Cong Nograles hits 'ambulance-chasing' lawyers in maritime industry

A House leader wants the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to take action against what she describes as “ambulance-chasing labor lawyers“ who target maritime manning companies.

PBA Party-list Rep. Migs Nograles (Ellson Quismorio/ MANILA BULLETIN)

The modus operandi of these lawyers involve seeking out seafarers and offering them legal help so that they can harass maritime manning companies with civil suits.

Nograles, an assistant majority leader in the House of Representatives, noted that the Association of Licensed Manning Agencies (ALMA) Maritime Group has called on DOLE to exercise political will to address the exploitation of the seafarers' compensation system by these ambulance-chasing lawyers.

The group of 71 manning agencies deploying around 174,000 Filipino seafarers at any given time has warned that unchecked ambulance chasing for money claims has become the biggest threat to the employability of potentially 400,000 seafarers, both officers and non-officers ratings.

“The DOLE and other pertinent agencies like the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) and the Maritime Industry Authority should exercise their authority to stop this practice,” said Nograles,who is also a lawyer.

She noted that under Republic Act (RA) No.10706, also known as the Seafarers Protection Act, it “shall be unlawful for any person to engage in ambulance chasing or the act of soliciting, personally or through an agent, from seafarers, or their heirs, the pursuit of any claim against them employers for the purpose of recovery of monetary claim or benefit, including legal interest, arising from accident, illness or death, in exchange of an amount or fee which shall be retained or deducted from the monetary claim or benefit granted to or awarded to the seafarers or their heirs.”

Any person who is found guilty of ambulance chasing can be slapped with a fine of not less than P50,000, but not more than P100,000, or with an imprisonment of one year but not more than two years, or both fine and imprisonment.