Love in the legal profession
“Love is useless unless it is shared with another. Indeed, no man is an island.”
This pronouncement in the case of Chi Ming Tsoi vs. Lao-Tsoi (GR No. 119190, 16 January 1997) is one of the Supreme Court decisions often quoted on the subject of love.
The Supreme Court stressed that “an expressive interest in each other’s feelings at a time it is needed by the other can go a long way in deepening the relationship.” I first read the case as a law student at the University of the Philippines.
“If the two eventually fell in love, despite the disparity in their ages and academic levels, this only lends substance to the truism that the heart has reasons of its own which reason does not know”, says the Court on a case involving a 30-year-old teacher who was fired for marrying her 16-year-old student.” (Chua-Qua vs Tay Tung High School, G.R. No. 49549 August 30, 1990)
“Individuals who are in love had the power to let love grow or let love die – it is a choice one had to face when love is not the love one expected.” (Padilla-Rumbaua v. Rumbaua, G.R. No. 166738, August 14, 2009)
“There can be no love where respect is gone.” (People vs. Rivera Nov. 17, 1999)
“Litigation to the sorrows caused by a broken heart and a broken promise must be discouraged.” (Guevarra v. Banach, G.R. No. 214016, November 24, 2021)
The Court also underscored in People v. Bautista (G.R. No. 140278, June 3, 2004) that “love is not a license for lust”.
Love indeed is the highest law of all. But for members for legal profession, love has to be held in abeyance if the other party is a client.
A lawyer might soon be prohibited from romantic entanglements with a client if the proposed revisions in the 34-year-old Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR) will take effect.
The prohibition is indicated in proposed Section 15 which states: “A lawyer shall not have dating, romantic, or sexual relations with a client during the engagement, unless the consensual relationship existed between them before the lawyer-client relationship commenced.”
Updating the 34-year old CPR is in line with the Supreme Court’s rule that possession of good moral character is both a condition precedent and a continuing requirement to warrant admission to the Bar and to retain membership in the legal profession.
“We want to be very clear that the lawyer-client relationship can clearly define what are your duties and what are your responsibilities. We don’t want any dating or romantic factor to blur these lines,” Associate Justice Maria Filomena Singh said in an interview.
The proposal earned different reactions from a Facebook lawyer’s group: “Sorry It is not you it is my profession.”; “Sign this motion to withdraw appearance please”; “I don’t need love, I need cash. I am sorry”; “When both are in love there is no illegality”; and “Execute a waiver and quit claim with affidavit of desistance.”.
Violation of said provision may lead to disciplinary proceedings whose purposes are to protect the public, to foster public confidence in the Bar, to preserve the integrity of the profession, and to deter other lawyers from similar misconduct.
The Supreme Court in cases involving illicit relationships penalized the erring lawyers either by suspension or disbarment, depending on the circumstances of the case.
In case of suspension, the period would range from one year to indefinite suspension.
Disbarment is imposed where the misconduct and unrepentant demeanor shows a serious flaw in his character and the outright defiance of established norms, including the moral indifference to the sanctity of marriage and marital vows.
The conduct complained of must not only be immoral, but must be grossly immoral.
Disbarment were imposed by the Supreme Court on several cases as the conduct put the legal profession in disrepute and place the integrity of the administration of justice in peril.
In Toledo v. Toledo (117 Phil. 768), and Hosoya v. Contado, (AC No. 10731, October 5, 2021), the Supreme Court disbarred lawyers who had abandoned their respective wives and families and cohabited with another with whom they had children.
In Obusan v. Obusan Jr. (213 Phil. 437), the lawyer had abandoned the wife and maintained an adulterous relationship with a married woman.
In Cojuangco v. Palma (481 Phil. 646), the lawyer abandoned his lawful wife and three children, lured an innocent woman into marrying him and misrepresented himself as a “bachelor” so he could contract marriage in a foreign land.
In Dantes v. Dantes, (482 Phil. 64) the lawyer maintained illicit relationships with two different women during the subsistence of his marriage to his legal wife.
In Villatuya v. Tabalingcos, (676 SCRA 37), the lawyer entered into marriage twice while his first marriage was still subsisting.
Extramarital affairs of lawyers are regarded as offensive to the sanctity of marriage, the family, and the community that blemish their ethics and morality.
(Peyups is the moniker of University of the Philippines. Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail [email protected], or call 09175025808 or 09088665786.)
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