CAPILI vs BENTULAN
Republic of the Philippines
A.C. No. 5862 October 12, 2011
DALISAY CAPILI, complainant,
ATTY. ALFREDO L. BENTULAN, respondent.
Please take notice that the Court, Second Division, issued a Resolution dated 12 October 2011 which reads as follows:
A.C. No. 5862: DALISAY CAPILI, complainant, v. ATTY. ALFREDO L. BENTULAN, respondent.
This is a disbarment case filed by complainant Dalisay Capili against respondent Atty. Alfredo L. Bentulan for the latter’s failure to file appellant’s brief with the Court of Appeals within the prescribed period in CA-G.R. CV No. 35471 entitled “Dalisay Capili v. Roger Gordon Dahlberg, et al.”
Complainant was the appellant in CA-G.R. CV No. 35471 while respondent was her counsel of record in said case. Complainant alleges that despite her payment for the preparation and filing of an appeal brief, respondent failed to file such pleading resulting in the dismissal of her appeal. The belated filing of the appeal brief was subsequently disallowed by the Court of Appeals.
For respondent’s failure to file seasonably the appeal brief, resulting in the dismissal of her appeal, complainant prays that respondent be disbarred.
Respondent counters that the disbarment complaint is a mere act of harassment instigated by a certain Timoteo Aranjuez, the National President of the Union of Filipino Workers. Respondent claims that his belated filing of the appeal brief is justifiable for the following reasons: (1) complainant knew that her appeal was unmeritorious and (2) complainant did not pay for the filing and preparation of the appeal brief. Respondent further asserts that complainant is guilty of laches for waiting ten (10) years before filing the instant complaint.
The Court referred the instant case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation.
The IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the report and recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner, suspending respondent from the practice of law for three months for the latter’s inexcusable negligence in not filing the appeal brief within the prescribed time.
We adopt the IBP’s findings of fact and conclusions of law.
Respondent’s reasons for not filing the appeal brief within the prescribed period are plainly unacceptable. First, whether respondent was paid for the filing and preparation of the appeal brief is of no moment. In Francisco v. Portugal, the Court reiterated the principle that a lawyer owes fidelity to both cause and client, even if he is not paid any fee for the attorney-client relationship. Second, if respondent earnestly believed that the appeal is unmeritorious, he should have advised complainant accordingly. Third, respondent’s allegation that the filing of this complaint is merely a harassment suit instigated by Mr. Aranjuez is self-serving and speculative.
Moreover, respondent cannot evade liability although complainant filed the instant case after a lapse often years from respondent’s misconduct. Even the lapse of considerable time from the commission of the offending act to the filing of the administrative complaint will not exonerate a lawyer from administrative culpability. In Bides-Ulaso v. Noe-Lacsamana, the Court held:
Neither the lapse of time from the occurrence of the cause nor the motivation for the filing of the complaint diminished the Court’s inherent power to discipline a member of the Bar whenever appropriate. First of all, the ordinary statutes of limitation had no application to disbarment or suspension proceedings against members of the Bar. Indeed, such proceedings are sui generic. They are not akin to the trials of actions or suits in which interests and rights are enforced by the plaintiffs against the defendants, but are rather investigations into the conduct of the members of the Bar made by the Supreme Court within the context of its plenary powers expressly granted by the Constitution to regulate the practice of law. The proceedings, which the Court may even motu proprio initiate, have neither plaintiffs nor prosecutors. The public interest is their primary objective, the true question for determination being whether or not the respondent members of the Bar are still fit to be allowed to retain their memberships and to enjoy the privileges appurtenant to such memberships.
The failure to file a brief resulting in the dismissal of an appeal constitutes inexcusable negligenceand violates Canon 18, Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides:
CANON 18 — A LAWYER SHALL SERVE HIS CLIENT WITH COMPETENCE AND DILIGENCE.
x x x x
Rule 18.03 — A lawyer shall not neglect a matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Alfredo L. Bentulan is found GUILTY of violating Canon 18, Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. He is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of three (3) months, with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar act will be dealt with more severely.
Let copies of this Resolution be furnished all courts of the land, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, as well as the Office of the Bar Confidant for their information and guidance, and let it be entered in respondent’s personal records.
SO ORDERED. (Perez, J., on official leave; Perlas-Bernabe, J., designated Acting Member per Special Order No. 1114 dated 3 October 2011)
Very truly yours,
(Sgd.) MA. LUISA L. LAUREA
Division Clerk of Court
 Rollo, pp. 1-3.
 Id. at 22.
 A.C. No. 6155, 14 March 2006, 484 SCRA 571, 582 citing Burbe v. Atty. Magulta, 432 Phil. 840 (2002).
 Frias v. Bautista-Lozada, A.C. No. 6656, 4 May 2006, 489 SCRA 345, 347 citing Heck v. Santos, A.M No. RTJ-01-1657, 23 February 2004, 423 SCRA 329.
 A.C. No. 7297, 29 September 2009, 601 SCRA 184, 197-198.
 Conlu v. Aredonia, Jr., A.C. No. 4955, 12 September 2011, citing Perla Campania de Seguros, Inc. v. Saquilabon, 337 Phil. 555 (1997).