Legislators propose to shield police, military from unreasonable suits

A measure providing members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Polyice (PNP) free legal assistance has been filed at the House of Representatives.

House Bill 6026 or “an act providing free legal assistance to any officer or enlisted personnel of the AFP and the PNP on any charge before the prosecutor’s office, court, administrative or any competent body arising from an incident or incidents related to the performance of official duty and appropriating funds therefor,” authored by Nationalist People’s Coalition Rep. Felix William B. Fuentebella of Camarines Sur, had been referred to the Committee on National Defense for appropriate action.

Under HB 6026, the Secretary of Department of Justice (DOJ), the chief of staff of the AFP, the chairperson of the National Police Commission (Napolcom) or the chief of the PNP shall authorize any lawyer or lawyers of their respective agencies to provide free legal assistance to any officer or enlisted personnel,” Fuentebella said.

The proposal also provides the cost of implementing the measure shall be charged against the appropriation of the DOJ, AFP, Napolcom and PNP the year following its enactment into law and thereafter.

The DOJ, in coordination with the AFP, Napolcom and the PNP, shall issue the necessary rules and regulations to implement the proposed statute.

In filing the bill, Fuentebella said that like any other sector of society, the ordinary members of the military and police, officers and enlisted personnel, should not be denied access to legal assistance.

“In our country, most people may construe the law as favoring the rich over the poor,” he said.

The author also said ordinary citizens, like some officers and enlisted personnel of the AFP and the PNP, are often unable to engage the services of a lawyer due to the prohibitive cost of legal services and defend themselves against charges related to the performance of their official duties.

“Without justice, no one can feel secure.  Without security, there can be no faith.  Without faith, there can be no peace.  And without peace, this nation may perish,” said Fuentebella, quoting former Vice President Salvador P. Laurel.