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Use of dignified, gender-fair, and child- and culturally-sensitive language, C2S4 CPRA

Section 4, Canon II

SECTION 4. Use of dignified, gender-fair, and child- and culturally-sensitive language. – A lawyer shall use only dignified, gender-fair, child- and culturally-sensitive language in all personal and professional dealings.
To this end, a lawyer shall not use language which is abusive, intemperate, offensive or otherwise improper, oral or written, and whether made through traditional or electronic means, including all forms or types of mass or social media. (2023 Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability or CPRA)

1. Use of dignified, gender-fair, and child- and culturally-sensitive language

a. Dignified, gender-fair, and child- and culturally-sensitive language

Dignified language – refers to language that is in keeping with the respect and dignity of the legal profession.

Gender-fair language – refers to language that is fair and/or balanced to different kinds of gender.

Child-sensitive language – refers to language that is appropriate and/or suitable for children.

Culturally-sensitive language – refers to language that recognizes and respects historical and socio-cultural traditions and customs.

Well-recognized is the right of a lawyer, both as an officer of the court and as a citizen, to criticize in properly respectful terms and through legitimate channels the acts of courts and judges. Though a lawyer’s language may be forceful and emphatic, it should always be dignified and respectful, befitting the dignity of the legal profession. The use of unnecessary language is proscribed if we are to promote high esteem in the courts and trust in judicial administration. (Ng v. Alar, A.C. No. 7252, 22 November 2006)

It must be remembered that the language vehicle does not run short of expressions which are emphatic but respectful, convincing but not derogatory, illuminating but not offensive. (Ng v. Alar [2006], supra.)

No doubt, the language contained in the 30 July 2001 motion greatly exceeded the vigor required of Jacoba to defend ably his client’s cause. We recall his use of the following words and phrases: abhorrent nullity, legal monstrosity, horrendous mistake, horrible error, boner, and an insult to the judiciary and an anachronism in the judicial process. Even Velasco-Jacoba acknowledged that the words created “a cacophonic picture of total and utter disrespect.” (Lacurom v. Jacoba, A.C. No. 5921)

In keeping with the dignity of the legal profession, a lawyer’s language even in his pleadings must be dignified. (Saberon v. Larong, A.C. No. 6567, 16 April 2008)

1) No abusive, intemperate, offensive or otherwise improper language

While a lawyer is entitled to present his case with vigor and courage, such enthusiasm does not justify the use of offensive and abusive language. Language abounds with countless possibilities for one to be emphatic but respectful, convincing but not derogatory, and illuminating but not offensive. (Gimeno v. Zaide, A.C. No. 10303, 22 April 2015)

On many occasions, the Court has reminded members of the Bar to abstain from all offensive personality and to advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which he is charged. In keeping with the dignity of the legal profession, a lawyer’s language even in his pleadings must be dignified. (Saberon v. Larong, A.C. No. 6567, 16 April 2008)

A lawyer was held liable for use of offensive and abusive language after he wrote in his pleading that the complainant was a “notorious extortionist” and, in another case, he characterized the opposing counsel as follows: “Her declaration in Public put a shame, DISGRACE, INDIGNITY AND HUMILIATION in the whole Justice System, and the Department of Justice in particular, where the taxpayers paid for her salary over her incompetence and poor performance as a prosecutor…This is a clear manifestation that the Public prosecutor suffers serious mental incompetence as regard her mandate as an Assistant City Prosecutor.” (Gimeno v. Zaide, supra.)

It is of no consequence that the allegedly malicious statements of respondent were made not before a court but before the BSP. A similar submission that actuations of and statements made by lawyers before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) are not covered by the Code of Professional Responsibility, the NLRC not being a court, was struck down. (Saberon v. Larong, supra.)

As officers of the court, lawyers are duty-bound to observe and maintain the respect due to the courts and judicial officers. They are to abstain from offensive or menacing language or behavior before the court and must refrain from attributing to a judge motives that are not supported by the record or have no materiality to the case. (Alpajora v. Calayan, En Banc, A.C. No. 8208, 10 January 2018)

2) Privileged communications in court submissions

Utterances, petitions and motions made in the course of judicial proceedings have consistently been considered as absolutely privileged, however false or malicious they may be, but only for so long as they are pertinent and relevant to the subject of inquiry. (Saberon v. Larong, A.C. No. 6567, 16 April 2008)

a) Test of relevancy

As to the degree of relevancy or pertinency necessary to make alleged defamatory matters privileged the courts favor a liberal rule. The matter to which the privilege does not extend must be so palpably wanting in relation to the subject matter of the controversy that no reasonable man can doubt its relevancy and impropriety. In order that matter alleged in a pleading may be privileged, it need not be in every case material to the issues presented by the pleadings. It must, however, be legitimately related thereto, or so pertinent to the subject of the controversy that it may become the subject of inquiry in the course of the trial. (Saberon v. Larong [2008], supra.)

b. Personal and professional dealings

The rue on the use of dignified language extends to both personal and professional dealings. Thus, lawyers cannot excuse themselves from this obligation on account that it is not related to law practice or in lawyering.

References

Canon II, 2023 Code of Professional Responsibility

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