Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has reintroduced a measure seeking to protect licensed and qualified volunteers from liability in the performance of their noble duties and functions in times of emergency situations, including disasters.
In filing Senate Bill (SB) No. 1285, De Lima said the government should provide a conducive and enabling legal environment for volunteers by placing mechanisms that will protect their rights and award them with privileges for their contribution to society.
“These volunteers deserve to be protected and be given due recognition because of their contribution to society, especially in crisis situations,” she added.
“By setting up a conducive and enabling legal environment for volunteers, it is hoped that this will encourage more volunteers to participate and to take an active role in nation-building,” she added.
While there are existing laws promoting volunteerism in the country, the lady Senator from Bicol explained that none of these legislations ensure specific protection for qualified and registered volunteers responding to disasters and emergencies.
“The current body of legislation does not provide safeguards which can protect the volunteers from liability which may range from fines, detention and even criminal liability, depending on the gravity of the act or omission done by the volunteer in responding to an emergency situation,” she said.
Under De Lima’s measure, no volunteer shall be liable for harm caused by an act or omission if he/she was acting in an emergency, was properly licensed or accredited, acted within the scope of his/her responsibilities, and acted under orders or direction of appropriate government authority.
To be exempted from liability, volunteers must be properly licensed, certified or authorized by the appropriate government authorities or accredited by and registered with the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency prior to deployment.
De Lima, however, pointed out that spontaneous volunteers or untrained persons performing voluntary work who acted in an emergency situation, where there are no government authority or trained volunteers present, in order to assist or care for persons who are in imminent danger, injured, or suffering from an illness, should also not to be held liable for harm under SB No. 1285.
In her proposed measure, to be known as the “Emergency Volunteer Protection Act of 2020,” the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development also sought to grant an additional insurance coverage to all qualified volunteers for disability, medical attention, and even death benefits should they perish in the line of duty.