In AM No. 526 (January 9, 1973) the Supreme Court enumerated the purposes of an integrated Bar:
(1) Assist in the administration of justice;
(2) Foster and maintain on the part of its members high ideals of integrity, learning, professional competence, public service and conduct;
(3) Safeguard the professional interests of its members;
(4) Cultivate among its members a spirit of cordiality and brotherhood;
(5) Provide a forum for the discussion of law, jurisprudence, law reform, pleading, practice and procedure, and the relations of the Bar to the Bench and to the public, and publish information relating thereto;
(6) Encourage and foster legal education;
(7) Promote a continuing program of legal research in substantive and adjective law, and make reports and recommendations thereon; and
(8) Enable the Bar to discharge its public responsibility effectively.,
concluded that Bar integration will, among other things, make it possible for the legal profession to:
(1) Render more effective assistance in maintaining the Rule of Law;
(2) Protect lawyers and litigants against the abuse of tyrannical judges and prosecuting officers;
(3) Discharge, fully and properly, its responsibility in the disciplining and/or removal of incompetent and unworthy judges and prosecuting officers;
(4) Shield the judiciary, which traditionally cannot defend itself except within its own forum, from the assaults that politics and self-interest may level at it, and assist it to maintain its integrity, impartiality and independence;
(5) Have an effective voice in the selection of judges and prosecuting officers;
(6) Prevent the unauthorized practice of law, and break up any monopoly of local practice maintained through influence or position;
(7) Establish welfare funds for families of disabled and deceased lawyers;
(8) Provide placement services, and establish legal aid offices and set up lawyer reference services throughout the country so that the poor may not lack competent legal service;
(9) Distribute educational and informational materials that are difficult to obtain in many of our provinces;
(10) Devise and maintain a program of continuing legal education for practising attorneys in order to elevate the standards of the profession throughout the country;
(11) Enforce rigid ethical standards, and promulgate minimum fees schedules;
(12) Create law centers and establish law libraries for legal research;
(13) Conduct campaigns to educate the people on their legal rights and obligations, on the importance of preventive legal advice, and on the functions and duties of the Filipino lawyer; and
(14) Generate and maintain pervasive and meaningful country-wide involvement of the lawyer population in the solution of the multifarious problems that afflict the nation.,
and declared that the integration of the Philippine Bar is “perfectly constitutional and legally unobjectionable,” within the context of contemporary conditions in the Philippines, has become an imperative means to raise the standards of the legal profession, improve the administration of justice, and enable the Bar to discharge its public responsibility fully and effectively.
Rule 139-A of the Rules of Court pertains to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. Section 2 thereof states the rationale for bar integration:
“SEC. 2. Purposes. – The fundamental purposes of the Integrated Bar shall be to elevate the standards of the legal profession, improve the administration of justice, and enable the Bar to discharge its public responsibility more effectively.”
The “all-encompassing, all-inclusive scope of membership in the IBP” is stated in Section 1 of Rule 139-A:
“SECTION 1. Organization. — There is hereby organized an official national body to be known as the ‘Integrated Bar of the Philippines,’ composed of all persons whose names now appear or may hereafter be included in the Roll of Attorneys of the Supreme Court.”
As explained by the IBP:
“The IBP came into being when the Supreme Court created on October 5, 1970 the Commission on Bar Integration which was tasked ‘not only to ascertain the advisability of integration of the Bar, but even more, to serve as a common vehicle of the Court and the Bar in fashioning a blueprint for integration and putting the same into actual operation.’ Republic Act No. 6397, which became effective September 17, 1971, confirmed the power of the Supreme Court to adopt rules of court to effect the integration of the Philippine Bar. Then on January 9, 1973, the Supreme Court, by a per curiam resolution, pursuant to its constitutional mandate, ordained the integration of the Bar in accordance with its Rule 139-A, effective January 16, 1973. Within the next succeeding months, the IBP was organized. On February 17, 1973, local chapters all over the country were finally formed and elections for chapter officers were held. Then on March 17, 1973, the first batch of representatives to the IBP House of Delegates composed of 104 delegates representing the IBP Chapters nationwide convened in Manila and elected its first set of IBP Governors.
