Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida V. Rueda-Acosta on Monday, April 11, refuted the claims of senatorial candidate Raffy Tulfo that PAO’s indigency test is “outdated and obsolete.”
Acosta said published reports quoted Tulfo as saying that “the P14,000 per month income ceiling for the PAO indigency test outdated and obsolete.”
Thus, Tulfo was said to have pointed out that he wanted to raise the ceiling to P25,000 monthly income.
“Sa P25,000 na ipo-propose ni Mr. RT mas mataas pa po yung threshold namin dahil net income (Comparing to the P25,000 ceiling proposed by Tulfo, the threshold of PAO is higher because it concerns net income),” Acosta stressed.
She said that under the 2021 Revised PAO Operations Manual, PAO lawyers will accept indigent clients who have a net monthly income of P24,000 for those living in the National Capital Region (NCR); P22,000 for those living in cities outside NCR; and P20,000 for those living in municipalities outside NCR.
The increase of the net income in the indigency test was made following deliberations made by PAO directors and research that was conducted, she noted.
“Sa PSA po yan na ang pinaka consumption basket ng ating maralitang Filipino, yung nasa P20,000 to P24,000 (According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the consumption basket of the poor is between P20,000 to P24,000),” she said.
She said that Section 16 of Republic Act 9406, also known as the PAO Law of 2007, states that: “The authority and responsibility for the exercise of the mandate of the PAO and for the discharge of its powers and functions shall be vested in the Chief Public Attorney.”
“Ang nagtatalaga po ng operations manual ng PAO, standard operating procedure, ay hindi po Kongreso. Na-delegate na po yan ng Congress sa Chief Public Attorney (Congress does not set the operations manual of the PAO. Congress has delegated this power to the Chief Public Attorney),” she explained.
“Hindi po basta pwede ma-amend yan dahil hindi po talaga nakikialam ang mga congressmen at mga senador kung ano po ang indigency test ng Public Attorney’s Office (This is not easily amended because congressmen and senators do not intervene in the indigency test of the PAO),” she added.
She then advised Tulfo’s researchers to do a better job. “Husayin ninyo researh ninyo. ‘Wag ninyo kuryentihin amo ninyo (Do a better job in research. Don’t provide your boss with fake information),” she said.
The entirety of the 2021 Revised PAO Operations Manual was even published in an English newspaper last December and a Filipino tabloid last January, she added.