MANILA -- A lawyer who had a romantic relationship with a client while he was still married and later failed to support his child from the illicit affair has been ordered disbarred by the Supreme Court (SC).
In a ruling released Tuesday, the SC said lawyer Amador B. Peleo III “lost his fitness to continue as a member of the Bar” for committing a string of offenses including his failure to provide child support to his minor son and for falsifying entries in his son’s birth certificate.
Peleo was found guilty of gross unlawful, dishonest and deceitful conduct in violation of Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. His name was ordered stricken out of the Roll of Attorneys as the court ruled on a 2011 complaint filed by Marife Venzon with whom Peleo had a son.
The court said that it was not deciding Peleo's professional fitness based on a single and one-off private event in his life, but on “the confluence of respondent’s acts which already spill beyond what happens inside the privacy of one’s intimate space.”
The court noted six transgressions of Peleo -- he maintained sexual relations with Marife while still lawfully married to his wife; falsified entries in the birth certificate of his son when he claimed to be legally married to Marife; repeatedly failed to give child support to his minor child; misused the legal process by filing a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage without any serious intention to prosecute it.
The SC said the lawyer likewise seriously disrespected the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)’s authority and dignity when he disregarded an agreement brokered by the IBP between him and Marife; and deceived the government and private businesses by continuously availing of the Senior Citizens’ discount by misrepresenting himself as a senior when in truth, he was not yet 60 years old.
“Indeed, public confidence in law and lawyers may be eroded by the irresponsible and improper conduct of a member of the Bar. Hence, every lawyer is duty-bound to act and comport himself or herself in such a manner that would promote public confidence in the integrity of the legal profession. Respondent’s conduct does not help in that regard, but worse, directly encourages people to entertain themselves with jokes about lawyers and the legal profession as the butt of their unflattering jokes,” the Court ruled.
In 1996, Marife met the respondent who handled her petition for declaration of nullity of her marriage with her husband. By the time her marriage was annulled, they were already in a serious relationship and, in 1998 she gave birth to their son.
Initially, Peleo responsibly acted as a family man even purchasing for Marife and their son a two-story apartment in Sampaloc, Manila.
They also jointly purchased a lot and built a house on it in Facoma, Barangay Labangan, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro.
Peleo, however, later on no longer visited her and their son and stopped giving financial support.
He also reneged on his undertaking to give the Manila and Mindoro properties to them and continued to ignore her pleas for support, forcing her to seek assistance from the IBP.
Through the IBP, they met and signed a joint undertaking, but Peleo also did not honor the same. (PNA)