Gross Immorality

“We cannot castigate a man for seeking out the partner of his dreams, for marriage is a sacred and perpetual bond which should be entered into because of love, not for any other reason.”

(FIGUEROA v. BARRANCO, JR., SBC Case No. 519. July 31, 1997)

Lawyers have become the subject of jokes, anecdotes, and sometimes ridicule from the time their profession has been known to exist. There seems to be a love and hate relationship between them and the world. Some treat them with respect, reverence, and even fear but others also vilify them to the point of likening them to thieves who drain their clients of their money and property. Fortunately and unfortunately I belong to that profession. Over the years, the Supreme Court as the regulating body of the profession rendered decisions dismissing and castigating lawyers who are found to have violated the code of conduct for lawyers. The case of Figueroa vs. Barranco Jr., involves a bar passer who was prevented from taking his oath by reason of supposed gross immorality for more than 26 years!

Gross Immorality

Barranco passed the bar in 1970 after four attempts but before taking his oath his partner Patricia with whom he had a son filed a complaint against the former for gross immorality. For several instances, Barranco promised to marry Patricia when he passes the bar. Unfortunately, Barranco upon passing married another woman which prompted Patricia to file the case. For many years Barranco sought the dismissal of the case against him on the ground of lack of interest to prosecute until finally the matter was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for its recommendation. After investigation, the IBP submitted its recommendation for the dismissal of the case because they found no gross immorality on the part of Barranco.

 Barranco May Take His Oath

The Supreme Court agreed with the recommendation of the IBP and allowed Barranco to take his oath as a lawyer 26 years after passing the bar! Atty. Simeon’s unfulfilled promise to marry Patricia does not constitute gross immorality to bar him from taking his oath and practice his profession as a lawyer. “The Court has held that to justify suspension or disbarment the act complained of must not only be immoral, but grossly immoral.” A grossly immoral act is one that is so corrupt and false as to constitute a criminal act or so unprincipled or disgraceful as to be reprehensible to a high degree.” It is a willful, flagrant, or shameless act which shows a moral indifference to the opinion of respectable members of the community.” This case against Barranco appears to be Patricia’s revenge against the former for his failure to fulfill his promise to marry the latter. To prevent Atty. Simeon from taking his oath would actually be a punishment for marrying another person and not Patricia. This, the Supreme Court cannot do. As it said: “…marriage is a sacred and perpetual bond which should be entered into because of love, not for any other reason.”

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