UNKNOWN to many, the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) provides free legal representation, assistance and counseling to refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless persons.
Since 2013, the growing army of dedicated PAO lawyers, headed by Dr. Persida V. Rueda-Acosta, has been providing free legal aid to thousands of these “vulnerable” people.
This is provided for under a historic memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the PAO and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which was renewed last week.
Under the agreement, signed by Dr. Acosta and UNHCR Philippines head Yasser Saad, the partnership was extended for two more years, drawing cheers from various quarters.
The UN agency facilitates capacity building activities and provides technical assistance to the PAO.
Saad said UNHCR “is grateful to the PAO and its attorneys,” citing their invaluable work in helping thousands of vulnerable people.
The PAO, on the other hand, provides free legal aid consisting of over 5,000 judicial and non-judicial services to refugees, asylum-seekers and persons at risk of statelessness.
The extension of the agreement for another two years is in line with President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s policy to accept displaced persons within the ambit of PAO’s mandate.
Dr. Acosta, a regular columnist of People’s Tonight, said PAO is prepared for the influx of refugees and other vulnerable persons.
Although they are overworked, PAO lawyers continue to demonstrate the capacity to uphold the interest of the poor and the oppressed throughout this poverty-stricken nation.
Without doubt, these government-employed lawyers, along with the country’s millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), are among today’s modern-day Filipino heroes.