MANILA — A measure seeking to give tax breaks to lawyers providing pro bono services to indigenous peoples has been filed in the lower House.
House Bill 7867, authored by lawmakers Paolo Duterte and Eric Yap, mandates the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples to appoint counsel de oficio for indigenous cultural communities (ICC) or IPs with pending cases before it.
But one lawyer asserted that indigenous peoples' lawyers faced more pressing issues than tax.
"I would like to remind the legislators that most indigenous peoples' lawyers are pro bono lawyers. They take chicken, they take wheat, they take produce as payment," lawyer Kristina Conti, secretary-general of National Union of Peoples Lawyers-National Capital Region, told ANC's "Rundown"
"Many indigenous peoples' community actually engage lawyers from their own ranks rather than pay for an outsider to represent them," she said.
While there is a compelling state interest to help indigenous peoples' lawyers, Konti noted that having legal representation is not the major concern for indigenous peoples.
"It's a fact that they're being killed on the ground," she said.
"A lot of indigenous peoples' defenders are killed, harassed, red-tagged and that's the issue that should be squarely faced at first."