Proposed Rule On Mandatory Legal Aid Service For Practicing Lawyers (Bar Matter No. 2012)

(The Supreme Court recently issued the Rule on Mandatory Legal Aid Service , requiring all “practicing lawyers” to render a minimum of 60 hours of free legal aid services to indigent litigants in a year. Please note the definition of a “practicing lawyer”. It was published in the PhilStar and Inquirer on 14 February 2009. It takes effect on 1 July 2009. A subsequent en banc Resolution, however, deferred the effectivity to 1 January 2010. Here’s the full text of Bar Matter No. 2012.)

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BM No. 2012

PROPOSED RULE ON MANDATORY LEGAL AID SERVICE FOR PRACTICING LAWYERS

RESOLUTION

Acting on the Memorandum dated January 27, 2009 of Justice Renato C. Corona re: Comment of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines on our Suggested Revisions to the Proposed Rule of Mandatory Legal Aid Service for Practicing Lawyers, the Court Resolved to APPROVE the same.

This Resolution shall take effect on July 1, 2009 following publication of the said Rule and its implementing regulations in at least two (2) newspapers of general circulation.

February 10, 2009.
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RULE ON MANDATORY LEGAL AID SERVICE

SECTION 1. Title . – This Rule shall be known as “The Rule on Mandatory Legal Aid Service.”

SECTION 2. Purpose . – This Rule seeks to enhance the duty of lawyers to society as agents of social change and to the courts as officers thereof by helping improve access to justice by the less privileged members of society and expedite the resolution of cases involving them. Mandatory free legal service by members of the bar and their active support thereof will aid the efficient and effective administration of justice especially in cases involving indigent and pauper litigants.

SECTION 3. Scope . – This Rule shall govern the mandatory requirement for practicing lawyers to render free legal aid services in all cases (whether, civil, criminal or administrative) involving indigent and pauper litigants where the assistance of a lawyer is needed. It shall also govern the duty of other members of the legal profession to support the legal aid program of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

SECTION 4. Definition of Terms . – For purposes of this Rule:

(a) Practicing lawyers are members of the Philippine Bar who appear for and in behalf of parties in courts of law and quasi-judicial agencies, including but not limited to the National Labor Relations Commission, National Conciliation and Mediation Board, Department of Labor and Employment Regional Offices, Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board and National Commission for Indigenous Peoples. The term “practicing lawyers” shall exclude:

(i) Government employees and incumbent elective officials not allowed by law to practice;
(ii) Lawyers who by law are not allowed to appear in court;
(iii) Supervising lawyers of students enrolled in law student practice in duly accredited legal clinics of law schools and lawyers of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and peoples’ organizations (POs) like the Free Legal Assistance Group who by the nature of their work already render free legal aid to indigent and pauper litigants and
(iv) Lawyers not covered under subparagraphs (i) to (iii) including those who are employed in the private sector but do not appear for and in behalf of parties in courts of law and quasi-judicial agencies.

(b) Indigent and pauper litigants are those defined under Rule 141, Section 19 of the Rules of Court and Algura v. The Local Government Unit of the City of Naga (G.R. No. 150135, 30 October 2006, 506 SCRA 81);

(c) Legal aid cases are those actions, disputes, and controversies that are criminal, civil and administrative in nature in whatever stage wherein indigent and pauper litigants need legal representation;

(d) Free legal aid services refer to appearance in court or quasi-judicial body for and in behalf of an indigent or pauper litigant and the preparation of pleadings or motions. It shall also cover assistance by a practicing lawyer to indigent or poor litigants in court-annexed mediation and in other modes of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Services rendered when a practicing lawyer is appointed counsel de oficio shall also be considered as free legal aid services and credited as compliance under this Rule;

(e) Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) is the official national organization of lawyers in the country;

(f) National Committee on Legal Aid (NCLA) is the committee of the IBP which is specifically tasked with handling legal aid cases;

(g) Committee on Bar Discipline (CBD) is the committee of the IBP which is specifically tasked with disciplining members of the Bar;

(h) IBP Chapters are those chapters of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines located in the different geographical areas of the country as defined in Rule 139-A ; and

(i) Clerk of Court is the Clerk of Court of the court where the practicing lawyer rendered free legal aid services. In the case of quasi-judicial bodies, it refers to an officer holding an equivalent or similar position. The term shall also include an officer holding a similar position in agencies exercising quasi-judicial functions, or a responsible officer of an accredited PO or NGO, or an accredited mediator who conducted the court-annexed mediation proceeding.

