Soldiers, policemen, along with firemen, jail guards, and coast guard personnel who might find themselves litigants in service-related cases may yet have free legal assistance, courtesy of a bill now pending at the House of Representatives.
The measure was filed by Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, his cousin Ilocos Norte Rep. Ferdinand Alexander Marcos, his wife and Tingog party-list Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez, and Jude Acidre, also of Tingog.
.Covered by the proposed statute are personnel of the uniformed services specifically the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), as well as the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
The free legal assistance benefit is being sought for uniformed service personnel who have pending cases before the prosecutor’s office, the courts, or any quasi-judicial or administrative body.
“By providing free legal assistance under this measure, our MUPs who sacrifice their life and limb for the preservation of our national security, public order, and public safety will be able to perform their sworn duties without fear of unwarranted cases filed against them for the purpose of harassment or reprisal,” the bill stated.
“Hence, this bill will provide free legal assistance to all offices or uniformed personnel of the AFP, PNP, BJMP, BFP, and PCG in all stages of criminal, civil, or administrative proceedings arising from service-related incidents, including retired MUPs who had cases or charges involving service-related incidents while still in active duty,” it added.
“In view of the foregoing, the passage of the bill is earnestly sought,” the bill further said.
If enacted, the measure will be called the “Free Legal Assistance for Military and Uniformed Personnel Act”.
The free legal assistance would cover the following legal services: 1. Legal representation in all stages of civil, criminal, or administrative cases involving service-related incidents; 2. Legal advice or consultations in relation to service-related cases or incidents; 3. Preparation of pleadings, motions, memoranda, and all other legal forms and documents in relation to service-related cases; 4. Notarization of documents in relation to service-related cases; and 5. All other legal services and tasks as directed by the chief of staff of the AFP, the chief of the BFP, the chief of the BJMP, the commandant of the PCG, or the chief of the PNP.
Service-related cases are defined by the measure as civil, criminal, and administrative cases filed against MUPs involving service-related incidents.
Meanwhile, service-related incident refers to any act or omission committed by MUPs in good faith that is the consequence of the discharge of their official functions or the performance of their duties, or that is relevant to their office or to the discharge of their official functions.