PERSIDA V. RUEDA-ACOSTA
Chief Public Attorney,
Public Attorney’s Office (PAO)
Department of Justice (DOJ)
Asian Public Intellectuals (API) Fellowships
Fellow, Japan Legal Aid Association (JLAA)
International Visitor (IV), International Visitors Program
United States of America (USA)
Workshop of the Lawyers and
Staff of the
Public Attorney’s Office
Park 10099, Roxas Blvd.,
Guests and Speakers, our Deputy Chief Public Attorneys, Regional Public
Attorneys, Divisions Chiefs, District Heads, my dear PAO Lawyers and Support
Staff nationwide, good afternoon….
There is strength in numbers, yes! (In our case, 1,048 PAO
lawyers and 850 nationwide support staff.) These figures, however, can be
appreciated only when out of the apparent promise of their sheer largeness they
actually deliver something valuable to an equally big quantity of people.
Mahalagang bagay ang libreng serbisyo legal na ating
naibibigay sa marami sa ating mga kababayan na naghahanap ng katarungan. Kaya
ang ating bilang – humigit-kumulang sa dalawang libo – ay hindi na matatawaran
sa kakayanang maglingkod, gayundin sa katapatan sa mandato ng ating tanggapan.
Habang kayo ay nakatayo kanina at ipinakikilala, nakita ko ang
mga mukhang nagkakaisa at buong-tatag na humaharap sa mga pagsubok na kaakibat
ng paglilingkod. Nakita ko ang mga mukha sa likod ng boses sa korte na buong
giting na idinedepensa ang karapatan at katwiran. Nakita ko ang mga mukha sa
likod ng tinig sa radyo, telebisyon, at telepono na nagbibigay-liwanag sa mga
suliraning legal na bumabagabag sa kalooban ng mga kulang sa impormasyon,
nalinlang, o naaping mga kababayan. Mabuhay kayo! Para sa inyo ang
workshop na ito. Isinasagawa upang magkaroon tayo ng mas maayos at mahusay na
libreng serbisyo legal – handog sa ating mga kababayan sa buong kapuluan ng
also conducting this grand workshop for your own professional development. This
is the PAO’s modest but sincere way of thanking and honoring all of you who have
chosen to join our Office and embraced public service.
My fellow public servants, unsung heroes and heroines in our
country, you have made a noble decision. An American comptroller general said:
“… the choice of public service is grounded in personal values, rather that
market values. It attracts people who want to ‘make a difference’ for others;
who seek to maximize their self worth rather than their net worth.”
to Make a
worth, however, is sometimes tested by some people’s misinformed notion about
our work. Recently, a television program aired a segment about the Public
Attorney’s Office. It was entitled, “Usad PAOgong ang Hustisya.” It was
about the frustratingly slow grind of the justice system in our country, all
right, but the pun was poked at the Public Attorney’s Office. A witty one-liner,
its writer might have thought. But it was devoid of wisdom. It was not wise to
single out the PAO on the title for it appeared that our Office and the public
attorneys are the ones solely responsible for the sad state of the justice
system in our country.
our regional public attorneys texted me his sentiment on this. “It is
demoralizing,” his message partly read. To some extent it affected me, too.
But I brushed it off easily as the thought of how we successfully freed
ourselves from derogatory names like ampaw, siopao came into my mind.
PAO was appointed by the Sandiganbayan as part of the defense team of
former President Joseph Estrada, I designated as part of the PAO Team, the
following public attorneys: Atty. Wilfredo Andres, Atty. Oscar Co, Atty. Melita
Lauron, Atty. Silvestre Mosing, Atty. Francisco Sanchez III, Atty. Arturo
Temanil, Atty. Jeofferson Toribio, and Atty. Maximo Usita, Jr. Ampaw and
siopao were used then by a brother in the legal profession, to suggest that
we were lightweight lawyers. But we did not allow name-calling to hinder us from
proving our worth as competent officers of the court. Your Chief Public Attorney
presented three (3) government doctors, namely: Dr. Jose Pujalte, Jr., Dr.
Casison, and Dra. Evangelista, and one (1) private doctor, Dr. Larry Jocson,
cousin of former Pres. Estrada as our expert witnesses who gave credence to the
defense team’s contention that the former president has the right to be treated
by the doctor of his own choice, in a hospital he trusted. This helped in
proving to our critics that we were not only independent but competent as well.
