Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence

Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 2005 > December 2005 Decisions > Adm. Case No. 6554 - Erlinda K. Ilusorio-Bildner v. Atty. Luis K. Lokin, Jr., et al. :

Adm. Case No. 6554 - Erlinda K. Ilusorio-Bildner v. Atty. Luis K. Lokin, Jr., et al.



[ADM. CASE NO. 6554 December 14, 2005]




On Petition for Review is the Resolution of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Board of Governors dismissing the disbarment complaint filed by Erlinda K. Ilusorio-Bildner (petitioner) against Atty. Luis Lokin, Jr. (respondent), docketed as CBD Case No. 02-984.

In her complaint against respondent, petitioner alleges that on July 15, 1991, her father, the late Potenciano Ilusorio (Ilusorio), engaged the services of the law office of Liwanag Raval Pilando Suplico and Lokin to represent him in the Sandiganbayan Civil Case No. 0009,1 "Republic of the Philippines v. Jose L. Africa, et al.," of which Ilusorio was one of the defendants.

In that civil case, the Republic was claiming, among other properties, shareholdings in Philippine Overseas Telecommunications Corporation (POTC) and Philippine Communications Satellite Corporation (PHILCOMSAT) 99% of the shares in the latter corporation of which appeared to be owned by POTC. Respondent, together with Attorneys Demaree Raval and Salvador Hizon, actively handled the case for Ilusorio.

While the case was pending, Ilusorio, with the assistance of the law firm of Raval and Lokin (successor to Liwanag Raval Pilando Suplico and Lokin), entered into a Compromise Agreement with the Republic which bore the imprimatur of the Sandiganbayan.2 Under the Compromise Agreement which, by petitioner's claim, constituted the full, comprehensive and final settlement of claims of the parties, the Republic was to get 4,727 POTC shares while Ilusorio was to get 673 POTC shares.

Petitioner alleges that during the special stockholders' meeting of PHILCOMSAT held on August 27, 1998 which was supposed to be a mere informal gathering to introduce the newly appointed government nominees for PHILCOMSAT to the private stockholders of POTC, the gathering, through the "high -

handed and deceitful maneuvers" of respondent, was suddenly and without notice transformed into a Special Stockholders Meeting at which directors and officers of PHILCOMSAT were elected.

Petitioner adds that Ilusorio contested the validity of the meeting by filing before the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) a complaint, docketed as SEC Case No. 09-98-6086, against Manuel Nieto, et al. who were purportedly elected directors and officers of PHILCOMSAT,3 in which SEC case respondent appeared as the counsel of Nieto, et al., contrary to his oath not to represent conflicting interests.

Ilusorio, together with Fidelity Farms, Inc. and Great Asia Enterprises, Inc., had earlier filed with the IBP a disbarment complaint against respondent on the same grounds as those raised in the present case. However, on account of the death of Ilusorio and the failure of his children, namely, Maximo Ilusorio, Sylvia Ilusorio, and petitioner, to establish their qualification to substitute for him, his complaint was dismissed. The dismissal having explicitly stated that it was without prejudice to the filing of a new complaint by Ilusorio's children or any person who knows of respondent's unethical acts, petitioner contends that her present complaint is not barred by such dismissal.

After hearing both parties, IBP Investigating Commissioner Milagros San Juan found merit in petitioner's complaint and recommended that respondent be suspended for three months.

By the now assailed Resolution of February 27, 2004, however, the IBP Board of Governors set aside the recommendation of Commissioner San Juan and dismissed the complaint.

No copy of the notice of resolution was served upon petitioner. Petitioner, nonetheless, learned about the recommendation of Commissioner San Juan and the setting aside thereof by the Board of Governors, prodding her to write a March 10, 2004 letter to the Board in her own name requesting "that the Board take up the matter once more" and asking for "the remanding of the case against Atty. Luis Lokin to the Board of Governors." In the same letter, petitioner stated that the very brief time it took the Board to review the case and resolve it in respondent's favor confirms the information she received that a former IBP official had been intervening for respondent.

By letter of April 16, 2004 bearing the signatures of all its members, the Board of Governors denied what it considered as petitioner's malicious and reckless allegations, stating that it was "constrained to deny [petitioner's] request for a remanding or a reconsideration of the case" as there was no provision for a reconsideration of any such case either in Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court or in the Rules of Procedure of the Commission on Bar Discipline.

