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Chief Public Attorney

(February 23, 2001 - Present)

BS, LLB, DSD, 4th Placer, 1989 Bar Examinations


Dr. Persida V. Rueda-Acosta, D.S.D, the Chief Public Attorney of the Public Attorney’s Office, is the  4th Placer  in  the  1989  Bar  Examinations. She is a Doctor of Social Development graduate (GWA 1.20) from the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, and has completed the Senior Executive Fellows Program, as well as the Senior Executive Program on National and International Security at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Massachusetts, U.S.A.


Dr. Acosta is an Asian Public Intellectuals (API) Senior Fellow. She  is  also  a  Fellow  of  the  Salzburg  Global  Seminar  and  the U.S.A. International Visitor (IV) Program.  She acquired a Certificate in Public Financial Management from the Executive Education Program of the Harvard Kennedy School,  Massachusetts,  and  a  Professional Certificate  in  International  Management  and  Leadership  from  the  International  Centre  for Parliamentary  Studies  (ICPS) in London. 


Dr. Acosta was appointed as the nationwide head of the PAO on February 23, 2001 by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Since then, she has become a herald of hope to the indigents and other clients of the PAO who are searching for justice. She also served as Chief Public Attorney during the administration of former President Benigno S. Aquino III. She is honored to continuously serve in her capacity as Chief Public Attorney in the administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.


She  is  a  member  of  highly  regarded  international organizations  such  as  the  International  Legal  Aid  Group  (ILAG),  the  International  Corrections and  Prisons  Association  (ICPA),  and  the  International  Association  of  Bloodstain  Pattern Analysts  (IABA). 


The vital link of Public Financial Management to Free Legal Aid was highlighted by Dr. Acosta in her presentation entitled, “The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO): Financial Management Framework Towards An Empowered Free Legal Aid Agency and Efficient Administration of Justice” which she delivered during the 30th Annual International Training Conference of the International Consortium on Governmental Financial Management (ICGFM). It was held on May 16-20, 2016, at the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay, Miami, Florida, USA. Prior to this, the ICGFM gave her a Certificate for  having  successfully  completed  the Seminar  on  Public  Financial  Management,  Foundation  for  Public  Governance,” that was  held from May 31 to June 5, 2015 in  Miami, Florida, USA.


            She was a former professor at the Ateneo de Manila University School of Law, and in the law schools of the University of the East, San Sebastian College, New Era University, and Bulacan State University. Her expertise in legal aid has been recognized by the United Nations and other international organizations. Recently, Dr. Acosta served as a Resource Person and/or Delegate in international conferences and discussions on Legal Aid and Human Rights in Asia, to wit:


·        Invited Expert in Legal Aid, Discussions at China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL), sponsored by CUPL, on December 9-16, 2018, CUPL, Beijing, China;

·        Delegate/Speaker, 2018 International Forum on Legal Aid, sponsored by the Legal Aid Foundation, Taiwan,  held from November 1 to 3, 2018 in Taipei, Taiwan;  

·        Speaker/Country Representative, Strengthen Legal Aid Cooperation For ASEAN People Conference, sponsored by the Rights and Liberties Protection Department of the Ministry of Justice of Thailand, June 6 - 9, 2018, Chao Phraya 1 Conference Room, Montien Riverside Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand;

·        Delegate/Participant/Country Representative, ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) Regional Consultation on Thematic Study on Legal Aid, sponsored by the AICHR,  October 11-12, 2017, Marriot Marquis Queen’s Park Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand;

·        Delegate/Country Representative,  ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights Training on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities, sponsored by the AICHR, held on October 11 – 14, 2016 at Dusit Thani Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand.

·         Speaker/Country Representative,  Southeast Asia Regional Conference on Legal Aid and Witness Protection, sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, Thailand, held on August 17-19, 2016, Bangkok, Thailand;

·        Delegate, ASEAN Regional Meeting on Sustainable Development Goals, Access to Justice and Legal Aid, sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme,  held on May 26 to 27, 2016,  Jakarta, Indonesia;

·        Speaker-Lecturer,  Regional Consultation on Access to Justice and Legal Aid in ASEAN: Situation, Challenges and Way Forward, hosted by the Office of Law Reform Commission of Thailand (OLRCT) and South East Asia Legal Aid Network (SEALAW), on April 4- 5, 2016, in Bangkok, Thailand;

·        Speaker-Lecturer,  International Sharing Experience Workshop on Legal Aid sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme, held on March 28 - 29, 2016, in Hanoi, Vietnam.


