SC imposes P180K fine on PAO chief for contempt, undignified conduct

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
SC imposes P180K fine on PAO chief for contempt, undignified conduct
File photo of Public Attorney’s Office Chief Persida Rueda-Acosta
Senate PRIB

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court (SC) has imposed a P180,000 fine on Public Attorneys Office (PAO) Chief Persida Rueda-Acosta for her social media statements on the "Conflict of Interest" provision of the Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability (CPRA).

In a press release issued on Tuesday evening, the SC announced that the PAO chief was found guilty of indirect contempt and grossly undignified conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. This ruling stemmed from her social media pronouncements on the matter.

“It was determined that Atty. Acosta’s statements and innuendos on her Facebook page, which was accessible to the public, attributed ill intent and malice to the Court,” the high court’s press release read.

“The Court also found that by launching a public campaign against the new conflict of interest rule for the PAO using public attorneys and the PAO’s staff and clients and publicizing the contents of the PAO’s letters to Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo requesting the deletion of the same rule, Atty. Acosta tried to sway public opinion in order to pressure the Court into yielding to her position,” it added. 

Acosta previously expressed her opposition to Section 22 of the CPRA which said that conflict of interest is only limited to any of the PAO lawyers and the lawyer’s direct supervisor.

This allows PAO lawyers to potentially face each other as opposing parties.

Acosta has previously requested the SC to remove this provision from the CPRA but the high court denied the request. 

“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,’” the high court said in a decision in July 2023. 

Aside from Acosta, lawyer Erwin Erfe was also found guilty of indirect contempt. Erfe's social media post accused the high court of "judicial tyranny" concerning the conflict of interest provision.

The CPRA, introduced in April last year, replaced the 34-year-old Code of Professional Responsibility that covers the conduct of lawyers.

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