Republic Act No. 9406, which was approved on March 23, 2007, reorganized and strengthened the Public Attorneys Office (PAO).
It is long overdue. Like Public Prosecutors of the National Prosecution Service (NPS) and Solicitors of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), the PAO lawyers are overworked advocates of law and justice.
I am happy that they have been given the appropriate recognition and support that are due them and deserved by them. All of them are attached to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The PAO is an “an independent and autonomous office” attached to the DOJ for the purposes of “policy and program coordination”.
It is “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."
It shall “independently discharge its mandate to render, free of charge, legal representation, assistance, and counseling to indigent persons”.
The PA0 is composed of the following constituent units:
1. Office of the Chief Public Attorney
2. A Deputy Chief Public Attorney for Administration
3. A Deputy Chief Public Attorney for Operations
4. A Deputy Chief Public Attorney for Luzon
5. A Deputy Chief Public Attorney for Visayas and Mindanao
6. Six line divisions in the Central Office: Administrative, Financial Planning and Management, Special and Appealed Cases, Legal Research
and Statistics, Field Services and Statistics, and Executive Division
7. Regional, Provincial, City, and Municipal District Offices.
The Chief Public Attorney shall have the same qualifications for appointment, rank, salaries, allowances, and retirement privileges as those of the “Chief State Prosecutor of the National Prosecution Service”.
The Deputy Chief Public Attorneys shall have the same qualifications for appointment, rank, salaries, allowances, and retirement privileges as those of the “Assistant Chief State Prosecutor of the National Prosecution Service”.
The Regional Public Attorney and the Assistant Regional Public Attorney shall have the same qualifications for appointment, rank, salaries, allowances, and retirement privileges as those of a “Regional State Prosecutor and the Assistant Regional State Prosecutor of the National Prosecution Service”
The Provincial Public Attorney, City Public Attorney and the Municipal District Public Attorney shall have the same qualifications for appointment, rank, salaries, allowances and retirement privileges as those of a “Provincial Prosecutor and City Prosecutor”, as the case may be, of the National Prosecution Service, respectively.
The Chief Public Attorney and the Deputy Chief Public Attorneys shall be appointed by the President. The Deputy Chief Public Attorneys and Regional Public Attorneys shall be appointed by the President upon the recommendation of the Chief Public Attorney.
The Chief Public Attorney, Deputy Chief Public Attorneys and Regional Public Attorneys shall not be removed or suspended, except for cause provided by law.
The clients of the PAO shall be “exempt from payment of docket and other fees incidental to instituting an action in court and other quasi-judicial bodies, as an original proceeding or on appeal.”
The costs of the suit, attorney's fees and contingent fees imposed upon the adversary of the PAO clients after a successful litigation shall be deposited in the National Treasury as trust fund and shall be “disbursed for special allowances of authorized officials and lawyers of the PAO."
Local government units, subject to their capabilities, are “authorized to extend financial and other support in the form of honoraria, free office space, equipment, furniture, stationery, and manpower to the PAO."
The PAO may transmit through ordinary mail and/or registered mail with return card, “free of charge”, all official communications and papers directly connected with the conduct of its duties, function and/or its exercise of administrative supervision over its personnel.
There shall be a corresponding number of public attorney's positions at the ratio of “one public attorney to an organized sala” and the corresponding administrative and support staff thereto.
PAO lawyers may “administer oaths in connection with the performance of duty.” They shall “charge no fee, unless specifically authorized by law."
The Chief Public Attorney, the Deputy Chief Public Attorneys, the Regional Public Attorneys, the Provincial, City and Municipal District Public Attorneys, other PAO lawyers and officials who have direct supervision over PAO lawyers shall be granted “special allowances” in the amounts to be determined by the Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Chief Public Attorney, in no case to exceed “one hundred percent (100%) of the basic salary of the PAO officials and lawyers.”