SC disbars Mandaue legal exec for abandoning family, living with mistress

SC disbars Mandaue legal exec for abandoning family, living with mistress

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The Supreme Court (SC) has disbarred Mandaue City assistant legal officer Eliseo Ceniza, Jr., for abandoning his family and living with his mistress who is a married woman herself.

In a recent 14-page decision, the SC found Eliseo guilty of gross immorality in violation of Rules 1.01 and 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. It ordered his name stricken off the roll of attorneys.

The SC disagreed with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines’ (IBP) dismissal of the complaint filed by Eliseo’s estranged wife Amalia.

The couple were married in 1989. Amalia said that in April 2008, Eliseo left their home in Cebu City and took their car while she was attending to some business in General Santos City.

In May 2008, Amalia learned from Eliseo’s staff that he had been carrying on an affair with Anna Fe Binoya. She met Anna’s sister, who informed her that the illicit lovers had been living together with Eliseo being described as a “second husband.”

Acting on Amalia’s administrative complaint, the Ombudsman in August 2011 ordered Eliseo’s six-month suspension for disgraceful and immoral conduct.

The SC gave more weight to the Ombudsman’s findings than to the recommendation of IBP Investigating Commissioner Salvador Hababag to dismiss the case.

It reiterated the Ombudsman’s findings based on photographs and witness testimonies regarding Eliseo and Anna’s cohabitation, which debunked the abogado’s claim that they were merely business associates.

“There is no question that a married person’s abandonment of his or her spouse in order to live and cohabit with another constitutes immorality. The offense may even be criminal—either as concubinage or as adultery,” noted the decision.

The SC rejected Eliseo’s argument that the evidence was mostly circumstantial and based on mere indications that they were living together. It noted that Eliseo failed to “present proof that he or she still maintains the degree of integrity and morality expected of him or her at all times.”

It noted that one of Eliseo’s children even attempted suicide out of despair.

Although this was a matter involving Eliseo’s private life, the SC said it had “exhorted all lawyers to always conduct themselves in a manner as to avoid scandalizing the public by creating the belief that they are flouting the moral standards of the legal profession.”

“By his scandalous and highly immoral conduct, therefore, the respondent showed that he did not possess the requisite good moral character needed for the continued practice of law. He deserves the extreme penalty of disbarment,” read the per curiam decision.

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