MANILA (PNA) — The Supreme Court (SC) has suspended a lawyer for malpractice and negligence.
“A lawyer who proposes to his client a recourse or remedy that is contrary to law, public policy, public order and public morals, or that lessens the public confidence in the legal system is guilty of gross misconduct, and should be suspended from the practice of law, or even disbarred.”
Thus stressed the SC in its ruling written by Associate Justice Lucas P. Bersamin that suspended Atty. Nelson A. Cunanan from the practice of law for one year for malpractice and negligence.
The SC also ordered Cunanan to return to Gabriela Coronel the PHP70,000 the latter had paid for the transfer of certificates of title to her name.
Coronel engaged the services of Cunanan for the transfer of certificates of title registered in the name of her deceased grandparents to her name and to the names of her co-heirs.
Cunanan advised Coronel that the transfer may be effected by two means, the “ordinary procedure” and “direct registration”.
According to him, “ordinary procedure” involves the transfer of the titles as mandated by law and registration with the Register of Deeds (RD), which will cost an estimated P56,000, P50,000 of which, will be spent for the payment of taxes, and would take a period of at least five months, while “direct registration” involves preparing documents upon the advise of the RD and will involve an estimated cost to be negotiated with the RD officials or employees at a flat amount of P50,000, and would take only one month or less.
Agreeing on the “direct registration” approach, Cunanan billed Coronel the following fees: PHP50,000 as package deal for one of the titles; another PHP50,000 as package deal for another title; PHP5,000 for litigation expenses and PHP15,000 as professional fees, to which Coronel agreed.
After Coronel paid PHP70,000, she could no longer contact Cunanan.
She wrote him a letter, to which Cunanan responded with an extra-judicial settlement agreement and later on asked for the duplicate copy of one of the titles, which Coronel sent.
This prompted her to demand the PHP70,000 back and return the owner’s duplicate copy of the title she had sent him.
When her request was not heeded, Coronel initiated a disbarment case charging Cunanan with deceit, malpractice and gross misconduct for advising and convincing her to engage his services in the transfer of her grandparents’ certificates of title.
However, Coronel submitted an affidavit of desistance saying that she had made amends with Cunanan, and the disbarment complaint was only due to a misunderstanding between them.
A few days later, the parties also submitted their joint motion to dismiss.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) found Cunanan guilty of malpractice and negligence, recommending his suspension and required him to return the PHP70,000 to Coronel.
The IBP Board of Governors denied Cunanan’s subsequent motion for reconsideration (MR).
Upholding IBP’s recommendations, the SC underscored that Cunanan made the proposal despite its patent illegality in order to take advantage of the complainant’s limited legal knowledge of the regular procedures for the transfer of title under circumstances of intestacy.
“[Atty. Cunanan] made [Coronel] agree to the ‘direct registration’ through deceitful misrepresentation,” the SC said.
It added that “[h]e thereby abused his being a lawyer to the hilt in order to cause not only his client but also the public in general to doubt the sincerity of the member of the Law Profession, and consequently diminish the public’s trust and confidence in lawyers in general.”
The SC pointed out that although Cunanan outlined to Coronel the “ordinary procedure” of an extra-judicial settlement of estate as a means of transferring title, he also proposed the option of “direct registration” despite being fully aware that such option was actually a shortcut intended to circumvent the law, and thus patently contrary to law.
It added that “[t]he proposal of ‘direct registration’ was unquestionably unlawful, immoral and deceitful all at once.”