196 SCRA 302
In 1933, complainant Paulino Valencia (Paulino in short) and his wife Romana allegedly bought a parcel of land, where they built their residential house, from a certain Serapia Raymundo, an heir of Pedro Raymundo the original owner. However, they failed to register the sale or secure a transfer certificate of title in their names. Sometime in December, 1968, a conference was held in the house of Atty. Eduardo Jovellanos to settle the land dispute between Serapia Raymundo another heir of Pedro Raymundo, and the Valencia spouses since both were relatives and distant kin of Atty. Jovellanos.
Serapia was willing to relinquish ownership if the Valencias could show documents evidencing ownership. Paulino exhibited a deed of sale written in the Ilocano dialect. However, Serapia claimed that the deed covered a different property. Paulino and Serapia were not able to settle their differences.
On December 15, 1969 Serapia, assisted by Atty. Arsenio Fer Cabanting, filed a complaint against Paulino for the recovery of possession with damages. On January 22, 1973, the Court of First Instance of Pangasinan, Branch V, rendered a decision in favor of plaintiff, Serapia Raymundo. Paulino, thereafter, filed a Petition for Certiorari, under Rule 65, with Preliminary Injunction before the Court of Appeals alleging that the trial court failed to provide a workable solution concerning his house. While the petition was pending, the trial court, on March 9, 1973, issued an order of execution stating that “the decision in this case has already become final and executory.
On March 20, 1973, Serapia sold 40 square meters of the litigated lot to Atty. Jovellanos and the remaining portion she sold to her counsel, Atty. Arsenio Fer Cabanting, on April 25, 1973.
Whether or not Atty. Cabanting purchased the subject property in violation of Art. 1491 of the New Civil Code.
The following persons cannot acquire by purchase, even at a public or judicial auction, either in person or through the mediation of another:
(5) xxx this prohibition includes the act of acquiring by assignment and shall apply to lawyers, with respect to the property and rights which may be the object of any litigation in which they may take part by virtue of their profession.
Public policy prohibits the transactions in view of the fiduciary relationship involved. It is intended to curtail any undue influence of the lawyer upon his client. Greed may get the better of the sentiments of loyalty and disinterestedness. Any violation of… this prohibition would constitute malpractice Art. 1491, prohibiting the sale to the counsel concerned, applies only while the litigation is pending.
In the case at bar, while it is true that Atty. Arsenio Fer Cabanting purchased the lot after finality of judgment, there was still a pending certiorari proceeding. A thing is said to be in litigation not only if there is some contest or litigation over it in… court, but also from the moment that it becomes subject to the judicial action of the judge. (Gan Tingco vs. Pabinguit, 35 Phil. 81).
Logic dictates, in certiorari proceedings, that the appellate court may either grant or dismiss the petition.
*Case digest by Bryne Angelo M. Brillantes, JD-IV, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2019-2020