SENATOR Rafael “Raffy” T. Tulfo has filed a bill seeking to establish a program providing free tuition and other school fees for law students who will be required to work for government after they pass the bar exam.
The measure requires the establishment of a Free Legal Education Program in all state universities and colleges with a law program for students who will meet the qualifications.
Scholars under Senate Bill 1610 or the Free Legal Education Act of 2023, filed on Dec. 14, will be required to render return service for two years at the Public Attorney’s Office or any government agency in need of lawyers.
“The requirement to render return service in the public sector shall pave the way for a sustainable human resource deployment in the public sector that is critical for the nation’s justice system,” Mr. Tulfo said in the bill’s explanatory note.
Government academic institutions will be mandated to create a mechanism ensuring that the provisions of the proposed law, relative to tuition and other school fees subsidy, will not apply to students with the financial capacity to pay for their education.
“One of the reasons for lack of access to justice in the Philippines is the shortage of practicing lawyers (in government),” Mr. Tulfo said in a statement on Tuesday, citing that there are currently about 2,500 clients for every lawyer, far from the ideal ratio of 250:1.
The senator noted that many law students, especially those from poor families, are unable to complete their studies as costs reach up to P98,000 per semester in top private legal educational institutions.
Tuition fees in state universities can cost up to P30,000, excluding all living expenses and other necessities.
Mr. Tulfo said law students, who are already bachelor’s degree holders, are not eligible for scholarships under the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act of 2017. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan