Free legal aid to frontliners pushed

A lawyer-turned politician appealed to his colleagues to provide free legal aid to the people, especially to frontliners, amid the coronavirus disease pandemic.

Rizal Rep. Fidel Nograles, a stalwart of Lakas-CMD, has called on law schools that have existing free legal aid programs to take up the cudgels for frontliners and COVID-positive patients who are victims of discrimination.

"Even as our law schools, and schools in general are grappling with the learning challenges brought about by this pandemic, baka naman puwedeng magpatuloy ang mga legal clinic natin to cater to those in need, particularly our frontliners, kasama na ang mga positive patients o kahit mga suspected o probable persons pa lang," Nograles said.

The neophyte solon has a pending bill in Congress that pushes for the mandatory establishment of free legal aid programs by all law schools in the country.

The "Legal Aid Program Act of 2019" aims to address the case backlog of the Public Attorney's Office through the programs.

The neophyte solon also earlier expressed his support for the Integrated Bar of the Philippines' commitment to defend frontliners against discrimination and human rights violations.

"Kung patuloy na mag-operate ang mga free legal clinic ng mga law schools, at least nabibigyan pa rin natin ng training ang mga future lawyers, bukod sa nakakatulong pa sa mga nangangailangan,"  Nograles said.

The lawmaker said law school administrators could even mull treating time served by students in serving in the legal aid clinics as credit for other subjects.

Just last week, the Volunteer Lawyers Against Discrimination (VLAD) was formed by alumni of the UP College of Law and is now composed of lawyers coming from more than 20 different law schools nationwide. The group helps victims of discrimination related to the pandemic, particularly patients and frontliners, including Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).