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Tax breaks for IP lawyers eyed

A bill providing tax breaks to lawyers serving as counsel for indigenous peoples (IP) has been filed in the House of Representatives.

House Bill 7867 mandates the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to appoint counsel de oficio for indigenous cultural communities (ICC) or IPs with pending cases before the government agency.

The said NCIP-appointed pro bono counsel will then be entitled to a tax-free honoraria or per diem as the NCIP provides under its rules.

Likewise, the bill provides that any member of the Philippine Bar who has rendered free legal services to the indigent ICCs of at least 100 hours within one year will be entitled to direct deduction from his income tax due in the amount of P100,000.

"In recognition of the selfless and committed efforts of these legal counsels who tirelessly give pro bono services to the underprivileged and marginalized, particularly indigent ICCs/IPs, the said legal counsels must be entitled to tax credits should deducted from their gross income," said Davao City Representative Paolo Duterte who is one of the authors of the bill. 

House Bill 7867 also seeks to amend Republic Act 8371 or The Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act of 1997, in order to institutionalize the provision of pro bono legal services to the indigent ICCs/IPs.

In addition, Duterte says his proposal is in accordance with the Constitution's Bill of Rights which guarantees the right to an independent and competent legal counsel of any person undergoing an investigation for a commission of an offense. —VAL, GMA Integrated News