Counsel for petitioner, Atty. Samuel Divina, then wrote a letter of July 19, 2004 to Atty. Jose Anselmo Cadiz, Chairman of the IBP Board of Governors and concurrently National President of the IBP, informing him that petitioner had not been notified of any final action on her complaint, and attaching thereto as further evidence a document for its consideration in the event that no such action had yet been taken.

Replying, the Board Chairman, by letter dated August 11, 2004, stated that the Board could no longer act on petitioner's July 19, 2004 letter, otherwise it would, in effect, be considering the letter as a motion for reconsideration which is not provided for by the rules of procedure for cases of the kind. And the Chairman referred petitioner's counsel to the Board's April 16, 2004 letter to her.

Atty. Divina thereupon sent a letter dated August 18, 2004 to Atty. Rogelio Vinluan, National Director for Bar Discipline of the IBP, requesting for a copy of the Notice of Resolution of the Board of Governors and of the Investigation Report of Commissioner San Juan, so that petitioner may appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

Atty. Divina later sent Atty. Vinluan another letter, dated August 27, 2004, stating that upon further reading of the August 11 letter of the IBP Board Chairman, it appeared that it was the Chairman's intention that the said letter be treated as a Notice of Resolution and, therefore, petitioner had until September 2, 2004 to file a Petition for Review (since the August 11 letter was received on August 17, 2004). Instead of asking for the Notice of Resolution as in his previous letter, Atty. Divina only requested in his August 24, 2004 letter for a copy of the Report and Recommendation of Commissioner San Juan and the record, if any, of the deliberations of the IBP indicating the basis for reversing her findings. This letter, according to petitioner, was simply ignored.

Petitioner thus filed the present petition on September 2, 2004 to which respondent has already filed his Comment.

Before delving into the merits of this case, the procedural issues raised by respondent against the petition will first be addressed.

Respondent contends that the petition was filed beyond the 15-day reglementary period, as petitioner should be deemed to have received notice of the challenged IBP resolution, not on August 17, 2004 when her counsel received the August 11, 2004 letter of the IBP Board Chairman, but on March 10, 2004 when she wrote the Board admitting having acquired knowledge of the reversal of Commissioner San Juan's recommendation. Hence, respondent claims, petitioner had only until March 25, 2004 to file a Petition for Review .

Respondent further contends that even on the assumption that the petition was timely filed, the same should be dismissed for being inappropriate and improper, it being based not on a resolution of the IBP Board, but merely on a letter of the IBP President, contrary to Section 12 of Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court which states:

x x x

(c) If the respondent is exonerated by the Board or the disciplinary sanction imposed by it is less than suspension or disbarment (such as admonition, reprimand, or fine) it shall issue a decision exonerating respondent or imposing such sanction. The case shall be deemed terminated unless upon petition of the complaint or other interested party filed with the Supreme Courtwithin fifteen (15) days from notice of the Board's resolution, the Supreme Court orders otherwise. (Underscoring supplied)ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

This Court finds that the letter of the Board Chairman to petitioner's counsel may not be deemed to be the notice of resolution required by above-quoted Section 12, Rule 139-B, paragraph (c). The notice of resolution referred to in said paragraph (c) refers not to an unofficial information that may be gathered by the parties, nor to any letter from the IBP Board Chairman or even of the Board, but to the official notice of resolution that is supposed to be issued by the Board, copy of which is given to all parties and transmitted to this Court. As paragraph (d) which immediately follows paragraph (c) states:

(d) Notice of the resolution or decision of the Board shall be given to all parties through their counsel. A copy of the same shall be transmitted to the Supreme Court.

In its Comment to the present petition, respondent IBP admits that no such notice has been sent to petitioner: "The Board has not to date issued the notice of resolution confirming the dismissal of CBD Case No. 02-984 for the reason that all the relevant records have yet to be completed for transmittal to the Supreme Court. The complainant will be formally furnished a copy of the resolution upon transmittal of the records to the Supreme Court."4

The IBP eventually transmitted to this Court on July 6, 2005 the Notice of Resolution. A copy was supposedly furnished the petitioner; however, the IBP has not submitted any proof of service.

