Senator Raffy Tulfo on Thursday, 4 August pushed the need to increase the budget of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) and its current pool of lawyers extending legal assistance to indigent Filipinos.
“We will do our best to increase PAO’s budget. Whatever assistance my office can give, we will do it,” said Tulfo, a radio personality turned lawmaker.
He made the remark following a courtesy visit by PAO chief Persida Acosta at his Senate office whom he exchanged bandy words early this year.
“I notice now in PAO that lawyers do not stay long. They would just acquire experiences, then transfer because they are overwhelmed with work. There should be enough PAO for every court,” he claimed.
Tulfo said that according to Acosta, the current 2,400 PAO lawyers nationwide are inadequate and overworked and most of them leave PAO to become fiscal or a judge after five years.
PAO is the agency assigned to extend free legal assistance to indigent persons in criminal, civil, labor, administrative, and other quasi-judicial cases.
Tulfo expressed hope that even if the number of PAO lawyers is measly, public lawyers would ensure that indigent clients can get the justice that they deserve.
“Although I know it’s not enough, as much as possible, I hope the indigent parties have enough assistance when it comes to the inquest level because sometimes this fiscal also decides randomly due to lack of evidence,” he said.
In April this year, Tulfo and Acosta crossed swords after the former accused PAO lawyers of “absenteeism” during the campaign period.
Acosta demanded an apology from Tulfo after he claimed that the alleged nonperformance of PAO lawyers was one reason why he decided to push for the creation of a free legal aid clinic.
The PAO chief defended the public lawyers from Tulfo’s claims and asked him to spare the agency from politics.
She also questioned why Tulfo would want to create another legal clinic instead of strengthening the PAO.
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