Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida Rueda Acosta seemed to be irritated with Senator Leila de Lima questioning her presence in the hearings at the House of Representatives regarding the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

Acosta, without any sign of reservation, answered to the lady senator that she got an invitation from the House Committee on Justice, issued to her by the committee secretariat, that is why she attended the hearing.
Atty. Acosta added that PAO is commonly invited to attend Congressional hearings because it is an obligation of the lawyers in the said office to give counsel to any witness in the inquiry.
“Preso ‘yung dalawa na ‘yun kaya walang trabaho ‘yun. Kapag nakakulong ang isang tao, wala kang income, our indigency test is based on income”, the PAO chief explained.
(The two witnesses are inmates and have no jobs. If someone is being imprisoned, he has no income and our indigency test is based on income.)

Senator De Lima earlier questioned Acosta for assisting the Bilibid inmates who testified in the House panel inquiry inside the national penitentiary, where the neophyte lady lawmaker’s named was tagged.
“I am wondering how is the mandate of your office being fulfilled by your appearance in the ongoing House hearings?”, De Lima told Acosta at the Senate briefing.
“Hindi ba kayo doon sa pinakatunay na mandato ng PAO na ang dami diyan ng mga indigent na mga akusado na napapabayaan? You’re spreading your resources and abilities too thin”, the former Justice secretary said.
( There is a lot of indigent accused who are left unattended when in fact it is the truest mandate of the PAO.)
Senator Leila claimed that she also received an information that the PAO lawyers interviewed and rehearsed the witnesses.
She emphasized that PAO lawyers’ mandate is to defend an accused individual, only if he cannot afford to hire private lawyers.

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