Diyan ngayon sa bansag na PAOgong, sapat
na ang bilang ng ating mga kliyente at naipanalong mga kaso para maiwasto ang
maling impresyon na ang mga manananggol pambayan ay mabagal sa pagtugon sa mga
inilalapit na suliraning legal ng ating mga kababayan.
Dapat ding may
isa tayong diwa, gawa, at tinig na maririnig na hindi mapupulaan at mabibinyagan
ng mga pangalan na katulad ng PAO-pagong, ampaw o siopao. Nararapat lamang na
mayroon tayong duly authorized spokesperson at hindi baguhan lamang na hindi pa
alam ang kasaysayan at katayuan ng PAO.
In our history of public
service, 2005 was one of our productive years. Last year, the PAO was able to
serve four million four hundred ninety-five thousand six hundred thirty-four (4,495,634) indigent clients. Through the efforts of the public
attorneys, from the year 2000 up to September 2006, before the Supreme Court,
sixty-four (64) death convicts were acquitted from death penalty, and thirty six
(36) from reclusion temporal. One hundred twenty (120) inmates were acquitted
from death to reclusion perpetua, and four hundred six (406) felons had a
reduction of sentence from death to reclusion perpetua. Wala pa sa mga
bilang na ito ang daan-daan at libu-libong presong araw-araw ay napapalaya ninyo
sa mga distrito.
The figures I gave you are not mere numbers.
They speak about our accomplishments through the years – consistent in
competence and dedication to service. Our accomplishments have earned us the
faith of our clients and the trust of authorities in government and
non-government officers. Proofs to this are the cases handled by the PAO, then
and now. Some of the cases that have been entrusted to the PAO, and which I have
handled personally are the following:
the case of the
147 pro-Erap demonstrators who stormed Malacañang on May 1, 2001. I appeared
in several courts and sought their release on recognizance. I did my best in
proving to the honorable judges that they posed no danger to our national
security. Fortunately, after 48 hours of trial proceedings, all the accused
were ordered released. And after two (2) months, the charges of rebellion
against them were all dismissed;
the case of
thirteen (13) year-old Angelica, rape victim and deportee from
Malaysia, in 2002.
Her citizenship was questioned. While the DNA tests were being conducted to help
in determining her nationality, we lost no time in rendering appropriate legal
assistance to her, considering her minority and the harrowing experience she
suffered from the hands of her molesters. The DNA tests yielded this result: Her
father was a Malaysian and her mother was of Filipino origin.
(Angelica’s case makes it
apparent why topics like “DNA and the Courts” should be considered
a must in workshops like ours.
The lecture on this MCLE-prescribed course which falls under Technology and the
Law will be given by Supreme Court Assistant Court Administrator Nimfa C.
the cases of
the 199 officers and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and
the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front-New People’s
Army (CPP-NDF-NPA) in 2004. Our role in these cases was relative to the
confidence-building measure adopted and implemented by the Philippine government
in relation with various rebel groups for the achievement of national unity,
cooperation, stability and peace in the
Our success in this endeavor was
hailed by Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye as “a really big breakthrough in long-
stalled peace process.”
the case of
He was wanted for an alleged Kidnapping and was listed in the Order of Battle of
the National Anti-Kidnapping Task Force (NAKTAF). Half a million bounty was
dangled to anyone who could tell the authorities his whereabouts. But the truth
is, he was framed up.
surrendered to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), with the help of
media man Julius Babao. Makasilang requested that I go with Babao because the
former wanted my assistance in his legal battle from start to finish.
Makasilang, who languished in jail for two years was recently freed. Five (5)
months after his release from jail, Rosal Saranggani, Yasser Palman, and Lago
Diamla y Mama, his three co-accused were also acquitted by Judge Brigido Artemon
M. Luna III of RTC-Parañaque, Branch 196.
Sa kaso ni Amrodin o Ding Makasilang nakita natin kung paano sinuklian ng
katarungan ang pagtitiwala sa batas at kung paano ipinaglalaban ng PAO ang
hustisya para sa lahat ng Pilipino. Walang pag-uuri – Kristiyano man o Muslim –
kung sakop ng mandato ng PAO, paglilingkuran at ipaglalaban;
In the PAO’s history of public
service and fight for justice, this next case is not just included but
highlighted. This is –
5) the case of death
convicts Roberto Lara and
Roderick Licayan whose executions by lethal injection on January 30, 2004 were stayed due
to a newly-discovered evidence which we stated in our Motion to Reopen and
stressed in my Oral Arguments before the Supreme Court. The case is now being
retried in a regional trial court in
The reopening of the Lara-Licayan
case is significant to us because it has the following effects:
the executions of
217 death convicts were stayed by H. E. Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo;
and sickly 70-year-olds and above were pardoned by President Arroyo;
it served as the
floodgates of presidential reprieves, pardon; and
abolition of death penalty in the Philippines on June 24, 2006.
