Press Release
September 21, 2006

1 PAO lawyer handles an average 4,310 clients, 580 cases

On the average, one public attorney served 4,310 clients last year, a fact which contributes to a backlog in court cases, Sen. Ralph Recto said today.

Underpaid and undermanned, 1,016 lawyers of the Public Attorneys Office served 4,379, 850, mostly poor, clients in 2005.

They also grappled with 588,442 judicial and quasi-judicial cases during the same period. In short, one PAO lawyer handles an average 580 cases which is too much by any standard, he said.

A report of the PAO to Congress said that lawyers of the Justice department -attached agency handled 477,334 criminal cases and 57,416 criminals cases last year.

In addition to this heavy case load, PAO lawyers have to assist poor litigants in administrative cases, labor cases, and client counseling, the latter involving 1,078,651 persons last year.

A PAO lawyer is assigned to two to three courts, the PAO report said.

But his work is not confined to salas alone but extend to jails and prisons. Last year, public attorneys assisted more than 220,000 persons behind bars.

With most PAO lawyers not netting P20,000 a month in pay, Recto said their increase in compensation must be a priority concern when the government hikes the pay of its employees through the planned Salary Standardization Law III.

He said the fiscal turnaround should result in the granting of special allowances to PAO lawyers to prevent the fast turnover of PAO lawyers and their mass migration to lucrative private practice.

Recto cited the fact that the amount allocated for books and periodicals, which are needed in any legal practice, for the whole PAO was a measly P400,000 in 2005.

Lower courts ended 2004 with 776,529 pending cases. With 376,889 added in 2005, the total cases handled by lower courts reached an all-time high of 1,219,706 that year.

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