«. 3l\epublic of tbe ~bilippineg j,uprtme QCourt ;fftilantla EN BANC A.C. No.10207 RE: DECISION DATED 17 MARCH 2011 IN CRIMINAL CASE NO. SB-28361 ...»
3l\epublic of tbe ~bilippineg
RE: DECISION DATED 17 MARCH 2011
IN CRIMINAL CASE NO. SB-28361
ENTITLED "PEOPLE OF THE Present:
PHILIPPINES VS. JOSELITO C.
SERENO, C.J., *
CARPIO, Acting C.J., **
PEREZ, MENDOZA, REYES*** ' PERLAS-BERNABE, LEONEN,and JARDELEZA, JJ.
FORMER ASSISTANT PROSECUTOR
JOSELITO C. BARROZO, Promulgated:
Respondent. July 21, 2015 x--------------------------------------~~~~ DECISION
This disbarment case against former Assistant Public Prosecutor Joselito C.
Barrozo (respondent) is taken up by this Court motu proprio by virtue of its power to discipline members of the bar under Section 1 Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court.
Per Special Order No. 2101 dated July 13, 2015.
•• PerSpecialOrderNo.2101 dated July 13,2015.
••• PerSpecialOrderNo.2112datedJuly 16,2015.
Section 1. How instituted - Proceedings for disbarment, suspension or discipline of attorneys may be taken by the Supreme Court motu proprio, or by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) upon the verified complaint of any
Factual Antecedents Jennie Valeriano (Valeriano) was a respondent in several cases for estafa and violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 222 which were assigned to respondent as Assistant Public Prosecutor of Dagupan City, Pangasinan. According to Valeriano, respondent told her that he would resolve the cases in her favor in exchange for 20,000.00. Hence, Valeriano went to the Office of Regional State Prosecutor to report the matter. The Regional State Prosecutor introduced her to agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), who, after being told of respondent’s demand, immediately planned an entrapment operation. During the operation conducted on February 15, 2005, respondent was caught red-handed by the NBI agents receiving the amount of 20,000.00 from Valeriano.
As a result, a case for direct bribery3 under paragraph 2, Article 210 of the Revised Penal Code was filed against respondent before the Regional Trial Court of Dagupan City. The case, however, was later on indorsed to the Sandiganbayan as respondent was occupying a position with a salary grade of 27 or higher.
After finding the existence of all the elements4 of the crime, the Sandiganbayan, in a Decision5 dated March 17, 2011, found respondent guilty beyond reasonable doubt of direct bribery and sentenced him to suffer the indeterminate penalty of four (4) years, two (2) months and one (1) day of prision correccional maximum, as minimum, to nine (9) years, four (4) months and one An Act Penalizing the Making or Drawing and Issuance of a Check Without Sufficient Funds or Credit and for Other Purposes.
Art. 210. Direct bribery. — Any public officer who shall agree to perform an act constituting a crime, in connection with the performance of his official duties, in consideration of any offer, promise, gift or present received by such officer, personally or through the mediation of another, shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its medium and maximum periods and a fine of not less than the value of the gift and not less than three times the value of the gift in addition to the penalty corresponding to the crime agreed upon, if the same shall have been committed.
If the gift was accepted by the officer in consideration of the execution of an act which does not constitute a crime, and the officer executed said act, he shall suffer the same penalty provided in the preceding paragraph; and if said act shall not have been accomplished, the officer shall suffer the penalties of prision correccional, in its medium period and a fine of not less than twice the value of such gift.
If the object for which the gift was received or promised was to make the public officer refrain from doing something which it was his official duty to do, he shall suffer the penalties of prision correccional in its maximum period and a fine of not less than the value of the gift and not less than three times the value of such gift.
In addition to the penalties provided in the preceding paragraphs, the culprit shall suffer the penalty of special temporary disqualification.
The provisions contained in the preceding paragraphs shall be made applicable to assessors, arbitrators, appraisal and claim commissioners, experts or any other persons performing public duties.
Elements of Direct Bribery:
(1) that the accused is a public officer;
(2) that he received directly or through another some gift or present, offer or promise;
(3) that such gift, present or promise has been given in consideration of his commission of some crime, or any act not constituting a crime or to refrain from doing something which is his official duty to do; and (4) that the crime or act relates to the exercise of his functions as a public officer; Balderama v. People, 566 Phil. 412, 419 (2008).
Rollo, pp. 94-123; penned by Associate Justice Maria Cristina J. Cornejo and concurred in by Associate Justices Gregory S. Ong and Jose R. Hernandez.
Decision A.C. No. 10207 (1) day of prision mayor medium, as maximum, and to pay a fine of 60,000.00.
In addition, it imposed upon him the penalty of special temporary disqualification.
Respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration6 (MR) but was denied in a Resolution7 dated September 28, 2011.