Earlier, she was a Panel Speaker in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC)-organized International Conference on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems in 2014 in South Africa. The UNODC also invited her as an Expert/Resource Person during the Open-Ended Intergovernmental Meeting of Experts on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems in 2011 in Austria. A similar honor was accorded to her by the Hanns Siedel Foundation, which acknowledged her adeptness in criminal law. The said foundation invited her as Delegate to the project entitled, Crafting a Modern Criminal Code of the Philippines, that was held also in 2011 in Berlin, Germany. She has been a Climate Reality Leader since 2009, for The Climate Reality Project, founded and chaired by former US Vice-President Al Gore.


As an active member of the ICPA, she was invited to serve as Resource Speaker by the said organization in its international conferences, wherein she delivered the following presentations, viz:


·        The Plight of Children in Conflict with the Law Towards Their Rehabilitation and Reintegration into the Mainstream of Society – Philippine Setting, ICPA’s 21st Annual General Meeting and Conference, October 27  November 1, 2019, Buenos Aires, Argentina;

·        Engaging Stakeholders in the Plight of Philippine Political Prisoners, ICPA’S 18th Annual General Meeting and Conference, October 23 – 28, 2016, Bucharest, Romania;

·        Pregnant Inmates in Philippine Prisons: Securing and Saving Them with Gender-Sensitive Policy Reforms, ICPA’s 17th Annual General Meeting and Conference, October 25 – 30, 2015, Melbourne, Australia;

·        Managing Overcrowding in Correctional Facilities: A Philippine Inter-Agency Initiative, ICPA’s14th Annual Meeting and Conference, October 28 – November 1, 2012, Mexico City;

·        Health Care Collaborations in Philippine Jails and Prisons: Making Headways on Inmates’ Rehabilitation and Reintegration, ICPA’s13th Annual Meeting and Conference on September 11-16, 2011, Singapore;

·        The Philippine Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) and its Advocacy of Saving Lives, ICPA’s 10th Annual General Meeting and Conference, October 26 - 31, 2008, Prague, Czech Republic; and,

·        Legal Counselling and Healing Behind Bars, ICPA’s 9th Annual General Meeting and Conference on October 21 - 26, 2007, in Bangkok, Thailand.


The UNODC also recognizes her advocacy for inmates’ rights. She was invited by the UNODC as Presentor during the 2nd Informal Inter-Country Consultation  on  HIV Prevention and Care among  Injecting Drug Users and  in Prison  Settings that was held from February 19 –21, 2008 in  Vienna, Austria. As a passionate advocate of prison reforms, she was granted a scholarship on the course entitled, New Approaches to Prison Management and Rehabilitation, by the Galilee International Management Institute (GIMI), Nahalal, Israel, which she took up on July 11-22, 2013 in the said institution. Being one of its valued alumni, she was granted another scholarship, an international program at the GIMI on National Security, which she took up last December 1 - 12, 2016.


As a multi-awarded public servant, her major significant award is the Lingkod Bayan Award, the Highest Presidential Award for Outstanding Public Service, from the Civil Service Commission, that was given to her on September 22, 2004. This award promoted her to a rank that is equivalent to a Department Secretary, as provided under Section 5 of Executive Order No. 508, entitled, “Instituting the Lingkod Bayan Award as the Presidential Award for Outstanding Public Service”, dated March 2, 1992, issued by the late former President Corazon C. Aquino. Her remarkable feat as Presidential Lingkod Bayan Awardee has also been acknowledged abroad. Her most recent international recognition came from the Gawad Amerika Foundation, which conferred her the 2019  Hall of Fame Award during  the 18th Gawad Amerika Awards on November 23, 2019 at the Celebrity Centre, Hollywood, California, USA.The USA-based Gawad Amerika Foundation had also previously bestowed her the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award, 2015 Most Outstanding Filipino in Public Service Award, the  2013 Most Outstanding Filipino Woman in the Field of Legal Jurisprudence for Public Good Award,  the  2012 Outstanding in Public Service and Legal Jurisprudence Award, and the  2011 Most Outstanding Public Servant Award. 


