Senate approves on final reading expanded legal assistance for OFWs

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 27 2020 12:25 AM

MANILA—The Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a measure allowing overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to avail of free legal assistance from embassies and foreign posts.

All 21 senators present during Wednesday's session backed Senate Bill No. 1233, which expands the use of the government's Legal Assistance Fund to cover Filipinos working abroad.

"The aim is to advance and improve not only the quality, but also the promptness of the delivery of legal assistance to our migrant workers and overseas Filipinos in distress," said Sen. Joel Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development.

"They need not look very far to seek assistance because our government will always be ready to lend a helping hand," he said in a statement.

Under the approved bill, the fund now covers fees "from the moment the case is initiated, or the proceeding is commenced, until its termination, promulgation, and execution."

The fund can also be used to help OFWs pay for "bonds aside from bail bonds required by foreign courts, tribunals or other agencies."

"This assistance extends further to all appeals taken on these cases, thereby guaranteeing full and complete support to distressed Filipinos overseas," the senator said.

Under this year's budget, about P201.34 million is earmarked for legal services to help overseas Filipinos and migrant workers in distress.