The IBP is composed of all Philippine attorneys now numbering about 50,000. All persons whose names appear in the Roll of Attorneys of the Supreme Court (having qualified for and passed the Bar examinations and taken their attorney’s oath, unless otherwise disbarred) are members of the IBP. If any such person does not agree to join the organization and regulations (such as payments of annual membership dues, now fixed at P1,000), he does not become, or he ceases to be, an IBP member, and at the same time his name is removed from the Roll of Attorneys. The effect of the removal is that he ceases to be an attorney. He loses the privilege to practice law in the Philippines.”
In AM No. 1928 (August 3, 1978) the Supreme Court disbarred a lawyer for his “stubborn refusal to pay his membership dues” to the IBP despite due notice (two years later, the Court restored his membership in the Bar):
“The core of the respondent’s arguments is that the above provisions constitute an invasion of his constitutional rights in the sense that he is being compelled, as a pre-condition to maintaining his status as a lawyer in good standing, to be a member of the IBP and to pay the corresponding dues, and that as a consequence of this compelled financial support of the said organization to which he is admittedly personally antagonistic, he is being deprived of the rights to liberty and property guaranteed to him by the Constitution. Hence, the respondent concludes, the above provisions of the Court Rule and of the IBP By-Laws are void and of no legal force and effect.
The respondent similarly questions the jurisdiction of the Court to strike his name from the Roll of Attorneys, contending that the said matter is not among the justiciable cases triable by the Court but is rather of an ‘administrative nature pertaining to an administrative body.’
The matters here complained of are the very same issues raised in a previous case before the Court, entitled “Administrative Case No. 526, In the Matter of the Petition for the Integration of the Bar of the Philippines, Roman Ozaeta, et al., Petitioners.” The Court exhaustively considered all these matters in that case in its Resolution ordaining the integration of the Bar of the Philippines, promulgated on January 9, 1973. The Court there made the unanimous pronouncement that it was
… fully convinced, after a thoroughgoing conscientious study of all the arguments adduced in Adm. Case No. 526 and the authoritative materials and the mass of factual data contained in the exhaustive Report of the Commission on Bar Integration, that the integration of the Philippine Bar is ‘perfectly constitutional and legally unobjectionable’. …
Be that as it may, we now restate briefly the posture of the Court.
An ‘Integrated Bar’ is a State-organized Bar, to which every lawyer must belong, as distinguished from bar associations organized by individual lawyers themselves, membership in which is voluntary. Integration of the Bar is essentially a process by which every member of the Bar is afforded an opportunity to do his share in carrying out the objectives of the Bar as well as obliged to bear his portion of its responsibilities. Organized by or under the direction of the State, an integrated Bar is an official national body of which all lawyers are required to be members. They are, therefore, subject to all the rules prescribed for the governance of the Bar, including the requirement of payment of a reasonable annual fee for the effective discharge of the purposes of the Bar, and adherence to a code of professional ethics or professional responsibility breach of which constitutes sufficient reason for investigation by the Bar and, upon proper cause appearing, a recommendation for discipline or disbarment of the offending member.
The integration of the Philippine Bar was obviously dictated by overriding considerations of public interest and public welfare to such an extent as more than constitutionally and legally justifies the restrictions that integration imposes upon the personal interests and personal convenience of individual lawyers.
Thus, when the respondent Edillon entered upon the legal profession, his practice of law and his exercise of the said profession, which affect the society at large, were (and are) subject to the power of the body politic to require him to conform to such regulations as might be established by the proper authorities for the common good, even to the extent of interfering with some of his liberties. If he did not wish to submit himself to such reasonable interference and regulation, he should not have clothed the public with an interest in his concerns.
On this score alone, the case for the respondent must already fall.
