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Tanggapan ng Manananggol Pambayan  
 
 

 

 

"Tapat at Libreng Serbisyo - handog ng PAO sa TAO."

 

The Public Attorney's Office

 

Inspirational Message

 

By HON. PERSIDA V. RUEDA-ACOSTA

Chief Public Attorney, Public Attorney’s Office (PAO)

Department of Justice (DOJ)

Senior Fellow, Asian Public Intellectuals (API) Fellowships

Fellow, Japan Legal Aid Association (JLAA)

International Visitor (IV), International Visitors Program

of the United States of America (USA)

 

Grand Workshop of the Lawyers and

Staff of the Public Attorney’s Office

 

Manila Hotel

One Rizal Park 10099, Roxas Blvd.,

Ermita, Manila

 

November 6-10, 2006

 

               

Honored 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 grand 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 Pilipinas.

                We are 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.” (Dare to Make a Difference, http://www.gao.gov/cghome/cg020517.html)

Our self 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.

One of 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.

When the 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:

1)                                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; 

2)                                the case of thirteen (13) year-old Angelica, rape victim and deportee from Sabah, 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. Vilches);

3)                                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 Philippines.

Our success in this endeavor was hailed by Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye as “a really big breakthrough in long- stalled peace process.” 

4)                                the case of Amrodin Makasilang. 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.

Makasilang voluntarily 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 Marikina.

The reopening of the Lara-Licayan case is significant   to us because it has the following effects:

a)        the executions of 217 death convicts were stayed by H. E. Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo;

b)        those qualified and sickly 70-year-olds and above were pardoned by President Arroyo;

c)        it served as the floodgates of presidential reprieves, pardon; and

d)        finally, the 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;

6)                   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.

-End-

 

ESTABLISHMENT OF THE PUBLIC ATTORNEY’S OFFICE



           The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), which used to be known as CLAO or the Citizen’s Legal Assistance Office was created pursuant to the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1 dated September 24, 1972, which enacted into law the Integrated Reorganization Plan for the government. This Decree was put into effect through several Letters of Implementation (LOI) issued by then President Ferdinand Marcos. Two of these LOI’s (LOI No. 4 dated October 23, 1992 and LOI No. 20 dated December 31, 1972) provided for the establishment of the CLAO.

           The CLAO is specifically tasked to provide free legal assistance to marginal members of society. It is one of the constituents units of the DOJ along with the other attached agencies namely, the office of the Government Corporate Counsel, National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Corrections, Boards of Pardon and Parole, Parole and Probation Administration, Land Registration Authority and the Commission on Settlement on Land Problems.



SUBSEQUENT MODIFICATION IN OFFICIAL NAME
(From CLAO to PAO)


           Under the Administrative Code of 1987, the CLAO was renamed Public attorney’s Office (PAO). The Chief Citizen’s Attorney became the Chief Public Attorney. The mandate, power and functions of the Office however, remains the same



FROM PAO TO PUBLIC DEFENDER’S OFFICE TO PAO


           Another round of alteration in institutional name,that is, from PAO to PDO (Public Defender’s Office) took place in 1996 through “congressional initiative, particularly R.A. 8174, otherwise known as the General Appropriations ACT of 1996, the PAO was renamed Public Defender’s Office. However, on October 5, 1998 the Hon. Secretary of Justice Serafin R. Cuevas of the Department of Justice issued Opinion No. 121 resolving that the name of the office should be PUBLIC ATTORNEY’S OFFICE not PUBLIC DEFENDER’S OFFICE alleging the provisions of the General Appropriations Act cannot effectively repeal Executive Order No. 292 or the Administrative Code of 1987.



MANDATE:


           Under its enabling law, the Public Attorney’s Office is mandated to represent, free of charge, indigent persons mentioned in Republic Act No. 6035, or the immediate members of their family. The assistance is to be extended in all civil, administrative and criminal cases where it is found that the interest of justice will be served thereby. The same law provides, however that agrarian cases are to be handled by the Bureau of Agrarian legal Assistance and those labor cases by the Department of Labor.

           Subsequently the Department of Justice entered into Memoranda of Agreement with the Department of Labor and the Department of Agrarian Reform whereby it is agreed that the office maynow extend legal assistance in agrarian and labor cases.

           As part of PAO’s mandate, the indigent litigants and their indigent witnesses are entitled to transportation and other allowances to cover expenses made in attending HEARINGS, AS PROVIDED FOR UNDER R.A. 6034. Likewise they shall be provided by the Court Stenographer free transcript of trial proceedings, as stipulated under R.A. 6035. These two cited laws took effect on August 4, 1969.

 

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PERSIDA V. RUEDA-ACOSTA
Chief Public Attorney













     An effective tool of communication is not only a source of information; it is also a wellspring of inspiration.

     I see The Defender, your newsletter, in this light. In your maiden issue, you envision to include events, issues, and accomplishments of Region X for the fist quarter of 2006. Articles on the said topics are not mere report or narration of facts. I trust that every page of your paper will speak volumes about your commitment to the mandate of the Public Attorney's Office, as well as to the services that PAO-Region X uniquely and dedicatedly provides. To the latter, The Defender, doubtlessly belongs.

     I would like to convey my congratulations to PAO-Region X, under the leadership of RPA Nunila P. Garcia, for conceiving the idea of having a newsletter and making sure that it saw the dawn of printing. May you never lose the zeal in nurturing its growth. And as it grows, may it spew some seeds to fertile grounds.

     Those who have not stood up for something do not have a right to sit down and write, an author once said. As tested advocates of Truth and Justice, I trust that the people behind The Defender are definitely its own worthy writers.

     Mabuhay kayong lahat! Hangad ko ang inyong tagumpay….

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"Tapat at Libreng Serbisyo, Handog ng PAO sa Tao"
Public Attorney's Office
5/ F DOJ Agencies Bldg. NIA Road corner East Avenue, Quezon City