The Office of the Ombudsman has found then-District Public Attorney Jennifer Garcia-Laudencia of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro guilty of grave misconduct.
In a statement on Thursday, the Ombudsman ordered Laudencia’s dismissal from service after finding her administratively liable.
The penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to the respondent’s one year salary in case she is no longer in government service.
Laudencia’s case stemmed from the testimony of spouses Rodolfo and Maira Abrea saying that the lawyer demanded fees for the preparation of legal documents.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said in the ruling 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.”
Under the Administrative Code, “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.”
Laudencia was also found to have rendered legal services to an individual who was not qualified as an indigent to avail of PAO services.
Morales said “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 reminded Laudencia 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.”