Tuesday 22 January, 2019
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SC disbars Lipa City Administrator for duping client with fake annulment ruling

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The Supreme Court (SC) has disbarred abogado Leo Latido, the city administrator of Lipa City, Batangas, for deceiving his client with a fake annulment ruling—dashing the latter’s hopes of remarrying and migrating to Australia.

In a recent 10-page en banc decision, the SC ordered Latido’s name to be “immediately” stricken off the roll of attorneys for violating Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Complainant Vicente Ferrer Billanes alleged that in 2009, Latido informed him that the Ballesteros, Cagayan, Regional Trial Court (RTC) ruled in favor of his annulment petition. Billanes expressed doubt since he was a resident of Lipa City, Batangas, but Latido supposedly assured him that non-appearance in annulment cases was allowed.

Latido even caused the annotation of the RTC decision on Billanes’s marriage contract, and assisted him in the celebration of his marriage to an Australian national in September 2011.

However, the Australian Embassy rejected Billanes’s visa application and informed him in January 2012 that the RTC decision was fraudulent. This prompted him to check before the Ballesteros court, which confirmed that the signatures in the purported ruling were fake.

Latido denied taking part in Billanes’s annulment case and said he referred him to another lawyer. The abogado claimed he only took care of the annotation of the RTC decision, handled the appeal on the denial of the visa application, and voluntarily shouldered P108,000 in legal expenses out of a sense of obligation.

The SC, however, found Latido’s version unbelievable since it “goes against the grain of ordinary human experience for respondent to feel so obligated and exert such magnanimous efforts if his only participation was to refer complainant’s case to another lawyer.”

It questioned why a lawyer who already begged off from rendering services to a client “suddenly re-entered the picture and admittedly took upon the task of fixing complainant’s consequential affairs.”

“Instead, it is more reasonable to conclude that respondent went to such great lengths for complainant because he was the one who actually handled the latter’s annulment case since its very inception and hence, responsible for any impropriety attending the same,” read the decision.

The SC added that Latido “presented no proof at all” that Billanes engaged the services of another lawyer, and noted the complainant had “no motive at all” to implicate him.

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