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Author:  PSI LYRA STELLA VALERA

Date:  Wednesday, 22 June 2011 06:32

The PNP Legal Service (LS) spearheaded an inter-agency meeting among lawyers representing the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM), the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), an agency attached with the Department of Justice (DOJ), on June 15, 2011, Wednesday, at the LS Building, Camp Crame, Quezon City. These three offices have been partners of the PNP in implementing a legal assistance program for the benefit of PNP members facing service related cases. The LS is the office that implements the PNP Legal Assistance Program. PCSUPT HEROLD G UBALDE, Director for Legal Service, was pleased to inform his guests he is strongly advocating the legal assistance program to be the legacy project of Chief, PNP PDG RAUL M BACALZO, himself a lawyer. PDG BACALZO placed 12th in the Bar exams and became a lawyer in 1984, when he was already in the police service.

Strengthening PNP-NAPOLCOM-DOJ Partnership

In the year 2000, then Secretary of Justice Serafin Cuevas, the NAPOLCOM Chair, then Secretary Ronaldo Puno, and then Chief, PNP Police Director General Panfilo Lacson signed a Joint Memorandum Circular prescribing the rules and regulations to implement Section 49 of Republic Act 6975 as amended by Section 56 of Republic Act 8551. The law provides that “any member of the PNP who is facing before the prosecutor's office, the court or any competent body, a charge or charges arising from any incident which is related to the performance of his official duty” may be extended legal assistance by authorized lawyers coming from these three government agencies. The law also provides that the services of a private counsel may be sought in necessary cases as determined by NAPOLCOM.

After ten years, and with a more proactive stance in providing legal assistance to PNP members with service related cases, the LS now aims to revisit the provisions of this joint PNP-NAPOLCOM-DOJ Memorandum Circular, in the light of many intervening developments.

In October last year, the DOJ issued Department Circular No. 78 directing PAO to render free legal assistance to policemen from PO1 to SPO4 rank when sued in the performance of their police duties.Those with higher rank may still apply for free legal assistance from PAO so long as they qualify under its merit and indigency tests.

Policemen are likewise grateful for the continued support of NAPOLCOM to the PNP Legal Assistance Program. In 2006, an office for legal assistance was created under the Office of the NAPOLCOM Chairman. On September 26, 2008, the Commission issued Resolution No. 2008-014, providing the guidelines for grant of legal assistance under NAPOLCOM’s Legal Assistance Office (LAO).

PNP’s MOA with IBP

Meantime, in 2006, the PNP executed a memorandum of agreement with IBP on the provision of free legal assistance to PNP members. During the meeting, PSSUPT ULYSSES J ABELLERA, Deputy Director for Legal Service, intimated the desire of LS to revisit said agreement, review the parties’ obligations therein, and also seek IBP’s renewed commitment to the PNP Legal Assistance Program. PSSUPT Abellera delivered the opening remarks during the meeting.

New MOA and Simpler Procedures

The inter-agency meeting paved way for an exploratory discussion on the Joint Memorandum Circular, as well as the MOA between the PNP and IBP, with the end view of enhancing implementation of the PNP Legal Assistance Program. The group will continue to meet until the draft of a new Memorandum of Agreement is finalized. The LS shall also push for the drafting of separate guidelines that will provide for simpler rules of procedure in availing of direct legal representation from the PAO, the IBP, and NAPOLCOM.

The provision of direct legal representation is only one aspect of Project: “Katarungan”, a component project under the Legal Assistance Program (LAP), which is the cornerstone of the unit’s program thrusts for 2011. The other aspect of Project: “Katarungan” is the provision of reimbursement of legal expenses. The LAP has a total of seven proactive and reactive component projects.

Last Updated (Thursday, 23 June 2011 01:30)