The Supreme Court (SC) disbarred a lawyer who told his client he could secure a temporary restraining order (TRO) from a lower court in exchange for a P150,000 bribe.
In a statement yesterday, the High Court said it disbarred lawyer Jose A. Diño Jr., noting that said “professional malpractice and gross misconduct and the gravity of his acts” on the part of Diño warrants disbarment from the practice of law.
“A three-year suspension from the practice of law is too light a penalty for a lawyer who, instead of protecting the integrity and independence of the court, besmirched its reputation by claiming that a member of the judiciary is for sale. Atty. Diño is unfit to discharge the duties of an office of the court; hence, he deserves the ultimate penalty of disbarment,” the SC through Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza said in the ruling.
Diño was the former counsel of Vantage Lighting Philippines, Inc. in a civil case filed before the Regional Trial Court of Parañaque City.
The company, along with its vice president Ma. Cecila G. Roque and a certain John Paul Fairclough are the complainants in the disbarment case filed against Diño.
After the civil case was filed with the RTC in Sept. 5, 2006, Diño informed Roque that Vantage would need to pay P150,000 to the judge to whom the case will be raffled for the issuance of a TRO.
Diño ended up initially advancing the amount of P20,000 which was reimbursed by Vantage believing that it was for a legitimate legal expense or fee.
The TRO was eventually issued by the RTC on September 19, 2006.
Diño immediately sought reimbursement from Vantage of additional expenses which he purportedly incurred, including the amount of P130,000 he claims given to “fixers” as alleged payment to the judge who issued the TRO.
When Roque told Diño that she will relay the matter to higher management, Diño was outraged. Because of the misunderstanding between Vantage and Diño, the latter withdrew as counsel of Vantage on Sept. 21, 2006 and sent a formal billing statement.
When the bill remained unsettled, Diño filed several harassment complaints, both criminal and civil, against Vantage, Roque, and Fairclough.
On Jan. 2, 2007, Vantage, Roque, and Fairclough filed a verified disbarment complaint against Diño before the SC and the same was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report, and recommendation.
The SC did not agree with the recommended penalty of the IBP on Diño and said Diño was guilty of gross misconduct for filing vexatious suits against his clients.
The court also agreed with the finding of the IBP that Diño tainted the image of the judiciary by invoking that the P150,000 to be collected from Vantage will be used to facilitate the issuance of the TRO.
“As an officer of the court, Atty. Diño has a paramount duty to protect the court’s integrity and to assist it in the administration of justice according to law. He should not espouse a belief that the judicial system can be bought nor propagate such belief. Unfortunately, instead of relying on the merits of his client’s cause, Atty. Diño represented to his clients that the judicial system can be bribed. This inexcusable, shameful and flagrant unlawful conduct alone of Atty. Diño constituted gross misconduct,” the SC said.* (Benjamin Pulta, PNA via NDB)05