Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Public Attorney's Office guidelines (Plain English / Plain Language revisions)

Notes: (1) Please read my post “Plain English, Plain Language or Plain Writing for government offices and private companies in the Philippines.” (2) I conduct seminars for government offices or private companies that want to train their staff in Plain English. Please email me at gtgalacio@yahoo.com or text 0927-798-3138 for details. (3) For interactive grammar exercises, please visit my “Better English for everyone” website; I also have interactive quizzes on Plain English / Plain Language. (4) If the tables do not look right, try using Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome. (5) These revisions are my own and are used only to illustrate Plain English principles. If there are conflicts between my revisions and the official DSWD guidelines on travel clearance for minors, you must follow the official guidelines.

Plain English / Plain Language revisions:I used the pronoun “you” to directly address the user, and pronoun “we” to refer to the office.

I broke up the original one long paragraph into four short paragraphs.

I used a bulleted list for clarity.

BeforeAfter
The Merit Test

Under PAO M.C. No. 18 series of 2002, 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 the furtherance of justice, taking into consideration the interests of the party and those of the society. In such cases, the Public Attorney should agree to represent the party concerned. On the other hand, a case is deemed unmeritorious if it appears that it has no chance of success, or is intended merely to harass or injure the opposite party or to work oppression or wrong. In such situation, the Public Attorney must decline the handling of the case. A Public Attorney may represent an indigent client even if his cause of action is adverse to a public officer, government office, agency or instrumentality provided the case is meritorious. Caution should however be exercised that the office be not exposed to charges of harassment, unfairness or undue haste in the filing of suits. In criminal cases, the accused enjoys the constitutional presumption of innocence until the contrary is proven. Hence, cases of defendants in criminal actions are considered meritorious.
The Merit Test

We will assess your case based on the law and evidence. If our services will render justice to you and our society, we will handle your case.

As long as your case is meritorious, we will help you even if your opponent is a public officer, agency or instrumentality.

If you are the defendant in a criminal case and cannot afford a private lawyer, we will accept your case.

We will not, however, accept your case if:
  • it has no chances of winning in court, or
  • it will harass or injure the opposite party, or
  • it will cause oppression or wrong.
(Note: Based on PAO M.C. No. 18 series of 2002)









Plain English / Plain Language revisions:I used the pronoun “you” to directly address the user, and avoided legalese by using simple words.

BeforeAfter
The Indigency Test

Pursuant to PAO MEMORANDUM CIRCULAR NO. 02 Series of 2010 dated January 27, 2010 and entitled as “AMENDING SECTIONS 3, 4, and 5, ARTICLE II OF MEMORANDUM CIRCULAR NO. 18, S. 2002 (Amended Standard Office Procedures in Extending Legal Assistance)” in relation to the provisions of Republic Act (RA) No. 9406 enacted by Congress and approved by Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on March 23, 2007 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations dated July 14, 2008, the Indigency Test set forth in Section 3, Article II, MC No. 18, S. 2002, is hereby amended to read as follows:

Indigency Test. – Taking into consideration recent surveys on the amount needed by an average Filipino family to (a) buy its “food consumption basket” and (b) pay for its household and personal expenses, the following applicant shall be considered as an indigent person:

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 Philhealth premiums as well as mandatory deductions.

For purposes of this Section, ownership of land shall not per se constitute a ground for disqualification of an applicant for free legal assistance in view of the ruling in Juan Enaje vs. Victorio Ramos, et al. (31 SCRA 141, G.R. No. L-22109, January 30, 1970) that the determinative factor for indigency is the income of the litigant and not his ownership of real property.
The Indigency Test

You are considered indigent:
  1. If you are residing in Metro Manila, your net income does not exceed Php14,000.00 a month;
  2. If you are residing in other cities, your net income does not exceed Php13,000.00 a month;
  3. If you are residing in other places, your net income does not exceed Php 12,000.00 a month.
The term “net income” refers to your income less deductions like withholding taxes, GSIS, SSS, Pag-Ibig, Health Insurance, and Philhealth premiums, as well as mandatory deductions.

You are considered indigent even if you own real property.

[Based on PAO Memorandum Circular No. 02 Series of 2010 dated January 27, 2010 and entitled as “Amending Sections 3, 4, and 5, Article II of Memorandum Circular No. 18, S. 2002 (Amended Standard Office Procedures in Extending Legal Assistance)” in relation to Republic Act No. 9406]



































Plain English revisions:I used the pronoun “you” to directly address the user.

I used pronoun “I” for the question heading.

I avoided legalese and jargon (like “jurisdiction”) by using equivalent, simple words.

BeforeAfter
How to avail of services of the PAO

To ensure that only those qualified shall be extended free legal assistance, the applicant shall 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 the residence of the applicant; or

3. Certificate of Indigency from the Barangay Chairman having jurisdiction over the residence of the applicant.
How can I avail of services of the PAO?

You must execute an Affidavit of Indigency and submit any of the following documents:
  • Latest Income Tax Return, or pay slip, or other proofs of income; or
  • Certificate of Indigency from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, its local District Office, or
  • the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office of the place where you live; or
  • Certificate of Indigency from the Chairman of the barangay where you live.



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