MANILA, Philippines — The attorney general’s office cried foul over the weekend over a senatorial candidate’s characterization of absentee government lawyers and the inability to do their job as he spoke on a legal aid program he was planning to set up.
In an interview on CNN Philippines last week, broadcaster and senatorial candidate Raffy Tulfo said he plans to set up a legal aid office if elected. He said the office would work with PAO lawyers, who Tulfo said were often absent in cases involving the poor.
In a Facebook post on Saturday, PAO chief prosecutor Persida Rueda-Acosta pleaded with a certain “Mr. T” to “spare the PAO from politics.”
“PAO is acting on your referrals despite the fact that PAO lawyers and staff are overworked,” Rueda-Acosta said, along with a screenshot of a file showing the office has served more than 63.739 million. customers from 2016 to 2021.
A report also showed that the PAO assisted 85,533 clients for investigative inquiry and interrogation in custody.
“Your statements are nothing but insults to all the hard-working prosecutors, who knew very well how many references you passed on to us because you knew very well that you could not act on all the false hopes you raised in the TV/radio,” said PAO lawyer Joy. Adraneda-Filio said in a separate Facebook post on Saturday.
Tulfo on CNN Philippines’ “The Source” that he already has hundreds of volunteer lawyers willing to work with his proposed legal aid office.
Tulfo is the top pick among senatorial candidates according to the latest Pulse Asia survey and is popular for hosting a public service broadcast that connects callers and guests with government agencies, including the PAO.
Although people can turn to senators for help, the main job of Senate members is legislation as well as monitoring the implementation of laws.
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Tulfo: PAO lawyers ‘can’t really play’
Tulfo said his group would “work hand in hand with the PAO lawyers”, who he said “can’t really play”.
The PAO is attached to the Ministry of Justice and has a mandate to provide legal assistance to those who cannot afford it.
“Mai mandato naman talaga sa ating gobyerno, ‘yung PAO na para tumulong sa mga mahihirap kaya lang there are times or cases na yung PAO di mo makikita eh, ‘yung PAO absent, yung PAO wala roon…they can’t really perform so that’s when i came in, yung mga lawyers ko pro bono lawyers, na para siguraduhin na meron talagang legal representation yung a suspect in the investigation,” Tulfo said.
(The government does have a mandate, the PAO, to help the poor but there are times or cases, that the PAO is not there, they are absent…they can’t really function so that’s where I intervened, with my lawyers [who are] volunteer lawyers, to ensure that suspects under investigation will be represented by a lawyer.)
Through his ‘Raffy Tulfo in Action’ YouTube channel, which has over 22.9 million subscribers at the time of writing, Tulfo has mediated public complaints.
However, his “mark of justice” has been criticized for failing to follow due process at times.
Adraneda-Filio said PAO has addressed most of the legal issues raised by Tulfo’s show “if [they are] found not sensational or controversially interesting to gain an audience. »
In addition to the PAO, the government already has a program to provide legal assistance to the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines if they receive charges for acts committed in the line of duty.
The Legal Assistance and Research Division of the Department of Labor and Employment and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration also have their respective legal assistance programs.
Meanwhile, several groups attached to the university, such as the Ateneo Legal Services Center and the University of the Philippines Office of Legal Aid, also provide services to indigent clients. —Kaycee Valmonte
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