Question: What is the repercussion on a legal officer who uses exceedingly foul language in legal proceedings?

Answer: Fine and suspension


ATTY. JOSE B. TIONGCO, Complainant, vs. JUDGE ADRIANO S. SAVILLO, Regional Trial Court, Branch 30, Iloilo City

Respondent judge rendered decisions beyond the mandatory 90-day period. Aggrieved,  the lawyer filed his Comment  and called respondent judge “an honest to goodness Bar-Flunker!” and that “His Honor projects that unmistakable aura of the quintessential Bar-Flunker x x x [who] tries and decides cases like a true Bar-Flunker.” Complainant stated that respondent judge, because of his “thyrotoxicosis”, was “incapable of exercising their [sic] judicial functions” and that his illness has “hardened His Honor’s heart and renders His Honor callous and insensitive to all feelings of pity and compassion for those that find themselves under His Honor’s power.”

Complainant also stated that he believes in “the Devil that is nearby – in fact, for all appearances it is the Devil’s Day, x x x – Don’t believe me? – just attend trial of a criminal case at Branch 30 presided by [r]espondent [j]udge, the Honorable Adriano S. Savillo, and the only thing that you will not see are the flames of Hell if not Lucifer with his popping eyes [h]imself.

Complainant also called respondent judge “a malicious person,” “a power-drunken upstart,” “stupidity of stupidities,” “a judicial guinea pig,” a “circus clown,” and a “Judicial Frankenstein.” Even the judiciary was not spared, complainant referred to the judiciary as “nothing if not the hot-bed of the [n]ew [m]egalomaniacs” and that “[d]emocracy is a dead animal inside the Philippine courtroom.”

However, complainant admitted that he only concluded that respondent judge is a Bar-Flunker, “not because petitioner (complainant) has taken the pains to dig into the records of the Judicial and Bar counsel [sic] to gain such information,” but only because of respondent judge’s “deportment, swaggering style of manner and speech

ISSUE: May a laywer use such ad hominem attacks in legal proceedings?


The Court ruled that the Complainant’s use of intemperate and unfair criticism is a gross violation of the duty of respect a lawyer owes to the courts. Complainant violated Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides that “a lawyer shall observe and maintain the respect due to the courts and to judicial officers” and, more specifically, Rule 11.03, which mandates that “a lawyer shall abstain from scandalous, offensive or menacing language or behavior before the Courts.”

It is true that lawyers can criticize the courts – it is their right as citizens and their duty as officers of the court to avail of such right.  But, as held in In Re: Almacen, “it is [a] cardinal condition of all such criticism that it shall be bona fide, and shall not spill over the walls of decency and propriety.” By his unjust denigration of respondent judge, complainant exceeded the bounds of decency and propriety. By showing disrespect to and contempt for respondent judge, complainant diminished public confidence in respondent judge and, eventually, in the judiciary.