Enrile defended PAO issues require Career Executive Service eligibility

By Jason de Asis


SENATE OFFICE, Manila, January 11, 2011-Amidst disagreements which arose from the issuance of legal opinion that top-level positions in Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) requires Career Executive Service eligibility, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile-principal author of R.A. 9406 defended the PAO, pointing out the pertinent provisions of the current law that was passed by Congress to strengthen and reorganize PAO.


For him, the provisions under Section 16 on the appointment and tenure of PAO officials and employees already provide for a security of tenure for PAO officials so that they can guarantee the continuity of legal services for the poor despite changing political landscape.


The enactment of R.A. 9406 also gives PAO autonomy from the Department of Justice (DOJ) so much so that it has only become an attached agency of the DOJ for purposes of policy and program coordination.


The Legal Department of the Department of Justice issued an opinion rendering the security of tenure of the Chief Public Attorney, Deputy Chief Public Attorneys and Regional Public Attorneys of the PAO as temporary because the current appointees are non-Career Executive Service Officers (CESO) last January 3.


“However before they can serve in the office, there is nothing in the provisions of the R.A. 9406 which require the Chief Public Attorney, Deputy Chief Public Attorneys and Regional Public Attorneys must first become career executive officers,” the Senator said, adding that if we want to go along the lines of the DOJ legal opinion, should we not then require the fiscals or the prosecutors to take and pass the CESO exam as well? So therefore, all of them should be CESO passers.


Enrile said that the qualifications for appointment of the Chief Public Attorney, Deputies, Regional Public Attorney are the same as those of their respective counterparts in the National Prosecution Service. Pursuant to Section 14, R.A. 10071 or the National Prosecution Service Act, the qualifications of the Chief State Prosecutor, who is the counterpart of the Chief Public Attorney, are also the qualifications for appointment of the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals.


He furthered that the PAO helps the poor who cannot afford to get the services of lawyers. The PAO is the principal law office of the government in extending free legal assistance to indigent persons, handles civil, criminal, administrative and even quasi-judicial cases of poor clients.


“In order to reach out to the indigents, making justice accessible even to the poorest members of the society, I am aware that the current leadership of PAO has already expanded their services. There’s no doubt that they have carried out their mandate to the best of their abilities. This issue, if remained unresolved much longer, will be to the detriment of PAO’s clientele,” Enrile concluded. (Jason de Asis)