Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Current Situation of Public Legal Service in the Philippines

Discussion about the rules and law of the land is always sensitive and complex. It requires deep understanding on how process and procedures are conducted. Studying about it also takes years. As a matter of fact, a lawyer before being able to give legal services in the Philippines should undergo undergrad education that usually takes 4 years and another 4 for law school. After studying, there is still the need to pass the bar exam—a feat that is known to be nothing less than difficult. In the 2015, only 26.21% of the bar takers passed and this has only been the highest passing percentage since 2011. In 1999, only 16.59 percent passed—the lowest percentage of law bar exam passer in the history of the Philippines to date. And even after all of that, a bar passer should still practice law and take mandatory continuing education to be able to provide legal services to the public.

But the thing is that not every lawyer that passes the bar exam wants to work for the government or for the public. Most of these lawyers go after big law firms or apply for a position in a legal department of some big company. As lawyers have become the central the way business is done concerning issues that needs the application of law and prevailing regulations, the pull for demand for lawyers to stay in this private companies heightens, not to mention the compensation that they can get.

In Feb 23 2010, Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed the Republic Act. 9999—an act authored by Senator Lito Lapid. The republic act is also known as the act providing mechanism for free legal assistance and for other purposes. The section 5 of the said law grants lawyers up to 10 percent deduction from their annual taxable income to encourage them to render free legal services. This is provided that the actual free legal services herein contemplated shall be exclusive of the minimum sixty (60)-hour mandatory legal aid services rendered to indigent litigants as required under the Rule on Mandatory Legal Aid Services for Practicing Lawyers, under BAR Matter No. 2012, issued by the Supreme Court

While this sounds like huge incentives for lawyers and a wonderful attempt of the government to pull private lawyers into the aid of the public that needs legal service, there might still be huge need for lawyers to fill. Even though it has been reported last August 2016 that the crime rate in the country has lowered, there is no denying that legal aid or service is something that is should be readily available for Filipino citizen when they need it.

Now with the things mentioned above, you may now have a picture on the situation of how accessible legal services are in the Philippines. As we enter a new era in Philippine governance, and with another lawyer leading the country in Rodrigo Duterte, who knows, we might see a drastic change on how legal services are catered in the Philippines.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Lawyers Making Laws: A Closer Look at the Lawyers in the Senate

Being an attorney is probably one of the highest regarded careers in the Philippines. In fact, majority of the elected presidents, vice-presidents, and even members of the legislative department are from this profession. Some names that are worth mentioning are the three highest political positions in the country: the current head of state of the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte; the current vice-president of the Philippines, Leni Robredo; and the Senate President, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III. Even though some may say what made them famous is their reputation as public servants and politicians, the mere fact that eight out of the past fifteen president Philippines are attorneys is enough proof to support how the profession has helped them to get to their position and carry out their duties.

Currently, there are 24 senators in the legislative department. Their main duties are to pass laws and investigate national issues. In this light, it is only reasonable that someone from the legislative department has a good background on law.

Among the these 24 senators in the Philippines, eight are lawyers or attorneys and they are the following:

Sonny Angara – Angara has passed on more than 60 laws. He finished his law degree at the University of the Philippines College of Law, and earned his Master of Laws degree from Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States.

Pia Cayetano – During her young career as a lawyer, she has specialized in corporate law and intellectual property laws. She graduated from University of the Philippines with an academic distinction.

Alan Peter Cayetano – He graduated from Ateneo de Manila University. He is also the Chair of the Philippine Agrarian Reform Committee.

Leila De Lima – In 1985, De Lima has placed 8th in the Bar Examination, bringing pride to her alma mater, San Beda College, where she earned her law degree.

Franklin M. Drilon - Drilon is probably one of the most seasoned senators in the Philippines. He completed his degree in 1969 in UP College of Law and placed third in the bar examination of the same year.

Francis Escudero
– He finished his law degree at the University the Philippines and has passed the bar examination on 1994. In 1996, he obtained a Master’s degree in International and Comparative Law at Georgetown Law Center in Washington, D.C.

Richard J. Gordon – Gordon is also the current Chairman of the Philippine Red Cross. He has pursued his law degree at the University of the Philippines College of Law.

Kiko Pangilinan - In his early career as a lawyer by giving free legal assistance on-air and closely monitored case progress through the television program Hoy Gising! in ABS-CBN where he was a co-anchor and segment host.

Koko Pimentel – The aforementioned current Senate President has finished his Bachelor of Laws degree from University of the Philippines College of Law. He has also topped the 1990 Philippine Bar Examinations.

While being a public servant or politician in the Philippines doesn’t required a specific educational attainment to run for public office as it stated in the 1987 Constitution, a decent educational background still plays a big role in winning the voters’ ink. It just makes perfect sense that someone that will be implementing, making, and investigate rulings should have adequate knowledge about law itself. And with the things that has been going in politics that most of the time renders us confuse with what is exactly is going on, it will be a mild tap in the back knowing that there are several people in the legislative department that has background on how to be an attorney or lawyer in the Philippines.