The issues being of constitutional dimension, however, we now concisely deal with them seriatim.
1. The first objection posed by the respondent is that the Court is without power to compel him to become a member of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, hence, Section 1 of the Court Rule is unconstitutional for it impinges on his constitutional right of freedom to associate (and not to associate). Our answer is: To compel a lawyer to be a member of the Integrated Bar is not violative of his constitutional freedom to associate. Integration does not make a lawyer a member of any group of which he is not already a member. He became a member of the Bar when he passed the Bar examinations. All that integration actually does is to provide an official national organization for the well-defined but unorganized and incohesive group of which every lawyer is a ready a member.”
Despite the lofty purposes of Bar integration enumerated in AM No. 526, the Supreme Court essentially held in AM No.. 1928 that all that is required of a member thereof is to pay his annual dues:
“Bar integration does not compel the lawyer to associate with anyone. He is free to attend or not attend the meetings of his Integrated Bar Chapter or vote or refuse to vote in its elections as he chooses. The only compulsion to which he is subjected is the payment of annual dues. The Supreme Court, in order to further the State’s legitimate interest in elevating the quality of professional legal services, may require that the cost of improving the profession in this fashion be shared by the subjects and beneficiaries of the regulatory program — the lawyers.
Assuming that the questioned provision does in a sense compel a lawyer to be a member of the Integrated Bar, such compulsion is justified as an exercise of the police power of the State.”
While the Court emphasized the role of an integrated bar in the discipline and disbarment of an offending lawyer, it is submitted that an integrated bar is not an indispensable requisite for achieving this purpose. Filipino lawyers have been disciplined and even disbarred by the Supreme Court long before the IBP was established.
In AM No. 491 (October 6, 1989), the Supreme Court En Banc resolved to annul the election of the national officers of the IBP after it verified the reports received by some Justices:
“…from lawyers who had witnessed or participated in the proceedings and the adverse comments published in the columns of some newspapers about the intensive electioneering and overspending by the candidates, led by the main protagonists for the office of president of the association, … the alleged use of government planes, and the officious intervention of certain public officials to influence the voting, all of which were done in violation of the IBP By-Laws which prohibit such activities…
From all the foregoing, it is evident that the manner in which the principal candidates for the national positions in the Integrated Bar conducted their campaign preparatory to the elections on June 3, 1989, violated Section 14 of the IBP By-Laws and made a travesty of the idea of a ‘strictly non-political’ Integrated Bar enshrined in Section 4 of the By-Laws.
The setting up of campaign headquarters by the three principal candidates (Drilon, Nisce and Paculdo) in five-star hotels: The Philippine Plaza, the Holiday Inn and The Hyatt the better for them to corral and entertain the delegates billeted therein; the island hopping to solicit the votes of the chapter presidents who comprise the 120-member House of Delegates that elects the national officers and regional governors; the formation of tickets, slates, or line-ups of candidates for the other elective positions aligned with, or supporting, either Drilon, Paculdo or Nisce; the procurement of written commitments and the distribution of nomination forms to be filled up by the delegates; the reservation of rooms for delegates in three big hotels, at the expense of the presidential candidates; the use of a PNB plane by Drilon and some members of her ticket to enable them to ‘assess their chances’ among the chapter presidents in the Bicol provinces; the printing and distribution of tickets and bio-data of the candidates which in the case of Paculdo admittedly cost him some P15,000 to P20,000; the employment of uniformed girls (by Paculdo) and lawyers (by Drilon) to distribute their campaign materials on the convention floor on the day of the election; the giving of assistance by the Undersecretary of Labor to Mrs. Drilon and her group; the use of labor arbiters to meet delegates at the airport and escort them to the Philippine Plaza Hotel; the giving of pre-paid plane tickets and hotel accommodations to delegates (and some families who accompanied them) in exchange for their support; the pirating of some candidates by inducing them to ‘hop’ or ‘flipflop’ from one ticket to another for some rumored consideration; all these practices made a political circus of the proceedings and tainted the whole election process.
