I have an officemate who is currently facing a difficult predicament. Her husband has been accused of homicide, which allegedly transpired sometime in December 2013. The complaint was only filed late January of this year. They have no lawyer and to be quite honest, they have no financial capacity to avail of one. Is it possible to secure assistance from your office? What documents do they need to present?
Our office, the Public Attorney’s Office or PAO, is mandated by law to render free legal assistance to indigent clients and other qualified persons whose cases are meritorious in all civil, criminal, administrative, labor and other quasi-judicial cases (Section 1, Article II, PAO Operations Manual).
Given that a complaint for homicide is in the nature of a criminal case, our office considers such as a meritorious case because we recognize the constitutional right of an accused to be presumed innocent until the contrary is proven (Section 2, Article II, PAO Operations Manual).
Nevertheless, the husband of your officemate must establish that he is a qualified indigent client in order for him to avail the services of our office and the representation of one of our lawyers. In connection thereto, he must present any of the following proofs of indigency: (a) Latest Income Tax Return (ITR), pay slip or other proofs of income; (b) Certificate of Indigency from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), its local district office, or the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office which has jurisdiction over his residence; or (c) Certificate of Indigency from the Barangay Chairman having jurisdiction over his residence (Section 3, Article II, PAO Operations Manual).
It would be best for your officemate and her husband to visit our district office nearest to the place where the alleged crime was committed so that they can personally confer with one of our lawyers as well as for the proper rendition of legal assistance in accordance with existing PAO laws, rules and regulations. As we have mentioned earlier, a complaint for homicide is in the nature of a criminal case. Hence, it will necessarily have to be filed before the Office of the City or Provincial Prosecutor, or in the absence thereof, the court which has jurisdiction over the place where the crime was committed.
Please be advised that 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. Please inform your officemate to bring all the pertinent documents relative to the case of her husband on their visit to our district office.
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