By VINCE BORNEO
QUEZON CITY — Partylist representative Teddy Casiño today called on the country’s public attorneys to continue widening their services to poor Filipino clients and suggested that the agency set its sights on extending its services to distressed Filipino workers abroad.
Speaking at the Public Attorneys Office Visayas-wide Seminar Workshop on Codes and References, Casiño said stationing PAO lawyers abroad to assist overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) facing criminal charges at the early stages of the case would help greatly in reducing convictions.
Casiño is principal author of Republic Act 9406 (PAO Law of 2008), officially titled “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.”
Under Casiño’s PAO Law, more than 400 additional lawyers were hired by the agency to provide free legal assistance to poor litigants in the country. The status and salary grades of PAO lawyers were also upgraded to equal that of public prosecutors while the agency itself was granted administrative and fiscal autonomy from the Department of Justice.
“It is often the case that our OFWs are not aware of their rights nor provided competent counsel when getting into trouble. In many cases, embassy officials enter the picture very late and yet do not have the competence to assist the person in need. Our PAOs can ensure that the rights of our OFWs are protected at the critical early stages of the case,” he said.
He revealed that under the PAO Law, the agency is already empowered to send lawyers abroad to help OFWs provided other agencies like the DFA, OWWA and DOLE help in providing the proper mechanism.
“PAO lawyers can extend services to distressed OFWs facing a variety of cases here and abroad. The idea is to initially post PAO lawyers in countries where there are large concentrations of OFWs who need legal services but otherwise cannot afford to do so.
This is new and I hope to work with your agency to bring this idea into reality in the near future. This will make the PAO an agency for poor Filipino clients here and abroad,” Casiño said.
“I highly commend the PAO considerable growth in the last six years since RA 9406 was signed into law. You have expanded the agency’s services by aiding close to six million (5,835,027) clients in 2011. That means that PAO lawyers have handled close to 700,000 cases – assisted an average of 3,806 clients with 470 cases handled by each lawyer. This is a testament of your public service at the best level attainable,” Casiño said. # nordis.net