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PIA Press Release

Gov't pushes measure to help poor litigants

by Jemin B. Guillermo

Roxas City (2 February) -- The House of Representatives has approved a measure to help poor litigants.

In its online news, the House of Representatives recently approved on third and final reading House Bill No. 5523, or an act exempting poor litigants from posting bail when charged with non-capital offenses for the first time.

The bill says that a litigant is considered poor if his income falls below the poverty threshold as defined by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and if he cannot afford, in a sustained manner, to provide for his and his family's minimum basic needs of food, health, education, clothing, housing, and other essential necessities.

Under the bill, the court shall likewise automatically consider an accused as a poor litigant when his daily wage rate is lower that the prevailing wage rate implemented by the National Capital Region (NCR).

The bill, to be known as the "Poor Litigants Equalization Act of 2008", seeks to exempt poor litigants from posting bail on their first offense, provided, that the crime committed is not punishable by an imprisonment of not more than six years.

The poor litigants shall be released on recognizance under such terms and conditions as the court may impose.

Recognizance can be made by a duly registered non-governmental organization, a faith based organization, a Barangay Official, a member of the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Local Social Welfare Development Officer.

Any poor litigant released on recognizance shall appear and present himself or herself before the court whenever required. Failure to do so without valid or reasonable grounds shall make him lose his rights ipso facto and would get him arrested.

Rev. Joseph Gilbert Violago of the 2nd District of Nueva Ecija and one of the bill's authors said that poor litigants always bear the brunt of the consequence of the crime committed.

Violago stressed that the enactment of the bill into law will provide the litigant equal protection of the law and enable him to exercise his right to temporary liberty which is enjoyed by persons convicted of a crime but who are granted pardon.

The other authors of the bill are Reps. Pangalian Balindong of 2nd District, Lanao del Sur; Giorgidi Aggabao of 4th District, Isabela; Pablo Garcia of 2nd District, Cebu City; Matias Defensor of 3rd District, Quezon City; Jose Solis of 2nd District, Sorsogon; George Arnaiz of 2nd District, Negros Oriental; and Faysah Dumarpa of 1st District, Lanao del Sur. (PIA) [top]

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