Manila, Philippines – MEDIATION – Some years back, very few know of Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), which defends poor litigants in courts all over the country. But now PAO is almost a household term, thanks to its current chief, Atty. Persida Rueda Acosta.
The lady lawyer used to host “Public Attorni” on TV5, being replayed on Aksyon TV, still rating and earning. The show won countless awards from, among others, the Philippine Movie Press Club, FAMAS, Aliw, Catholic Mass Media Awards. It was cited for mediating conflicts among ordinary people, with Atty. Acosta using language (usually Pilipino) easily understood. No highly technical and legal terms in “Public Attorni.”
As PAO chief, Atty. Acosta encourages the resolution of court cases through mediation, seeing that the legal process is long and expensive.
While being interviewed by the movie press, Atty. Acosta got a call from Kaye Dacer and Julius Babao of DZMM, requesting her to help a poor mother abandoned by the husband, who is nowhere to be found. Atty. Acosta told Kaye and Julius to ask the mother to go to her office asap, where she’d help her locate the husband and require him to give support… if he has a job.
Kaye and Julius said the mother has, in the meantime, no means of livelihood. Could Atty. Acosta help her?
That is no longer PAO’s “territory,” but just the same Atty. Acosta promised to help the poor mother, “Puedeng i-refer sa DSWD.” Or she might end up digging in her own pocket. All in a day’s work.
NATIONWIDE – Attached to the Department of Justice, PAO has 300 offices all over the Philippines, which Atty. Acosta monitors. A PAO lawyer is assigned to a court, where he or she is required to defend poor litigants, be they private individuals or government employes and officials.
She dismisses reports that Amalia Fuentes is represented by a PAO lawyer in her court cases in Quezon City. “Wala sa record namin.”
Well, Ms. Fuentes can hire the most expensive lawyers in town, being one of the richest actresses.
Atty. Acosta travels all over the ocuntry, where people from all walks of life flock to her, “Nagpapalitrato kasama ako. Napapanood daw ako sa TV5.”
CREDENTIALS – Atty. Persida Rueda Acosta is a bar topnotcher (No. 4 in the 1989 bar exams). Her classmate at UE law school was colleague Jun Nardo,who invited some entertainment writers to get to know the lady lawyer better, “Wala lang, enjoy lang si Atty. na makipagtsikahan sa atin.”
She handled some very controversial cases, including defending the victims of the MV Princess and a household helper who was maltreated by her employers, leaving her nearly blind.
The lady lawyer has a soft spot for the poor, coming from a family of modest means in Mariveles, Bataan, where she was a consistent honor student (valedictorian) in public schools from the grades to high school. Aside from UE, she also studied at Ateneo and UP and taught in law schools. She’s married to Atty. Ben Acosta (the lawyer on TV5’s “Face to Face” and they have two daughters, Kyla, 20, (taking up psychology at Ateneo) and Kamilla, 15, 3rd year at Diliman Prep.
FUTURE SENATOR – Now, the inevitable question? Does she have a political ambition, senator perhaps, considering her stature?
“Pag kalooban ng Diyos, kalooban ng Diyos ’yan. Mangyayari ’yan,” is her stock answer, recalling that she woke up one day getting a call, “Ikaw na ang susunod na PAO chief. ’Yun lang. Tapos.”
By the way, Atty. Acosta recently worked for the hospitalization of jailed activist Eric Acosta (no relation), former “UP Collegian” editor. He has kidney ailment and needed immediate treatment at the national Kidney Institute in QC. There were attempts to keep him at the Calbayog jail in Samar, but Atty. Acosta reminded that the judge has ordred his temporary release for medical check-up.
Atty. Acosta is working for the release of all political prisoners and the speedy hearings of all cases to declog the court. PAO has helped in the release and acquittal of thousands and thousands of litigants.