Public Attorney’s Office Chief Persida Acosta on Thursday, May 11, 2023, expresses her willingness to help the Supreme Court craft the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act 9999 or the Free Legal Assistance Act of 2010. PHOTOS BY BENEDICT ABAYGAR JR.

Conflict of interest deadly to PAO lawyers

PUBLIC Attorney’s Office (PAO) records showed that eight of its lawyers were killed in the past 19 years due to “conflict of interest.”

“Sadly, they were the real evidence of how this conflict of interest issue is detrimental to PAO lawyers who have been caught in the middle of these deplorable incidents,” PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta said.

Among the slain PAO lawyers were Eugene Campol, Cordillera Region-PAO, killed Sept. 6, 2005; Luis Dote, Bicol Region-PAO, killed June 17, 2007; Teresita Vidamo, Las Piñas-PAO, killed Feb. 9, 2005; Ramon Elesteria, Dumaguete-PAO, killed in 2009; Reymund Luna, Region 4A PAO, killed Feb. 4, 2016; Dante Untalan Sr., San Carlos City-PAO, killed March 19, 2010; Richard Punzalan, Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) PAO, killed Feb. 13, 2004; and Honorato Mazo, North Cotabato-PAO, killed October 2016.

Rueda-Acosta said they were waiting for the decision of Supreme Court Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo over their request for the indefinite suspension of the implementation of the Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability, which the PAO believes contains a questionable provision on conflict of interest.

“Ultimately, allowing PAO lawyers to go against each other in one particular criminal or civil case creates the impression that the justice system in the Philippines is a sham,” Rueda-Acosta said.

“Not only that, it likewise puts at risk the life and limb of the handling public attorneys because if things go wrong, clients would have enough reason to suspect that their counsels double-crossed them. Also, it would create a disruption in public service,” she added.

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