Domestic violence

Published by rudy Date posted on August 6, 2021

by Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star), 6 Aug 2021

This is the case of a lawyer Atty. Manuel Castro (Manny) and his wife Tina involving domestic violence that led to the filing of administrative complaint for disbarment and criminal case for violence against women against Manny. The main question that arises here is whether domestic squabbles involving a lawyer are proper subjects of disbarment proceedings.

Manny and Tina have been married for 21 years and were blessed with four children. During the early years of their married life, they did not encounter any major marital problem. However, when Manny became a lawyer four years after their marriage, Manny became abusive and irresponsible towards his family and subjected Tina to verbal, emotional, psychological and physical abuse.

Tina cited and described several incidents substantially proving her allegations. In the first incident, Manny choked, pushed and punched Tina at the back after a heated argument over money in the presence of their two children, her mother, brother and sister. Tina reported what happened to the police who issued a police blotter and had herself examined by a physician who issued a medical certificate. These police blotter and medical certificate were presented by Tina as evidence. Manny admitted pushing her but said he lost his composure.

The next incident happened about four years thereafter after an argument between the spouses about Manny’s alleged affair with another woman. Manny again pushed Tina, causing her to lose her balance and hit the gate of their house. Pictures were taken of her head injuries. Manny, however, claimed that his alleged affair with another woman was merely fabricated because of Tina’s excessive jealousy.

The third incident happened about seven months after the second incident when Manny boxed Tina’s right eye as she followed Manny to his law office to chat with him. Manny became hostile and misinterpreted everything that led to the filing by Tina of the crime of violence against women. Tina showed four pictures of the black eye. Eventually, Tina desisted from pursuing the criminal charge and filed an administrative case for disbarment of Manny before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).

While the Investigating Commissioner of the IBP recommended the dismissal of the administrative charge, the IPB Board of Governors reversed and set aside the recommendation and disbarred Manny. This ruling was sustained by the Supreme Court (SC) with modification. According to the SC, a lawyer’s duty to comport one’s self in a professional and respectful manner is not only confined to professional engagements but extends to one’s personal life. “A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor shall he, whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession” (Rule 7.03 Code of Professional Responsibility or CPR). Corollary to this standard of conduct is the proscription against engaging in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct under Rule 1.01 of the CPR. Rule 138 of the Rules of Court also lists deceit, malpractice, other gross misconduct in the office, gross immoral conduct or a violation of the lawyer’s oath as grounds for suspension or disbarment.

Attorney Manuel Castro’s actions fall short of the exacting moral standards of the noble profession of law. Although acts amounting to gross immorality cannot be delineated, grossly immoral conduct is one that is willful, flagrant or shameless, which show a moral indifference to the opinion of the good and respectable members of the community. Determining whether one’s action is grossly immoral depends on the attendant circumstance and prevailing normal conduct.

Attorney Castro’s acts are wanting in the professional conduct expected of him. The incidents reported by Tina were accompanied by substantial evidence that Attorney Castro became physically violent with her and are sufficient to merit disciplinary action. Attorney Castro never denied hurting Tina in the first incident. He merely attacks the probative value of the police blotter. But entries in the police records made by a police officer in the performance of duty especially enjoined by law are prima facie evidence of the facts therein stated. They are admitted and considered in the absence of competent evidence to refute the facts stated therein.

Attorney Castro’s narration of the facts does not inspire belief. His defense is contrary to human experience. It is more believable that he deliberately boxed Tina. What is more, he admitted seeing Tina with an injury on her eye yet he did not even bother to attend to her wounds. To him, fight was a normal quarrel between couples. But even so, physical violence is never a normal occurrence when couples argue. Violence is violence. To justify the same goes against the very essence of a civilized society.

But since most of the incidences complained of were caused by Tina’s provocation and that Attorney Castro has solely provided for their four children’s education, sustenance and support, a suspension of three months instead of disbarment is more appropriate. (Cristobal vs Cristobal, A.C. No 12702, Nov. 8, 2020)

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