She is a recipient of three (3) more international awards from the Legal Aid Foundation of Taiwan; the University of the East Association of America, Hawaii Chapter (UEAAHC); and the 28th Legislature of the State of Hawaii. Last November 3, 2018, a Certificate of Appreciation was conferred to Dr. Acosta in her capacity as Chief Public Attorney, by the said foundation, conveying its gratitude for her “steadfast support at the 2005, 2009, 2014, and 2018 International Forum on Legal Aid” of the said international organization, since her “participation and contributions have been invaluable to the success of the events.” On the other hand, she was honored with the 2015 Outstanding Alumna Award by the University of the East Association of America, Hawaii Chapter (UEAAHC). Morever, she received a Congratulatory Certificate from the 28th Legislature of the State of Hawaii for the UEAAHC’s commendation of her “commitment to the communities of Hawaii and the Philippines as a leading role model….”


            Her most recent local recognition is the Plaque of Appreciation from the Quezon City Press Club Inc. The same was conferred to herfor her exemplary support, invaluable service and dedication in her 20 years as chief of the Public Attorney’s Office and for her bravery and commitment to help millions of its indigent clients,” and was given to her on February 1, 2021 at the PAO-Central Office. Her other latest local awards recognized her sensitivity and relevant actions to the needs of the PAO clientele and the public during the onslaught of COVID-19 pandemic. The said awards are the Hero of the Year Award conferred by the Gawad Filipino Awards during its 15th Gawad Filipino Awards on December 27, 2020 at the Aberdeen Great Eastern Hotel in Quezon City; the Special Award in Recognition of Selfless Work During the Time of COVID-19 given by the Aliw Awards Foundation during the 33rd Aliw Awards on December 15, 2020, Fiesta Pavilion, Manila Hotel; and the Lady of Excellence in Public Service Award given by the 3 Stars Production in connection with its 2nd Edition of Laguna Excellence Awards on November 26, 2020.


            Earlier in 2019, the Plaque of Appreciation from the Rotary Club of Bagumbayan-Manila was given to her during its Regular Meeting on November 7, 2019 at the Century Park Hotel, P. Ocampo St., Malate, Manila; the Plaque of Appreciation from the Consular Corps of the Philippines, that was conferred to her during its Monthly Meeting on August 28, 2019, at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel, Makati City; and, the Plaque of Recognition from the Laguna State Polytechnic University, that was presented to her during its Gender and Development (GAD) Seminar on August 16, 2019 at Kamayan sa Palaisdaan Resto Hotel, Bay Laguna. She served as Guest of Honor and Speaker in the first two events, and Resource Person in the said GAD Seminar.


            Also in 2019, she received the Rotary Wheel Celebrity Award for Public Service and a Plaque of Recognition from the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC). The former was conferred to her jointly by the Rotary Club of Manila, Fort Santiago; Aliw Awards Foundation; FAMAS, and the Soroptimist International,  Las Piñas last April 26, 2019 at the Bureau of Treasury, Ayuntamiento Building, Intramuros, Manila. The latter which recognized her “unwavering courage and determination in the pursuit of justice on behalf of the countless innocent victims of Dengvaxia” was awarded to her by the VACC during its Stop Crimes Against Women Summit last April 23, 2019 that was held at The Tent City of the Manila Hotel.


            Earlier on July 14, 2018, she was honored by the Citizen National Guard with the Most Outstanding Filipino Patriot Award, along with the late Filipino hero, Andres Bonifacio, who was posthumously recognized. Dr. Acosta, the first living recipient of the said historic award, was given such an accolade because of her being an “epitome of unselfish dedication to the poor and downtrodden.”


