counsel be bound by the acts of his secretary who merely follows his orders.
Misquoting or intercalating phrases in the text of a court decision constitutes willful disregard of the lawyer’s solemn duty to act at all times in a manner consistent with the truth. A lawyer should never venture to mislead the court by false statements or quotations of facts or laws.
NOTE: In December 1995, after several letters from Atty. Dacanay expressing his acceptance of the penalty, his remorse, and his reformation, the SC lifted his disbarment. He may practice law upon payment of his fees