PAO to represent ex-MRT chief in graft case
Rosette Adel (Philstar.com) - February 1, 2016 - 2:56am

MANILA, Philippines – Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) on Monday said it will serve as the counsel de oficio of former Metro Rail Transit-3 General Manager Al Vitangcol III on his graft case.

In a radio interview, PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta said they even represented Vitangcol during his arraignment through PAO legal counsel Patrick Geron.

Rueda-Acosta said PAO is willing to assist Vitangcol until he finds his private lawyer.

Asked if PAO is authorized to represent a person accused of graft and corruption, Rueda-Acosta explained that based on the Constitution they are allowed to render service to anyone if appointed by the court since every accused has a right to legal counsel regardless of personal circumstances.

"Talaga hong sa ating konstitusyon may right to counsel kahit sino po. Kahit ex-congressman, basta mayroon pong pangangailangan.,, Nasa batas natin yun. Nakasuksok in the exigency of the service na PAO may be called upon by government service to render service to other person," Rueda-Acosta said in an interview with dzMM.

"Kahit murder pa nga po e, kahit rape with homicide, kapag na-appoint po tayong de officio ng ating mga hukuman,” she added noting that PAO renders service regardless of charges or cases.

Rueda-Acosta recalled that she also represented former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada when he sought PAO’s service to represent him on his plunder charges in 2001.

“Gaya ng panahon ni President Estrada, dalawang buwan akong counsel de oficio niya kahit withdraw ako nang withdraw. Ganu’n po iyon e," Rueda-Acosta explained.

The PAO chief said this ruling has been studied by the Congress for a century now. She said there is a provision for PAO’s limited assistance to represent any accused in need of counsel de officio to represent him or her in trials and arraignments. 

On January 28, Vitangcol  submitted a motion to appoint the Public Attorney’s Office his counsel de officio before the Sandiganbayan court, claiming that he lacks money to hire a private lawyer. He said he was not able to avail other law firms’ services as they were asking P1 million in acceptance and legal fees.

RELATED: Ex-MRT chief asks court for PAO counsel, cites lack of money

ACIRC COUNSEL GENERAL MANAGER AL VITANGCOL KAHIT METRO RAIL TRANSIT ON JANUARY PAO PUBLIC ATTORNEY QUOT RUEDA-ACOSTA VITANGCOL
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