SECTION 5. Requirements . –

(a) Every practicing lawyer is required to render a minimum of sixty (60) hours of free legal aid services to indigent litigants in a year. Said 60 hours shall be spread within a period of twelve (12) months, with a minimum of five (5) hours of free legal aid services each month. However, where it is necessary for the practicing lawyer to render legal aid service for more than five (5) hours in one month, the excess hours may be credited to the said lawyer for the succeeding periods.

For this purpose, a practicing lawyer shall coordinate with the Clerk of Court for cases where he may render free legal aid service. He may also coordinate with the IBP Legal Aid Chairperson of the IBP Chapter to inquire about cases where he may render free legal aid service. In this connection, the IBP Legal Aid Chairperson of the IBP Chapter shall regularly and actively coordinate with the Clerk of Court.

The practicing lawyer shall report compliance with the requirement within ten (10) days of the last month of each quarter of the year.

(b) A practicing lawyer shall be required to secure and obtain a certificate from the Clerk of Court attesting to the number of hours spent rendering free legal aid services in a case. The certificate shall contain the following information:

(i) The case or cases where the legal aid service was rendered, the party or parties in the said case(s) for whom the service was rendered, the docket number of the said case(s) and the date(s) the service was
rendered.

(ii) The number of hours actually spent attending a hearing or conducting trial on a particular case in the court or quasi-judicial body.

(iii) The number of hours actually spent attending mediation, conciliation or any other mode of ADR on
a particular case.

(iv) A motion (except a motion for extension of time to file a pleading or for postponement of hearing or
conference) or pleading filed on a particular case shall be considered as one (1) hour of service.

The Clerk of Court shall issue the certificate in triplicate, one (1) copy to be retained by the practicing lawyer, one (1) copy to be retained by the Clerk of Court and one (1) copy to be attached to the lawyer’s compliance report.

(c) Said compliance report shall be submitted to the Legal Aid Chairperson of the IBP Chapter within the court’s jurisdiction. The Legal Aid Chairperson shall then be tasked with immediately verifying the contents of the certificate with the issuing Clerk of Court by comparing the copy of the certificate attached to the compliance report with the copy retained by the Clerk of Court.

(d) The IBP Chapter shall, after verification, issue a compliance certificate to the concerned lawyer. The IBP Chapter shall also submit the compliance reports to the IBP’s NCLA for recording and documentation. The submission shall be made within forty-five (45) days after the mandatory submission of compliance reports by the practicing lawyers.

(e) Practicing lawyers shall indicate in all pleadings filed before the courts or quasi-judicial bodies the number and date of issue of their certificate of compliance for the immediately preceding compliance period. Failure to disclose the required information would cause the dismissal of the case and the expunction of the pleadings from the records.

(f) Before the end of a particular year, lawyers covered by the category under Section 4(a)(i) and (ii), shall fill up a form prepared by the NCLA which states that, during that year, they are employed with the government or incumbent elective officials not allowed by law to practice or lawyers who by law are not allowed to appear in court. The form shall be sworn to and submitted to the IBP Chapter or IBP National Office together with the payment of an annual contribution of Two Thousand Pesos (P2,000). Said contribution shall accrue to a special fund of the IBP for the support of its legal aid program.

(g) Before the end of a particular year, lawyers covered by the category under Section 4(a)(iii) shall secure a certification from the director of the legal clinic or of the concerned NGO or PO to the effect that, during that year, they have served as supervising lawyers in a legal clinic or actively participated in the NGO’s or PO’s free legal aid activities. The certification shall be submitted to the IBP Chapter or IBP National Office.

(h) Before the end of a particular year, lawyers covered by the category under Section 4(a)(iv) shall fill up a form prepared by the NCLA which states that, during that year, they are neither practicing lawyers nor covered by Section (4)(a)(i) to (iii). The form shall be sworn to and submitted to the IBP Chapter or IBP National Office together with the payment of an annual contribution of Four Thousand Pesos (P4,000) by
way of support for the efforts of practicing lawyers who render mandatory free legal aid services. Said contribution shall accrue to a special fund of the IBP for the support of its legal aid program.

(i) Failure to pay the annual contribution shall subject the lawyer to a penalty of Two Thousand Pesos (P2,000) for that year which amount shall also accrue to the special fund for the legal aid program of the IBP.

SECTION 6. NCLA . –

(a) The NCLA shall coordinate with the various legal aid committees of the IBP local chapters for the proper handling and accounting of legal aid cases which practicing lawyers can represent.

(b) The NCLA shall monitor the activities of the Chapter of the Legal Aid Office with respect to the coordination with Clerks of Court on legal aid cases and the collation of certificates submitted by practicing lawyers.

(c) The NCLA shall act as the national repository of records in compliance with this Rule.

