Philippines, Taiwan sign free legal aid agreement

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TAIPEI, TAIWAN: The Philippines on Monday entered into a legal aid deal with the Legal Aid Foundation (LAF) during the 2014 International Forum on Legal Aid being held here.

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Persida Rueda-Acosta, chief of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), led the Philippine delegation of public defenders in signing the Mutual Legal Aid Agreement, which shall provide free legal assistance to Filipinos and even foreigners abroad.

The event was graced by 15 different countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, Australia, Hong Kong, Vietnam and the Netherlands.

According to Chun-Jung Lin, chairperson of the LAF, the free legal assistance shall based on substance and cooperation in recognizing human rights without borders.

Acosta and Lin signed the agreement also on Monday in front of the international delegates from 16 countries to the forum.

Lin said they are looking forward to other countries coming up with a similar agreement that provides free legal assistance.

Aside from the Philippines, Republic of Korea’s Legal Aid Corporation has also entered into a similar agreement with the Legal Aid Foundation.

“We look forward to the future when legal aid organizations of additional countries will be able to enter into similar agreements with us in order to establish a platform and mechanism that will truly provide for substantive, cooperation mutual assistance and to realize the vision and dream of ‘human rights without borders, legal aid regardless of country,’” Lin said

At present, the LAF has some 201 video legal consultation service points in different cities and countries.

Acosta said the aid agreement will help enhance bilateral relations between the Philippines and Taiwan’

“What we have accomplished today is not a mere signing of agreement but a momentous event that could pave the way to the improved condition of overseas Taiwanese and Filipinos,” she noted.

The agreement, according to Acosta, is “justice beyond borders very much needed by our people.”

The PAO has 1,522 lawyers who actively handle criminal and civil cases in more or less 3,000 courts nationwide.

About 61 of them, Acosta said, devote themselves to cases on appeal before the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court and the Office of the President.

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