Solon decries free legal assistance law's lack of IRR

By Ellson Quismorio 

A lawyer-turned-congressman is up in arms over the continued absence of implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of a decade-old law that grants lawyers tax deductions for providing free legal aid to indigent clients.

Rizal second district Rep. Fidel Nograles was referring to Republic Act (RA) No. 9999 or the Free Legal Assistance Act of 2010, which has not been maximized due to the lack of an IRR.

Rizal representative Fidel Nograles  (Fidel Nograles / FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN) Rizal representative Fidel Nograles

“The IRR is necessary to operationalize Section 5 of the law in particular, which is the provision granting tax incentives to lawyers for going beyond the mandatory service required of them,” said Nograles, a neophyte lawmaker in the current 18th Congress.

Section 5 of the law states that “… a lawyer or professional partnerships rendering actual free legal services, as defined by the Supreme Court, shall be entitled to an allowable deduction from the gross income, the amount that could have been collected for the actual free legal services rendered or up to ten percent (10%) of the gross income derived from the actual performance of the legal profession, whichever is lower.”

Nograles urged the Supreme Court (SC) and Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to prioritize the drafting of the IRR.

He said that the SC was tasked with the legal requirements, while the BIR was supposed to come up with the necessary revenue regulations for the proper implementation of the law’s tax component.

“Nananawagan tayo sa SC at BIR, sana sa lalong madaling panahon ay magtulungan tayo sa paglikha ng IRR ng batas na ito (We appeal to the SC and BIR to help us in creating an IRR for this law in the soonest time possible). It’s a bit late, but it’s better than never,” the Harvard graduate said.

Nograles trumpeted the law’s potential to ensure that poor or indigent clients have access to legal representation.

The Rizal solon also has two pending bills that are meant to ensure greater access to justice as far as the country's marginalized sectors are concerned.

One of them, House Bill (HB) No. 4281 or the Public Attorney’s Office Modernization Act of 2019, aims to broaden the PAO’s mandate to include free legal assistance to complainants or petitioners.

Meanwhile, HB No. 2993 or the Legal Aid Program Act of 2019 establishes 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. (Ellson A. Quismorio)