By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
A senator is pushing for the approval of the measure which would encourage more lawyers to serve the people, especially poor Filipinos by joining the Public Attorneys' Office (PAO).
Senator Grace Poe (Senate of the Philippines official Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senator Grace Poe filed Senate Bill No. 1980, which seeks to create the "Abogado Para sa Bayan" Program, a return service program, to fill the shortage of lawyers in the PAO.
More importantly, she said this would ensure the constitutional right of every Filipinos to due process and free access to courts and legal assistance.
The program, Poe said, was "inspired" by the "Doctors to the Barrio" Program and aims to "incentivize aspiring law students to serve the people."
Under the bill, law students shall be granted with financial assistance, which would include tuition and other school fees, transportation expenses, living allowance and for prescribed textbooks and other essential school supplies.
In turn, the grantee, upon joining the roll of attorneys, shall serve as a public lawyer for fove years in an area designated by the PAO. The areas with the lowest numbers of public attorneys shall be prioritized.
If they fail to comply with their service obligations, the grantees shall pay back the total equivalent financial assistance they had received, or a fine of P1 million.
Government officials who would be convicted of using the program for "partisan political activities" shall also be slapped with a penalty of imprisonment and fine of at least P50,000.