Philippines Disbarment Case – Atty. Daniel Liangco Disbarred

The Supreme Court (SC) has disbarred a former judge in Pampanga who was earlier dismissed from the service after he ruled in favor of a municipal mayor which enjoined the demolition of a house owned by a private citizen in 1996.

The SC found Atty. Daniel Liangco guilty of gross misconduct in violation of Canon 1, Sections 4 and 5 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary and of inexcusable ignorance of the law in violation of Canons 1 and 10, Rule 10.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

It ordered the Bar Confidant to strike out Liangco’s name from the Roll of Attorneys.

It can be recalled that in a per curiam en banc resolution in Gozun v. Hon. Liangco, dated Aug. 30, 2000, the SC had ordered the dismissal from the service of Liangco as judge of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of San Fernando, Pampanga and as acting judge of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of Mexico-San Luis, Pampanga for the same offense.

Liangco’s dismissal was with forfeiture of all his retirement benefits and accumulated leave credits; and with prejudice to his reinstatement or reemployment in any branch, instrumentality or agency of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations (GOCCs).

The SC had further ordered the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) to initiate disbarment proceedings against Liangco for misconduct as a member of the bar.

Records showed that the then Municipal Mayor Jovito Bondoc had requested complainant Hermogenes Gozun to vacate his premises through a resolution.

On June 3, 1996, Gozun’s wife together with other public school teachers went to the office of the respondent judge.

When asked about the resolution Liangco issued against his property, respondent judge answered, “Ing Apung Guinu yu y Mayor Bondoc at kaya ko makisabi” (“Your God is Mayor Bondoc and you should talk to him”).

On Aug. 8, 1996, agents of the municipal government demolished complainant Gozun’s house, using as basis the respondent judge’s resolution and the mayor’s executive order.

On Dec. 18, 1996, complainant Gozun filed the administrative complaint before the OCA.

Gozun argued that the respondent judge’s issuance of the resolution amounts to “gross misconduct, gross inefficiency and incompetence.”

He further accused the municipal mayor of having bribed the respondent judge.

Bondoc told Gozun that “the respondent judge is in his pocket…because he (Mayor Bondoc) has given him (respondent judge) a lot of things (“dacal naku a regalo kaya”).

The SC en banc noted on Aug. 7, 2001 the submission of the respondent and referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation within 90 days from receipt of the records of the case.

The IBP found that the respondent had acted with manifested bias and partiality in favor of a party-litigant and shown inexcusable ignorance of the Rules of Procedure.

The SC subsequently upheld in “toto” the IBP’s findings and recommendations.

“The evidence on record overwhelmingly supports the finding that respondent is guilty of gross misconduct and inexcusable ignorance of well-established rules of procedures,” the SC decision said.

“We are appalled by respondent’s ignorance of the basic rules of procedure. His wanton use of court processes in this case without regard for the repercussions on the rights and property of others clearly shows his unfitness to remain a member of the bar,” the SC ruling said.

“What is most unfortunate is that the Sanguniang Bayan, relying on the Resolution respondent issued, caused the demolition of the house of Gozun and his family, who were thus ejected from the property they had been occupying for decades. In effect, Gozun was deprived of his property without due process. To us, this is precisely the injustice that members of the bench and the bar are sworn to guard against. Regrettably, respondent as judge was even instrumental in its commission. When his liability for his act was invoked, he casually justifies them as honest mistakes not attended by malice or bad faith. His justification is unacceptable to us,” the SC said.

As a member of the bar and former judge, the SC said, “respondent is expected to be well-versed in the Rules of Procedure. This expectation is imposed upon members of the legal profession, because membership in the bar is in the category of a mandate for public service of the highest order. Lawyers are oath-bound servants of society whose conduct is clearly circumscribed by inflexible norms of law and ethics, and whose primary duty is the advancement of the quest for truth and justice, for which they have sworn to be fearless crusaders.”

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