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How the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) of the PHILIPPINES Ensures HIGH Quality of its Free Legal Services International Conference on Access to Legal Aid.

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Presentation on theme: "How the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) of the PHILIPPINES Ensures HIGH Quality of its Free Legal Services International Conference on Access to Legal Aid."— Presentation transcript:

1 How the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) of the PHILIPPINES Ensures HIGH Quality of its Free Legal Services International Conference on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems 1

2 By HON. PERSIDA V. RUEDA-ACOSTA Chief Public Attorney, Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Harvard Kennedy School Senior Executive Fellow Senior Fellow, Asian Public Intellectuals (API) Fellowships Fellow, Salzburg Global Seminar Fellow, Japan Legal Aid Association (JLAA) International Visitor (IV), International Visitors Program of the United States of America (USA) Member, International Legal Aid Group (ILAG) Member, International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts (IABPA) Member, International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICPA) 4 th Placer, 1989 Philippine Bar Examinations 2

3 It is worthy to mention, there was a study entitled 2003 Assessment of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Supreme Court of the Philippines, and La Salle Institute of Governance (of the De La Salle University, Philippines), published in June 2003, which contributed greatly to the approval of the said PAO Law(R.A. no. 9406) 3

4 Included in the said 2003 UNDP assessment and study’s recommendations are the following: a.Pass a law that will institutionalize the PAO as a corporate entity; b.Review the compensation package for PAO lawyers; and c.Continuous training and capacity-building. 4

5 The following is an excerpt from the said 2003 UNDP assessment and study: “Xxx our research indicates that the PAO is able to provide adequate and affordable access to justice for its poor clients despite immense resource constraints. However, the PAO has reached its peak capacity with further expansion in services already heavily constrained by a limited budget. With demand for its services expected to rise even further in the coming years, the sustainability of its operations is severely challenged. Xxx” (Emphasis supplied) 5

6 1.Giving autonomy and independence of government legal aid provider from the Department or Ministry and the enactment of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) law, Republic Act No. 9406, entitled as- “An Act Reorganizing And Strengthening The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), Amending For The Purpose Pertinent Provisions Of Executive Order No. 292, Otherwise Known As The “Administrative Code Of 1987”, As Amended, Granting Special Allowance To PAO Officials And Lawyers, And Providing Funds Therefor”, that was approved on March 23, “The PAO shall be the principal law office of the Government in extending free legal assistance to indigent persons in criminal, civil, labor, administrative and other quasi-judicial cases.”(Section 2,PAO Law) “The PAO shall be an independent and autonomous office, but attached to the Department of Justice x x x for purposes of policy and program coordination. (Section 2, PAO Law) Powers and Functions. – The PAO shall independently discharge its mandate to render, free of charge, legal representation, assistance, and counselling to indigent persons in criminal, civil, labor, administrative and other quasi-judicial cases. In the exigency of the service, the PAO may be called upon by proper government authorities to render such service to other persons, subject to existing laws, rules and regulations.”(Section 3, PAO Law) Measures undertaken/being undertaken to ensure the HIGH quality of PAO free legal services: 6

7 The AUTHORITY and RESPONSIBILITY for the exercise of the MANDATE of the PAO and for the discharge of its powers and functions shall be vested in the Chief Public Attorney. (Section 5, PAO law) PAO Law and Office Rules mandate: 1. Retirement benefits similar to judges and prosecutors (Sec. 5) 2. Mandatory security of tenure to all senior public attorneys (Sec. 6) 3. Qualification requirements and Rigid selection of Public Attorneys and staff before hiring: (a) neuro-psychiatric clearance; (b) written and oral examination; (c) computer skills; (d) police and ombudsman clearance; (e) good scholastic records (Sec. 5) 4. Provision of free legal representation from lower court up to the supreme court (Sec. 4) 7

8 2.Full funding support from the Philippine national government, and United Nations agencies,such as: the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Office On Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the American Bar Association - Rule of Law Initiative (ABA- ROLI) 8

9 3.Creation of additional plantilla items and appointment of PAO lawyers and staff nationwide, from 1,048 to 1,536 lawyers, and 802 to 1,025 support staff; PAO has more or less 300 regional and district offices. 9

10 4.Strong support to the PAO by the government thru the enactment of the new law and full funding [SALARIES, ALLOWANCES, OPERATING EXPENSES AND BENEFITS (1.8 BILLION PESOS annually)] and increase in its workforce (as mentioned in measures 2 and 3), the PAO is able to: a.Increase the salaries, benefits and allowances of lawyers and staff. b. Provide Retirement benefits equal to the prosecutors and judges. c. Franking and free postage privileges 10

