PAO seeks indefinite suspension of ‘conflict of interest’ provision in new lawyer’s code
MANILA, Philippines — The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) has sought for the indefinite suspension of a provision of the new Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability (CPRA) for Lawyers particularly the provision on Conflict of Interest.
CPRA replaces the 34-year-old Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR) that governs the conduct of lawyers in the country.
Section 22 of the CPRA states: “Public Attorney’s Office; conflict of interest. – The Public Attorney’s Office is the primary legal aid service of the government. In the pursuit of its mandate under its charter, the Public Attorney’s Office shall ensure ready access to its services by the marginalized sectors of society in a manner that takes into consideration the avoidance of potential conflict of interest situations which will leave these marginalized parties unassisted by counsel.”
The same provision states that: “A conflict of interest of any of the lawyers of the Public Attorney’s Office incident to services rendered for the Office shall be imputed only to the said lawyer and the lawyer’s direct supervisor. Such conflict of interest shall not disqualify the rest of the lawyers from the Public Attorney’s Office from representing the affected client, upon full disclosure to the latter and written informed consent.”
The new provision, in effect will allow PAO lawyers to represent opposing parties.
PAO, in its April 20 letter to Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo said their clients would never agree that their opponents will be represented by lawyers from the same office.
The same letter also said that the life of public defenders would also be put at risk, mentioning the deaths in Infanta, Quezon and Central Visayas–one represented a murder suspect while the other, due to conflict of interest.
In its recent letter to Chief Justice Gesmundo, PAO said that implementing Section 22, Canon III of CPRA should be indefinitely suspended pending review by the members of the Supreme Court.
PAO has been pushing for the removal of the questioned provision.
In the alternative, PAO calls on the SC to look at Republic Act 9999 or the Free Legal Assistance Act of 2010 that could not be implemented yet for its incomplete Implementing Rules and Regulations.
RA 9999 encourages lawyers to provide free legal assistance to indigent litigants. In exchange, they will be granted tax incentives.
“We are likewise most humbly and most respectfully requesting for the issuance by the Honorable Supreme Court of the counterpart Implementing Rules and Regulation of RA 9999. We believe that such issuance is very timely and will significantly address the issue of lack of legal representation due to conflict of interest,” read the PAO’s letter dated May 5.