Since no notice has been sent to petitioner, at least at the time this petition was filed, as the August 11, 2004 letter from the IBP Board Chairman cannot be deemed a notice of resolution, the present petition has been timely filed.

Parenthetically, the IBP Board Chairman erred when he stated that the Board may not act on motions for reconsideration as there is no provision for such motions under the rules of procedure for disbarment cases. For Pimentel, Jr. v. Atty. Llorente5 instructs:

x x x The question of whether a motion for reconsideration is a prohibited pleading or not under Rule 139-B, '12(c) has been settled in Halimao v. Villanueva, in which this Court held:

"Although Rule 139-B, '12(C) makes no mention of a motion for reconsideration, nothing in its text or in its history suggests that such motion is prohibited. It may therefore be filed within 15 days from notice to a party. Indeed, the filing of such motion should be encouraged before resort is made to this Court as a matter of exhaustion of administrative remedies, to afford the agency rendering the judgment an opportunity to correct any error it may have committed through a misapprehension of facts or misappreciation of the evidenced." (Underscoring supplied)ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

In another vein, respondent claims that the petition is premature as it is not based on a notice of resolution of the Board, hence, it should be dismissed for being inappropriate and improper.

While, generally, a party who desires to appeal from the IBP's dismissal of a disciplinary case should await the notice of resolution, it bears noting in this instance that the Board, despite issuing a resolution on the subject complaint on February 27, 2004, failed to send a notice of resolution to petitioner. As borne out by the IBP's statement noted earlier, there was still no notice to petitioner as of February 9, 2005 - almost one year after the dismissal of the subject complaint. The IBP has given no reason for the delay other than the nebulous explanation that records were still being completed. In view thereof, petitioner, who had already confirmed that her complaint was dismissed through a letter coming from the IBP Board Chairman, cannot be faulted for appealing to this Court notwithstanding the absence of an official notice of resolution.

Respondent also challenges the qualification of petitioner to file this case on the ground of her purported lack of personal knowledge of the facts alleged in the complaint. He invokes the resolution of the IBP in the prior disbarment case against him, where petitioner - who therein sought to be substituted in place of her deceased father - was held to be without the requisite personal knowledge to pursue the complaint.

Even granting arguendo that the earlier resolution "constitutes res judicata with respect to the finding that Petitioner does not possess personal knowledge of the facts and circumstances for which Respondent is sought to be administratively liable," personal knowledge is not a requisite for filing a disbarment complaint. Section 1, Rule 139-B states:

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 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 and underscoring supplied)ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

Clearly, personal knowledge is required, not of the complainant, but of her witnesses, if there are any. Oddly enough, the quotation of the same provision by the Investigating Commissioner who dismissed the earlier disciplinary case against respondent omitted the phrase "any person," making it appear that complainants must have personal knowledge of the facts they allege.6

Moreover, the ruling of this Court in Navarro v. Meneses III7 bears reiteration:

The argument of respondent that complainant has no legal personality to sue him is unavailing. Section 1, Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court provides that proceedings for the disbarment, suspension, or discipline of attorneys may be taken by the Supreme Court motu proprio or by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines upon the verified complaint of any person. The right to institute a disbarment proceeding is not confined to clients nor is it necessary that the person complaining suffered injury from the alleged wrongdoing. Disbarment proceedings are matters of public interest and the only basis for judgment is the proof or failure of proof of the charges. The evidence submitted by complainant before the Commission on Bar Discipline sufficed to sustain its resolution and recommended sanctions. (Underscoring supplied)ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

While this Court notes petitioner's claim that she herself has personal knowledge of the facts alleged in her complaint, a ruling on such allegation is unnecessary in light of the foregoing discussion.

Segueing to the merits of the petition, respondent admits that his firm represented Ilusorio in Sandiganbayan Case No. 0098 and that he represented Manuel Nieto, Jr. and Lourdes Africa in SEC Case No. 09-98-6086.9 The Court notes, however, that besides Nieto and Africa, respondent represented Salvador Hizon as well, as indicated in his Memorandum submitted to the SEC10 and as found by the Committee on Professional Responsibility, Discipline and Disbarment of the IBP.11

Notwithstanding his acknowledged involvement in both the Sandiganbayan and SEC cases, respondent denies that he was guilty of representing conflicting interests, he proffering that, in the first place, the case of Ilusorio in the Sandiganbayan "has been the personal account of Atty. Raval, separate and apart from the accounts of the law partnership." Not only is this claim unsubstantiated, however. It is contradicted by respondent's own evidence and statements.

