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SENATE APPROVES OFW LEGAL ASSISTANCE FUND BILL – VILLANUEVA

With 21 affirmative votes, no negative votes and no abstention, the Senate approved on third and final reading a measure expanding the use of a fund meant for the legal assistance of more than 10 million Filipinos working abroad.

Through LeAF, the government can extend legal assistance to distressed Filipinos working abroad through Philippine embassies and foreign posts, explained Senator Joel Villanueva, principal author and sponsor of Senate Bill No. 1233.

“It is only befitting that we call this fund the LeAF because it symbolizes hope for our distressed kababayans overseas. They need not look very far to seek assistance because our government will always be ready to lend a helping hand,” Villanueva said.

The chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development thanked colleagues for supporting the bill, which was filed under Committee Report No. 30.

The measure, which seeks to amend Section 26 of the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, expands the use of the Legal Assistance Fund that the government taps to cover various costs of overseas Filipinos who initiate or is impleaded in any type of case abroad.

In 2020, a total of P201.34 million is available for the provision on legal services to help overseas Filipinos and migrant workers in distress.

“The measure mandates the availability of the fund at all times for the use of distressed overseas Filipinos.” 

Outlining the amendments to provisions on the LeAF in RA 8042, the veteran legislator said the measure mandates the availability of the fund at all times for the use of distressed overseas Filipinos and migrant workers.

“This assistance extends further to all appeals taken on these cases.”

“It further clarifies that such assistance shall be given from the moment the case is initiated, or the proceeding is commenced, until its termination, promulgation, and execution. This assistance extends further to all appeals taken on these cases, thereby guaranteeing full and complete support to distressed Filipinos overseas,” the seasoned lawmaker said.

The senator also pointed out that the measure seeks to expand the coverage of the fund to include other bonds aside from bail bonds required by foreign courts, tribunals or other agencies.

Another amendment introduced in the measure is the grant of authority to the head of mission of the Philippine embassy concerned instead of the home office to use the fund to hire foreign lawyers to serve the needs of distressed overseas Filipinos and migrant workers.

Villanueva said the aim of the amendment 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.

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