Sorsogon Gov. and senatorial aspirant Chiz Escudero cited the need to beef up the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO)’s pool of lawyers to provide legal assistance to Filipinos who cannot afford to hire their own lawyers.
Escudero, who chaired the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights from 2007-2013 when he was a senator, said PAO should design programs that will encourage more lawyers to join their team of public defenders.
“Need more lawyers to serve legal needs of the poor”
Escudero said a PAO lawyer handles an average of 5,300 clients a year.
“Napakarami sa ating mga kababayan ang nangangailangan ng libreng abogado mula sa PAO. Dapat itong matugunan ng pamahalaan upang masiguradong mabilis na gumugulong ang hustisya,” Escudero pointed out, as he cited a recent report which showed that a PAO lawyer handles an average of 5,300 clients per year.
“This is too much too handle. Hindi naman mga superman at superwoman ang ating mga abogado sa PAO,” said Escudero who is also a lawyer.
“Shortage of PAO lawyers”
In a recent statement, PAO chief Persida Acosta said the agency has more than 2,000 lawyers nationwide, from the 1,048 headcount in 2019, providing free legal assistance to the public.
“Nguni’t kung titingnan natin ang buong bilang, hindi sapat ito upang mas maraming mapaglingkuran nang epektibo ang mas nakararami nating mga kababayan na walang sapat na kakayahan na kumuha ng abogado o makapag-kunsulta man lang,” Escudero said
Escudero is seeking a fresh mandate for a full six-year senatorial term in the 2022 national elections.
“Backlog of Court cases, 600K pending in RTC level”
The former senator further noted that the number of public attorneys should also be rationally distributed, based on the number of Regional Trial Court (RTC) branches concentration to help eliminate the backlog in the courts.
As of 2019, there are 640,000 pending cases nationwide in the RTC level.
On his last term as senator during the 17th Congress from 2016 to 2019, Escudero supported the creation of 22 additional RTC branches in various parts of the country.
Of the current 959 RTCs, the National Capital Region has the most number of branches totaling 288, followed by Region IV (CALABARZON and MIMAROPA) with 96 RTC branches and Region II (Central Luzon) with 75 branches.