MANILA – A measure that would provide free legal assistance to policemen and soldiers, which is a priority legislation of President Rodrigo Duterte in his final State of the Nation Address, hurdled committee level at the House of Representatives.
In a virtual meeting on Wednesday, the House Committee on Justice, Committee on National Defense and Security, and Committee on Public Order and Safety jointly approved the substitute bill providing free legal assistance to any officer or enlisted personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on any charge arising from incidents related to the performance of their official duty.
Iloilo Rep. Raul Tupas, chair of the House Committee on National Defense and Security, said the country’s men in uniform “sacrifice their lives to keep the peace and improve our way of life”, stressing that they should be assisted from the unnecessary laws, damage or injury arising from the lawful exercise of their functions.
Masbate Rep. Narciso Bravo Jr., chair of the House Committee on Public Order and Safety, said free legal assistance is a just and reasonable benefit when measured against the "daily risks to life and limb" being faced by men in uniform just to keep the country safe.
The bill states that the State would provide free legal assistance to officers and enlisted personnel of the above mentioned services in all stages of criminal, civil, or administrative proceedings arising from service-related incidents.
It refers to service-related incident as “any act or omission of officers or enlisted personnel of the AFP, PNP, BJMP, BFP and PCG that is the consequence of the discharge of official functions or the performance of duties, or that is relevant to the office or to the discharge of official functions.”
Retired officers or personnel would also be given free legal assistance for cases or charges involving service-related incidents committed by them while still in active duty.
Duterte, in his last State of the Nation Address on July 26, asked Congress to pass a Unified System for Separation, Retirement, and Pension of Military and Uniformed Personnel to maintain government fiscal flexibility and provide adequate benefits and “remuneration to our men and women in uniform, and a law providing free legal assistance to AFP and PNP officers and Enlisted Personnel to help defend them from charges arising from incidents related to the performance of official duty.” (PNA)