(d) The NCLA shall prepare the following forms: certificate to be issued by the Clerk of Court and forms mentioned in Section 5(e) and (g).

(e) The NCLA shall hold in trust, manage and utilize the contributions and penalties that will be paid by lawyers pursuant to this Rule to effectively carry out the provisions of this Rule. For this purpose, it shall annually submit an accounting to the IBP Board of Governors. The accounting shall be included by the IBP in its report to the Supreme Court in connection with its request for the release of the subsidy for its legal aid program.

SECTION 7. Penalties . –

(a) At the end of every calendar year, any practicing lawyer who fails to meet the minimum prescribed 60 hours of legal aid service each year shall be required by the IBP, through the NCLA, to explain why he was unable to render the minimum prescribed number of hours. If no explanation has been given or if the NCLA finds the explanation unsatisfactory, the NCLA shall make a report and recommendation to the IBP Board of Governors that the erring lawyer be declared a member of the IBP who is not in good standing. Upon approval of the NCLA’s recommendation, the IBP Board of Governors shall declare the erring lawyer as a member not in good standing. Notice thereof shall be furnished the erring lawyer and the IBP Chapter which submitted the lawyer’s compliance report or the IBP Chapter where the lawyer is registered, in case he did not submit a compliance report. The notice to the lawyer shall include a directive to pay Four Thousand Pesos (P4,000) penalty which shall accrue to the special fund for the legal aid program of the IBP.

(b) The “not in good standing” declaration shall be effective for a period of three (3) months from the receipt of the erring lawyer of the notice from the IBP Board of Governors. During the said period, the
lawyer cannot appear in court or any quasi-judicial body as counsel. Provided, however, that the “not in good standing” status shall subsist even after the lapse of the three-month period until and unless the penalty shall have been paid.

(c) Any lawyer who fails to comply with his duties under this Rule for at least three (3) consecutive years shall be the subject of disciplinary proceedings to be instituted motu proprio by the CBD. The said
proceedings shall afford the erring lawyer due process in accordance with the rules of the CBD and Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court . If found administratively liable, the penalty of suspension in the practice of law for one (1) year shall be imposed upon him.

(d) Any lawyer who falsifies a certificate or any form required to be submitted under this Rule or any contents thereof shall be administratively charged with falsification and dishonesty and shall
be subject to disciplinary action by the CBD. This is without prejudice to the filing of criminal charges against the lawyer.

(e) The falsification of a certificate or any contents thereof by any Clerk of Court or by any Chairperson of the Legal Aid Committee of the IBP local chapter where the case is pending or by the Director of a
legal clinic or responsible officer of an NGO or PO shall be a ground for an administrative case against the said Clerk of Court or Chairperson. This is without prejudice to the filing of the criminal
and administrative charges against the malfeasor.

SECTION 8. Credit for Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) . – A lawyer who renders mandatory legal aid service for the required number of hours in a year for the three year-period covered by a compliance period under the Rules on MCLE shall be credited the following: two (2) credit units for legal ethics, two (2) credit units for trial and pretrial skills, two (2) credit units for alternative dispute resolution, four (4) credit units for legal writing and oral advocacy, four (4) credit units for substantive and procedural laws and jurisprudence and six (6) credit units for such subjects as may be prescribed by
the MCLE Committee under Section 2(g), Rule 2 of the Rules on MCLE.

A lawyer who renders mandatory legal aid service for the required number of hours in a year for at least two consecutive years within the three year-period covered by a compliance period under the Rules on MCLE shall be credited the following: one (1) credit unit for legal ethics, one (1) credit unit for trial and pretrial skills, one (1) credit unit for alternative dispute resolution, two (2) credit units for legal writing and oral advocacy, two (2) credit units for substantive and procedural laws and jurisprudence and three (3) credit units for such subjects as may be prescribed by the MCLE Committee under Section 2(g), Rule 2 of the Rules on MCLE.

SECTION 9. Implementing Rules . – The IBP, through the NCLA, is hereby given authority to recommend implementing regulations in determining who are “practicing lawyers,” what constitute “legal aid cases” and what administrative procedures and financial safeguards which may be necessary and proper in the implementation of this rule may be prescribed. It shall coordinate with the various legal chapters in the crafting of the proposed implementing regulations and, upon approval by the IBP Board of Governors, the said implementing regulations shall be transmitted to the Supreme Court for final approval.

SECTION 10. Effectivity . – This Rule and its implementing rules shall take effect on July 1, 2009 after they have been published in two (2) newspapers of general circulation.

7 Responses to “Proposed Rule On Mandatory Legal Aid Service For Practicing Lawyers (Bar Matter No. 2012)”


  1. 1 Just Asking Feb 17th, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    WHAT! Is the Supreme Court (SC) kidding?

