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Solon wants to crack down on labor lawyers who are “ambulance chasing.”

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Rep. Margarita Nograles, assistant majority leader in the house and member of the Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) party list, urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Tuesday to take immediate action against “ambulance-chasing labor lawyers” who are pursuing maritime manning companies.

She claimed that these dishonest attorneys continue to take advantage of seafarers by persuading accident victims or their families to file injury lawsuits or other claims that, in most cases, benefit them more than the defendants rather than the victims in order to extract money from legitimate maritime staffing agencies.

Nograles claimed that these ambulance chasers have been attacking the nation’s maritime industry, and it is time to end these illegal actions.

She claimed that the attorneys involved in the scheme would approach sailors and offer them legal assistance so they could file civil lawsuits to harass maritime staffing companies.

Nograles pointed out that the labor department has been urged by the Association of Licensed Manning Agencies (ALMA) Maritime Group to demonstrate political will in order to confront how these ambulance-chasing attorneys abuse the seafarers’ compensation system.

The 71 manning agencies, who at any given time employ some 174,000 Filipino seafarers, have warned that unregulated ambulance chasing for financial gain has emerged as the biggest danger to the employability of up to 400,000 seafarers, including officers and non-officer ratings.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and other relevant organizations, such as the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) and the Maritime Industry Authority (MIA), should use their authority to put an end to this practice, said Nograles, a lawyer.

In accordance with Republic Act 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 recovery of monetary claim or benefit, including legal interest, arising from accident, illness, or death, in exchange for an amount or fee which shall be retained or deducted,” she said.

A punishment of not less than PHP50,000 but not more than PHP100,000, a term of imprisonment of not more than one year but not more than two years, or both fine and imprisonment, may be imposed on anyone found guilty of ambulance chasing.

Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo visited with DMW officials in November of last year, under the direction of Secretary Susan Ople, and promised them speedy legal action against unscrupulous attorneys involved in ambulance chasing.

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