Sunday, October 23, 2011

In re Santiago (1940)

In Re Atty. Roque Santiago
June 21, 1940

Original Action in the Supreme Court. Malpractice.

In this administrative case, the Solicitor General charged the respondent Atty. Roque Santiago with malpractice and prayed that disciplinary action be taken against him.
The respondent gave legal advice to one Ernesto Baniquit who was living separately from his wife for some nine consecutive years and seeking to contract a second marriage. The respondent assured Baniquit that he could secure a separation from his wife and marry again. The lawyer prepared a document (Exhibit A) stating that the contracting parties, husband and wife, were authorized to marry again and at the same time giving the authorization to renounce or waive each member’s right against the party marrying.
 The notary let the husband and wife execute and acknowledge the document and declared that they were again single and as such could contract another marriage. Relying on this document, Baniquit contracted a second marriage.
The respondent, upon realizing his mistake, sent for the parties and let them sign the deed of cancellation (Exhibit C) a month later but after the second marriage of Baniquit.

1. Did the lawyer commit malpractice in his acts regarding the dispensation of such advice and preparation of document?
2. Is the document regarding separation (Exhibit A) valid?

1. Yes. The advice given by the respondent and his preparation and acknowledgment by of the contract constitute malpractice which justifies disbarment from the practice of law.
2. No. Marriage separation should have should be sanctioned in the proper court and before the separation (see Selanova). Apart from this, the document subverts the vital foundation of the family, marriage, and is contrary to law, morals and public policy.

Respondent suspended from practice of law for one year.

A.      As a response to Baniquit’s question, Santiago remarked that he would tear the diploma off the wall if the document did not turn out to be valid.
B.      Santiago was ignorant of the applicable provision of the law or carelessly negligent in giving legal advice.
C.      The admission to the practice of law dependent on a lawyer’s remaining as a fit-and-safe person to society. Once he becomes unsafe or unfit to be entrusted with obligations, his professional privilege should be terminated.

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