SECTION 16. Irrelevance. of desistance, settlement, compromise, restitution, withdrawal, or failure to prosecute. – No investigation shall be interrupted or terminated by reason of the desistance, settlement, compromise, restitution, withdrawal of the charges, or failure of the complainant to prosecute the same. (2023 Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability or CPRA)
1. Irrelevance of desistance, settlement, compromise, restitution, withdrawal, or failure to prosecute
Investigations will not be interrupted nor terminated by reason of:
5) Withdrawal of the charges, or
6) Failure of the complainant to prosecute the same.
An affidavit of withdrawal or desistance does not terminate the disciplinary proceedings against an errant lawyer. (Quitazol v. Capela, En Banc, A.C. No. 12072, December 09, 2020, Per Lopez, J.)
A case of suspension or disbarment may proceed regardless of interest or lack of interest of the complainant. What matters is whether, on the basis of the facts borne out by the record, the charge of negligence has been duly proved. This rule is premised on the nature of disciplinary proceedings. A proceeding for suspension or disbarment is not in any sense a civil action where the complainant is a plaintiff and the respondent lawyer is a defendant. Disciplinary proceedings involve no private interest and afford no redress for private grievance. They are undertaken and prosecuted solely for the public welfare. They are undertaken for the purpose of preserving courts of justice from the official ministration of persons unfit to practice in them. The attorney is called to answer to the court for his conduct as an officer of the court. The complainant or the person who called the attention of the court to the attorney’s alleged misconduct is in no sense a party, and has generally no interest in the outcome except as all good citizens may have in the proper administration of justice. Hence, if the evidence on record warrants, the respondent may be suspended or disbarred despite the desistance of complainant or his withdrawal of the charges. Accordingly, notwithstanding the motion to withdraw evidence and testimony, the disbarment proceeding should proceed. (Sps. Soriano v. Reyes, A.C. No. 4675, May 04, 2006, Per Chico-Nazario, J.)
[D]isciplinary proceedings against lawyers are sui generis. Neither purely civil nor purely criminal, they do not involve a trial of an action or a suit, but is rather an investigation by the Court into the conduct of one of its officers. Not being intended to inflict punishment, it is in no sense a criminal prosecution. Accordingly, it also involves neither a plaintiff nor a prosecutor. It may be initiated by the Court motu proprio. Public interest is its primary objective, and the real question for determination is whether or not the attorney is still a fit person to be allowed the privileges as such. Hence, in the exercise of its disciplinary powers, the Court merely calls upon a member of the Bar to account for his actuations as an officer of the Court with the end in view of preserving the purity of the legal profession and the proper and honest administration of justice by purging the profession of members who, by their misconduct, have proved themselves no longer worthy to be entrusted with the duties and responsibilities pertaining to the office of an attorney. (BSA Tower Condominium Corporation v. Reyes II, A.C. No. 11944, June 20, 2018, Per Peralta, J.)
Quitazol v. Capela, En Banc, A.C. No. 12072, December 09, 2020, Per Lopez, J.:
• Jurisprudence is replete with cases holding that an affidavit of desistance is immaterial in administrative proceedings. In Spouses Soriano v. Atty. Reyes, we suspended the lawyer for his failure to file a pre-trial brief, notwithstanding an affidavit of withdrawal. Likewise, the respondent lawyer in Angalan v. Atty. Delante, was disbarred, despite an affidavit of desistance, for taking advantage of his clients and transferring the title of their property to his name. In Ylaya v. Atty. Gacott the disciplinary case continued against the negligent lawyer although the complainant moved to withdraw the complaint. Applying these precepts, Napoleon’s affidavit of withdrawal neither exonerates Atty. Capela nor puts an end to the administrative proceedings. The disciplinary case against Atty. Capela thus proceeds.