What makes a complaint against a lawyer (for disbarment or disciplinary action) or a member of the judiciary valid?
The case of Re: Complaints Against a certain Atty. Cajayon and Judge Lantion of the Court of Appeals Cagayan de Oro (A.M. No. 16-12-03-CA, June 6, 2017), penned by Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, is instructive:
“Under the Rules of Court, administrative complaints both against lawyers and judges of regular and special courts as well as Justices of the Court of Appeals and the Sandiganbayan must be verified and supported by affidavits of persons who have personal knowledge of the facts alleged therein or by documents which may substantiate said allegations.
“For lawyers, these requirements are stated in Section 1, Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court:
SECTION 1. How Instituted. -Proceedings for the disbarment, suspension or discipline of attorneys may be taken by the Supreme Court motu propio, or by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) upon the verified complaint of any person. The complaint shall state clearly and concisely the facts complained of and shall be supported by affidavits of persons having personal knowledge of the facts therein alleged and/or by such documents as may substantiate said facts. (Emphasis supplied)
“Meanwhile, for judges and Justices of the Court of Appeals and the Sandiganbayan, the requirements are found in Section 1, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court:
SECTION 1. How instituted. – Proceedings for the discipline of judges of regular and special courts and Justices of the Court of Appeals and the Sandiganbayan may be instituted motu proprio by the Supreme Court or upon a verified complaint, supported by affidavits of persons who have personal knowledge of the facts alleged therein or by documents which may substantiate said allegations, or upon an anonymous complaint, supported by public records of indubitable integrity. The complaint shall be in writing and shall state clearly and concisely the acts and omissions constituting violations of standards of conduct prescribed for judges by law, the Rules of Courts or the Code of Judicial Conduct.
In this relation, Section 2 of Rule 140 states:
SECTION 2. Action on the complaint. -If the complaint is sufficient in form and substance, a copy thereof shall be served upon the respondent, and he shall be required to comment within ten (10) days from the date of service. Otherwise, the same shall be dismissed.” (Emphasis supplied)
In order for a complaint against lawyers, judges or justices to be valid, the same must be made through a verified complaint–which is an affidavit or document duly notarized, attesting to facts to which he or she has personal knowledge of and is supported by the affidavits of his or her witnesses and/or other authentic documents as evidence. Failure to comply with the formal and substantive requirements, a complaint against a lawyer, judge or justice, may be dismissed.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.