Undeterred, respondent filed a Petition for Review on Certiorari8 before this Court but was denied in a Resolution9 dated December 14, 2011 on the ground that the Petition failed to sufficiently show that the Sandiganbayan committed any reversible error in its challenged issuances as to warrant the exercise of the Court’s discretionary appellate jurisdiction. Respondent thrice moved for reconsideration.10 The first two MRs were denied,11 while the third one was ordered expunged from the records.12 Subsequently, an Entry of Judgment13 was issued stating that the Court’s Resolution of denial had already become final and executory on August 16, 2012.
In October 2013, the Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC) received a letter14 dated August 14, 2013 from Wat & Co. of Hong Kong stating that its client in Hong Kong received a letter from the Philippines signed by “Atty. Joselito C.
Barrozo,” asking for long service payment from the employers of domestic helper Anita G. Calub who passed away on March 4, 2013. Upon checking online and discovering that said person was convicted of direct bribery, Wat & Co. requested the OBC to inform it if respondent is still a lawyer qualified to practice law.
Prompted by Wat & Co.’s letter, the OBC inquired from the Department of Justice (DOJ) whether respondent is still connected thereat.15 In reply, the DOJ informed OBC that respondent had already resigned from his position effective May 3, 2005.16 On November 15, 2012, OBC wrote Wat & Co. to confirm that respondent was indeed convicted of direct bribery by final judgment and that the Philippine Court has yet to rule on his disbarment.
In view of the foregoing and considering that respondent’s conviction is a ground for disbarment from the practice of law under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, the Court through a Resolution17 dated December 11, 2013 required respondent to comment on why he should not be suspended/disbarred from the practice of law.
In his Comment18 respondent identified the issue in this case as whether he can engage in the practice of law despite his conviction. He then argued that he did not engage in the practice of law as his act of signing the claim letter does not constitute such practice. He averred that he signed it not for any monetary consideration, but out of his sincere desire to help the claimants. And since there is no payment involved, no lawyer-client relationship was established between him and the claimants. This therefore negates practice of law on his part.
Subsequently, upon Order of the Court, the OBC evaluated the case and came up with its February 20, 2015 Report and Recommendation19 recommending the disbarment of respondent.
The Court adopts the OBC’s recommendation.
It must first be clarified that the issue in this case is not what respondent essentially argued about in his Comment, i.e., whether his act of signing the claim letter constitutes practice of law. As aptly stated by the OBC in its recommendation and viewed from proper perspective, the real issue here is whether respondent should be suspended or disbarred by reason of his conviction of the crime of direct bribery. Hence, the Court finds respondent’s Comment to be totally without merit as he veered away, whether wittingly or unwittingly, from the crux of the controversy in this case.
Under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, one of the grounds for the suspension or disbarment of a lawyer is his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude. And with the finality of respondent’s conviction for direct bribery, the next question that needs to be answered is whether direct bribery is a crime that involves moral turpitude.
duties which a man owes his fellowmen, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and woman, or conduct contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals.”20 In Catalan, Jr. v. Silvosa,21 the Court already had the occasion to answer
the same question posed in this case, viz:
Moral turpitude is defined as an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private duties which a man owes to his fellowmen, or to society in general, contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals. Section 27, Rule 138
Clearly, direct bribery is a crime involving moral turpitude which, as mentioned, is a ground for the suspension or disbarment of a lawyer from his office as an attorney.
The Court is mindful that a lawyer’s conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude does not automatically call for the imposition of the supreme penalty of disbarment since it may, in its discretion, choose to impose the less severe penalty of suspension. As held, “the determination of whether an attorney should be disbarred or merely suspended for a period involves the exercise of sound judicial discretion.”24 Here, however, the circumstances surrounding the case constrain the Court to impose the penalty of disbarment as recommended by the OBC.
It must be recalled that at the time of the commission of the crime, respondent was an Assistant Public Prosecutor of the City of Dagupan. His act therefore of extorting money from a party to a case handled by him does not only violate the requirement that cases must be decided based on the merits of the parties’ respective evidence but also lessens the people’s confidence in the rule of law. Indeed – Respondent’s conduct in office fell short of the integrity and good moral character required of all lawyers, specially one occupying a public office.
Lawyers in public office are expected not only to refrain from any act or omission which tend to lessen the trust and confidence of the citizenry in government but also uphold the dignity of the legal profession at all times and observe a high standard of honesty and fair dealing. A government lawyer is a keeper of public faith and is burdened with a high degree of social responsibility, higher than his brethren in private practice.25 Hence, for committing a crime which does not only show his disregard of his oath as a government official but is likewise of such a nature as to negatively affect his qualification as a lawyer, respondent must be disbarred from his office as an attorney.
The purpose of a proceeding for disbarment is to protect the administration of justice by requiring that those who exercise this important function be competent, honorable and reliable - lawyers in whom courts and [the public at large] may repose confidence. Thus, whenever a clear case of degenerate and vile behavior disturbs that vital yet fragile confidence, [the Court] shall not hesitate to rid [the] profession of odious members.26 WHEREFORE, Atty. Joselito C. Barrow is hereby DISBARRED and his name is ORDERED STRICKEN from the Roll of Attorneys. Let a copy of this Decision be attached to his personal records and furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of the Court Administrator for circulation to all courts in the country.