A BILL protecting lawyers in the exercise of their profession was filed in Congress by a Cebuano legislator.

House Bill (HB) 9882 or “Protecting the Practice of Law Act” was filed by Deputy House Speaker Pablo John “PJ” Garcia in the House of Representatives in July 2021.

Garcia, a lawyer, represents the third district of Cebu.

He said the bill creates the Council for the Protection of Lawyers that will “coordinate and oversee” efforts of the government to protect law practitioners in carrying out their duties.

The bill also provides a list of prohibited acts against lawyers and the corresponding “stiff” penalties.

Garcia said under his proposed legislation, the Council, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) will have their own rules and responsibilities.

For instance, the IBP will be responsible for providing legal assistance through its legal aid program and maintaining a reward fund for informants and witnesses who can help in the resolution of cases probed under the Act.

Under the bill, unlawful interference in the practice of law or the direct or indirect vilifying, persecuting, coercing, threatening, or harassing of law practitioners will be considered a prohibited act punishable by prision mayor (six years and one day to 12 years imprisonment) or reclusion temporal (12 years and one day to 20 years imprisonment) if the offender is a public officer or employee.

Moreover, it will be unlawful for public officers or employees to ask for the names of lawyers representing an accused or other similar acts. Such would be punishable by reclusion temporal under Garcia’s bill.

Other prohibited acts that would carry a stiffer penalty are physical injuries and murder.

According to HB 9882, physical injuries like mutilation, administering injurious substances, and serious physical injuries, among others will be punished two degrees higher than is provided under the Revised Penal Code, while fines to be imposed will be tripled.

Murder will be punished by reclusion perpetua (20 years up to 40 years of imprisonment) and a fine of P3 million. (WBS)