Ombudsman dismisses erring PAO lawyer
02 February 2017
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the dismissal from the service of District Public Attorney Jennifer Garcia-Laudencia of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro. Atty. Laudencia was found guilty of Grave Misconduct after spouses Rodolfo and Maira Abrea submitted testimony showing that Laudencia demanded the payment of fees for the preparation of their legal documents.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales stated in the Decision that “in the present case, the straightforward, clear and positive statements of Spouses Abrea constitute substantial evidence of the demand by, and payment to, respondent of the sums of P6,000.00 and P3,000.00 for the preparation of the spouses’ counter-affidavit and rejoinder.”
Chapter 5, Title III of Book IV of the Administrative Code of 1987 clearly provides that “the PAO shall independently discharge its mandate to render, free of charge, legal representation, assistance, and counseling to indigent persons in criminal, civil, labor, administrative and other quasi-judicial cases.”
Investigation also found that Laudencia’s services as counsel was engaged by a certain Mike Tiu Santiago, an individual not qualified as an indigent to avail of PAO services.
Laudencia rendered legal services to Santiago in a civil case for injunction and specific performance with damages against Santiago’s stepmother over several disputed properties.
Ombudsman Morales explained “that the mere submission of an affidavit of indigency is not sufficient to establish the fact of indigency as the PAO Operations Manual requires submission of proof of income such as income tax returns, or certificate of indigency from the Department of Social Welfare and Development or the Barangay Chairman.”
The Ombudsman also reminded the respondent that “public attorneys should primarily play the role of peacemakers and must be guided by a high sense of fairness, integrity, good faith and justice, in the performance of their functions.”
In case of separation from the service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to respondent’s salary for one year. ###