Profile of Chief Public Attorney
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Profile of Dr. Persida V. Rueda-Acosta


Dr. Persida V. Rueda-Acosta,  the Chief Public Attorney of the Republic of the Philippines and nationwide  head  of  the  Public  Attorney’s  Office  (PAO) since February 23, 2001 up to the present,  is the  4th Placer  in  the  1989  Philippine  Bar  Examinations. She is a Doctor of Social Development graduate from the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, has completed the Senior Executive Fellows Program at the Harvard Kennedy School, 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  is  a  holder  of  a  Certificate  in  an  Executive Education Program  on  Public  Financial  Management  in  the  Changing  World,  from  the Harvard  Kennedy  School,  Massachusetts,  USA,  and  another  Certificate  in  a Training  Seminar Course  on  International  Management  and  Leadership,  from  The  International  Centre  for Parliamentary  Studies  (ICPS), London.


Dr. Acosta was appointed as nationwide head of the PAO on February 23, 2001 by former President and current Member of the House of Representatives 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).  Recently,  the vital link of Public Financial Management to Free Legal Aid has been 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 is a professor at the Ateneo de Manila University School of Law. Her expertise in legal aid has been recognized by the United Nations and other international organizations. Recently, Dr. Acosta served as Resource Person in international conferences on Legal Aid in Asia. She was a Speaker on Legal Aid during the Southeast Asia Regional Conference on Legal Aid and Witness Protection that was held on August 17-19, 2016 in Bangkok, Thailand. She was a Delegate to the ASEAN Regional Meeting on Sustainable Development Goals, Access to Justice and Legal Aid that was held in Jakarta, Indonesia on May 26 - 27, 2016. She was a Speaker-Lecturer during the Regional Consultation on Access to Justice and Legal Aid in ASEAN: Situation, Challenges and Way Forward that was held in Bangkok, Thailand, on April 4- 5, 2016, and at the United Nations Development Programme-sponsored International Sharing Experience Workshop on Legal Aid that was held in Hanoi, Vietnam on March 28 - 29, 2016. 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: Pregnant Inmates in Philippine Prisons: Securing and Saving Them with Gender-Sensitive Policy Reforms, ICPA’s 17th Annual Conference, October 25 – 30, 2015, Melbourne, Australia; Managing Overcrowding in Correctional Facilities: A Philippine Inter-Agency Initiative, ICPA’s 14th 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’s 13th 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.


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), which she took up on July 11-22, 2013, in GIMI, Nahalal, Israel. 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 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 recognitions are the 2015 Outstanding Alumna Award from the University of the East Association of America, Hawaii Chapter (UEAAHC), and the 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….” She was also conferred with the 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  by the California, USA-based  Gawad Amerika Foundation.


          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 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, 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  was  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 allegedly 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,  which was approved  by former President Benigno S.  Aquino  III  on  January  18,  2013,  and  is  now  known as  Republic  Act  No. 10361.


        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.” Indeed, these skills serve the PAO and its clients in good stead, especially in the information dissemination program of the Office. (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.)


        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 leading newspapers in the country. These are:  Dear PAO (published daily by The Manila Times); Magtanong kay Attorney (published daily by Bulgar); and, Say Mo Attorney? (published every Monday, Wednesday & Friday by People’s Tonight). 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 Gawad Chanselor Awards.


             Being a dedicated mentor to 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.