Section 415 of the LGC of 1991, on the subject Katarungang Pambarangay, provides:
Section 415. Appearance of Parties in Person. – In all katarungang pambarangay proceedings, the parties must appear in person without the assistance of the counsel or representative, except for minors and incompetents who may be assisted by their next of kin who are not lawyers.
The above-quoted provision clearly requires the personal appearance of the parties in katarungan pambarangay conciliation proceedings, unassisted by counsel or representative. The rationale behind the personal appearance requirement is to enable the lupon to secure first hand and direct information about the facts and issues, the exception being in cases where minors or incompetents are parties. There can be no quibbling that laymen of goodwill can easily agree to conciliate and settle their disputes between themselves without what sometimes is the unsettling assistance of lawyers whose presence could sometimes obfuscate and confuse issues. Worse still, the participation of lawyers with their penchant to use their analytical skills and legal knowledge tend to prolong instead of expedite settlement of the case.
The prohibition against the presence of a lawyer in a barangay conciliation proceedings was not, to be sure, lost on respondent. Her defense that the aforequoted Section 415 of the LGC does not apply since complainant addressed her Sumbong to the barangay captain of Brgy. San Pascual who thereafter proceeded to hear the same is specious at best. In this regard, suffice it to state that complainant wrote her Sumbong with the end in view of availing herself of the benefits of barangay justice. That she addressed her Sumbong to the barangay captain is really of little moment since the latter chairs the Lupong Tagapamayapa.
Lest it be overlooked, the prohibition in question applies to all katarungan barangay proceedings. Section 412(a) the LGC of 1991 clearly provides that, as a precondition to filing a complaint in court, the parties shall go through the conciliation process either before the lupon chairman or the lupon or pangkat. As what happened in this case, the punong barangay, as chairman of the Lupon Tagapamayapa, conducted the conciliation proceedings to resolve the disputes between the two parties.
Given the above perspective, we join the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline in its determination that respondent transgressed the prohibition prescribed in Section 415 of the LGC. However, its recommended penalty of mere admonition must have to be modified. Doubtless, respondent’s conduct tended to undermine the laudable purpose of the katarungan pambarangay system. What compounded matters was when respondent repeatedly ignored complainant’s protestation against her continued appearance in the barangay conciliation proceedings.
WHEREFORE, Atty. Olivia Velasco-Jacoba is hereby FINED in the amount of Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00) for willful violation of Section 415 of the Local Government Code of 1991 with WARNING that commission of similar acts of impropriety on her part in the future will be dealt with more severely.