    Question: What percentage of bar passers actually venture as law practitioners?

    This rule will dwindle further the number of practitioners?

    Does the SC want lawyers to be ambulance chasers? Does the SC want to further clog the dockets in court because practicing lawyers need that Docket numbers to comply with this Rule?

    As defined, ‘Free legal aid services refer to appearance in court or quasi-judicial body for and in behalf of an indigent or pauper litigant and the preparation of pleadings or motions.’

    Now how about government lawyers, PAO and prosecutors, who are not exempted from this Rule? It seems that they have been serving indigent litigants, BUT this Rule is over and above of what they do. Does this mean that when they would render free legal service in compliance with this Rule they would have to file a leave of absence without pay, otherwise it wouldn’t be free since they are actually being paid by the government? And in case they would be allowed to serve indigent litigants on government time to comply with this Rule, isn’t this an unconstitutional classification because private lawyers spend their time withour pay just to comply with this Rule?

    How about government and private in-house counsels, considered by this Rule as practicing lawyers, who work 8 to 5, Monday to Friday. When will they render this free legal service? Would they have to work on a Saturday or Sunday to render this service, but would further take away time from their families? And when they appear in court in compliance with this Rule, will they, too, file for a leave of absence without pay to compl with the ‘so-called’ FREE legal service?

    If I am Lawyer who by law are not allowed to appear in court, why should I be penalized by filing an annual P2,000 contribution?

    If I work in a Barrio or some far-flung region away from the Courts, should I venture into the City just to comply with this Free Legal Service, but will cost me board and lodging expenses?

    Common, what is the SC really up to? Is this FAIR?

    Would somebody please explain to me the wisdom of this Rule by addressing the questions stated above?

    The IBP National Convention is coming up this March. Lawyers make a stand on this issue!

  2. 2 ladylawyer Feb 19th, 2009 at 9:35 am

    60 hours of involuntary servitude! Is that even constitutional?!!! That’s taking of liberty and property without due process of law!

    I don’t even spend that much time in court! and 60 pleadings? one pleading equivalent to an hour?!!! they gotta be kidding.

    The lawyers would be compelled to take cases and do hopshod work just to comply with the circular. Good legal service would be sacrificed.

    What is the matter with these people?

    It is certain that a lot of lawyers would rather find “ways and means” than to actually comply with this circular.

    The circular is just so twisted if you ask me.

  3. 3 reason Feb 24th, 2009 at 4:15 am

    The IBP should be credited for this mindless unreasonable and onerous imposition on lawyers.

    In actuality, the rule merely targets litigation lawyers. Pleadings not bearing the compliance with this rule will be considered sham pleadings. What about other types of lawyers who just stay in their office providing advice on corporate or tax or intellectual property matters and who earn even more than litigation lawyers, they will not be required to render legal aid service. What they have to do is just pay P4,000.00.

    Even assuming that the imposition of free legal service has a valid cause, 60 hours is too much. If you are required to render service of at least 5 hours a month, you may end up attending 5 hearings in a month. Attending a hearing for this hypocritical cause precludes you from attending other cases. So 5 hearings may translate to 5 days. That is already 25% of one’s court activities. This is on the assumption that a lawyer has cases to attend everyday. In my case, I only attend about 15 hours of court and quasi-judicial appearances in a year. Now, would it be practical for me to serve out the required 60 hours just to be able to attend to the occasional requirements of my client?

    Also, if a lawyer has confined his practice to SEC and Patent Office cases, that presumably has no pauper litigants, will the Court still compel them to render the free legal service in courts and quasi-judicial bodies, even if the lawyer has already lost touch on court litigation process on account of his specialized practice?

    Litigation is a hard work, you do not just go to court without appraising yourself of the issues of the case. You have to prepare for court appearances. There are lawyers who can prepare fast and there are those whose preparations are lengthy. Will not the court also consider time spent for preparation?

    Moreover, what if after rendering 60 hours of involuntary servitude, will you just abandon the pauper litigant to mend for himself or endorse the case to a PAO lawyer? To do so would be a contravention of one’s professional ethics. So now, when does one’s servitude end?

    These matters, among others, should first be clearly taken into consideration before making the present imposition. The IBP that is supposed to be the premier organization of lawyers should be more circumspect in their recommendations. Please be more considerate and rational in the future.

  4. 4 Integrity Feb 24th, 2009 at 4:42 am

    Here we see how infallible human beings are. The SC cannot do this to us even if it is called the “supreme” court. The SC cannot violate our constitutional rights. Malamang hindi napag isipan ng mabuti ito. So instead of getting irritated, let us do something about it.

