The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) on Monday slammed a private lawyer giving free legal advices for accusing some public lawyers of coercing their client to admit a crime and enter a plea bargain for the termination of the case.
PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta, in a statement sent to the media, accused lawyer Mark Tolentino, a former Department of Transportation official, of giving “irresponsible” information to the public.
“He should be thinking carefully before saying anything. One has
the right to talk about one’s opinion or sentiment, and this is protected under our Constitution as one’s innate right,” she said.
“However, it is also one’s obligation to be analytical and careful in what to say to ensure that one will not be hurt,” she added.
Just like Tolentino, the PAO chief said any private or public lawyer must always be responsible enough in what he or she would publicly say.
Tolentino earned the wrath of PAO for saying PAO would “coerce” or “force” an innocent accused to admit a wrongdoing to reduce PAO’s heavy workload.
“First of all, PAO wishes to tell all that we are not ignorant that there is a presumption of innocence,” Rueda-Acosta said, adding
that “secondly, there is no process (of the law) that one may admit
guilt even if one is innocent of the crime.”
She emphasized that PAO lawyers do not only uphold the accused’s human rights but also the legal ethics of their profession.
She, however, clarified that a plea of guilty to a lesser offense is allowed by the Supreme Court under Rule 116, Section 2 of the Rules of Court.