Emilia Dhaliwal vs Atty. Abelardo Dumaguing
Legal Ethics – Canon 16 – Money of Client
Emilia Dhaliwal was having some legal issues in purchasing a parcel of land from Fil-Estate Development, Inc. Their case reached the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB). She then engaged the services of Atty. Abelardo Dumaguing in the year 2000. Atty. Dumaguing was given P342,000.00 for him to consign with the HLURB. With the consignment, he filed a petition with the HLURB to compel Fil-Estate to deliver the title to Dhaliwal. However, a week later, Atty. Dumaguing withdrew from the HLURB the amount of P311,819.94.
In 2003, Dhaliwal terminated the services of Atty. Dumaguing. In the same year, Dhaliwal lost in the HLURB case. She then demanded Atty. Dumaguing to return her the P311,819.94 he earlier withdrew. Atty. Dumaguing refused to return said amount. Dhaliwal filed an administrative complaint against Atty. Dumaguing.
In his defense, Atty. Dumaguing said that the reason why he deemed it not proper to return the said amount to Dhaliwal is that he filed a motion for reconsideration with the HLURB but the latter had not yet acted on it. Atty. Dumaguing attached a copy of the said motion for reconsideration.
ISSUE: Whether or not Atty. Dumaguing should be disciplined.
HELD: Yes. It was established that the attached motion for reconsideration was a mere fabrication because it did not contain proof that the same was filed with the HLURB nor was there proof that the other party was notified.
Atty. Dumaguing is in violation of Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which states, among others, that: “A lawyer shall hold in trust all moneys and properties of his client that may come into his possession.” A lawyer’s failure to return upon demand the funds held by him on behalf of his client gives rise to the presumption that he has appropriated the same for his own use in violation of the trust reposed in him by his client. Such act is a gross violation of general morality as well as of professional ethics. It impairs public confidence in the legal profession and deserves punishment. Atty. Dumaguing was suspended for 6 months.