VIDAYLIN YAMON-LEACH, COMPLAINANT, v. ATTY. ARTURO B. ASTORGA, RESPONDENT. Before the Court is a complaint for disbarment filed by herein complainant Vidaylin Yamon-Leach against herein respondent Atty. Arturo B. Astorga on grounds of deceit, malpractice, grossly immoral conduct and gross violation of his Oath of Office and the Code of Professional Responsibility. Facts: The respondent urged the petitioner to buy a "beach-front" property of Ms. Villaflora Un in Baybay, Leyte. Atty. Astorga did not give me a receipt but petitioner trusted him being a distant relative and the family lawyer. When petitioner returned to the Philippines, he visited Atty. Astorga, who told him that he has already paid Ms. Un and that he was allegedly working for the transfer of the title of the land to my name. Atty. Astorga then handed a Deed of Absolute Sale and asked petitioner to sign below the word "Conforme,". However, there are some strange features in the document, namely: it was undated; different persons as sellers; it did not contain a description of the boundaries of the land subject of the sale; and the number of the respective tax certificates of the sellers were not indicated. Atty. Astorga assured that everything was alright and that he would just make the necessary corrections later. Petitioner's brother verified from Ms. Villaflora Un the transaction who informed him that she did not receive a single centavo from Atty. Astorga. Further verification revealed that the sellers' signatures in the subject Deed of Sale prepared by Atty. Astorga were forgeries. Atty. Astorga admitted that he has used the money and made several promises to pay back however, failed to do so. Hence, a case was filed but respondent filed several motions to request for extension to file his comment. Issue:Whether or not Atty Astorga should be administratively liable? Ruling:Yes Respondent's failure to comply with the Court's several directives to file his comment to the complaint constitutes willful disobedience and gross misconduct. The Court defined gross misconduct as "any inexcusable, shameful, flagrant, or unlawful conduct on the part of the person concerned in the administration of justice which is prejudicial to the rights of the parties or to the right determination of a cause." It is a "conduct that is generally motivated by a premeditated, obstinate, or intentional purpose." In previous cases, this Court held that a respondent-lawyer's failure to comply with the lawful orders of this Court constitutes gross misconduct and insubordination or disrespect which, alone, can merit the penalty of disbarment.
As to the merit of complainant's allegations, it is evident from the documents presented that: respondent was the one who sought the complainant and encouraged her to invest in and buy what he represented as a "beach-front" property; respondent volunteered to act as complainant's representative in the supposed purchase of the alleged property as well as the processing of the documents necessary to transfer title to complainant; respondent not only received but even solicited and demanded substantial amounts from the complainant in four separate instances totaling P1,819,651.00, which he himself acknowledged to have received; he misrepresented that the said amount would cover, aside from the purchase price, expenses for the payment of various forms of taxes, processing fees and his professional fee; respondent misappropriated the money he received from complainant; respondent deceived complainant by making it appear that he bought the "beach-front" property when, in fact, he did not; he defrauded complainant and made false representations by showing a "Deed of Absolute Sale"25 of another property which appeared to have been executed by the owners thereof, when in fact, the said owners died eight (8) years prior to the date that they supposedly signed the said Deed; and respondent even went to the extent of making it appear that these dead people acknowledged the execution of the subject Deed of Sale before him as a notary public. Deceitful conduct involves moral turpitude and includes anything done contrary to justice, modesty or good morals. It is an act of baseness, vileness or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellowmen or to society in general, contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals. WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Atty. Arturo B. Astorga GUILTY of deceit, gross misconduct in office, violation of the Lawyer's Oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility, and willful disobedience of lawful orders of the Supreme Court. He is hereby DISBARRED from the practice of law. The Office of the Bar Confidant is DIRECTED to remove the name of Arturo B. Astorga from the Roll of Attorneys.