Government sets aside P200 million as legal defense fund

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The national government has set aside P200 million as legal defense fund for civil servants this year whose performance of duty may be questioned in a court of law. The amount is similar to that provided under last year’s budget when the legal defense fund (LDF) was first established.

The LDF is intended to promote the welfare and extend assistance to government personnel who, in the performance of their official functions, may face administrative, civil, or criminal charges before courts, for which they incur actual expenses, including payment of premiums for posting of bail bonds and cash advance for expenses incurred in the defense of
their cases.

More often, government employees find themselves facing administrative charges for grave misconduct and neglect of duty, among others, for which they will be preventively suspended and eventually be dismissed from service, only to find in the end that the case is frivolous and baseless. Worth emphasizing is that the government employees implicated in the cases have already expended a significant amount of time and resources to their prejudice.

Pursuant to law, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) issued National Budget Circular (NBC) 566 dated December 15, 2016 (Guidelines in the utilization of the legal defense fund for fiscal year 2016 and succeeding years), which prescribes the guidelines in the use of the LDF, including the establishment of the appropriate organizational and procedural setup for its release and utilization

In order to claim against the LDF, the claimant must be an incumbent, separated, or retired government employee with plantilla position.

The authorized legal expenses that may be charged against the LDF include those incurred during the year and are limited to the amounts provided in NBC 566.

The eligible legal expenses shall be limited to the following types of expenses: (i) bail bond; (ii) transportation expenses; (iii) photocopying expenses; and (iv) acceptance, appearance and other fees charged by the claimant’s counsel, whether private or government legal counsel.

The release of the funds is subject to the favorable endorsement by each line department’s LDF claims board. The eligibility of the claimants, the expenses, as well as the amounts to be charged against the LDF, will also be determined by the LDF claims board.

The LDF may also be used for the legal assistance of bids and awards committee members and their support staff.

The DBM takes the lead in carrying out the provisions of NBC 566 in relation to Fiscal Year 2017 General Appropriations Act and calls other departments to establish their respective LDF claims boards.