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.

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