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Second reading obstacles for the free legal aid for uniformed troops bill

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The proposed Free Legal Assistance for Military and Uniformed Personnel Act was approved by the House of Representatives on Wednesday during the second reading.

In all phases of criminal, civil, or administrative proceedings resulting from service-related incidents, House Bill 6509 seeks to offer free legal assistance to officers and uniformed personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

According to the measure, the free legal assistance shall include, among other things, notarization of documents in relation to service-related cases, preparation of pleadings, motions, memoranda, and all other legal forms and documents, legal representation in all phases of civil, criminal, or administrative proceedings involving service-related incidents, legal advice or consultations in relation to service-related cases or incidents, and so forth.

According to HB 6509, a service-related incident is any act or omission committed by the military and uniformed personnel (MUP) in good faith that results from the performance of their official duties or from the discharge of their official functions, or that is relevant to their office or to the discharge of their official functions. Service-related cases are civil, criminal, and administrative cases brought against MUP that involve service-related incidents.

After retiring from service, officers or uniformed staff members of the AFP, BFP, BJMP, PCG, or PNP who have received free legal help are still entitled to it.

The AFP, BFP, BJMP, PCG, or PNP shall also provide retired officers or uniformed personnel with free legal help for cases or charges involving service-related offenses committed by such retired officers or uniformed people while on active duty.

In order to provide enough and efficient free legal help to competent personnel, HB 6509 also wants to require the strengthening of the legal offices of the AFP, PNP, BJMP, BFP, and PCG.

Additionally, it allows officers or uniformed personnel of the AFP, PNP, BJMP, BFP, or PCG to receive private counsel when necessary at the government’s expense. Government lawyers representing qualified personnel are also entitled to payment for actual expenses and honoraria per appearance, as may be authorized.

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