My father has sought the assistance of a lawyer regarding his land problem. The land is still under the name of my grandfather, but he passed away several years ago, so did my grandmother. My father wants to sell it so that we can use the money for his medication. My uncle (my father’s only sibling) said he has no problem if my father sells it, and my father can use all the money he will be getting from such sale.
The lawyer told my father that he can just execute a donation, making it appear that my grandfather donated it to him. My father does not feel right about it, but he was persuaded to such option because the process seemed faster and he can sell the property sooner at a lesser cost. My father paid P30,000.00 to the lawyer but, after that, he can no longer get hold of the lawyer, and he has not returned any of our calls. Can we file a complaint against him?
All lawyers are expected to know existing and pertinent laws, rules and regulations and be well-informed with legal jurisprudences as these form part of the law of the land. Such knowledge is vital in order for them to properly render legal services to their clients.
In the situation that you have presented before us, it appears that your father was not properly advised by his lawyer in accordance with the law. Clearly, a deed of donation can no longer be executed at this point given the fact that your grandfather had already passed away. To do so will entail falsifying a document. This is contrary to law. The proper remedy that should have been advised to him is the execution of an extra-judicial settlement of estate between him and his brother. This is because they are the only heirs left by your grandfather. In this manner, the subject property can be adequately settled, and ownership thereof, be lawfully transferred to the heirs. If your uncle is really amenable in giving up his supposed share in the estate, he may waive his rights thereto.
It also appears to be improper for the lawyer to demand payment of Thirty Thousand Pesos (P30,000.00) for an ill advice. Pursuant to Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility: “A lawyer shall uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect for law and legal process.” Furthermore, “(a) lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. A lawyer shall not counsel or abet activities aimed at defiance of the law or at lessening confidence in the legal system” (Rule 1.01 and 1.02, Ibid.).
For these reasons, a complaint for suspension or disbarment may be lodged against the lawyer who improperly advised your father. According to Section 27, Rule 138 of theRules of Court: “A member of the Bar may be disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any deceit, malpractice or other gross misconduct in such office, grossly immoral conduct or by reason of his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he is required to take before the admission to practice, or for a willful disobedience appearing as attorney for a party without authority to do so.”
We wish to emphasize the ruling of the Supreme Court that a lawyer “should advise his client to uphold the law, not to violate or disobey it. Conversely, he should not recommend to his client any recourse or remedy that is contrary to law, public policy, public order, and public morals” (Coronel v. Atty. Cunanan,A.C. No. 6738, August 12, 2015).
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
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