Thus, respondent attached to his Comment to the present petition documentary evidence consisting of, among other things, two letters to the PCGG, in one of which he signed on behalf of his firm, and in the other his name appeared as counsel on behalf of his firm.12 The subject of both letters was the then pending negotiations between the PCGG and Ilusorio who was therein identified as the client of respondent's firm. In connection with these letters, respondent claims: "If by chance the signature of the Respondent appears on some correspondences, it is only because Respondent, in good faith, accommodated Atty. Raval upon the latter's request who, as then Deputy Secretary of the Senate of the Philippines, is not authorized to engage in the private practice."13 Besides being a flimsy excuse by itself, this claim of respondent, being an acknowledgment that he signed correspondences with the PCGG pertaining to the Ilusorio case, only shows that both he and Atty. Raval collaborated on said case.

Furthermore, as earlier noted, respondent has stated that Ilusorio was represented by his firm in the Sandiganbayan case.14 In light thereof, respondent was personally barred by the rules of ethics from representing an interest contrary to that earlier espoused by his firm. So this Court held in Hilado v. David:15

x x x If this letter was written under the circumstances explained by Attorney Franciso and he was unaware of its contents, the fact remains that his firm did give Mrs. Hilado a formal professional advice from which, as heretofore demonstrated, emerged the relation of attorney and client. This letter binds and estops him in the same manner and to the same degree as if he personally had written it. An information obtained from a client by a member or assistant of a law firm is information imparted to the firm. This is not a mere fiction or an arbitrary rule; for such member or assistant, as in our case, not only acts in the name and interest of the firm, but his information, by the nature of his connection with
the firm is available to his associates or employers
. x x x (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

Respondent denies, however, representing conflicting interests on the ground that SB Case No. 009 and SEC Case No. 09-98-6086 are totally distinct from each other. He attempts to distinguish them as follows:

36. SB Case No. 009, initiated by the PCGG before the Sandiganbayan is totally distinct and separate, and has no relation at all to SEC Case No. 09-98-6086. Said cases involve different parties and causes of action.

37. In Sandiganbayan Case No. 009, the opposing parties are the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) as plaintiff; Atty. Potenciano Ilusorio, as Defendant and Third party Plaintiff; and Independent Realty Corporation (IRC) and Mid-Pasig Land Development Corp. (MLDC).

38. The subject matter in SB Case No. 009 are shares owned by the National Government, through IRC and MLDC, in the Philippine Overseas Telecommunications Corporation (POTC).

39. SEC Case No. 09-98-6086 involves a dispute regarding the PHILCOMSAT election of its Board of Directors and corporate officers.16

The foregoing explanation fails to mention, however, that Ilusorio, a defendant in the Sandiganbayan case, was one of the petitioners in the SEC case, and that among the grounds Ilusorio relied upon in his petition in the SEC was the existence of the Compromise Agreement in the Sandiganbayan, which vested in him ownership and voting rights corresponding to 673 POTC shares.17

Nowhere is the conflict of interest clearer than in respondent's Memorandum dated September 28, 1998 filed with the SEC wherein he argued in behalf of Nieto, et al. as follows:

A continued exercise of jurisdiction and a subsequent disposition of the instant Petition by this Honorable Commission would pre-empt the resolution by the Sandiganbayan of the disputed shares. It would in fact affirm the ownership by the Petitioners of the said shares subject of the Sandiganbayan case. This Petition is a premature action to enforce the Compromise Agreement entered into by Mr. Ilusorio. Clearly, this is beyond the jurisdiction of this Honorable Commission. Any right to be derived from the Compromise Agreement is clearly inchoate at this point in time.18 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

Plainly, when respondent represented Nieto, et al. in the SEC, he was advocating an interest hostile to the implementation of the same Compromise Agreement that he had priorly negotiated for Ilusorio.

The Board thus erred when, while acknowledging that Ilusorio was represented by respondent's firm in his negotiations with the PCGG, it nonetheless maintained that there was no conflict of interest upon a finding that the subsequent SEC case "did not in any way involve the validity of the compromise agreement forged with the PCGG."19

WHEREFORE, the Resolution of the IBP Board of Governors dated February 27, 2004 is SET ASIDE. Respondent Luis K. Lokin, Jr. is found guilty of violating Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of Three (3) Months, with WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar offense shall be dealt with more severely.




