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they might be driven to take the law into their own hands, and disorder and perhaps chaos might be the result. As a member of the bar and an officer of the courts Atty. Vicente Sotto, like any other, is in duty bound to uphold the dignity and authority of this Court, to which he owes fidelity according to the oath he has taken as such attorney, and not to promote distrust in the administration of justice. Respect to the courts guarantees the stability of other institutions, which without such guaranty would be resting on a very shaky foundation.[124] (Emphases and underscoring supplied.)

That the doctrinal pronouncements in these early cases are still good law can be easily gleaned even from more recent jurisprudence.

In Choa v. Chiongson,[125] the Court administratively disciplined a lawyer, through the imposition of a fine, for making malicious and unfounded criticisms of a judge in the guise of an administrative complaint and held, thus:

As an officer of the court and its indispensable partner in the sacred task of administering justice, graver responsibility is imposed upon a lawyer than any other to uphold the integrity of the courts and to show respect to its officers. This does not mean, however, that a lawyer cannot criticize a judge. As we stated in Tiongco vs. Hon. Aguilar:

It does not, however, follow that just because a lawyer is an officer of the court, he cannot criticize the courts. That is his right as a citizen, and it is even his duty as an officer of the court to avail of such right. Thus, in In Re: Almacen (31 SCRA 562, 579-580 [1970]), this Court explicitly declared:

Hence, as a citizen and as officer of the court, a lawyer is expected not only to exercise the right, but also to consider it his duty to avail of such right. No law may abridge this right. Nor is he "professionally answerable to a scrutiny into the official conduct of the judges, which would not expose him to legal animadversion as a citizen." (Case of Austin, 28 Am Dec. 657, 665).

x x x x

Nevertheless, such a right is not without limit. For, as this Court warned in Almacen:

But it is a cardinal condition of all such criticism that it shall be bona fide, and shall not spill over the walls of decency and propriety. A wide chasm exists between fair criticism, on the one hand, and abuse and slander of courts and the judges thereof, on the other. Intemperate and unfair criticism is a gross violation of the duty of respect to courts. It is such a misconduct, that subjects a lawyer to disciplinary action.

x x x x

Elsewise stated, the right to criticize, which is guaranteed by the freedom of speech and of expression in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution, must be exercised responsibly, for every right carries with it a corresponding obligation. Freedom is not freedom from responsibility, but freedom with responsibility. x x x.

x x x x

Proscribed then are, inter alia, the use of unnecessary language which jeopardizes high esteem in courts, creates or promotes distrust in judicial administration (Rheem, supra), or tends necessarily to undermine the confidence of people in the integrity of the members of this Court and to degrade the administration of justice by this Court (In re: Sotto, 82 Phil. 595 [1949]); or of offensive and abusive language (In re: Rafael Climaco, 55 SCRA 107 [1974]); or abrasive and offensive language (Yangson vs. Salandanan, 68 SCRA 42 [1975]; or of disrespectful, offensive, manifestly baseless, and malicious statements in pleadings or in a letter addressed to the judge (Baja vs. Macandog, 158 SCRA [1988], citing the resolution of 19 January 1988 in Phil. Public Schools Teachers Association vs. Quisumbing, G.R. No. 76180, and Ceniza vs. Sebastian, 130 SCRA 295 [1984]); or of disparaging, intemperate, and uncalled-for remarks (Sangalang vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, 177 SCRA 87 [1989]).

Any criticism against a judge made in the guise of an administrative complaint which is clearly unfounded and impelled by ulterior motive will not excuse the lawyer responsible therefor under his duty of fidelity to his client. x x x.[126] (Emphases and underscoring supplied.)

In Saberon v. Larong,[127] where this Court found respondent lawyer guilty of simple misconduct for using intemperate language in his pleadings and imposed a fine upon him, we had the occasion to state:

The Code of Professional Responsibility mandates:

CANON 8 - A lawyer shall conduct himself with courtesy, fairness and candor toward his professional colleagues, and shall avoid harassing tactics against opposing counsel.

Rule 8.01 - A lawyer shall not, in his professional dealings, use language which is abusive, offensive or otherwise improper.

CANON 11 - A lawyer shall observe and maintain the respect due to the courts and to judicial officers and should insist on similar conduct by others.

Rule 11.03 - A lawyer shall abstain from scandalous, offensive or menacing language or behavior before the Courts.

To be sure, the adversarial nature of our legal system has tempted members of the bar to use strong language in pursuit of their duty to advance the interests of their clients.

However, while a lawyer is entitled to present his case with vigor and courage, such enthusiasm does not justify the use of offensive and abusive language. Language abounds with countless possibilities for one to be emphatic but respectful, convincing but not derogatory, illuminating but not offensive.

On many occasions, the Court has reminded members of the Bar to abstain from all offensive personality and to advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which he is charged. In keeping with the dignity of the legal profession, a lawyer’s language even in his pleadings must be dignified.[128]

Verily, the accusatory and vilifying nature of certain portions of the Statement exceeded the limits of fair comment and cannot be deemed as protected free speech.  Even In the Matter of Petition for Declaratory Relief Re: Constitutionality of Republic Act 4880, Gonzales v. Commission on Elections,[129] relied upon by respondents in the Common Compliance, held that:

From the language of the specific constitutional provision, it would appear that the right is not susceptible of any limitation. No law may be passed abridging the freedom of speech and of the press. The realities of life in a complex society preclude however a literal interpretation. Freedom of expression is not an absolute. It would be too much to insist that at all times and under all circumstances it should remain unfettered and unrestrained. There are other societal values that press for recognition. x x x.[130] (Emphasis supplied.)

