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Prohibition against misleading the court, tribunal, or other government agency, C2S8 CPRA

Section 8, Canon II

SECTION 8. Prohibition against misleading the court, tribunal, or other government agency. -A lawyer shall not misquote, misrepresent, or mislead the court as to the existence or the contents of any document, argument, evidence, law, or other legal authority, or pass off as one’s own the ideas or words of another, or assert as a fact that which has not been proven. (2023 Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability or CPRA)

1. Prohibition against misleading the court, tribunal, or other government agency

a. No misquoting, misrepresenting, misleading the court

Lawyers should not misquote, misrepresent, or mislead the court as to the existence of the contents of any:

1) Document;

2) Argument;

3) Evidence;

4) Law; or

5) Other legal authority.

Misquoting or intercalating phrases in the text of a court decision constitutes willful disregard of the lawyer’s solemn duty to act at all times in manner consistent with the truth. A lawyer should never venture to mislead the court by false statements or quotations of facts or laws. Thus, in Bautista v. Gonzales, the Supreme Court suspended respondent for six (6) months for, among other submitting to the lower court falsified documents, representing them to the true copies. In Chavez v. Viola, the Supreme Court suspended respondent counsel for five (5) months after he filed an Amended Application for Original Registration of Title which contained false statements. (Adez Realty, Incorporated v. CA, En Banc, G.R. No. 100643, 30 October 1992)

Where a respondent-lawyer intercalated a material fact in the judgment of the court a quo thereby altering and modifying its factual findings with the apparent purpose of misleading this Court in order to obtain a favorable judgment, and thus failing to live up to the standards expected of a member of the Bar, he was disbarred. Those who attempt to misguide this Court, the last forum for appeal, should be dealt with more severely lest We be made unwilling instruments of inequity and injustice. Indeed, counsel has demonstrated his wanton disregard for truth and fairplay even before the Highest Court of the land. Worse, he compounded his unprofessional mischief by laying the blame on his hapless secretary whose duty is was simply to obey him. (Adez Realty, Incorporated v. CA [1992], supra.)

Torres v. Dalangin, A.C. No. 10758, 05 December 2017:

• While the Court detests [respondent-lawyer’s] failure to properly indicate that the statement was not a verbatim reproduction of the cited jurisprudence and, accordingly, calls his attention on the matter, it finds the admonition to be adequate. A suspension for the lone incident would be too harsh a penalty. It appeared that the supposed quotation was his own conclusion from the cited jurisprudence. There was no clear indication that the statement was intended to mislead the court or commit a falsehood; there was no brazen deviation from the principle or doctrine that was embodied in the jurisprudence’s original text.

Del Rosario v. Chingcuangco, G.R. No. L-25503,17 December 1996:

• Although he cites as docket number L-121447 instead of L-12147, the same is plainly but a slight typographical mistake not sufficient to place him in contempt, especially because the names of the parties were given correctly.

1) Syllabus of cases, not from Supreme Court

The syllabus of cases in official or unofficial reports of Supreme Court decisions or resolutions is not the work of the Court, nor does it state this Court’s decision. The syllabus is simply the work of the reporter who gives his understanding of the decision. The reporter writes the syllabus for the convenience of lawyers in reading the reports. A syllabus is not a part of the court’s decision. A counsel should not cite a syllabus in place of the carefully considered text in the decision of the Court. (Allied Banking Corporation v. CA, G.R. No. 144412, 18 November 2003)

b. No passing off as one’s own the ideas or words of another: plagiarism rule

Plagiarism, a term not defined by statute, has a popular or common definition. To plagiarize, says Webster, is “to steal and pass off as one’s own” the ideas or words of another. Stealing implies malicious taking. Black’s Law Dictionary, the world’s leading English law dictionary quoted by the Court in its decision, defines plagiarism as the “deliberate and knowing presentation of another person’s original ideas or creative expressions as one’s own.” The presentation of another person’s ideas as one’s own must be deliberate or premeditated – a taking with ill intent. (In the Matter of the Charges of Plagiarism, etc. Against Associate Justice Mariano C. Del Castillo, A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC, 08 February 2011)

The tendency to copy in law is readily explicable. In law accuracy of words is everything. Legal disputes often center round the way in which obligations have been expressed in legal documents and how the facts of the real world fit the meaning of the words in which the obligation is contained. This, in conjunction with the risk-aversion of lawyers means that refuge will often be sought in articulations that have been tried and tested. In a sense therefore the community of lawyers have together contributed to this body of knowledge, language, and expression which is common property and may be utilized, developed and bettered by anyone. (In the Matter of the Charges of Plagiarism, etc. Against Associate Justice Mariano C. Del Castillo [2011], supra.)

1) Not an offense

The Court will not, therefore, consistent with established practice in the Philippines and elsewhere, dare permit the filing of actions to annul the decisions promulgated by its judges or expose them to charges of plagiarism for honest work done. (In the Matter of the Charges of Plagiarism, etc. Against Associate Justice Mariano C. Del Castillo [2011], supra.)

This rule should apply to practicing lawyers as well. Counsels for the petitioners, like all lawyers handling cases before courts and administrative tribunals, cannot object to this. Although as a rule they receive compensation for every pleading or paper they file in court or for every opinion they render to clients, lawyers also need to strive for technical accuracy in their writings. They should not be exposed to charges of plagiarism in what they write so long as they do not depart, as officers of the court, from the objective of assisting the Court in the administration of justice. (In the Matter of the Charges of Plagiarism, etc. Against Associate Justice Mariano C. Del Castillo [2011], supra.)

No asserting as a fact that which has not been proven

To be considered facts before a court of law, they have to be duly proven. Thus, lawyers cannot assert as a fact that which has not been proven by supporting evidence. If they have not been duly proven, they remain as claims or allegations.

References

Canon II, 2023 Code of Professional Responsibility

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