    The law itself is void, obvious naman. So do not worry companeros, this law cannot stand and will certainly be destroyed in totality. The SC will understand. Soon, the SC will be bombarded with petitions against the implementation of this law.

    Here are some of the objections against this law that I can think of.

    1. To compel lawyers to render 60 hours of service, whether paid or not, for whatever noble purpose, by threat of punishment is clearly a violation of an individual’s freedom from involuntary servitude.

    2. To compel only lawyers, excluding all other professionals, to help the poor is a violation of equal protection clause. I am not sure of this, but is there any other profession that is being required to render free services?

    3. Under BM 2012, lawyers who are not covered by the law are required to pay a contribution of 2K/4K. That is simply unfair. A practicing lawyer would be required to work for 60 hours while those who are not covered will only pay 2k/4k. Is 60 hours of professional service of a lawyer equivalent to 4k? Not to mention the cash that a

  5. 5 Integrity Feb 24th, 2009 at 5:06 am

    lawyer would necessarily take from his own pocket in attending hearings.

    Well, I am not saying that those who are excluded should pay more. They should not be forced to contribute at all in fact. Whether the force is to contribute money or labor, the law is still unconstitutional.

    4. Under BM 2012, a lawyer who fails to comply with the law will be summoned to explain why he was not able to comply. In short, each and every year for the rest of my life that I fail to comply with the law, either by my failure to pay the contribution or render 60 hrs of service, the IBP would bother me to explain and give reasons for non-compliance. If that is the case, the IBP would be like my annual diary! What if my reasons for non-compliance are so much personal that I would not like to tell anybody? What if my reason, is simply that I do not have a budget to comply because I stayed home for the whole year or that my practice was limited? Should I reveal that? That I don not have money? Is that not humiliating and a violation of

  6. 6 Integrity Feb 24th, 2009 at 7:15 am

    my privacy?

    The law is not only a violation of one’s freedom from involuntary servitude, but in practical ways, will affect other freedoms too.

    I have the right to travel whenever and wherever and for how long I please, I have the right to practice, not to practice and to practice again, I have the right to go out of my house, work and make money but I also have the right to seclude myself within the four corners of my home and serve my parents and family and then work again, I have the right to be rich, to be poor and to be rich again, but with this law, the profession has become an iron chain around my neck suffocating me to work all year round to help the poor when I myself have the right to live in poverty without anybody asking me to explain.

    The law will affect each one’s decisions in life since there would be a YEARLY compliance. Unlike the ibp dues wherein a lawyer may delegate anybody to pay the yearly dues in his behalf, or for more convenience, he pay a lifetime membership so that he would not be bothered to go every year to the ibp office, BM 2012 requires a lawyer’s personal presence or involvement by filing a sworn compliance each and every year. Burdensome…

    5. Free legal services will encourage litigation. It will clog the dockets more.

    6. Under BM 2012, 1 pleading is equivalent to 1 hour credit. This is simply unrealistic.

    7. The profession will more likely lose its dignity when the services of a lawyer are now for free. The legal profession is being regarded as one of the prestigious professions in the country because of the value of the work that a lawyer does. As a consequence he is being paid higher than a regular worker. Free legal services will undermine the work of a lawyer. Kung ang NFA rice nga binabayaran ng mahihirap, aba at tayong mga abogado, libre n?

    8. BM 2012 is very difficult to comply. Another law to violate…

    9. Under BM 2012, the contributions/penalties will accrue to the ibp funds. Another door for corruption. Ako ang nagtanim, nag-ani at nagluto, iba ang kumain.

    10. Under BM 2012, failure to indicate in a pleading the compliance number will cause the dismissal of the case and expunction of the pleading. Very very essential in litigation is the filing of pleadings,thus, to expunge a pleading for this cause is deprivation of the lawyers privilege to practice law without due process of law since a judge could easily strike a pleading with impunity because of this law. And this, the judge could do even before the proceeding with the ibp against the lawyer is concluded. Then, what if the pleading that I intend to file is for the pauper litigant? He he… Strike it as you please!

    etc. etc.

    Setting aside all the impracticalities of this law, what really bothers me is that it affects my freedom. The thought of being forced to do what i do not like to do is something very big for me. No offense to the poor. I have much more valuable things to offer you than free legal services…

  7. 7 ruelb1 Jun 25th, 2009 at 5:38 am

    Thankfully, the SC has deferred the implementation of BM 2012 until next year. Here is the link: http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/news/courtnews%20flash/2009/06/06230901.php

    We hope everyone can convince the IBP to fight for its abolition.

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