House okays bill on expanded legal aid to OFWs

December 1, 2023 Jester P. Manalastas 169 views

THE House of Representatives approved on third and final reading a measure that will amend the current laws by expanding the scope of legal aid extended to overseas Filipinos and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

House Bill (HB) No. 9035, which got 246 votes, seeks to expand the use of the Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) and the Agarang Kalinga at Saklolo Para sa mga OFWs na Nangangailangan (AKSYON) Fund to be managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), respectively.

“Our overseas Filipinos are our modern-day heroes. Their immeasurable contributions to our country, their families, and communities merit the utmost protection from the government. This measure aims to do just that: protect them at all stages of the legal proceedings, from investigation to trial proper and even after,” Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez said.

HB 9035 differentiates the jurisdiction of the DFA and the DMW on using their respective legal aid funds: overseas Filipinos for the DFA and OFWs for the DMW.

The measure amends Section 26 of Republic Act (RA) No. 8042 or the “Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995,” to expand the scope of the LAF from being utilized only for legal aid to “consular assistance” for overseas Filipinos.

“The expenditures to be charged against the Legal Assistance Fund shall include the fees for the foreign lawyers to be hired to represent overseas Filipinos facing charges, expenses for the filing of labor and/or criminal cases against erring or abusive employers or other persons abroad, bail bonds to secure the temporary releases and other litigation expenses,” the bill read.