2 Ilusorio's Petition in SEC Case No. 09-98-6086 states that the Compromise Agreement was approved on June 8, 1998 (Rollo at 111). Respondent's Memorandum in the same case likewise states that the Sandiganbayan approved the Agreement, but that there was a pending motion to vacate the order (Rollo at 124).


4 Rollo at 383-384.

5 393 Phil. 544, 550-551 (2000).

6 Commissioner Pedro Magpayo, Jr. quotes Section 1, Rule 139-B as follows:

"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 and shall be supported by affidavit, of persons having personal knowledge of the facts therein alleged and/or by such documents as may substantiate said facts." (Rollo at 362, emphasis and underscoring supplied)

7 285 SCRA 586, 592-593 (1998).

8 Respondent states in his Comment: "x x x the position that he [respondent] took in the SEC case has no relation or connection at all to the position that his Firm espoused in SB Case No. 009 in representation of Atty. Ilusorio." (Rollo at 347, underscoring supplied).

9 The Respondent states in his Answer (With Motion to Dismiss): "When the Respondent represented Manuel H. Nieto, Jr. and Lourdes Africa against the renegade faction of the Ilusorio family, the representation was in relation to the August 27, 1998 Special Stockholders' Meeting of PHILCOMSAT wherein the Respondent has an interest to protect xxx" (IBP Rollo at 105).

10 Rollo at 129.

11 Id. at 851-852, Vol. 2.

12 Id. at 366-368, Vol. 1.

13 Id. at 350-351, Vol. 1.

14 Vide note 8.

15 84 PHIL 569, 580 (1949).

16 Rollo at 345-346, Vol. 1.

17 Id. at 111-112.

18 Id. at 126.

19 Id. at 384.

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  • G.R. No. 160214 - Gaudencia Navarro Vda. De Taroma, et al. v. Sps. Felino N. Taroma, et al.

  • G.R. No. 161640 - Samson B. Bedruz, et al. v. The Honorable Sandigabayan, et al.

  • G.R. NOS. 160577-94 - Gregorio Singian, Jr. v. The Honorable Sandiganbayan, et al.

  • G.R. No. 161756 - Victoria J. Ilano, et al. v. Hon. Dolores L. Espa ol, et al.

  • G.R. No. 162277 - Corazon Suyat, et al. v. Hon. Annie Gonzales-Tesoro, Director of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Baguio Extension Office, et al.

  • G.R. No. 162850 - Maxi Security and Detective Agency, et al. v. National Labor Relations Commission, et al.

  • G.R. No. 163569 - Philippine Radiant Products, Inc., et al. v. Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company.

  • G.R. NOS. 162335 & 162605 - Severino M. Manotok IV, et al. v. Heirs of Homer L. Barque, et al.

  • G.R. No. 163994 - Eastworld Motor Industries Corporation, et al. v. Skunac Corporation, et al.

  • G.R. No. 163593 - Preferred Home Specialties Inc., et al. v. Court of Appeals, et al.

  • G.R. No. 165811 - DAP Corporation, et al. v. Court of Appeals, et al.

  • G.R. NOS. 166299-300 - Aurelio K. Litonjua Jr., v. Eduardo K. Litonjua, Sr., et al.

  • G.R. No. 166993 - DSM Construction and Development Corporation v. Court of Appeals, et al.

  • G.R. No. 167025 - Herminio C. Principio v. The Hon. Oscar Barrientos, in his capacity as Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 26.

  • G.R. No. 167136 - Durban Apartments Corporation, et al. v. Miguel Geraldito R. Catacutan, et al.

  • G.R. No. 166429 - Republic of the Philippines, et al. v. Hon. Henrick F. Gingoyon, et al.

  • G.R. No. 167385 - Jesus B. Lopez v. National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) Second Division, et al.

  • G.R. No. 167631 - Jenette Marie B. Crisologo v. Globe Telecom Inc., et al.

  • G.R. No. 167762 - Batangas State University v. Nestor Bonifacio.

  • G.R. NOS. 168194 - San Miguel Corporation v. Caroline C. del Rosario.