Persida Rueda-Acosta, Chief of Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), said that 300 PAO lawyers quit their jobs in the office to work for the National Prosecution Service, the judiciary, or to transfer or return to private office.
Acosta’s fear is the possible exodus of more PAO lawyers since the government attempts to increase their Retirement and Life Insurance Premiums (RLIP) and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) from 3% to 9%, which will be deducted from their salary.
“They leave PAO because they probably think it will be a waste of their time and effort,” Acosta said.
She said that this increase will drive away current and aspiring PAO lawyers since it is burdensome considering their low salary.
Not long ago, retired public attorneys have communicated their appeal before the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in high hopes that the latter will release the P139-million retirement benefits it has been withholding since 2010.
“The DBM cannot suddenly reverse itself through an alleged DBM Legal Opinion belatedly issued, when it previously allowed our contribution to the GSIS (Government Service Insurance System) to be decreased for about six (6) years or since May 2010, thereby treating us as SPECIAL MEMBERS of the GSIS with the advent of RA 10071,” the PAO retirees said in a manifesto.
"We, the undersigned 40 retirees of the PAO, hereby express our fervent support to the full implementation of RA 9406, especially with regard to the retirement benefits and privileges granted therein in relation to RA 10071, in the light of the Letter dated March 11, 2016 of Secretary Abad of the DBM to Secretary Caparas of the DOJ, which has come to our attention," their petition stated.
“With no more income from any form of employment, we are relying on our retirement package to support our needs for sustenance—utilities, food and most of all, medicines. Most of us are nearing the end of our days and slowly, our bodies are beginning to succumb to various forms of illness; yet, we refuse to accept even the remote possibility that we will be abandoned by this government, our former employer, in a hapless state,” the 40 retired lawyers added.
Of the 40 retired lawyers, 2 were already dead and 8 are bedridden.
What has kept these lawyers going is their love for their calling and their passion to help the poor.
PAO is an agency attached to the Department of Justice (DOJ) that provides free legal assistance to indigent litigants. The mandate of the agency is to provide indigents with access to counsel at the time of need, and implement the constitutional guarantee of free access to courts, due process and able protection of the laws.