SC disbars lawyer for telling client that he can bribe a judge for a TRO

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The Supreme Court has disbarred a lawyer for telling his client that he can bribe the judge in a civil case pending before a Parañaque City court.

In an en banc decision penned by Associate Justice Francis H. Jardeleza, disbarred from the practice of law was Atty. Jose A. Diño, Jr.

Records showed that after filing a civil case before the Parañaque regional trial court on September 5, 2006, Diño informed Ma. Cecila G. Roque, vice-president of the Vantage Lighting Philippines, that she need to pay P150,000.00 to the judge for the issuance of a temporary restraining order.

Diño initially received the amount of of P20,000.00 from Roque and Vantage believing that it was for a legitimate legal expense or fee.

As the TRO was eventually issued, Diño immediately sought reimbursement from Roque and Vantage of the additional expenses which he supposedly incurred, including the amount of P130,000.00 he claimed to have been given to “fixers” as alleged payment to the judge.

When Roque told Diño that she will relay the matter to the management of Vantage, Diño was outraged, prompting the latter to
withdraw as counsel of Vantage and sent a formal billing statement. When the bill remained unsettled, Diño filed several harassment complaints, both criminal and civil, against Vantage and Roque

On January 2007, Vantage and Roque filed a verified disbarment complaint against Diño before the SC and the same was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for investigation, report, and recommendation.

Complainants Roque and Vantage argued that: 1.) The groundless suits and actions filed by Diño are sufficient justifications to disbar him from the legal profession for gross misconduct; 2.) Diño violated Rule 20.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility when he filed several cases against complainants instead of settling with them his financial concerns, among other grounds.

On March 20, 2013, the IBP board unanimously adopted and approved with modifications the report and recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner, and recommended the suspension of Diño from the practice of law for a year.

However, the SC did not agree with the recommended penalty of the IBP on Diño. According to the High Court, Diño was guilty of gross misconduct for filing vexatious suits against his clients and their counsel.

The Court also agreed with the findings of the IBP that Diño tainted the image of the judiciary by claiming that the P150,000.00 to be collected from Vantage and Roque will be used to facilitate the issuance of the TRO.

By claiming to complainants that he can secure the issuance of a TRO by bribing the judge P150,000.00, Atty. Diño violated Canon 13 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

“As an officer of the court, Atty., Diño has a paramount duty to protect the court’s integrity and to assist it in the administration of justice according to law. He should not espouse a belief that the judicial system can be bought nor propagate such belief. Unfortunately, instead of relying on the merits of his client’s cause, Atty. Diño represented to his clients that the judicial system can be bribed. This inexcusable, shameful and flagrant unlawful conduct alone of Atty. Diño constituted gross misconduct,” the SC said.

The SC said that this disbarment case is a warning to all lawyers that it will treat seriously any imputation that would harm the integrity of the judicial system.

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