By Ben Rosario
The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill that will free volunteers in national emergencies, including the current coronavirus disease (COVID-19) devastation, from liability for unintended acts of omission.
San Jose del Monte City Rep. Rida Robes, chairperson of the House committee on people’s participation, called for the swift approval of House Bill (HB) No. 6091 as the Philippines faces serious natural and medical threats.
With 248 affirmative and zero negative votes, HB 6091 or the Emergency Volunteer Protection Act was passed on final reading before Congress closed for the summer break two weeks ago.
Robes said volunteers have made relief and rehabilitation operations easier for the thousands of families displaced by the destructive Taal volcano eruption.
She said people who volunteer for medical emergencies such as the on-going COVID-19 threat have also started showing up at hospitals and local government halls to help.
Robes said Filipinos have the “fire of volunteerism deep inside them” but they should be protected against charges and legal harm for acts of omissions committed while in performing their duties.
HB 6091 is a consolidation of seven separate legislative proposals filed by Reps. Alfred Vargas (PDP-Laban, Quezon City); Yul Servo (NUP, Manila); Tyrone Agabas (NPC, Pangasinan) and Florencio “Bem” Noel (An Waray Party-list), among other authors.
To be known as the Emergency Volunteer Protection Act, HB 6091 provides that no volunteer will be held liable for harm on persons and property that are committed by them but unintended.
However, volunteers who commit acts of misconduct constituting a crime under the Revised Penal Code or an offense in any special penal law will not be covered, as well as those under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any dangerous drug at the time of the act or omission.
Vargas said volunteers covered by the protection are those acting in an emergency situation at the scene of an accident. Also covered are volunteers who are properly licensed, certified, and authorized by appropriate authorities to undertake activities that will assist persons during an emergency situation.
A volunteer will also be cleared of any liability for inflicting harm for acts that are not caused by “willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence, or conscious flagrant indifference”, Vargas said.
“Volunteerism is a value that the state should recognize, promote, and develop among people,” the QC lawmaker said.
In filing his version of the bill, Servo said the proposal will “encourage people to participate in public and other civic affairs by eliminating the fear of being subsequently punished for any possible unintentional harm they could inflict unto others.”
“This also serves as a strategy towards that sustainable development of the state as it take advantage of available human capital while honoring the Filipino tradition of bayanihan,” Servo said.