One such societal value that presses for recognition in the case at bar is the threat to judicial independence and the orderly administration of justice that immoderate, reckless and unfair attacks on judicial decisions and institutions pose.  This Court held as much in Zaldivar v. Sandiganbayan and Gonzales,[131] where we indefinitely suspended a lawyer from the practice of law for issuing to the media statements grossly disrespectful towards the Court in relation to a pending case, to wit:

Respondent Gonzales is entitled to the constitutional guarantee of free speech. No one seeks to deny him that right, least of all this Court. What respondent seems unaware of is that freedom of speech and of expression, like all constitutional freedoms, is not absolute and that freedom of expression needs on occasion to be adjusted to and accommodated with the requirements of equally important public interest. One of these fundamental public interests is the maintenance of the integrity and orderly functioning of the administration of justice. There is no antinomy between free expression and the integrity of the system of administering justice. For the protection and maintenance of freedom of expression itself can be secured only within the context of a functioning and orderly system of dispensing justice, within the context, in other words, of viable independent institutions for delivery of justice which are accepted by the general community.  x x x.[132] (Emphases supplied.)

For this reason, the Court cannot uphold the view of some respondents[133] that the Statement presents no grave or imminent danger to a legitimate public interest.

The Show Cause Resolution does not interfere with respondents’ academic freedom.

It is not contested that respondents herein are, by law and jurisprudence, guaranteed academic freedom and undisputably, they are free to determine what they will teach their students and how they will teach. We must point out that there is nothing in the Show Cause Resolution that dictates upon respondents the subject matter they can teach and the manner of their instruction.  Moreover, it is not inconsistent with the principle of academic freedom for this Court to subject lawyers who teach law to disciplinary action for contumacious conduct and speech, coupled with undue intervention in favor of a party in a pending case, without observing proper procedure, even if purportedly done in their capacity as teachers.

A novel issue involved in the present controversy, for it has not been passed upon in any previous case before this Court, is the question of whether lawyers who are also law professors can invoke academic freedom as a defense in an administrative proceeding for intemperate statements tending to pressure the Court or influence the outcome of a case or degrade the courts.

Applying by analogy the Court’s past treatment of the “free speech” defense in other bar discipline cases, academic freedom cannot be successfully invoked by respondents in this case.           The implicit ruling in the jurisprudence discussed above is that the constitutional right to freedom of expression of members of the Bar may be circumscribed by their ethical duties as lawyers to give due respect to the courts and to uphold the public’s faith in the legal profession and the justice system.  To our mind, the reason that freedom of expression may be so delimited in the case of lawyers applies with greater force to the academic freedom of law professors.

It would do well for the Court to remind respondents that, in view of the broad definition in Cayetano v. Monsod,[134] lawyers when they teach law are considered engaged in the practice of law.  Unlike professors in other disciplines and more than lawyers who do not teach law, respondents are bound by their oath to uphold the ethical standards of the legal profession.  Thus, their actions as law professors must be measured against the same canons of professional responsibility applicable to acts of members of the Bar as the fact of their being law professors is inextricably entwined with the fact that they are lawyers.

Even if the Court was willing to accept respondents’ proposition in the Common Compliance that their issuance of the Statement was in keeping with their duty to “participate in the development of the legal system by initiating or supporting efforts in law reform and in the improvement of the administration of justice” under Canon 4 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, we cannot agree that they have fulfilled that same duty in keeping with the demands of Canons 1, 11 and 13 to give due respect to legal processes and the courts, and to avoid conduct that tends to influence the courts. Members of the Bar cannot be selective regarding which canons to abide by given particular situations. With more reason that law professors are not allowed this indulgence, since they are expected to provide their students exemplars of the Code of Professional Responsibility as a whole and not just their preferred portions thereof.

The Court’s rulings on the submissions regarding the charge of violation of Canons 1, 11 and 13.

Having disposed of respondents’ main arguments of freedom of expression and academic freedom, the Court considers here the other averments in their submissions.

With respect to good faith, respondents’ allegations presented two main ideas: (a) the validity of their position regarding the plagiarism charge against Justice Del Castillo, and (b) their pure motive to spur this Court to take the correct action on said issue.

The Court has already clarified that it is not the expression of respondents’ staunch belief that Justice Del Castillo has committed a misconduct that the majority of this Court has found so unbecoming in the Show Cause Resolution.  No matter how firm a lawyer’s conviction in the righteousness of his cause there is simply no excuse for denigrating the courts and engaging in public behavior that tends to put the courts and the legal profession into disrepute.  This doctrine, which we have repeatedly upheld in such cases as Salcedo, In re Almacen and Saberong, should be applied in this case with more reason, as the respondents, not parties to the Vinuya case, denounced the Court and urged it to change its decision therein, in a public statement using contumacious language, which with temerity they subsequently submitted to the Court for “proper disposition.”

That humiliating the Court into reconsidering the Vinuya Decision in favor of the Malaya Lolas was one of the objectives of the Statement could be seen in the following paragraphs from the same:

And in light of the significance of this decision to the quest for justice not only of Filipino women, but of women elsewhere in the world who have suffered the horrors of sexual abuse and exploitation in times of war, the Court cannot coldly deny relief and justice to the petitioners on the basis of pilfered and misinterpreted texts.

x x x x

(3) The same breach and consequent disposition of the Vinuya case does violence to the primordial function of the Supreme Court as the ultimate dispenser of justice to all those who have been left without legal or equitable recourse, such as the petitioners therein.[135] (Emphases and underscoring supplied.)

Whether or not respondents’ views regarding the plagiarism issue in the Vinuya case had valid basis was wholly immaterial to their liability for contumacious speech and conduct.  These are two separate matters to be properly threshed out in separate proceedings.  The Court considers it highly inappropriate, if not tantamount to dissembling, the discussion devoted in one of the compliances arguing the guilt of Justice Del Castillo.  In the Common Compliance, respondents even go so far as to attach documentary evidence to support the plagiarism charges against Justice Del Castillo in the present controversy.  The ethics case of Justice Del Castillo (A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC), with the filing of a motion for reconsideration, was still pending at the time of the filing of respondents’ submissions in this administrative case. As respondents themselves admit, they are neither parties nor counsels in the ethics case against Justice Del Castillo. Notwithstanding their professed overriding interest in said ethics case, it is not proper procedure for respondents to bring up their plagiarism arguments here especially when it has no bearing on their own administrative case.

Still on motive, it is also proposed that the choice of language in the Statement was intended for effective speech; that speech must be “forceful enough to make the intended recipients listen.”[136] One wonders what sort of effect respondents were hoping for in branding this Court as, among others, callous, dishonest and lacking in concern for the basic values of decency and respect.  The Court fails to see how it can ennoble the profession if we allow respondents to send a signal to their students that the only way to effectively plead their cases and persuade others to their point of view is to be offensive.

