WITH more than 730,000 drug pushers and users who have surrendered under the Oplan Tokhang campaign of the Philippine National Police, the Public Attorney’s Office lends a hand through providing free legal aid to people who turned themselves in to the authorities or to those who believe to have been placed wrongly in the drug list.
Chief Public Attorney Persida Rueda Acosta said that the PAO’s role is to ensure that the legal rights of all suspected drug users and pushers will be respected.
With an estimated 3.7 million Filipinos possibly hooked to the drug menace, which is fast reaching the four million mark, Acosta said that the government’s campaign aims to help all Filipinos – both the non-users and the drug users.
The PAO head said the goal is to save the remaining 96 million Filipinos from the drug problem.
Acosta said that PAO lawyers are usually approached by poor Filipinos seeking legal help such as those eyeing to voluntarily submit themselves to rehabilitation.
She said those who want to surrender can execute an affidavit in the presence of a PAO lawyer. Acosata said the affidavit serves only to facilitate the surrenderee’s petition for treatment and rehabilitation and cannot be used to incriminate him.
“Ang ginagawa lang natin, nirerecommend natin sila for rehabilitation. ‘Yung may mga case pending, talagang makukulong sila. Kasi may case eh, they have to clear their names. ‘Yung mga wala pang case, they are for rehabilitation and counseling,” she said.
Acosta said the PAO has forged a memorandum of agreement with the Dangerous Drugs Board of which drug dependents can seek legal help from PAO lawyers to act as their counsel and represent them before the courts in their petition for treatment and rehabilitation.
The PAO admitted the serious challenge of providing PAO’s help to the thousands of surrenderees turning up at police stations and barangay halls nationwide since there are only about 1,600 public attorneys nationwide and fewer than the 3,000 courts around the country.