SC bars Northern Samar mayor from office, says condonation doctrine applies only when invoked

SC suspends abogado for one year for abusing legal knowledge versus tenant

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The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the one-year suspension of abogado Joseph John Gerald Aguas for taking advantage of his legal knowledge to secure undue gains from a tenant who claimed to have entered into a verbal contract to buy the property.

In a recent 8-page decision, the SC 3rd Division found Aguas guilty of violation of Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR), which provides that “a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.”

The case arose from the complaint of longtime tenant Paz Sanidad, who alleged that Aguas in 2001 verbally agreed to sell to her the residence she leased in Batasan Hills, Quezon City, for P1.5 million.

Although Sanidad had deposited 10 installments totaling P1.152 million by 2011, Aguas allegedly sent her demand letters for supposed unpaid rent and threatened to evict her from the residence.

Aguas claimed Sanidad’s lease had long lapsed and her occupation was only by mere tolerance. But in July 2014, the lawyer informed the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) that he settled a related civil case by turning over the title without receiving a single centavo as payment.

The SC found Sanidad’s deposit slips to be substantial evidence of the verbal contract, and the amounts were too substantial to be mere rent payments as Aguas claimed.

It noted that Aguas’s voluntary decision to turn over the title was “outright outrageous” and inconsistent with his claims and denials.

The SC faulted the lawyer for not issuing acknowledgment receipts for the bank deposits and for using the lack of a written contract to threaten Sanidad with eviction despite her payments.

“The interest of Sanidad, as buyer or lessee, as the case may be, was left fully unprotected,” noted the decision penned by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta.

“Clearly, respondent [Aguas] failed to live up to the high standard of morality, honesty, integrity, and fair dealing required of him as a member of the legal profession. Instead, he employed his knowledge and skill ofthe law and took advantage of Sanidad to secure undue gains for himself,” it added.

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