My friend, who happened to be a lawyer, got a loan from me for 2 million pesos to be paid in monthly installments for three years with interest. I sent her a demand letter after she failed to pay the loan, but the same was ignored. I used his cousin’s phone to call him, and he was informed of my intention to file a complaint against him, either civil or administrative. However, he said he could only be civilly liable since the transaction had nothing to do with his profession. I’m hesitant to file an administrative complaint against him because of what I’ve heard. May I know if he can be sanctioned for not having paid his debt from me?
Your friend’s refusal to pay his debt must be deemed willful or willful in order to constitute a violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility. This is in accordance with Rule 1.01(a) of said code, which states that “an attorney shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceptive conduct”.
Failure to pay the debt will not only make the lawyer liable under our civil laws, but he may be held liable administratively. This finds support in the case of Sosa vs Atty. Mendoza (AC 8776, March 25, 2015), where the Supreme Court, speaking through Associate Justice Arturo Brion, said that:
“This court held that any serious misconduct by a lawyer in the performance of his professional or private duties is grounds for imposing the penalty of suspension or disbarment because morality is an essential condition for the admission and Continuation of the practice of law Any misconduct, professional or non-professional, revealing an inaptitude for the profession justifies a disciplinary sanction.
Serious misconduct is defined as “improper or erroneous conduct, the transgression of an established and defined rule of action, a prohibited act, a breach of duty, of a willful nature, and involves a faulty intention and not a mere error of judgement”.
The court went further and said that:
“We considered that the willful non-payment of just debts constitutes a serious fault, for which a lawyer can be sanctioned by a suspension of the practice of law. Lawyers are instruments of the administration of justice and -guards of our legal system.They are expected to maintain not only legal competence but also a high standard of morality, honesty, integrity and loyalty so that the faith and trust of the people in the legal system is assured They must, at all times, faithfully discharge their duties to society, to the bar, to the courts and to their clients, which includes the prompt payment of financial obligations.They must conduct themselves in a manner that reflects the values and standards of the legal profession as embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility (emphasis added) xxx
We also reaffirm that –
[A] the lawyer can bring credit to the legal profession by faithfully discharging his duties to society, the bar, the courts and his clients. No moral qualification for membership in the bar is more important than truthfulness and candor. To this end, nothing should be done by any member of the legal fraternity which might tend to diminish in any degree the confidence of the public in the fidelity, honesty and integrity of the profession.”
Applying the above ruling to your situation, a lawyer’s willful refusal to pay their debt may constitute serious misconduct that may be grounds for suspension or disbarment. The court is clear on the fact that a lawyer can be sanctioned, whether his serious misconduct is committed in a professional or private capacity. Lawyers must at all times faithfully discharge their duties to society, the bar, the courts and their clients, which includes prompt payment of financial obligation.
We hope we were able to answer your questions. This advice is based solely on the facts you have related and our assessment of them. Our opinion may change when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily chronicle of the public ministry. Questions for Chef Acosta can be sent to [email protected]