SC Denies PAO Request to Delete Section 22, Canon III of the CPRA; Orders PAO Chief to Show Cause Why She Should Not Be Cited in Contempt and Why She Should Not Be Disciplined as a Member of the Bar
July 12, 2023
The Supreme Court En Banc has resolved to deny the request of Atty. Persida V. Rueda-Acosta, the Chief of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), in her letter, dated April 20, 2023, addressed to Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo, to delete Section 22, Canon III of the Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability (CPRA), which limits the invocation by the PAO of the rule on conflict of interest.
The Court reminded the PAO of its primordial mandate to “[extend] free legal assistance to indigent persons in criminal, civil, labor, administrative and other quasi-judicial cases.” To turn away indigent litigants and bar them from availing of the services of all PAO lawyers nationwide due to alleged conflict of interest would be to contravene PAO’s principal duty and leave hundreds of poor litigants unassisted by legal counsel they cannot otherwise afford.
Contrary to the claims of Atty. Acosta, the Court promulgated the CPRA in the exercise of its exclusive rule-making power under the Constitution. It was likewise in furtherance of the Court’s authority to supervise the practice of law and to provide free legal assistance to the underprivileged.
The Court also noted Atty. Acosta’s unabated public tirades against Canon III, Section 22 of the CPRA through social and mainstream media, branding the adoption of the CPRA as unconstitutional, and an undue interference and intrusion by the Supreme Court into PAO’s operations.
The Court thus directed Atty. Acosta to show cause why she should not be cited in indirect contempt for her social media posts and newspaper publications which tended, directly or indirectly, to impede, obstruct, or degrade the administration of justice.
Furthermore, the Court characterized Atty. Acosta’s resort to social and print media to air her unfounded grievances against the Court as a threat to the independence of the judiciary. The Court thus ordered Atty. Acosta to show cause why she should not be disciplined as a Member of the Bar.
The CPRA took effect on May 30, 2023, fifteen (15) days after its publication.
The case, docketed as A.M. No. 23-05-05-SC, Request of the Public Attorney’s Office to Delete Section 22, Canon III of the Proposed Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability, was decided unanimously by the full Court during its deliberations on July 11, 2023.FULL TEXT of A.M. No. 23-05-05-SC (Request of the Public Attorney’s Office to Delete Section 22, Canon III of the Proposed Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability, July 11, 2023): https://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/23-05-05-sc-request-of-the-public-attorneys-office-to-delete-section-22-canon-iii-of-the-proposed-code-of-professional-responsibility-and-accountability/