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. Chief Acosta, 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. She 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.
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, she has been awarded a Certificate by the International Consortium on Governmental Financial Management (ICGFM) for having successfully completed the Seminar on Public Financial Management, Foundation for Public Governance in Miami, Florida, USA.
She was appointed in February 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.
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, 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 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: 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 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 Presidential Lingkod Bayan Awardee 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.
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 political prisoner Ericson Acosta, Cadet 1st Class Aldrin Jeff Cudia; Orellano sisters, minors who were allegedly raped by a relative; 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); and 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.” 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 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 Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences, the Philippine Movie Press Club, and the Catholic Mass Media Awards.
Being a native of Cabcaben, Mariveles, Bataan, Chief Acosta 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 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.