This brings to our mind the letters of Dr. Ellis and Prof. Tams which were deliberately quoted in full in the narration of background facts to illustrate the sharp contrast between the civil tenor of these letters and the antagonistic irreverence of the Statement. In truth, these foreign authors are the ones who would expectedly be affected by any perception of misuse of their works.  Notwithstanding that they are beyond the disciplinary reach of this Court, they still obviously took pains to convey their objections in a deferential and scholarly manner.  It is unfathomable to the Court why respondents could not do the same.  These foreign authors’ letters underscore the universality of the tenet that legal professionals must deal with each other in good faith and due respect.  The mark of the true intellectual is one who can express his opinions logically and soberly without resort to exaggerated rhetoric and unproductive recriminations.

As for the claim that the respondents’ noble intention is to spur the Court to take “constructive action” on the plagiarism issue, the Court has some doubts as to its veracity.  For if the Statement was primarily meant for this Court’s consideration, why was the same published and reported in the media first before it was submitted to this Court?  It is more plausible that the Statement was prepared for consumption by the general public and designed to capture media attention as part of the effort to generate interest in the most controversial ground in the Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration filed in the Vinuya case by Atty. Roque, who is respondents’ colleague on the UP Law faculty.

In this regard, the Court finds that there was indeed a lack of observance of fidelity and due respect to the Court, particularly when respondents knew fully well that the matter of plagiarism in the Vinuya decision and the merits of the Vinuya decision itself, at the time of the Statement’s issuance, were still both sub judice or pending final disposition of the Court.  These facts have been widely publicized. On this point, respondents allege that at the time the Statement was first drafted on July 27, 2010, they did not know of the constitution of the Ethics Committee and they had issued the Statement under the belief that this Court intended to take no action on the ethics charge against Justice Del Castillo.  Still, there was a significant lapse of time from the drafting and printing of the Statement on July 27, 2010 and its publication and submission to this Court in early August when the Ethics Committee had already been convened.  If it is true that the respondents’ outrage was fueled by their perception of indifference on the part of the Court then, when it became known that the Court did intend to take action, there was nothing to prevent respondents from recalibrating the Statement to take this supervening event into account in the interest of fairness.

Speaking of the publicity this case has generated, we likewise find no merit in the respondents’ reliance on various news reports and commentaries in the print media and the internet as proof that they are being unfairly “singled out.”  On the contrary, these same annexes to the Common Compliance show that it is not enough for one to criticize the Court to warrant the institution of disciplinary[137] or contempt[138] action.  This Court takes into account the nature of the criticism and weighs the possible repercussions of the same on the Judiciary.  When the criticism comes from persons outside the profession who may not have a full grasp of legal issues or from individuals whose personal or other interests in making the criticism are obvious, the Court may perhaps tolerate or ignore them.  However, when law professors are the ones who appear to have lost sight of the boundaries of fair commentary and worse, would justify the same as an exercise of civil liberties, this Court cannot remain silent for such silence would have a grave implication on legal education in our country.

With respect to the 35 respondents named in the Common Compliance, considering that this appears to be the first time these respondents have been involved in disciplinary proceedings of this sort, the Court is willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they were for the most part well-intentioned in the issuance of the Statement.  However, it is established in jurisprudence that where the excessive and contumacious language used is plain and undeniable, then good intent can only be mitigating.  As this Court expounded in Salcedo:

In his defense, Attorney Vicente J. Francisco states that it was not his intention to offend the court or to be recreant to the respect thereto but, unfortunately, there are his phrases which need no further comment. Furthermore, it is a well settled rule in all places where the same conditions and practice as those in this jurisdiction obtain, that want of intention is no excuse from liability (13 C. J., 45). Neither is the fact that the phrases employed are justified by the facts a valid defense:

"Where the matter is abusive or insulting, evidence that the language used was justified by the facts is not admissible as a defense. Respect for the judicial office should always be observed and enforced." (In re Stewart, 118 La., 827; 43 S., 455.)  Said lack or want of intention constitutes at most an extenuation of liability in this case, taking into consideration Attorney Vicente J. Francisco's state of mind, according to him when he prepared said motion. This court is disposed to make such concession. However, in order to avoid a recurrence thereof and to prevent others, by following the bad example, from taking the same course, this court considers it imperative to treat the case of said attorney with the justice it deserves.[139] (Emphases supplied.)

Thus, the 35 respondents named in the Common Compliance should, notwithstanding their claim of good faith, be reminded of their lawyerly duty, under Canons 1, 11 and 13, to give due respect to the courts and to refrain from intemperate and offensive language tending to influence the Court on pending matters or to denigrate the courts and the administration of justice.

With respect to Prof. Vasquez, the Court favorably notes the differences in his Compliance compared to his colleagues. In our view, he was the only one among the respondents who showed true candor and sincere deference to the Court.  He was able to give a straightforward account of how he came to sign the Statement.  He was candid enough to state that his agreement to the Statement was in principle and that the reason plagiarism was a “fair topic of discussion” among the UP Law faculty prior to the promulgation of the October 12, 2010 Decision in A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC was the uncertainty brought about by a division of opinion on whether or not willful or deliberate intent was an element of plagiarism.  He was likewise willing to acknowledge that he may have been remiss in failing to assess the effect of the language of the Statement and could have used more care.  He did all this without having to retract his position on the plagiarism issue, without demands for undeserved reliefs (as will be discussed below) and without baseless insinuations of deprivation of due process or of prejudgment.  This is all that this Court expected from respondents, not for them to sacrifice their principles but only that they recognize that they themselves may have committed some ethical lapse in this affair. We commend Prof. Vaquez for showing that at least one of the respondents can grasp the true import of the Show Cause Resolution involving them. For these reasons, the Court finds Prof. Vasquez’s Compliance satisfactory.

