The chairman of the House Committee on Labor on Tuesday threw his support for the passage of a pending bill that seeks to fund the legal education of aspiring lawyers in state universities and colleges (SUCs) in exchange for working in the government for two years after passing the Bar exams.
Rizal Fourth District Rep. Fidel Nograles said a legal scholarship law would help in addressing the country’s issues on legal access, especially for the poor.
“This is a bill with noble intentions, and I support this wholeheartedly,” Nograles said.
Citing the Foundation for Economic Freedom findings, Nograles said there is roughly only one lawyer for every 2,500 Filipinos.
In comparison, he said the United States has one lawyer for every 240 citizens.
“Currently, the PAO [Public Attorney’s Office] does not have enough lawyers,” he said. “This measure would be a great boost towards this end as the PAO would have a steady stream of lawyers coming in every year.”
Davao City First District Rep. Paolo Duterte, Benguet lone district Rep. Eric Yap, and ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Edvic Yap had jointly filed House Bill (HB) No. 7433, titled “An Act promoting access to quality legal education by providing for free tuition and other school fees in state universities and colleges and appropriating funds therefor.”
The bill seeks to provide free legal education to eligible students who will then render a mandatory two-year return of service (ROS) in PAO or any government agency lacking lawyers.
Nograles, a legal aid advocate, said that if passed, the measure would help the poor have better access to legal representation.
The lawmaker also said that a bill he has filed that seeks to establish legal aid programs in schools would be a good complement to HB No. 7433.
HB No. 6325 or the “Legal Aid Program” bill mandates the establishment of legal aid programs in both private and public law schools in the country to augment the services rendered by the PAO and other public offices that offer free legal assistance.
“A mandatory legal aid program in schools would mesh well with the ROS program. Perhaps we could find a way to harmonize these two measures so that our legal scholars would have the proper training habang nagaaral pa lang sila,” said the lawmaker.