Free legal help to poor earners of less than P13,000 a month

Published by reposted only Date posted on November 19, 2011

Dear PAO,
Good morning! I read some of your advices regarding on how to change the gender in the birth certificate and I understand your responses. My question is: Is there a fee if I am going to the attorney to change my gender in my birth certificate? Thank you.

Dear Fhriestley,
The filing of a Petition for Correction of Entry in the Civil Registry in accordance with Rule 108 of the Revised Rules of Court in order to change your gender in your birth certificate would entail the services of a lawyer and the expending for the filing fee, publication and other miscellaneous expenses in attending the hearing of the said petition.

In the event that you will be engaging the services of a private lawyer, you may be asked to pay him a fee which may include acceptance fee and appearance fee depending on the agreement which you and the lawyer may enter into.

Nevertheless, if you do not have sufficient means to engage the services of a private lawyer, you may seek the assistance of our office, the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO).

At this juncture, we would like to apprise you that PAO is the government office that is primarily tasked to render free legal assistance to indigent clients, who are in need of free legal services. In line with this mandated duty of our office, all prospective clients of the PAO are subjected, among others, to the indigency and merit tests. Thus, the requirement for you to become a bona fide client of our office and to be able to obtain the services of our public attorney is to pass the said tests.

The indigency test provides that the following shall be considered indigent persons:

“1. If residing in Metro Manila, whose net income does not exceed Php14,000.00 a month;

2. If residing in other cities, whose net income does not exceed Php13,000.00 a month;

3. If residing in other places, whose net income does not exceed Php 12,000.00 a month.

“The term “net income” as herein employed shall be understood to refer to the income of the litigant less statutory deductions. Statutory deductions shall refer to withholding taxes, GSIS, SSS, Pag-Ibig, Health Insurance and Phil-health premiums as well as mandatory deductions” (Section 1, Me-morandum Circular No. 02, Series of 2010 Amending Sections 3, 4, and 5, Article II of Memorandum Circular No. 18, Series of 2002—Amended Standard Office Procedures in Extending Legal Assistance).

You shall then be required to execute an Affidavit of Indigency and to submit any of the following documents:

“1. Latest Income Tax Return or pay slip or other proofs of income; or

2. Certificate of Indigency from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, its local District Office, or the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office having jurisdiction over your residence; or

3. Certificate of Indigency from the Barangay Chairman having jurisdiction over your residence” (Section 1, paragraph 6, Memorandum Circular No. 02, Series of 2010).

Nevertheless, passing the indigency test does not necessarily mean that you are already qualified to avail of the free legal services offered by the PAO. Aside from the indigency test, your case must also pass the merit test such that it should be meritorious.

A case shall be considered meritorious if an assessment of the law and evidence on hand discloses that the legal services of the office will assist, or be in aid of or in furtherance of justice, taking into consideration the interests of the party and those of society. Otherwise, if it appears that the case has no chance of success, or it is intended merely to harass or injure the opposite party or to work oppression or wrong, this office must decline the case. (Section 2 paragraph 1, Article II, Memorandum Circular No. 18, Series of 2002)

Thus, if you pass our indigency and merit tests, our office can extend free legal assistance to you in filing the petition, including exemption from the payment of court fees incidental to the filing of the case

We hope that we were able to fully address your query. –Persida Acosta, Manila Times

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