As for Prof. Lynch, in view of his Manifestation that he is a member of the Bar of the State of Minnesota and, therefore, not under the disciplinary authority of this Court, he should be excused from these proceedings.  However, he should be reminded that while he is engaged as a professor in a Philippine law school he should strive to be a model of responsible and professional conduct to his students even without the threat of sanction from this Court.  For even if one is not bound by the Code of Professional Responsibility for members of the Philippine Bar, civility and respect among legal professionals of any nationality should be aspired for under universal standards of decency and fairness.

The Court’s ruling on Dean Leonen’s Compliance regarding the charge of violation of Canon 10.

To recall, the Show Cause Resolution directed Dean Leonen to show cause why he should not be disciplinary dealt with for violation of Canon 10, Rules 10.01, 10.02 and 10.03 and for submitting a “dummy” that was not a true and faithful reproduction of the signed Statement.

In his Compliance, Dean Leonen essentially denies that Restoring Integrity II was not a true and faithful reproduction of the actual signed copy, Restoring Integrity I, because looking at the text or the body, there were no differences between the two.  He attempts to downplay the discrepancies in the signature pages of the two versions of the Statement (i.e., Restoring Integrity I and Restoring Integrity II) by claiming that it is but expected in “live” public manifestos with dynamic and evolving pages as more and more signatories add their imprimatur thereto. He likewise stresses that he is not administratively liable because he did not misrepresent the members of the UP Law faculty who “had agreed with the Restoring Integrity Statement proper and/or who had expressed their desire to be signatories thereto.”[140]

To begin with, the Court cannot subscribe to Dean Leonen’s implied view that the signatures in the Statement are not as significant as its contents.  Live public manifesto or not, the Statement was formally submitted to this Court at a specific point in time and it should reflect accurately its signatories at that point.  The value of the Statement as a UP Law Faculty Statement lies precisely in the identities of the persons who have signed it, since the Statement’s persuasive authority mainly depends on the reputation and stature of the persons who have endorsed the same. Indeed, it is apparent from respondents’ explanations that their own belief in the “importance” of their positions as UP law professors prompted them to publicly speak out on the matter of the plagiarism issue in the Vinuya case.

Further, in our assessment, the true cause of Dean Leonen’s predicament is the fact that he did not from the beginning submit the signed copy, Restoring Integrity I, to this Court on August 11, 2010 and, instead, submitted Restoring Integrity II with its retyped or “reformatted” signature pages. It would turn out, according to Dean Leonen’s account, that there were errors in the retyping of the signature pages due to lapses of his unnamed staff. First, an unnamed administrative officer in the dean’s office gave the dean inaccurate information that led him to allow the inclusion of Justice Mendoza as among the signatories of Restoring Integrity II.  Second, an unnamed staff also failed to type the name of Atty. Armovit when encoding the signature pages of Restoring Integrity II when in fact he had signed Restoring Integrity I.

The Court can understand why for purposes of posting on a bulletin board or a website a signed document may have to be reformatted and signatures may be indicated by the notation (SGD).  This is not unusual.  We are willing to accept that the reformatting of documents meant for posting to eliminate blanks is necessitated by vandalism concerns.

However, what is unusual is the submission to a court, especially this Court, of a signed document for the Court’s consideration that did not contain the actual signatures of its authors.  In most cases, it is the original signed document that is transmitted to the Court or at the very least a photocopy of the actual signed document.  Dean Leonen has not offered any explanation why he deviated from this practice with his submission to the Court of Restoring Integrity II on August 11, 2010.  There was nothing to prevent the dean from submitting Restoring Integrity I to this Court even with its blanks and unsigned portions. Dean Leonen cannot claim fears of vandalism with respect to court submissions for court employees are accountable for the care of documents and records that may come into their custody.  Yet, Dean Leonen deliberately chose to submit to this Court the facsimile that did not contain the actual signatures and his silence on the reason therefor is in itself a display of lack of candor.

Still, a careful reading of Dean Leonen’s explanations yield the answer.  In the course of his explanation of his willingness to accept his administrative officer’s claim that Justice Mendoza agreed to be indicated as a signatory, Dean Leonen admits in a footnote that other professors had likewise only authorized him to indicate them as signatories and had not in fact signed the Statement.  Thus, at around the time Restoring Integrity II was printed, posted and submitted to this Court, at least one purported signatory thereto had not actually signed the same.  Contrary to Dean Leonen’s proposition, that is precisely tantamount to making it appear to this Court that a person or persons participated in an act when such person or persons did not.

We are surprised that someone like Dean Leonen, with his reputation for perfection and stringent standards of intellectual honesty, could proffer the explanation that there was no misrepresentation when he allowed at least one person to be indicated as having actually signed the Statement when all he had was a verbal communication of an intent to sign.  In the case of Justice Mendoza, what he had was only hearsay information that the former intended to sign the Statement.  If Dean Leonen was truly determined to observe candor and truthfulness in his dealings with the Court, we see no reason why he could not have waited until all the professors who indicated their desire to sign the Statement had in fact signed before transmitting the Statement to the Court as a duly signed document.  If it was truly impossible to secure some signatures, such as that of Justice Mendoza who had to leave for abroad, then Dean Leonen should have just resigned himself to the signatures that he was able to secure.

We cannot imagine what urgent concern there was that he could not wait for actual signatures before submission of the Statement to this Court.  As respondents all asserted, they were neither parties to nor counsels in the Vinuya case and the ethics case against Justice Del Castillo.  The Statement was neither a pleading with a deadline nor a required submission to the Court; rather, it was a voluntary submission that Dean Leonen could do at any time.

In sum, the Court likewise finds Dean Leonen’s Compliance unsatisfactory.  However, the Court is willing to ascribe these isolated lapses in judgment of Dean Leonen to his misplaced zeal in pursuit of his objectives.  In due consideration of Dean Leonen’s professed good intentions, the Court deems it sufficient to admonish Dean Leonen for failing to observe full candor and honesty in his dealings with the Court as required under Canon 10.

Respondents’ requests for a hearing, for production/presentation of evidence bearing on the plagiarism and misrepresentation issues in G.R. No. 162230 and A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC, and for access to the records of A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC are unmeritorious.

