Elpidio Tiong vs Atty. George Florendo
Problem Areas in Legal Ethics – Pardon Does Not Bar Sanction Against an Erring Lawyer – Moral Depravity – Grossly Immoral Conduct
Atty. George Florendo has been serving as the lawyer of spouses Elpidio and Ma. Elena Tiong. Elpidio, a US citizen is often times away. For two years, he suspected that his wife and Atty. Florendo were having an affair. Finally in 1995, he was able to listen to a telephone conversation where he heard Atty. Florendo mention amorous words to Ma. Elena. Atty. Florendo confronted the two and both eventually admitted to their illicit relationship. Atty. Florendo and Ma. Elena then executed and signed an affidavit, which was later notarized, stating that they admit of their illicit relationship; that they are seeking the forgiveness of their respective spouse. Elpidio forgave Florendo and Ma. Elena. But nevertheless, Elpidio filed a disbarment case against Florendo.
Florendo said he can no longer be sanctioned because he was already pardoned.
ISSUE: Whether or not Atty. Florendo is correct.
HELD: No. A petition for suspension or disbarment of a lawyer is a sui generis case. This class of cases is meant to protect the public and the courts of undesirable members of the legal profession. As such, pardon by the offended party of the act complained of does not operate to offset the ground for disbarment or suspension. Florendo’s act of having an affair with his client’s wife manifested his disrespect for the laws on the sanctity of marriage and his own marital vow of fidelity. It showed his utmost moral depravity and low regard for the ethics of his profession. He violated the trust reposed upon him by his client (Canon 17, Code of Professional Responsibility). His illicit relationship with Ma. Elena amounts to a disgraceful and grossly immoral conduct warranting disciplinary action. Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court provides that an attorney may be disbarred or suspended from his office for any deceit, malpractice, or other gross misconduct in office, grossly immoral conduct, among others. It cannot be also said, as he claims, that their relationship is merely a moment of indiscretion considering that their affair went on for more than two years. Florendo was suspended for 6 months.