In an August 25–27 Cebu City workshop, the Philippine Public Attorneys Office (PAO) solicited regional public attorneys’ inputs for the creation of three publications: a manual of operations, a code of conduct and a set of standardized legal forms. Chief Public Attorney Persida Rueda-Acosta led the workshop, which the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) supported.
Participants discussed policies and laws pertaining to the operations and ethical duties of the PAO. Discussions covered handling judicial and quasi-judicial cases and appeals, providing non-judicial services—such as counseling, mediation and conciliation—and assisting sensitive clients, such as children in conflict zones and domestic violence survivors.
During her opening remarks, Rueda-Acosta thanked ABA ROLI and USAID for supporting the PAO in its efforts to realize equal justice for all Filipinos. She said that the publications will boost the performance of more than 2,000 PAO lawyers and employees, allowing them to better promote the ideals of civil service, to provide improved services and to preserve public confidence.
Gerry Porta, senior program manager of USAID’s Office of Economic Development and Governance, lauded the PAO’s service to more than 44,000 people in the past year. Underscoring the role of public attorneys in increasing access to justice and in helping courts provide more timely and consistent decisions, Porta said, “This is only the beginning of a long and successful partnership with the Public Attorneys Office.”
Edgardo Gonzales, a regional public attorney from Western Mindanao, said, “Continuous effort to increase the professional capacity of PAO is important, because the work that we do affects lives of Filipinos everywhere.” He said some of the challenges lawyers face include overwhelming caseloads, limited manpower and resources, and pervasive threats of violence surrounding sensitive cases, such as drug trafficking and murder. The publications will also improve communication among public attorneys nationwide and address ethics and consistency concerns. In the coming weeks, they will be distributed to 17 regional offices and 274 district offices.
The manuals will be particularly useful, as the PAO is hiring more than 300 additional lawyers and broadening its jurisdiction to include civil cases. Nunilao Parras-Garcia, a regional public attorney from Northern Mindanao, said that these tools will guarantee success for the public attorneys.
To learn more about our work in the Philippines, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.