The Supreme Court has ordered the suspension of a lawyer from law practice after it found him guilty of impropriety, particularly for employing his legal background to secure undue gains from a tenant to whom he verbally sold his property in Quezon City.
In an eight-page decision released last July 5, the SC’s Third Division suspended lawyer Joseph John Gerald Aguas for one year from law practice as it found merit in the administrative complaint filed by his tenant Paz Sanidad.
The SC found Aguas guilty of violating Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 of Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides that “a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.”
In her complaint, Sanidad claimed that Aguas verbally agreed in 2001 to sell to her the residence she leased in Batasan Hills village in Quezon City for P1.5 million.
Sanidad had paid her landlord P1.152 million through 10 installments as of 2011.
However, Aguas allegedly sent the tenant demand letters for supposed unpaid rent and threatened to evict her from the residence, claiming that Sanidad’s lease had long lapsed and her occupation was only by mere tolerance.
But in July 2014, the lawyer informed the IBP, which investigated the administrative complaint of Sanidad, that he already settled the case by turning over the title without receiving a single centavo as payment.
The tribunal found Aguas’ voluntary decision to turn over the title as “outright outrageous” and inconsistent with his claims and denials.
It cited as substantial evidence of the verbal contract Sanidad’s deposit slips, explaining that the amounts were too substantial to be mere rent payments as Aguas claimed.
The SC also faulted the lawyer for not issuing acknowledgment receipts for the bank deposits and for using the lack of a written contract to threaten Sanidad with eviction despite her payments.
“The interest of Sanidad, as buyer or lessee, as the case may be, was left fully unprotected,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta.
“Clearly, respondent [Aguas] failed to live up to the high standard of morality, honesty, integrity, and fair dealing required of him as a member of the legal profession. Instead, he employed his knowledge and skill of the law and took advantage of Sanidad to secure undue gains for himself,” the SC stressed.
In penalizing the lawyer, the High Court upgraded the recommended penalty of admonition by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
It also warned the lawyer that “a repetition of the same or similar offense will be dealt with more severely.”