I’m not sure if other professionals are required to render free service to the community. Lawyers, on the other hand, are now required to provide free legal aid service. The Supreme Court recently issued the Rule on Mandatory Legal Aid Service. As provided under Bar Matter No. 2012, all practicing lawyers must render a minimum of sixty (60) hours of free legal aid services to indigent litigants in a year. The minimum amount of time is spread within twelve (12) months, which means that a practicing lawyer must render a minimum of five (5) hours of free legal aid services each month.
Not all lawyers are covered. The Rule defines a practicing lawyer —
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.
The Rule on Mandatory Legal Aid Service, which was published in the PhilStar and Inquirer on 14 February 2009, takes effect on 1 July 2009. A subsequent en banc Resolution, however, deferred the effectivity to 1 January 2010.
For the full text of Bar Matter No. 2012, please click here. (As an aside, you may have noticed that the url of the Supreme Court website was changed, from www.supremecourt.gov.ph to http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/). I see a very interesting and passionate debate on this issue (please use the comment section below). The poll is also found below.