Profile of Chief Public Attorney


 Profile of Chief Public Attorney

Persida V. Rueda-Acosta

Honorable Persida V. Rueda-Acosta, nationwide head of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), is the 4th Placer in the 1989 Bar Examinations. Chief Acosta is a Harvard Kennedy School Senior Executive Fellow (HSEF) and 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. Chief Acosta 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).  

Her expertise on legal aid has been recognized by the United Nations. In June 2014, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) (together with the Government of South Africa, Legal Aid South Africa, and the International Legal Foundation) invited her as a Panel Speaker in the International Conference on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems held in Johannesburg, South Africa. The UNODC also invited her to attend 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 Vienna, Austria. A similar honor was accorded to Chief Acosta 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.

Chief Acosta has deep concern on cross-border cooperation, wherein pro bono legal aid is utilized as an instrument for advancing human rights beyond geographical boundaries. This has paved the way for the signing of two (2) Agreements that were proposed to Chief Acosta by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), for the benefit of refugees and stateless persons in the Philippines without counsels, and the Legal Aid Foundation (LAF) of Taiwan, for the benefit of indigent overseas citizens of both the Philippines and Taiwan.

Chief Acosta was appointed on February 23, 2001 by former President and current Member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Since then, she has become a herald of hope to the indigent and other clients of the PAO who are searching for justice, and is now honored to continuously serve in her capacity as Chief Public Attorney in the administration of H. E. President Benigno S. Aquino III.

Chief Acosta is a multi-awarded public servant. Foremost among her awards is the Lingkod Bayan Award, the Highest Presidential Award for Outstanding Public Service, from the Civil Service Commission, that was given to her on Sept. 22, 2004. This award cited that her deep commitment to the service has helped restore people’s faith in the judicial system as she valiantly worked for the staying of the execution of death convicts despite threats to her life”. The staying of execution of the said inmates served as a precursor to the abolition of death penalty in the Philippines on June 24, 2006. 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, H. E. Corazon C. Aquino.

          Her remarkable feat as lingkod bayan, has also been acknowledged abroad. She was conferred 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.

        Among her most recent awards are: the Outstanding San Rafaeleño Award conferred by D’San Rafaeleños of San Rafael, Bulacan on December 30, 2014; the Gintong Palad Public Service Award given by the Movie Writers Welfare Foundation and the Rotary Club of Intramuros, Manila, on November 29, 2014 ; the Special Award for an Individual in the Government Service conferred during the  16th Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) Founding Anniversary on August 20, 2014, the  FAMAS Excellence Award in Criminal Justice (conferred also to the PAO Jail Visitation Team) from the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS), awarded on July 13, 2014; and the 2014 Gawad Justice Felix Angelo Bautista (for the Prosecution Pillar) conferred by the Philippine College of Criminology Alumni Association, Inc. during the 2nd Gawad Justice Felix Angelo Bautista on May 20, 2014.

Chief Acosta does not rest on her 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 – Cdt. 1st Class Aldrin Jeff Cudia; Orellano sisters, minors who were allegedly raped by their cousin; 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, Leonila Cafe and Adelaida Fabricante, who were allegedly raped and murdered by two policemen in Batangas; and Bonita Baran, a kasambahay, who was allegedly maltreated by her former 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 H. E. President Benigno S. Aquino III on January 18, 2013, and is now known as Republic Act No. 10361.

A United Nations Development Programme (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.”[1] 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 four (4) 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); Say Mo Attorney? (published every Monday, Wednesday & Friday by People’s Tonight); and Attorney First published every Monday & Friday by Pinoy Parazzi).

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 FilipinoAcademy of Movie Arts and Sciences, the Philippine Movie Press Club, and the Catholic Mass Media Awards.  

This devoted public servant who hails from 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, Chief Acosta is also a Civil Service Commission 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 is currently a Doctor of Social Development student.

Being a dedicated mentor of her 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 Chief Acosta tirelessly worked and lobbied for, shine brightly in her roster of legacies in public service, legal aid and human rights advocacy.

[1] 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.

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