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Carvajal, Kim Apple S.

Legal Counseling 3E

A Report on the Engagement and Observation in the Public Attorneys Office

Introduction

In a country where there is a prevalence of injustice and inequality of the rich and
the poor there is a great relief in the service provided by the Public Attorneys Office
(PAO).

The Powers and Functions Public Attorneys Office formerly known as the
Citizens Legal Assistance Office according to Section 4-A of Republic Act 9406, The
PAO shall independently discharge its mandate to render, free of charge, legal
representation, assistance, and counselling to indigent persons in criminal, civil, labor,
administrative and other quasi-judicial cases. In the exigency of the service, the PAO
may be called upon by proper government authorities to render such service to other
persons, subject to existing laws, rules and regulations. This is a significant
consideration to the indigent Filipino Citizens. Finally, there is a legal recourse available
for them.

The PAO office of Manila is found in an obscure building, one would not even
notice its existence. We went on a busy Monday and were welcomed by the PAO
lawyers and staffs with warm smiles. As we entered the office we were assisted by the
interns and were directly placed under the supervision of Atty. Joy Binay. We were
lectured as to the guidelines that must be observed during our engagement and

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observation in the office. All present lawyers were introduced to us and we submitted
our letter of intent to their Head in the Manila District Office.

Specific Guidelines to be Observed

As visiting law students who are acting as interns during that day, we have been
given several guidelines before we started the counselling session with the clients. First,
we were made to understand the functions and the power of PAO. Second, we were
informed that all PAO lawyers are specifically designated in different courts and cases
(ie Family Courts). Third, we were informed that before a PAO lawyer can assist a client,
such individual must procure a certificate of indigency. Lastly, we must observe
confidentiality during the legal counselling session.

Actual Legal Counseling

The first case that we encountered was about a Chinese woman who is seeking
relief in the change of her surname in her birth certificate and her mothers missing birth
certificate. As observed, the PAO Lawyer, Atty. Binay first reminded the client that in the
absence of a valid certificate of indigency, she can only extend a legal opinion but not
any representation in the future court proceedings. Afterwards, she asked the client to
narrate the circumstances that are within her dilemma. Atty. Binay then discussed that
there will be difference as to which law will be applicable depending on when her
mother was born and when she was born. We were asked as to which law will be
applicable and we answered it correctly. Atty. Binay also asked for the documents that
are available so she can examine and assess which would be the proper actions shall
be made. Atty. Binay showed a great amount of patience and understanding with regard
to the persistent and redundant questions of the client who clearly is confused with the
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proceedings. As a result, the client then understood the situation of the birth certificate
of her mother in connection to the issue of hers. After the client left, Atty. Binay willingly
explained to us the basis of her legal advice to the client which added to our knowledge
as law students. Day by day, theres multitude of cases being handled by PAO lawyers ,
different clients, different subjects thereby one must be able to make a quick recall of all
the subjects taken in law school.

The next case involves two sisters who asked for a legal advice regarding the
remaining debt of their father. The surviving heirs made a contention that since their
father is already dead, they are no longer entitled to pay his debts. Atty. Binay however
explained that they are entitled to satisfy the debts of their father because the death
does no extinguish the liability of the decedent. The women became a little agitated
upon hearing the said rule, they kept on defending their position with so much attitude.
The conversation became a little tense because Atty. Binay has been trying her best to
explain calmly however the women are a insisting their point. In the end, with the worthy
composure of Atty. Binay and her patience with the clients, they finally understood the
status of the debt. They smiled and were grateful of the legal help that the PAO lawyer
extended. They came all the way from Bulacan and was asked if in any case, they may
consult the one nearest to their residence so that they will not have a hard time in
visiting the PAO office provided of course they comply with the requirements.

We were impressed as to how Atty. Binay was able to handle the said clients in
such a very well-mannered why. Her legal counselling method is indeed compliance to
those being mentioned in the Code of Professional Responsbility. She is a perfect
example of a PAO Lawyer despite the pressure that is within her clients.

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Substantial Learning in Legal Counseling

Through the courses of discussion and through our engagement with PAO we
have learned several things in the field of legal counselling. It is a requirement that upon
the process of legal counselling, the lawyer must first allow the client to establish the
antecedent facts, present all documents and enumerate all present circumstances. The
lawyer must exhibit a high degree of understanding towards the client who may not be
fully aware of the legal jargons used. The lawyer must translate the necessary legal
terms to the client in a way which they will have full grasp of the legal opinion. If faced
with contradictions from the client, the lawyer must exercise patience towards them. We
were told by Atty. Binay that we should stand our ground in delivering our legal opinion
and that we should not let the clients take over the conversation so that they would
respect your legal advice. Standing your ground does not mean that one would be
disrespectful to your client. It is also important to gain the trust of your client so that they
will be able to confidently impart the legal problem. Being a lawyer practicing to give aid
to the public is not an easy task, however through the experience we had I am
convinced that after passing the bar I will be a Public Attorney.

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