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De Lima wants CSC clarification on tenure of PAO chief


Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila De Lima said on Sunday the Civil Service Commission (CSC) must issue a ruling regarding the status of Public Attorney's Office (PAO) chief Atty. Persida Rueda-Acosta and her deputies before issuing out a pronouncement regarding the eligibility of the latter in serving in their present positions.

De Lima made this opinion after noting that some commissioners of the Career Executive Service (CES) Board have conflicting opinions on the legality of letting Acosta and her deputies to remain in their present positions.

“There are conflicting media pronouncements of Atty. (Tonette) Allones, CES Board executive director, who was interviewed by a major network, and CSC Commissioner (Cesar) Buenaflor, whose position being reported to media by Acosta. CES Board and CSC should clarify their official position through a written issuance for my guidance,” the DOJ chief stressed.

Allones, in an earlier statement, claimed that Acosta and other top PAO officials are not qualified for their posts which require CES eligibility. Her stance was affirmed by the DOJ in a legal opinion signed by Chief State Counsel Ricardo Paras III.

On the other hand, Buenaflor disagreed with Allones and Paras' observations and pointed out that the PAO posts are permanent and therefore not covered by CES requirement.

“I need to see something written from CSC or CES Board. It has to be an official position or ruling from them and not just a mere say-so of Chief Acosta and/or a CSC official or officials,” De Lima said.

In a legal opinion dated Jan. 3, the DOJ said the appointment of the PAO chief and other top officials of the agency "are without merit."

"The positions of the Chief Public Attorney, Deputy Chief Public Attorney and Regional Public Attorneys are part of the CES. It is required by law that they should be CES eligibles to become permanent appointees to the said position,” the DOJ said.

“In the absence of any evidence that would show compliance with the said condition, it is presumed that the top-level officials of the PAO are non-CES eligibles; therefore, they may be removed from office by the appointing authority without violating their constitutional and statutory rights to security of tenure,” the DOJ added.

PAO is an attached agency of the DOJ that provides indigent litigants free legal assistance.

Acosta immediately appealed this position of the DOJ.

Along with Deputy Chief Public Attorney for Luzon Macapangcat Mama, Deputy Chief Public Attorney for Visayas and Mindanao Silvestre Mosing and Public Attorney IV Howard Areza, she asked De Lima to revoke the legal opinion.

“Pursuant to Republic Act 9406, it is respectfully reiterated that the position of the Chief Public Attorney, Deputy Chief Public Attorneys and Regional Public Attorneys are considered permanent in nature. Hence, they enjoy security of tenure, contrary to the position advanced by Chief State Counsel Paras,” Acosta's group claimed.

“It is clear that Republic Act 9406 did not provide additional eligibility requirements for the said top level PAO positions, aside from what was provided in the minimum eligibility requirement of their counterparts in the National Prosecution Service,” they added.

Acosta has been the PAO chief for almost 10 years already. She completed her law studies in Ateneo De Manila University and University of the East and placed fourth in the 1984 Bar examinations. (PNA/PIA9-BST)

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