MANILA - A public lawyer was ordered dismissed from service for grave misconduct while performing legal duties.
In a resolution, the Ombudsman ordered the dismissal of District Public Attorney Jennifer Garcia-Laudencia of the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro.
During its investigation, the Ombudsman found that Laudencia demanded payment from Rodolfo Abrea and his wife Maira when her legal services should be free of charge, as stated by law.
The lawyer demanded payments of P6,000 and P3,000 for the Abreas’ counter-affidavit and rejoinder, respectively.
Under the Administrative Code of 1987, 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."
Aside from illegal charging of fees, Laundencia also allegedly rendered services to an unqualified client.
It was found that Laundencia became Mike Tiu Santiago's lawyer in a civil case for injunction and specific performance with damages. The case pertained to Santiago's property disputes with his stepmother.
However, Santiago failed to prove his indigent status to qualify him for PAO services.
"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 said.
The Ombudsman also 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."