The Public Attorney’s Office ably represented indigent clients despite the “overwhelming” amount of cases it handled in 2016, according to the Commission on Audit (COA).
Based on COA’s 2016 annual audit report on PAO, 1,688 public lawyers assisted a total of 8.84 million clients and handled 850,298 cases.
Each lawyer assisted an average number of 5,237 clients and handled an average number of 511 cases.
“Despite the overwhelming caseloads, the public attorneys ably represented indigent clients who are accused in court. They skillfully facilitated the release and favorable disposition of cases of indigent clients, by way of acquittals, dismissal of cases, or for some other reasons, their cases were favorably disposed of, totalling 148,716,” COA said in its “Operational Highlights” in the audit report’s executive summary.
“On their scheduled activities, the public attorneys and staff of the PAO-Central Office, Regional and District Offices have alternately been providing legal and inquest proceedings assistance even during night time, weekends and holidays. Legal assistance includes legal advice, attending to the legal needs of the suspects in the police stations within the territorial jurisdiction of the concerned PAO regional/district offices, up to 10 p.m. everyday, and remain on call even beyond 10 p.m., to attend to inquest calls in police stations nationwide,” COA said.
The PAO, which was created in 1972, aims to deliver free legal service to poor or needy citizens in civil, criminal, labor and administrative cases. Most of its offices can be found at the Halls of Justice nationwide.