Kasama ko si Atty. Howard Areza sa kaso nina Lara at Licayan. Kahit noong
una ay ayaw niya pero sumunod din siya sa aking direktiba;
the case of the
15 military personnel who were condemned for the twin killings of Senator
Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino and his alleged assailant Rolando Galman. We are
seeking for the reopening of this case due to newly-discovered and compelling
pieces of evidence that could free not only the possibly innocent convicts but
also our people and our country that have been fed with lies all these years
with false forensic evidence.
The Public Attorney’s Office is
being assisted in the forensic aspect of this case by the Philippine Forensic
Group (PFG). This group’s new forensic findings show that it was Rolando Galman
and not Sgt. Rogelio Moreno who shot Sen. Aquino. Sgt. Moreno should have been
outside of the railings of the stairway for him to have made the shot at Sen.
Aquino. Para mabaril ni Moreno si Ninoy, kailangan niyang lumutang sa ere na
parang tutubi o kaya ay paru-parong bukid.
The PFG is composed of Prof.
Jerome B. Bailen, Atty. Erwin P. Erfe, M. D., and Doctors Benito E. Molino and
Anastacio N. Rosete Jr. Dr. Erfe, who is now our Forensic Consultant, will give
you a lecture on Medical Jurisprudence and Legal Medicine, an MCLE-prescribed
topic on Technology and the Law.
In handling the case of Lara and
Licayan, I rushed against time in saving the lives of these two death convicts.
Now, although freed from lethal injection I still fear for Lara’s life. I hope
that the retrial will soon be over. Lara’s confinement in prison has taken its
toll on his health. Namamanas si Lara, mayroon siyang edema. Sana hindi
mailagay nito sa panganib ang kanyang buhay; kagaya nang pagkamatay sa kulungan
ng tiyuhin niyang si Pedro Mabansag na nagsabing walang sala si Lara. Gustong ko
nang mapalaya si Lara sa kulungan at agawin siya sa kanyang karamdaman.
As I worry about Lara’s health,
I also think about the sickly military personnel who were convicted for Ninoy’s
death. Sina Artates, Taran, Lat, at
Martinez ay may
sakit. At halos lahat ng mga kasamahan nila ay may idinadaing ding karamdaman.
Kung hindi lalabas ang katotohanan, hindi rin sila mabibigyan ng katarungan
at kalayaan. Sa kulungan na lang ba sila igugupo ng karamdaman o marahas na
kamatayan? Ganito ang nangyari sa kasamahan nilang si Sgt. Estelo. Kung paanong
si Ninoy ay sa isang bala namatay, sa isang saksak sa kanang dibdib naman si
Sgt. Estelo binawian ng buhay. Sana maextradite ng DOJ, ayon sa Order ng
Sandiganbayan, si Capt. Valerio, isa sa mga akusado sa kasong ito upang tuluyan
nang mamayani ang totoo.
Handling cases tests not only
our competence as lawyers but it also tries our character as public servants.
Public service does not only require professionalism from us but also patience
and courage to do what is right. Professionalism, patience, and courage have a
special place in our value system. In our grand workshop, we have topics that
are values-oriented, such as Legal Ethics for the Lawyers and Ethics in Public
Service for Non-Lawyers.
Even as we gather here for our
grand workshop, I think of what your Chief Public Attorney and our Office could
give you next. A computer unit may be for each of our public attorneys? Why not?
In the past years, we were successful in distributing one computer unit for each
of our offices nationwide.
One lawyer, one computer; one
photocopying machine, one PAO district office – these will be included in my
policies and programs next year, plus the upliftment of your benefits and
allowances subject to auditing rules. Sisikapin kong maisakatuparan ito at
iba pang mga plano para sa higit pang kaunlaran ng inyong kaalaman at kasanayan.
In achieving all this, we may start in our
own simple and small way. Remain dauntless though, for the beginnings of all
things are small. And the beginnings of good things to come for all of us may
start now as I formally open our grand workshop.
Let us remain united for the
common good. May God bless us all in this occasion.
Thank you very much for giving me so much joy
in seeing all of you here.
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE PUBLIC ATTORNEY’S OFFICE