In the Common Compliance, respondents named therein asked for alternative reliefs should the Court find their Compliance unsatisfactory, that is, that the Show Cause Resolution be set for hearing and for that purpose, they be allowed to require the production or presentation of witnesses and evidence bearing on the plagiarism and misrepresentation issues in the Vinuya case (G.R. No. 162230) and the plagiarism case against Justice Del Castillo (A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC) and to have access to the records of, and evidence that were presented or may be presented in the ethics case against Justice Del Castillo.  The prayer for a hearing and for access to the records of A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC was substantially echoed in Dean Leonen’s separate Compliance.  In Prof. Juan-Bautista’s Compliance, she similarly expressed the sentiment that “[i]f the Restoring Integrity Statement can be considered indirect contempt, under Section 3 of Rule 71 of the Rules of Court, such may be punished only after charge and hearing.”[141] It is this group of respondents’ premise that these reliefs are necessary for them to be accorded full due process.

The Court finds this contention unmeritorious.

Firstly, it would appear that the confusion as to the necessity of a hearing in this case springs largely from its characterization as a special civil action for indirect contempt in the Dissenting Opinion of Justice Sereno (to the October 19, 2010 Show Cause Resolution) and her reliance therein on the majority’s purported failure to follow the procedure in Rule 71 of the Rules of Court as her main ground for opposition to the Show Cause Resolution.

However, once and for all, it should be clarified that this is not an indirect contempt proceeding and Rule 71 (which requires a hearing) has no application to this case.  As explicitly ordered in the Show Cause Resolution this case was docketed as an administrative matter.

The rule that is relevant to this controversy is Rule 139-B, Section 13, on disciplinary proceedings initiated motu proprio by the Supreme Court, to wit:

SEC. 13. Supreme Court Investigators.—In proceedings initiated motu proprio by the Supreme Court or in other proceedings when the interest of justice so requires, the Supreme Court may refer the case for investigation to the Solicitor General or to any officer of the Supreme Court or judge of a lower court, in which case the investigation shall proceed in the same manner provided in sections 6 to 11 hereof, save that the review of the report of investigation shall be conducted directly by the Supreme Court. (Emphasis supplied.)

From the foregoing provision, it cannot be denied that a formal investigation, through a referral to the specified officers, is merely discretionary, not mandatory on the Court.  Furthermore, it is only if the Court deems such an investigation necessary that the procedure in Sections 6 to 11 of Rule 139-A will be followed.

As respondents are fully aware, in general, administrative proceedings do not require a trial type hearing.  We have held that:

The essence of due process is simply an opportunity to be heard or, as applied to administrative proceedings, an opportunity to explain one's side or an opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of. What the law prohibits is absolute absence of the opportunity to be heard, hence, a party cannot feign denial of due process where he had been afforded the opportunity to present his side. A formal or trial type hearing is not at all times and in all instances essential to due process, the requirements of which are satisfied where the parties are afforded fair and reasonable opportunity to explain their side of the controversy.[142] (Emphases supplied.)

In relation to bar discipline cases, we have had the occasion to rule in Pena v. Aparicio[143] that:

Disciplinary proceedings against lawyers are sui generis. Neither purely civil nor purely criminal, they do not involve a trial of an action or a suit, but is rather an investigation by the Court into the conduct of one of its officers. Not being intended to inflict punishment, it is in no sense a criminal prosecution. Accordingly, there is neither a plaintiff nor a prosecutor therein. It may be initiated by the Court motu proprio. Public interest is its primary objective, and the real question for determination is whether or not the attorney is still a fit person to be allowed the privileges as such. Hence, in the exercise of its disciplinary powers, the Court merely calls upon a member of the Bar to account for his actuations as an officer of the Court with the end in view of preserving the purity of the legal profession and the proper and honest administration of justice by purging the profession of members who by their misconduct have proved themselves no longer worthy to be entrusted with the duties and responsibilities pertaining to the office of an attorney. In such posture, there can thus be no occasion to speak of a complainant or a prosecutor.[144] (Emphases supplied.)

In Query of Atty. Karen M. Silverio-Buffe, Former Clerk of Court – Br. 81, Romblon – On the Prohibition from Engaging in the Private Practice of Law,[145] we further observed that:

[I]n several cases, the Court has disciplined lawyers without further inquiry or resort to any formal investigation where the facts on record sufficiently provided the basis for the determination of their administrative liability.

In Prudential Bank v. Castro, the Court disbarred a lawyer without need of any further investigation after considering his actions based on records showing his unethical misconduct; the misconduct not only cast dishonor on the image of both the Bench and the Bar, but was also inimical to public interest and welfare. In this regard, the Court took judicial notice of several cases handled by the errant lawyer and his cohorts that revealed their modus operandi in circumventing the payment of the proper judicial fees for the astronomical sums they claimed in their cases. The Court held that those cases sufficiently provided the basis for the determination of respondents' administrative liability, without need for further inquiry into the matter under the principle of res ipsa loquitur.

Also on the basis of this principle, we ruled in Richards v. Asoy, that no evidentiary hearing is required before the respondent may be disciplined for professional misconduct already established by the facts on record.

x x x x

These cases clearly show that the absence of any formal charge against and/or formal investigation of an errant lawyer do not preclude the Court from immediately exercising its disciplining authority, as long as the errant lawyer or judge has been given the opportunity to be heard. As we stated earlier, Atty. Buffe has been afforded the opportunity to be heard on the present matter through her letter-query and Manifestation filed before this Court.[146] (Emphases supplied.)

Under the rules and jurisprudence, respondents clearly had no right to a hearing and their reservation of a right they do not have has no effect on these proceedings.  Neither have they shown in their pleadings any justification for this Court to call for a hearing in this instance.  They have not specifically stated what relevant evidence, documentary or testimonial, they intend to present in their defense that will necessitate a formal hearing.

Instead, it would appear that they intend to present records, evidence, and witnesses bearing on the plagiarism and misrepresentation issues in the Vinuya case and in A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC on the assumption that the findings of this Court which were the bases of the Show Cause Resolution were made in A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC, or were related to the conclusions of the Court in the Decision in that case.  This is the primary reason for their request for access to the records and evidence presented in A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC.