11 d. Establishment of PAO Forensic Laboratory e.Continuous acquisition of office equipments. f.Provision of awards and incentives based on performance and accomplishments. 11

12 Cases significant to global peace and security Extend legal assistance to individuals with cases of international significance specifically in maintaining global peace and security, and to clients with sensational cases in the Philippines, to wit: a. Cases 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 connection with the peace talks of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) with these groups; 12

13 13 One of the political prisoners belonging to the said left-leaning group was Zenaida Llesis, an alleged official thereto. Chief Acosta prioritized her release on recognizance, she being a nursing mother to a daughter who was suffering from a congenital heart diseases.

14 14 The Public Attorney’s Office assisted four officials of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) who were captured in the line of duty by a left-leaning group. Through CPP-NDF Chairman Luis Jalandoni with the help of Bayan Muna (Country First) Partylist Representative Satur Ocampo, Chief Acosta was able to successfully seek their safe and ransom-free release on October 8, 2011 in the mountains of Cotabato (southern part of the Philippines).

15 15 The Public Attorney’s Office rendered provisional assistance to a journalist & political detainee Ericson Acosta. Chief Acosta was successful in seeking for his treatment for renal disease at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, as well as his subsequent release from detention in 2013.

16 The PAO rendered legal assistance to facilitate the release and dismissal of the rebellion cases of former President Joseph Estrada’s 147 supporters in connection with the May 1, 2001 Malacañang siege 16 Other sensational cases in the Philippines

17 PAO: The Poor Man’s Lawyer –Can also render legal assistance even to the high and mighty … and to the rich and famous in the Philippines Illustrative cases: That of Former President Joseph Estrada, now the incumbent Mayor of the City of Manila & Former Congressman Ted Failon

18

19 19  Was opened for retrial in the Regional Trial Court, Marikina Contributions of the Lara – Licayan case to the Philippine Criminal Justice System :  Executions of hundreds of death row convicts were stayed;  Qualified and sickly 70-year- olds and above inmates were pardoned; and  Death penalty in the Philippines was abolished on June 24, The cases of death convicts Roberto Lara and Roderick Licayan (2004-present)

20 The cases of the relatives of the victims of the M/V Princess of the Stars maritime tragedy (pursuant to Department Order No. 439, Series of 2008)  PAO has been handling the cases since 2008 up to now o 71 civil cases filed against the owner, Sulpicio Lines, Inc. or SLI (now Philippine Span Asia Carrier, Inc.) – on continuous trial at RTC-Br. 49, Manila; o 59 civil cases – on continuous trial at RTC-Br. 10, Cebu City o 4 civil cases – on continuous trial at the Court of Appeals, Cebu City o Criminal case for Reckless Imprudence filed against the Vice President of SLI – subject of a Petition for Review before the Philippine Supreme Court, in order to reverse the Court of Appeals decision dismissing the criminal case 20

21 In 2002, the PAO rendered legal assistance to the minor “Angelica”, who was raped in and deported from Sabah, Malaysia, and to thousands of Filipino deportees from the said country. 21

22 FREE LEGAL ASSISTANCE TO PERSONS WITH MENTAL DISABILITIES The PAO rendered legal assistance for the transfer to the National Center for Mental Health and subsequent release of Rosalinda Pelonio, a battered wife and psychologically disturbed mother, who killed her own daughters while sleeping. 22

23 The MEDIATION AND ARBITRATION conducted by the Public Attorney’s Office between the thirteen (13) victims of a plane crash in Las Piñas City and Victoria Air Inc., the plane’s owner, which resulted to the payment of ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00) by the owner to each of the said victims on February 18,

24 Creation of the PAO’s Victims’ Assistance Unit o Date of creation: July 12, 2012 o Purpose: Address the legal aid needs (which can be given for free) by the PAO to victims of the violation of:  Republic Act No (Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004),  Republic Act 8353 (Anti-Rape Law), and  Republic Act 9745 (Anti-Torture Act of 2009), wherein the PAO, the Philippine principal free legal aid office of the government, is mandated to investigate the cases of victims and assist them. Victims of cold-blooded killings, mass disasters, natural calamities and other similar cases may also be assisted, on first come-first served basis, by the Victims’ Assistance Unit of the PAO. 24

25 Among the beneficiaries: o Bonita Baran, a household helper who was allegedly maltreated by her former employers until she lost her right eyesight; o Her case helped in creating awareness and drawing support to the then Kasambahay (Household Helper) Bill, which was approved by Philippine President, H.E. Benigno S. Aquino III on January 18, 2013, and is now known as Republic Act No

