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On April 16, the Philippine Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) held an ethics training for 76 regional public attorneys at the Royal Mandaya Hotel in Davao, Mindanao. The training—the first in a series of four trainings—utilized an interactive curriculum that the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) and the PAO designed to familiarize participants with the PAO’s ethics manual,Codes and References for the Public Attorney’s Office.
Regional Public Attorneys charged with supervising Mindanao field offices listen to a facilitator discuss the unique ethical problems faced by public attorneys at a conference in Davao.
The manual is a consolidation of PAO’s ethics rules, standard operating procedures, office forms and sample pleadings. It also contains international reference material, ranging from defendants’ rights under United Nations conventions to American and Philippine jurisprudence on ethical violations.
Leading a multiple-choice diagnostic test, ABA ROLI Deputy Country Director Renato B. Lopez, Jr., who also teaches legal ethics at the Far Eastern University in Manila, emphasized the importance of ethics in the legal profession. Highlighting associated challenges, Lopez said that ethical codes are easy to read, but not as easy to apply to real-life ethical predicaments. These dilemmas are particularly challenging for public attorneys, who are responsible not only for representing indigent criminal defendants, but also for representing indigent domestic-abuse victims and civil-case clients.
During the session, participants used Keypoint—an interactive polling system—to share their responses with their peers. Participants, in both small and large groups, later discussed situations that pose ethics challenges. Following the small group discussions, representatives presented their groups’ proposed resolutions, with all participants weighing in with additional considerations.
The training also included a component on small claims courts, designed to increase court efficiency and access to justice. Small claims court-related discussions were meant to enable the attorneys—who are not allowed to argue before these courts—to advise their clients of the availability of this remedy, including by referring them to the small claims courts when PAO-led mediations fail.
Attorney Nunila Garcia said that the training helped participants to understand the PAO’s ethics manual, and that the interactive nature of the training made it easier for participants to share ideas.
ABA ROLI and PAO compiled the manual with financial support from the U. S. Agency for International Development. The agency also supports ABA ROLI’s small claims courts program.
To learn more about our work in the Philippines, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at firstname.lastname@example.org.