By Gabrielle Martina L. Diaz JD1
Lawyers are authorities of the Court, tasked to uphold the law of the land and defend the people who ask for their guidance and expertise. In the practice of this profession, lawyers are expected to perform and conduct themselves in a way that will preserve the dignity and integrity of the justice system of the Philippines. As such, the Code of Professional Responsibility is to be observed by every practicing member of the bar as their actions can also influence how the public regards not only lawyers, but also the Courts and its members.
One of the Canons to be followed by members of the bar is Canon 8, which states that: “A lawyer shall conduct himself with courtesy, fairness and candor towards his professional colleagues, and shall avoid harassing tactics against opposing counsel.” This is one of the simplest conduct a lawyer can follow. If one has any morals as a person, this should already be inherent. Courtesy for others show that a person can respect, care and be understanding toward others. It is a sign that one does not see themselves above anyone else. Fairness, on the other hand, means being open to all, not just being rigid with one’s thoughts or ideals and not prone to bias. It is giving others equal opportunity to be heard, it is being reasonable at times of potential defeat, and holds no grudges nor bad faith toward fellow practitioners of the law. Lastly, candor, or being honest to oneself and others, means to always speak the truth even if it can be unfavorable to himself. It is allowing yourself to give way to justice. There are many moments when one’s capacity to be polite, just and honest gets tested and it is remembering this canon that a lawyer can right and improve themselves.
When lawyers are engaged in conversation, whether in public or private, they should not employ words that would be hurtful or cause unjust injury to the other. Such behaviour is unbefitting of the dignity of the legal profession and is subject to administrative sanction by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and even the Supreme Court. As in the case of Maximo Noble III vs. Atty. Orlando Ailes [A.C. No. 01625, July 01, 2015], the latter was found guilty of violating Canon 8 as he maligned Noble by using offensive and demeaning language in describing him through texts addressed to his brother in a private conversation. Noble was also a lawyer himself and was the lawyer of Ailes’s brother in a previous case. The Court held that despite the conversation being private between the brothers, Ailes’s conduct was unbecoming of a member of the bar as there was a clear intention to malign and annoy the petitioner.
In the case of Atty. Herminio Harry L. Roque Jr. vs. Atty. Rizal B. Balbin [A.C. No. 7088, December 04, 2018], the Court found the respondent guilty of violating Canon 8 by committing acts amounting to harassment towards his opposing counsel. Instead of processing his grievances regarding the decision of their previous case through the proper channels, he resorted to intimidation, blackmailing, and threats of purported administrative and criminal cases to be filed against the petitioner. These were found to be acts committed in the spirit of revenge for the inconvenience suffered by respondent Balbin’s client. It is apparent that these acts were very disrespectful, unbecoming and against the canons that should be followed by those deemed worthy to continue practicing the legal profession.
A will to do good, and always be good should already be instilled in everyone, within or without the law. By being courteous, fair and having candor in one’s everyday life provides for a healthy community. This also allows for justice to be served swiftly and effectively. Thus, the importance of striving to become persons of good moral conduct should always be consciously sought by those in the legal profession.
Roque, Herminio L. Jr. vs. Balbin, Rizal (A.C. No. 7088, December 04, 2018) http://www.chanrobles.com/cralaw/2018decemberdecisions.php?id=1139
Noble, Maximo III vs. Ailes, Orlando O. (A.C. No. 7088, December 04, 2018)