             Dr. Acosta does not rest on her past laurels.  She  continuously places  the  PAO  on  the  map of international  recognition  as she  personally handles  and/or leads cases with  national and  global significance. Some  of  these  are the  current  cases  that  have  been  entrusted  to  her  and  the PAO, to wit: the cases of Miradel Torres, member of the women’s rights group, Gabriela, who was pregnant when she was arrested, nearly suffered a miscarriage while in jail, and delivered her child in a hospital during incarceration. On July 22, 2019, she was acquitted for both cases of Frustrated Murder and Murder; alleged Dengvaxia vaccine victims; the late youngsters Kian Loyd Delos Santos, Carl Angelo Arnaiz, Reynaldo de Guzman, and Michael Angelo Remecio who all had indications of torture before they were killed (The policemen who were involved in Kian’s case were found guilty of Murder recently); the anti-illegal drugs cases that were charged against Lt. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino and Yan Yi Shou, who were released from detention by virtue of an Order issued by RTC-Br. 49, Manila; the cases of the murdered cyclist Mark Vincent Garalde, and tortured and killed motorcyclist John dela Riarte; the cases of stranded Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA); the cases of elderly couple Esteban and Salvacion Cortabista, Jerome Sulit, Gina Maliwat, Rufina Cruz, Rowena Otic, Milagrosa Cadiente, and other victims of the “laglag/tanim-bala” or “bullet-planting” scam; the cases of minor student Krisel Mallari in fighting for her right to study in a school of her own choice, and an eight-year-old pupil who was a victim of verbal abuse by her own teacher;  the  cases  of political prisoner Ericson Acosta, and  the  relatives  of  the  victims  of  the  M/V  Princess  of  the  Stars  (Sulpicio  Lines, Inc.)  maritime  tragedy (for  which  she  and  the  PAO  Forensic  Team  were  conferred  the Extraordinary  Public  Service  Award  by  the  FAMAS  on  April  1,  2013);  the cases  of two female Jesus is Lord (JIL) preachers who were allegedly raped  and  murdered  by  two  policemen  in  Batangas;  and,  Bonita  Baran, a  former kasambahay, who  was maltreated by her previous employers until she lost  her right  eyesight. Her case helped in creating awareness and drawing support to the then  Kasambahay bill that was approved on  January  18,  2013,  and  is  now  known as  Republic  Act  No. 10361 (“Domestic Workers Act” or “Batas Kasambahay”). On March 7, 2019, her female employer was found guilty of seven (7) counts of Serious Physical Injuries and two (2) counts of Attempted Homicide. Earlier, on July 14, 2017, both of her employers were convicted of the crime of Serious Illegal Detention (the wife as the principal, and the husband as her accomplice).


            A UNDP-funded study notes that the “Chief PAO and her ability to move around in many circles point out to her communicative and diplomatic skills needed by the agency.” (La Salle Institute of Governance, Supreme Court of the Philippines, United Nations Development Programme (2003), 2003 Assessment of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), p. 37.) Indeed, these skills serve the PAO and its clients in good stead, especially in the information dissemination program of the Office.


        Being media savvy makes her more effective in reaching out to the public and in attending to the legal needs of the people which she virtually serves 24/7 through her book entitled,  Legal Eagle’s Counsel: Solutions to Everyday Legal Problems, and three (3) pro bono columns in two (2) of the leading newspapers in the country. The said columns are:  Dear PAO (published daily by The Manila Times); Magtanong kay Attorney (published daily by Bulgar); and, Daing Mula Sa Hukay…Hustisya (published every Friday, also by Bulgar. Moreover, her stint as Host/Mediator of Public Atorni, Associated Broadcasting Corporation’s reality-mediation show which started in 2010 and lasted for more than two (2) years, proved her efficacy in mediating and administering justice to warring parties on air. This was recognized by respected award-giving bodies such as, the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS), Philippine Movie Press Club (PMPC), and  Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA).


            Dr. Acosta, a native of Cabcaben, Mariveles, Bataan, has an impressive academic background. She was a consistent valedictorian from elementary to high school. In college, she was a consistent dean’s lister at the University of the East (UE), where she graduated with a BS General course, cum laude. When she took up her law studies at the Ateneo de Manila University and UE, she was a Dr. Antonio del Castillo Memorial Scholar and President Dalupan Scholar, respectively. In addition thereto, Dr. Acosta was a Civil Service Commission Lingkod Bayan Scholarship awardee and recipient, pursuant to Executive Order 508 Series of 1992, and University Scholar at the College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWCD) of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, where she finished her Doctor of Social Development (DSD) course with a General Weighted Average (GWA) of 1.20. As a DSD student achiever at the CSWCD, she was also honored with the Gawad Chanselor Award.


      Her being a dedicated mentor to her former law students, and the approval of the “PAO bill” into Republic Act No. 9406, the law that elevated the PAO to an independent and autonomous office which she tirelessly worked and lobbied for, shine brightly in her roster of legacies in public service, legal aid and human rights advocacy.