This assumption on the part of respondents is erroneous.  To illustrate, the only incident in A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC that is relevant to the case at bar is the fact that the submission of the actual signed copy of the Statement (or Restoring Integrity I, as Dean Leonen referred to it) happened there.  Apart from that fact, it bears repeating that the proceedings in A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC, the ethics case against Justice Del Castillo, is a separate and independent matter from this case.

To find the bases of the statements of the Court in the Show Cause Resolution that the respondents issued a Statement with language that the Court deems objectionable during the pendency of the Vinuya case and the ethics case against Justice Del Castillo, respondents need to go no further than the four corners of the Statement itself, its various versions, news reports/columns (many of which respondents themselves supplied to this Court in their Common Compliance) and internet sources that are already of public knowledge.

Considering that what respondents are chiefly required to explain are the language of the Statement and the circumstances surrounding the drafting, printing, signing, dissemination, etc., of its various versions, the Court does not see how any witness or evidence in the ethics case of Justice Del Castillo could possibly shed light on these facts.  To be sure, these facts are within the knowledge of respondents and if there is any evidence on these matters the same would be in their possession.

We find it significant that in Dean Leonen’s Compliance he narrated how as early as September 2010, i.e., before the Decision of this Court in the ethics case of Justice Del Castillo on October 12, 2010 and before the October 19, 2010 Show Cause Resolution, retired Supreme Court Justice Vicente V.  Mendoza, after being shown a copy of the Statement upon his return from abroad, predicted that the Court would take some form of action on the Statement.  By simply reading a hard copy of the Statement, a reasonable person, even one who “fundamentally agreed” with the Statement’s principles, could foresee the possibility of court action on the same on an implicit recognition that the Statement, as worded, is not a matter this Court should simply let pass.  This belies respondents’ claim that it is necessary for them to refer to any record or evidence in A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC in order to divine the bases for the Show Cause Resolution.

If respondents have chosen not to include certain pieces of evidence in their respective compliances or chosen not to make a full defense at this time, because they were counting on being granted a hearing, that is respondents’ own look-out.  Indeed, law professors of their stature are supposed to be aware of the above jurisprudential doctrines regarding the non-necessity of a hearing in disciplinary cases.  They should bear the consequence of the risk they have taken.

Thus, respondents’ requests for a hearing and for access to the records of, and evidence presented in, A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC should be denied for lack of merit.

A final word

In a democracy, members of the legal community are hardly expected to have monolithic views on any subject, be it a legal, political or social issue.  Even as lawyers passionately and vigorously propound their points of view they are bound by certain rules of conduct for the legal profession.  This Court is certainly not claiming that it should be shielded from criticism. All the Court demands is the same respect and courtesy that one lawyer owes to another under established ethical standards.  All lawyers, whether they are judges, court employees, professors or private practitioners, are officers of the Court and have voluntarily taken an oath, as an indispensable qualification for admission to the Bar, to conduct themselves with good fidelity towards the courts.  There is no exemption from this sworn duty for law professors, regardless of their status in the academic community or the law school to which they belong.

WHEREFORE, this administrative matter is decided as follows:

(1)             With respect to Prof. Vasquez, after favorably noting his submission, the Court finds his Compliance to be satisfactory.

(2)             The Common Compliance of 35 respondents, namely, Attys. Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, Froilan M. Bacungan, Pacifico A. Agabin, Merlin M. Magallona, Salvador T. Carlota, Carmelo V. Sison, Patricia R.P. Salvador Daway, Dante B. Gatmaytan, Theodore O. Te, Florin T. Hilbay, Jay L. Batongbacal, Evelyn (Leo) D. Battad, Gwen G. De Vera, Solomon F. Lumba, Rommel J. Casis, Jose Gerardo A. Alampay, Miguel R. Armovit, Arthur P. Autea, Rosa Maria J. Bautista, Mark R. Bocobo, Dan P. Calica, Tristan A. Catindig, Sandra Marie O. Coronel, Rosario O. Gallo, Concepcion L. Jardeleza, Antonio G.M. La Viña, Carina C. Laforteza, Jose C. Laureta, Rodolfo Noel S. Quimbo, Antonio M. Santos, Gmeleen Faye B. Tomboc, Nicholas Felix L. Ty, Evalyn G. Ursua, Susan D. Villanueva and Dina D. Lucenario, is found UNSATISFACTORY. These 35 respondent law professors are reminded of their lawyerly duty, under Canons 1, 11 and 13 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, to give due respect to the Court and to refrain from intemperate and offensive language tending to influence the Court on pending matters or to denigrate the Court and the administration of justice and warned that the same or similar act in the future shall be dealt with more severely.

(3)             The separate Compliance of Dean Marvic M.V.F. Leonen regarding the charge of violation of Canon 10 is found UNSATISFACTORY. He is further ADMONISHED to be more mindful of his duty, as a member of the Bar, an officer of the Court, and a Dean and professor of law, to observe full candor and honesty in his dealings with the Court and warned that the same or similar act in the future shall be dealt with more severely.

(4)             Prof. Lynch, who is not a member of the Philippine bar, is excused from these proceedings.  However, he is reminded that while he is engaged as a professor in a Philippine law school he should strive to be a model of responsible and professional conduct to his students even without the threat of sanction from this Court.

(5)             Finally, respondents’ requests for a hearing and for access to the records of A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC are denied for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO

Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice

See Dissenting Opinion
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice

Please see Dissenting Opinion
CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

Associate Justice

On leave

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA

Associate Justice

I certify the Mr. Justice Brion left his concurring vote
On leave

ARTURO D. BRION

Associate Justice

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA

Associate Justice

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN

Associate Justice

(No Part)
MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO

Associate Justice

ROBERTO A. ABAD

Associate Justice

Pls see Separate Opinion
MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.

Associate Justice

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ

Associate Justice

JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA

Associate Justice

I dissent and reserve the right to issue a Separate Opinion
MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO

Associate Justice



* On leave.

