Monday, March 9, 2015

Is Moral Turpitude Involved in a Conviction for Homicide?

Melvyn G. Garcia vs. Raul Sesbreño
AC No. 7973  and 10457
February 3, 2015


Garcia filed a complaint for disbarment against Sesbreño, claiming that the latter still practices law despite being convicted of homicide in Criminal Case CBU-31733, and despite being on parole and not having fully served his sentence.

Sesbreño argues that his sentence was commuted and the phrase "with the inherent accessory penalty provided by law" was deleted. He also claims that homicide does not involve moral turpitude. He claims that the complaint was purely motivated by bad faith and malice.

According to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines- Committee on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD), the RTC found Sesbreño guilty of murder and was sentenced to suffer reclusion perpetua. The Supreme Court (SC) downgraded the crime to homicide and he was sentenced to serve imprisonment of 9 years and 1 day as minimum period and 16 years and 4 months imprisonment as maximum period. It held that homicide may or may not involve moral turpitude to be a ground for dismissal, depending on the circumstances of the crime.  It also reviewed the ruling of the SC and found that the circumstances leading to the death of the victim in the criminal case involved moral turpitude.

The IBP-CBD quoted the  SC:

"Respondent acted  like a god who deserved not to be slighted by a couple of drunks who might have shattered the stillness of the early morning with their boisterous antics...Respondent was not only vindictive without a cause; he was cruel with a misplaced sense of superiority."

Issue:  Is moral turpitude involved in a conviction for homicide?

Ruling: Sec. 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court states that a member of the bar may be disbarred or suspended as attorney of the Court by reason of his conviction of a crime against moral turpitude. Moral turpitude is an act of baseness, vileness or depravity in the private duties which a man owes to his fellow men or to society, in general, contrary to justice, honesty, modesty or good morals.

Sesbreño was found to have just indiscriminately fired against the victims, Without being provoked, he fired at them. The SC rejected his argument that the commutation given by the President of the Philippines restored his civil and political rights. There was no mention that the executive clemency was absolute and conditional and restored Sesbreño to his full civil and political rights,

The penalty for Sesbreño's crime was never wiped out. Commutation is a mere reduction of penalty. It only partially extinguished criminal liability.

The SC repeated that the practice of law is not a right, but a privilege. It is granted only to those possessing good moral character. A violation of the high moral standards of the legal profession justifies the imposition of the appropriate penalty  against a lawyer, including the penalty of disbarment.

Sesbreño was ordered DISBARRED.

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