Almirante: Contingent Atty's fees

PROPERTY developer Ortigas and Company is bullish about attracting Cebuano investors to own units in their latest luxury residential tower, The Imperium in Pasig City.

“One hundred percent of Ortigas and Co.’s land bank is in Metro Manila, and for us, Cebu is still a frontier market. While we can’t build residential communities and retail centers here just yet, we want to open real estate investment opportunities to Cebuanos,” said Joey Santos, senior vice president.

Santos noted that while there are a lot of real estate investments to choose from in Cebu, it is equally important for investors to diversify.

“Instead of putting all your money in Cebu, why not spread it to Manila, where you know there is a bigger market?” he pointed out.

Ortigas and Co., through real estate broker Georgia Osmeña, organized a one-day road show in Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino to introduce the company and showcase its latest real estate projects to some Cebuanos.

Ortigas and Co. is the firm behind Valle Verde, Greenmeadows and Greenhills subdivisions. Its commercial spaces include Greenhills Shipping Center and Tiendesitas.

The 62-storey Imperium is the company’s most recent residential project and has 232 units. It features only four two- or three-bedroom units per level.

Appreciates faster, he says

The Imperium is situated in the 10-hectare mixed-use development in Pasig City called Capitol Commons, the former site of the Rizal Provincial Capitol. The development features Estancia, a mall slated to open in the coming months; a 10,000-square-meter grocery facility called Unimart; Paragon, an upcoming lifestyle and entertainment hub; and Gastro, a food and beverage strip.

The Capitol Commons will have five residential buildings.

According to Santos, the advantages of investing in Manila are the access to a bigger market and the quicker appreciation of property.

“If you are an investor, you don’t just put your money anywhere, you put it where it will get the highest return of investment,” Osmeña said.

Real estate advisory and services firm CBRE Philippines reported that real estate activities in the country grew by 8.9 percent in the third quarter this year.

In the residential sector, the research firm noted the upbeat economy fares well for luxury, high-end, affordable, and mid-market condominiums. “Demand for these developments overpowered fears of a property bubble in the sector,” it said.

The growing expatriate community and the families of Filipinos working abroad drive this demand. Forty percent of condominium sales activities cater to foreigners while 60 percent serves Filipinos, the report cited.

COMPLAINANTS Josephine Solano and 10 others filed a complaint for illegal dismissal, monetary claims and damages against Podden International Philippines, Inc. (Podden) and respondent Alejandro Cruz-Herrera. They engaged the services of petitioner Atty.

Emmanuel D. Agustin (Atty. Agustin) to handle the case upon the verbal agreement that

he will be paid on a contingency basis at the rate of 10 percent of the final monetary award.

The complainants, through Atty. Agustin, obtained a favorable ruling before the labor arbiter (LA). No appeal was taken from the judgment. Hence, on Feb. 2, 1999, a motion for execution was filed. The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), in a resolution dated May 7, 2003, ordered the labor arbiter to immediately issue the corresponding writ of execution for the enforcement of the decision, the total monetary award of which as of July 20, 1999 reached P3,358,441.84.

On Aug. 6, 2004, respondent Herrera filed a petition for certiorari before the Court of Appeals (CA) assailing the resolution of the NLRC. During the pendency of the petition or on Aug. 30, 2005, a joint compromise agreement was submitted to the CA. In a resolution dated Sept. 30, 2005, the CA approved the compromise agreement and entered its judgment. Displeased, Atty. Agustin with the petitioners’ name as his co-petitioners, filed a petition for review on certiorari with the Supreme Court. He assailed the CA resolution, contending, among others, that the compromise agreement was unconscionable and executed without his knowledge and consent. The Supreme Court upheld the validity of the compromise agreement. Is Atty. Agustin entitled to his contingent attorney’s fees?

Ruling: Yes.

As the validity of a compromise agreement cannot be prejudiced, so should not be the payment of a lawyer’s adequate and reasonable compensation for his services should the suit end by reason of the settlement. The terms of the compromise subscribed to by the client should not be such that will amount to an entire deprivation of his lawyer’s fees, especially when the contract is on a contingent fee basis. In this sense, the compromise settlement cannot bind the lawyer as a third party. A lawyer is as much entitled to judicial protection against injustice or imposition of fraud on the part of his client as the client is against abuse on the part of his counsel. The duty of the court is not only to ensure that a lawyer acts in a proper and lawful manner, but

also to see to it that a lawyer is paid his just fees.

Even if the compensation of a counsel is dependent only upon winning a case he himself secured for his client, the subsequent withdrawal of the case on the client’s own volition should never completely deprive counsel of any legitimate compensation for his professional services. In all cases, a client is bound to pay his lawyer for his services. The determination of bad faith only becomes significant and relevant if the adverse party will likewise be held liable in shouldering the attorney’s fees.

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