/ 18 January 2023

SENATE Majority Leader Joel Villanueva filed a bill that aims to provide scholarships for aspiring lawyers.

Senate Bill 1639 seeks to amend Republic Act 7662, or the Legal Education Reform Act of 1993, by including provisions for the establishment of a Legal Scholarship and Return Service Program.

Under the measure, the LSRS will provide free tuition and other school fees; allowance for prescribed books, uniform, dormitory or boarding house and transportation; review fees, including Bar examination application fees; annual medical insurance and other education-related miscellaneous fees.

Scholars shall render at least one year of return service for every scholarship year availed of through the PAO or other government offices in need of lawyers. They will be granted the appropriate civil service rank, salary and benefits.

“There is definitely a need for more public defenders in the country as we only have 2,500 Public Attorneys Office or PAO lawyers and each lawyer handles 5,300 cases per year,” Villanueva said.

As of 2016, the lawyer to population ratio in the Philippines is 1: 2,500, much higher than that in the United States with one lawyer serving 248 residents, Italy with one lawyer serving 260 and Germany with one lawyer serving 560.

Villanueva said that the scholarship program will be similar to the Doktor Para sa Bayan Act established under Republic Act 11509, which he principally authored and sponsored last Congress.

“We took inspiration in crafting this measure from our Doktor para sa Bayan Act which provides scholarships to deserving students in state universities and colleges and partner private higher education institutions,” he added.

Villanueva hopes that through the program, more students will be encouraged to pursue law.