** No part.

[1] Attys. Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, Froilan M. Bacungan, Pacifico A. Agabin, Merlin M. Magallona, Salvador T. Carlota, Carmelo V. Sison, Patricia R.P. Salvador Daway, Dante B. Gatmaytan, Theodore O. Te, Florin T. Hilbay, Jay L. Batongbacal, Evelyn (Leo) D. Battad, Gwen G. De Vera, Solomon F. Lumba, Rommel J. Casis, Jose Gerardo A. Alampay, Miguel R. Armovit, Arthur P. Autea, Rosa Maria J. Bautista, Mark R. Bocobo, Dan P. Calica, Tristan A. Catindig, Sandra Marie O. Coronel, Rosario O. Gallo, Concepcion L. Jardeleza, Antonio G.M. La Viña, Carina C. Laforteza, Jose C. Laureta, Owen J. Lynch, Rodolfo Noel S. Quimbo, Antonio M. Santos, Gmeleen Faye B. Tomboc, Nicholas Felix L. Ty, Evalyn G. Ursua, Raul T. Vasquez, Susan D. Villanueva and Dina D. Lucenario; rollo, pp. 24-25.

[2] Restoring Integrity: A Statement by the Faculty of the University of the Philippines College of Law on the Allegations of Plagiarism and Misrepresentation in the Supreme Court; rollo, pp. 4-9.

[3] Counsel of record for the Malaya Lolas (petitioners in G.R. No. 162230) is the Roque & Butuyan Law Offices.

[4] Malaya Lolas’ Motion for Reconsideration dated May 31, 2010, p. 1.

[5] Id. at 8.

[6] The contents of the Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration were posted on Atty. Roque's blog on July 18, 2010, the day before its filing. See http://harryroque.com/2010/07/18/supplemental-motion-alleging-plagiarism-in-the-supreme-court/ (last accessed on January 20, 2011).

[7]Malaya Lolas’ Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration dated July 19, 2010, p. 8.

[8] Id. at 36. (Emphasis supplied.)

[9] Which appeared in the Yale Law Journal in 2009.

[10] Cambridge University Press, 2005.

[11] Published in the Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law in 2006.

[12] See Annex 4 of the 35 respondents’ Common Compliance filed on November 19, 2010. The article’s time of posting was indicated as 7:00 a.m.; rollo, p. 304.

[13] The article was posted on July 19, 2010 at 12:02 a.m.  See http://www.gmanews.tv/story/196407/sc-justice-plagiarized-parts-of-ruling-on-comfort-women (Last accessed on January 20, 2011).

[14] See http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/insideOpinion.htm?f=2010/july/22/harryroque.isx&d=2010/july/22 (Last accessed January 24, 2011).

[15] The link indicated in Julian Ku’s blog entry was not a newspaper report but the Newsbreak article posted in GMA News TV’s website.

[16] Id.

[17] Prof. Criddle’s response was posted on July 19, 2010 at 2:44 EST. See link below:

http://opiniojuris.org/2010/07/19/international-law-plagiarism-charge-bedevils-philippines-supreme-court-justice/ (Last accessed on January 20, 2011).

[18] This letter was subsequently published in the Philippine Star as shown by Annex 7 of the 35 respondents’ Common Compliance filed on November 19, 2010; rollo, pp. 309-310.

[19] Atty. Roque and Atty. Bagares, through the Center for International Law, have collaborated in the past with the SEAMLDI. The Center for International Law, which has Atty. Roque as Chairman and Atty. Bagares as Executive Director, hosted the 2nd South East Asia Media Legal Defense Conference held in October 2009 in Cebu City. See http://www.roquebutuyan.com/centerlaw/index.html and http://jmsc.asia/seasiamediadefense2009/program/ (Both last accessed on January 20, 2011).

[20] http://www.scribd.com/doc/39856111/Letter-to-Republic-of-the-Philippines-Supreme-Court-Ellis (Last accessed on January 20, 2011).

[21] Per Curiam Decision, In the Matter of Charges of Plagiarism, etc., against Associate Justice Mariano C. del Castillo, A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC, October 12, 2010.

[22] http://www.newsbreak.ph/2010/08/09/restoring-integrity/ (Last accessed on January 24, 2011).

[23] http://harryroque.com/2010/08/09/restoring-integritya-statement-by-the-faculty-of/ (Last accessed on January 20, 2011).

[24] http://www.gmanews.tv/story/198182/resignation-of-sc-justice-in-plagiarism-issue-sought (Last accessed on January 20, 2011).

[25] http://www.sunstar.com.ph/manila/faculties-hit-plagiarized-ruling (Last accessed on January 20, 2011).

[26] See paragraph 2.9, Dean Leonen Compliance dated November 19, 2010; rollo, p. 327.

[27]The date of posting of the Statement is not indicated on the UP Law website. See http://law.upd.edu.ph/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=166:restoring-integrity-a-statement-by-the-faculty-of-the-up-college-of-law&catid=52:faculty-news&Itemid=369 (Last accessed on January 20, 2011).

[28] Although the Dean’s letter indicated that 38 faculty members signed the statement, an examination of the attachment showed that the number of purported signatories was only 37.

[29] Rollo, pp. 4-9.

[30] This was received by the Court on August 20, 2010. It was also reported on Newsbreak that same day. See (http://www.newsbreak.ph/2010/08/20/third-author-plagiarized-by-sc-justice-complains/).

[31] See Annex 2 of the 35 respondents’ Compliance dated November 19, 2010.  A full-color PDF replica of Prof. Tams’ letter was also linked on Atty. Roque’s blog entry dated August 22, 2010. See blog entry here - http://harryroque.com/2010/08/22/third-author-plagiarized-by-sc-justice- complains-from-newsbreak/ (last accessed on January 20, 2011)  and the letter here - http://harryroque.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/tams-letter-to-supreme-court.pdf (last accessed on January 21, 2011).

[32] Per Curiam Decision in A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC, October 12, 2010.

[33] Id.

[34] Resolution dated October 19, 2010; rollo, pp. 23-29.

[35] Id. at 26-27.

[36] The Show Cause Resolution inadvertently referred to Canon 10 but should refer to Canon 1.

[37] Show Cause Resolution; rollo, pp. 27-28.

[38] Id. at 28.

[39] Common Compliance; rollo, p. 201.

[40] Id.

[41] Id. at 201-202. (Emphases supplied.)

[42] Code of Professional Responsibility, Canon 1.

[43] Id., Canon 11.

[44] Id., Canon 13.