26 o Three minor rape victims from Pangasinan (northern province in the Philippines) who were allegedly raped by their own cousin. Their father sought legal assistance in their behalf, from the Public Attorney’s Office on May 2, o A case was filed against the said relative on June 2,

27 o Maltreated household helpers Lirio Jestre and Rochelle Lopez; the latter was also allegedly killed by their former employer. The case is ongoing trial since 2013; 27 o Two Jesus is Lord (JIL) BIBLE MISSIONARIES who were allegedly raped and murdered by two policemen. The policemen whose Warrant of Arrest was issued on January 15, 2014, are now both in detention. Case status: Ongoing trial

28 28 Public Attorney's Office Statistical Data for the Last Five Years ( 2009 to 2013) YearClients ServedCases Handled 20094,154,587591, ,802,494632, ,835,027680, ,735,603710, ,126,565746,161 The aforementioned individuals are among the millions of clients of the Public Attorney’s Office.

29 Clients Served 29

30 Clients Served 30

31 31 5. Continuous creation of district and sub-district offices in areas where there are courts. Public Attorneys are given their resident court assignments by their respective District Public Attorneys. They attend to bona fide clients of the PAO with cases in their assigned trial courts. 6. Strict monitoring and supervision of lawyers and personnel to ensure good governance, credibility and dedication in extending free legal services;

32 7.Requiring monthly reports of accomplishments with qualitative and quantitative data, stating thereto the concerned public attorney, regional and district offices’ winning cases and profile of clients. 32

33  The sector or group where client/s belong/s, under the column marked “Mandated Clients” where the said clients are classified into the following: Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL) Women Indigenous Group Persons with Disability (PWD) Urban Poor Rural Poor Senior Citizens Overseas Contract Workers (OFWs) 33

34 8.Empowerment and capacity building of public attorneys and staff; In the past years – 2003, 2006, 2009, and 2011 – the PAO, as a Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) provider since August 2002, had the opportunity of providing the Supreme Court- required 36 hours of continuing legal education activities to its nationwide public attorneys without cost to the latter. 34

35 In October of this year (2014), the PAO will be holding the 5 th MCLE National Convention for Public Attorneys, and again, for free for all of its lawyers nationwide. The PAO, likewise, held conventions in 2004, 2006, and in 2012 for its non-lawyer officials and staff to enhance their knowledge and skills in answering the challenges of committed public service, especially to the mandated clients of the Office. 35

36 9.Providing performance- based bonus (PBB) and additional incentives to PAO lawyers and employees; 10.Full computerization and e- linking of all Regional and District Offices up to 1:1 ratio (1 computer for each lawyer); 11.Improvement of Office equipment and facilities; 36

37 12.Promulgation of “Codes and References for the Public Attorneys” (which include the Code of Conduct for Public Attorneys and Employees of the PAO, PAO Operations Manual, and Consolidated PAO Office Legal Forms (standard legal forms) under the sponsorship of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and American Bar Association – Rule of Law Initiative (ABA-ROLI); 37

38 13.Strict compliance and implementation of all office rules and regulations (i.e. wearing of uniforms and identification cards, maintenance of courtesy lane for Persons with Disabilities and Senior Citizens, observance of “No Lunch Break” policy, etc); 38

39 14.To ensure accountability, filing of administrative cases and thorough investigation of erring officials, public attorneys, and staff; 15.Implementation of administrative sanctions and penalties to erring officials, public attorneys, and staff after investigation, due process, and fair hearing; 39

40 16.Installation of Biometrics System for the registration of the attendance of PAO lawyers and support staff; 17.Conduct Spot Inspection for proper monitoring to ensure the efficiency, accountability and good governance of all PAO field offices ; 40

41 18.Conduct “Legal, Medical, Dental, Optical Jail Decongestion and Visitation Program; 19.Establishment of MEDIATION AND CONCILIATION SERVICES 20.Implementation of Barangay (Community) Outreach Program; 21.Media Linkages thru television, radio, internet and print legal information dissemination programs /7 PAO Telephone hotline: ; Website: 41

42 Due to the said measures, most of the PAO Regional and District Offices, as well as the Central Office have garnered a final descriptive rating of Excellent in the delivery of public service in the Anti-Red Tape Act Report Card Survey conducted by the Civil Service Commission. 42

43 Public Service through Free Legal Aid Honored with Awards and Recognition 43

44 44

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