The candidates and many of the participants in that election not only violated the By-Laws of the IBP but also the ethics of the legal profession which imposes on all lawyers, as a corollary of their obligation to obey and uphold the constitution and the laws, the duty to ‘promote respect for law and legal processes’ and to abstain from ‘activities aimed at defiance of the law or at lessening confidence in the legal system’ (Rule 1.02, Canon 1, Code of Professional Responsibility). Respect for law is gravely eroded when lawyers themselves, who are supposed to be millions of the law, engage in unlawful practices and cavalierly brush aside the very rules that the IBP formulated for their observance.
The unseemly ardor with which the candidates pursued the presidency of the association detracted from the dignity of the legal profession. The spectacle of lawyers bribing or being bribed to vote one way or another, certainly did not uphold the honor of the profession nor elevate it in the public’s esteem.
The Court notes with grave concern what appear to be the evasions, denials and outright prevarications that tainted the statements of the witnesses, including tome of the candidates, during the initial hearing conducted by it before its fact-finding committee was created. The subsequent investigation conducted by this Committee has revealed that those parties had been less than candid with the Court and seem to have conspired among themselves to deceive it or at least withhold vital information from it to conceal the irregularities committed during the campaign.”
Parenthetically, “the giving of pre-paid plane tickets and hotel accommodations to delegates” narrated by the Supreme Court in AM No, 491 foreshadows the allegations that the airfare, accommodations, and pocket money of some delegates to the October 2013 national convention and election of officers of the Philippine Judges Association were shouldered by a certain Ma’am Arlene.
Did AM No. 491 “cleanse” the IBP elections? Consider the Supreme Court En Banc’s recently promulgated Resolution in AM No. 13-04-03-SC, etc. (December 10, 2013), the subject matter of which was the May 22, 2013 election for Executive Vice President of the IBP (Section 7 of Rule 139-A states in part that “The Executive Vice President shall automatically become the President for the next succeeding full term.”), which ominously begins with the following paragraph:
“This is yet another controversy involving the leadership of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) that could have been resolved at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines’ level but was instead referred to this Court, taking away precious resources that could have been better applied to resolve other conflicts for the public interest.”
While the Court did not annul the elections (unlike in AM No. 491; but see the dissent of Justice Velasco), it noted that:
“The disposition we give to this case is also partly to quiet these conflicts and to deny any reward to further legal controversy. After all, in our April 11, 2013 Resolution in A.M. No. 09-5-2-SC and A.C. No. 8292, we created a permanent Committee for IBP Affairs ‘to primarily attend to the problems and needs of a very important professional body and to make recommendation for its improvement and strengthening.’
Should that initiative still fail, this Court should seriously review the present modality of the Integrated Bar. Instead of individual membership, a more functional alternative might be organizational membership. This means that voluntary organizations such as the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), the Alternative Law Groups (ALG), the Philippine Bar Association (PBA), the U.P. Women Lawyers’ Circle (WILOCI), and other organizations can coalesce and nominate leaders to comprise a council. Thus, every lawyer will have a mature choice to determine which of these organizations best represents his or her interests. This harmonizes better with their right to free association.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines has long been beset by leadership crises…
The leadership of our Integrated Bar must find a better way of resolving its conflicts other than elevating these matters to this Court. It cannot fail to show maturity in resolving its own conflicts. It behooves the members of the legal profession to avoid being so litigious that they lose sight of the primordial public interests that must be upheld in every case and conflict that is raised to the level of this Court.
Otherwise, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines will continue to alienate its mass membership through political contestations that may be viewed as parochial intramurals from which only a few lawyers benefit. It will be generations of leaders who model needless litigation and wasted time and energy. This is not what an integrated bar of a noble profession should be.”
With the foregoing in mind let us recall the purposes for bar integration, as enumerated in AM No. 526 and Section 2 of Rule 139-A, and ask: has the integration of the Philippine Bar achieved these purposes?