[45] Common Compliance; rollo, p. 203.

[46] Id. at 204.

[47] Id. at 205.

[48] Id. at 208.

[49] Id  at 208-209.

[50] Respondents were referring to the article by Donna Pazzibugan entitled “High Court Not Probing ‘Plagiarism,’” which according to footnote 28 of the Common Compliance may be accessed at as of November 12, 2010.

[51] Common Compliance; rollo, p. 209.

[52] 372 Phil. 287 (1999).

[53] According to his letter, Atty. Payoyo is a former UP Law Professor, former chief editor of the Philippine Law Journal and a recipient of the Court’s centennial award in international law.

[54] G.R. No. 190582, April 8, 2010.

[55] Common Compliance; rollo, p. 211.

[56] Annex 4; id. at 304-306.

[57] Annex 5; id. at 307.

[58] Annex 6; id. at 308.

[59] Annex 7; id. at 309-310.

[60] Annex 8; id. at 311.

[61] Annex 9; id. at 312.

[62] Annexes 10 and 11; id. at 313-314.

[63] Annexes 12, 13 and 14; id. at 315-317.

[64] Annex 15; id. at 318-319.

[65] Annex 16; id. at 320.

[66] Id. at 215.

[67] 37 Phil. 731 (1918).

[68] G.R. No. L-27654, February 18, 1970, 31 SCRA 562.

[69] 137 Phil. 471 (1969).

[70] 160-A Phil. 929 (1975).

[71] Common Compliance; rollo, p. 217.

[72] 61 Phil 724 (1935).

[73] Id. at 733-734, cited in the Common Compliance; rollo, p. 219.

[74] Common Compliance; rollo, pp. 219-220.

[75] Bautista Compliance; id. at 179. (Emphasis supplied.)

[76] Id. at 180. (Emphasis supplied.)

[77] Mercado v. AMA Computer College–Parañaque City, Inc., G.R. No. 183572, April 13, 2010; Morales v. Board of Regents of the University of the Philippines, G.R. No. 161172, December 13, 2004, 446 SCRA 227; University of the Philippines Board of Regents v. Court of Appeals, supra note 49; Arokiaswamy William Margaret Celine v. University of the Philippines Board of Regents, G.R. No. 152309, Resolution, September 18, 2002.

[78] Bautista Compliance; rollo, p. 185; citing Integrated Bar of the Philippines v. Atienza, G.R. No. 175241, February 24, 2010.

[79] See Vasquez Compliance; rollo, p. 428.

[80] 82 Phil. 595 (1949).

[81] Supra note 68.

[82] AmJur 2d §52.

[83] Vasquez Compliance; rollo, p. 430.

[84] Id. at 431.

[85] Id. at 430.

[86] Id.

[87] Dean Leonen Compliance; rollo, pp. 324-325.

[88] Id. at 325-326.

[89] Id. at 326.

[90] Id., in Footnote 2.

[91] Id. at 326-327.

[92] Id. at 327.

[93] Id., in Footnote 3.

[94] Id. at 331-332.

[95] Id. at 332.

[96] Id. at 328, in footnote 4.

[97] Id. at 334, in footnote 7.

[98] Id. at 335.

[99] Id. at 335-336.

[100] Id. at 338.

[101] 480 Phil. 652 (2004).

[102] Dean Leonen Compliance; rollo, p. 338.

[103] Lynch Manifestation; rollo, p. 188; citing New York Times, Co. v. Sullivan, 376 US 254 (1964) quoted with approval by the Court in Lopez v. Court of Appeals, 145 Phil. 219 (1970).

[104] Id.

[105] G.R. No. 95445, August 6, 1991, 200 SCRA 323.

[106] Quoted by Prof. Lynch from the Dissenting Opinion of Justice Gutierrez, Jr. in the Manila Public School Teachers Association case (id. at 338).

[107] Quoted by Prof. Lynch from the Dissenting Opinion of Justice Cruz in the Manila Public School Teachers Association case (id. at 343).

[108] Supra note 69.

[109] Lynch Manifestation; rollo, p. 189.

[110] Id.

[111] Show Cause Resolution; rollo, p. 25.

[112] Id. at 26.

[113] To date, said motion for reconsideration of the Vinuya decision is still pending resolution by the Court.

[114] Show Cause Resolution; rollo, pp. 25-26.

[115] Id. at 26-27.

[116] Supra note 72.

[117] Id. at 726.

[118] Id. at 727-728.

[119] Id. at 728.

[120] Supra note 68.

[121] Id. at 564-565.

[122] Id. at 580-582.

[123] Supra note 80.

[124] Id. at 599-602.

[125] 329 Phil. 270 (1996).

[126] Id. at 276-279.

[127] A.C. No. 6567, April 16, 2008, 551 SCRA 359.

[128] Id. at 367-368.

[129] Supra note 69.

[130] Id. at 494.

[131] 248 Phil. 542 (1988).

[132] Id. at 579.

[133] Prof. Juan-Bautista and Prof. Lynch.

[134] G.R. No. 100113, September 3, 1991, 201 SCRA 210, 214, where the Court ruled that:

Practice of law means any activity, in or out of court, which requires the application of law, legal procedure, knowledge, training and experience. "To engage in the practice of law is to perform those acts which are characteristics of the profession. Generally, to practice law is to give notice or render any kind of service, which device or service requires the use in any degree of legal knowledge or skill." (Citing 111 ALR 23.)

[135] Rollo, pp. 6-7.

[136] Lynch Manifestation; rollo, p. 188.

[137] In the case of members of the Bar.

[138] In the case of members of the Bar and/or non-lawyers.

[139] Salcedo v. Hernandez, supra note 72 at 729-730.

[140] Dean Leonen Compliance; rollo, p. 336.

[141] Bautista Complaince; rollo, p. 179.

[142] Placido v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. 180888, September 18, 2009, 600 SCRA 697, 704-705.

[143] A.C. No. 7298, June 25, 2007, 525 SCRA 444, citing In re: Atty. Vicente Raul Almacen, supra note 68.

[144] Id. at 453.

[145] A.M. No. 08-6-352-RTC, August 19, 2009, 596 SCRA 378.

[146] Id. at 396-398.