I am intending to file a labor case against my former employer because I honestly believe that I was wrongfully terminated from my post. Although I have a new job right now, I do not think I can afford to hire a private lawyer. I am just earning enough to support my parents who are now both in their twilight years. Is it possible for me to seek assistance from one of the lawyers of your office in Region 8, so that I can pursue my labor complaint? I am a resident of the region, and the office of my previous employer is also located there. I am not sure if lawyers from PAO are handling labor cases, because I usually hear that they represent those who are facing criminal charges in court. Please advise me on this matter.
Public Attorneys are mandated to render free legal services to indigents and other qualified persons, and such services are not merely confined to representing parties who are accused in criminal cases in court but include those who are parties in civil, labor, administrative and other quasi-judicial cases. It is provided under the 2016 Revised PAO Operations Manual:
“ARTICLE 1. Persons Qualified for Legal Assistance.- Pursuant to Book IV, Title III, Chapter 5, Section 14 of the Administrative Code of 1987, as amended by Republic Act 9406, in relation to Presidential Decree 1 and Republic Act 6035, the Public Attorney’s Office is mandated to represent, free of charge, indigents and other persons qualified for legal assistance in all civil, criminal, labor, administrative and other quasi-judicial cases where, after due evaluation, it is determined that the interest of justice will be served thereby. x x x” (Emphasis supplied)
Nevertheless, it bears emphasis that for the rendition of regular representation in courts as well as in quasi-judicial offices or agencies, the parties who intend to secure the services of our office must qualify under the “Merit Test” and “Indigency Test.” Articles 2 and 3 of the same manual explicitly state:
“ARTICLE 2. Merit Test. – A case shall be considered meritorious, if an assessment of the law and evidence on hand, discloses that the legal services of the office will assist, be in aid of, or be in the furtherance of justice, taking into consideration the interests of the party and those of the society. In such cases, the Public Attorney should agree to represent the party concerned. A contrario, a case is deemed unmeritorious, if it appears that it has no chance of success, is intended merely to harass or injure the opposite party, or to work oppression or wrong. In such situations, the Public Attorney must decline the case. x x x”
ARTICLE 3. Indigency Test. – x x x, the following shall be considered indigent persons:
1. If residing in Metro Manila, whose individual net income does not exceed P14,000.00 a month;
2. If residing in other cities, whose individual net income does not exceed P13,000.00 a month; and
3. If residing in all other places, whose individual net income does not exceed P12,000.00 a month.
The term income shall not include the pension received by retirees.
The term “net income” as herein employed, shall be understood to refer to the basic income of the litigant less statutory and authorized deductions.
x x x
For purposes of this section, ownership of land shall not, per se, constitute a ground for disqualification of an applicant for free legal assistance, in view of the ruling in Juan Enaje vs. Victorio Ramos, et al. (G.R. No. L-22109, January 30, 1970), that the determinative factor for indigency is the income of the litigant and not his ownership of real property. x x x”
Accordingly, you may approach our district office, which has jurisdiction over the place where you reside in Region 8, for the proper assessment of your legal problem in connection with your desire to pursue the filing of a labor case against your former employer for alleged illegal dismissal, as well as for the possible rendition of the appropriate legal assistance in your favor in accordance with existing PAO laws, rules and regulations. Our district offices are usually located at or near the municipal hall, city hall, provincial hall or hall of justice of each respective municipality, city or province.
On your visit to our district office, it will be best for you to bring all pertinent documents relating to your employment as well as your complaint against your former employer. It is also advisable for you to bring any of the following proofs of indigency: (a) Latest Income Tax Return or pay slip, or other proofs of net income; or, (b) Certificate of Indigency from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, City Social Welfare and Development Office or Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office having jurisdiction over the residence of the applicant; or, (c) Certificate of Indigency from the Punong Barangay/Barangay Chairman having jurisdiction over the residence of the applicant.
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to email@example.com