Thursday, March 01, 2012

Ledesma vs. Climaco

Facts:  Petitioner Ledesma was assigned as counsel de parte for an accused in a case pending in the sala of the respondent judge. 

On October 13, 1964, Ledesma was appointed Election Registrar for the Municipality of Cadiz, Negros Occidental. He commenced discharging his duties, and filed a motion to withdraw from his position as counsel de parte. 

The respondent Judge not only denied the motion but also appointed him as counsel de oficio for the two defendants. 

On November 3, 1964, petitioner filed an urgent motion to be allowed to withdraw as counsel de oficio, premised on the policy of the Commission on Elections to require full time service as well as on the volume or pressure of work of petitioner, which could prevent him from handling adequately the defense. 

On November 6, Judge denied the motion. Hence, Ledesma instituted this certiorari proceeding. 

Issue: Whether or not a member of the bar may withdraw as counsel de oficio due to appointment as Election Registrar. 

Held: The ends of justice would be served by requiring Ledesma to continue as counsel de oficio because: the case has been postponed at least 8 times at the defense's instance; there was no incompatibility between duty of petitioner to defend the accused, and his task as an election registrar. There is not likely at present, and in the immediate future, an exorbitant demand on his time. 

Ledesma's withdrawal would be an act showing his lack of fidelity to the duty required of the legal profession. He ought to have known that membership in the bar is burdened with conditions. The legal profession is dedicated to the ideal of service, and is not a mere trade. A lawyer may be required to act as counsel de oficio to aid in the performance of the administration of justice. The fact that such services are rendered without pay should not diminish the lawyer's zeal. 

In People v. Holgado: “In criminal cases there can be no fair hearing unless the accused be given an opportunity to be heard by counsel. The right to be heard would be of little avail if it does not include the right to be heard by counsel. Even the most intelligent or educated man may have no skill in the science of law, particularly in the rules of procedure, and; without counsel, he may be convicted not because he is guilty but because he does not know how to establish his innocence. And this can happen more easily to persons who are ignorant or uneducated. It is for this reason that the right to be assisted by counsel is deemed so important that it has become a constitutional right and it is so implemented that under rules of procedure it is not enough for the Court to apprise an accused of his right to have an attorney, it is not enough to ask him whether he desires the aid of an attorney, but it is essential that the court should assign one de oficio for him if he so desires and he is poor or grant him a reasonable time to procure an attorney of his own.” 

The present Constitution provides not only “that the accused shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel” but further provides that “Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to remain silent and to counsel, and to be informed of such right. No force, violence, threat, intimidation, or any other means which vitiates the free will shall be used against him. Any confession obtained in violation of this section shall be inadmissible in evidence.” This made manifest the indispensable role of a member of the Bar in the defense of the accused. 

Thus, Ledesma should exert himself sufficiently, if not with zeal, if only to erase doubts as to his fitness to remain a member of the profession in good standing. The admonition is ever timely for those enrolled in the ranks of legal practitioners that there are times, and this is one of them, when duty to court and to client takes precedence over the promptings of self-interest.

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