SC bars 'lawyer' who assumed sibling's identity

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 14 2016 08:29 PM

MANILA - A "lawyer" faces possible civil and criminal cases after the Supreme Court (SC) found him guilty of falsely assuming the name, identity, and academic records of his sibling to obtain a law degree and take the Bar Examinations.

In a per curiam decision in Administrative Case No. 11316 (Caronan v. Atty. Caronan) promulgated on July 12, 2016, the high court ordered that the name "Patrick A. Caronan" with Roll of Attorneys No. 49069 dropped and stricken off the Roll of Attorneys and respondent Richard A. Caronan a.k.a. "Atty. Patrick A. Caronan" barred from being admitted as a member of the Bar.

Likewise, the high court cancelled and revoked the identification cards issued to respondent under the name "Atty. Patrick A. Caronan" issued by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), as well as the certificates issued to the him by the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE).

The Office of the Court Administrator was directed to circulate in all courts nationwide a photograph of respondent with his real name "Richard A. Caronan" and a warning of his false assumption of the name and identity of "Patrick A. Caronan."

"[R]espondent made a mockery of the legal profession by pretending to have the necessary qualifications to be a lawyer. He also tarnished the image of lawyers with his alleged unscrupulous activities, which resulted in the filing of several criminal cases against him. Certainly, respondent and his acts do not have a place in the legal profession where one of the primary duties of its members is to uphold its integrity and dignity," the SC held.

The case stemmed from the 2013 complaint filed by the real Patrick A. Coronan against his brother Richard A. Caronan before the Commission on Bar Discipline of the IBP.

Respondent is older by one year than the complainant. Both completed secondary education at the Makati High School. The complainant obtained Business Administration degree at the University of Makati (UM). He worked his way up until he was promoted as Store Manager of 7-11 Convenience Store Muntinlupa branch.

Respondent, meanwhile, enrolled at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) but later transferred to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). Only after a year, he was discharged from the PMA in 1993 and focused on helping their father in the family's car rental business. In 1997, he moved to Nueva Vizcaya with his wife and three children and never went back to school to earn a college degree.

In 1999, during a visit to Metro Manila, respondent told complainant the he had enrolled in a law school in Nueva Vizcaya. Subsequently, in 2004, their mother informed complainant that respondent passed the Bar Examinations and that he used complainant's name and college records from the UM to enroll at St. Mary's University's College of Law in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya.

He brushed these aside as he did not anticipate any adverse consequences to him until in 2009 when, after his promotion as store manager, he was ordered to report to the head office of Philippine Seven Corporation (PSC), the operator of 7-11 Convenience Stores, head office in Mandaluyong City and was informed that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) requested his presence in relation to its probe involving a certain "Atty. Patrick A. Caronan" for qualified theft and estafa.

Complainant disclosed that his brother had been using his name and that he was the real "Patrick A. Caronan" and respondent's real name is Richard A. Caronan. It turned out that it was only the first as he had received more complaints against the respondent. Later, the complainant learned that respondent was arrested for gun-running activities, illegal possession of explosives, and violation of BP 22.

Due to these controversies, complainant developed fear for his own safety and security and became subject of talks among his colleagues which eventually forced him to resign from his job at PSC. It was at this point that he filed complaint to stop his brother's alleged use of his name and identity, and illegal practice of law.

For his defense, respondent denied all allegations and maintained that his identity can no longer be raised as an issue as it had already been resolved in an earlier administrative case declared closed and terminated by this Court in AC No. 10074.

The high court, however, held that as correctly observed by the IBP, complainant has established by clear and overwhelming evidence that he is the real "Patrick A. Caronan" and that respondent, whose real name is Richard A. Caronan, merely assumed the latter's name, identify, and academic records to enroll at the St. Mary's University's College of Law, obtain a law degree, and take the Bar Examinations. It noted that the respondent never completed his college degree, thus, has not completed the required pre-law degree.

The SC held that respondent exhibited his dishonesty and utter lack of moral fitness to be a member of the Bar when he assumed the name, identity, and school records of his own brother and dragged the latter into controversies which eventually caused him to fear for his safety and to resign from PSC where he had been working for years.

"Good moral character is essential in those who would be lawyers. This is imperative in the nature of the office of a lawyer, the trust relation which exists between him and his client, as well as between him and the court," the high court said.