Free legal service in the Philippines

An "indigent," or a person who has no means to avail the services of a lawyer, may seek free legal assistance from the following agencies:

(1) Public Attorney's Office (PAO)

"Public Attorneys" or "PAO lawyers" are required to render legal services to indigents and other persons qualified for legal assistance.

Atty. Persida V. Rueda-Acosta
Chief Public Attorney
Under the PAO Operations Manual,1 you must pass two (2) tests in order to qualify as an indigent client:

(a) Indigency test2
Your monthly "net income" or "take-home pay," that is, your gross income less statutory deductions (withholding taxes, GSIS, SSS, Pag-ibig, Philhealth premiums, etc.), must not exceed the following amounts:

i. P14,000.00 for those residing in Metro Manila;
ii. P13,000.00 for those residing in cities; and
iii. P12,000.00 for those residing in other places.

To qualify as an indigent, bring any of the following proofs of indigency:
i. Certificate of Indigency from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD);
ii. Certificate of Indigency from the Barangay where you reside; or
iii. Latest Income Tax Return (ITR) or pay slip or other proofs of income.

(b) Merit test3
The public attorney may decline your case if it appears that your case has no chance of success, or is intended merely to harass or injure the opposite party, or to work oppression or wrong.

First Come-First Served Policy
If both parties (the complainant and respondent) applied for legal assistance with the PAO and both are qualified, the first to seek assistance will be given preference.

Conflict of Interest Rule
The PAO cannot represent two (2) or more opposing parties with inconsistent interests at the same time.

For more information, visit

(2) Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines is the national organization of lawyers in the Philippines with chapters in each province or city.

The IBP also offers free legal services to indigent clients such as representation in judicial and quasi-judicial bodies, drafting of affidavits and pleadings, and legal advice or counseling.

Indigent clients who are not qualified for PAO's free legal services (not an indigent, first come-first served policy, conflict of interest rule, etc.) may visit the IBP chapter nearest them and avail of its free legal aid program. The IBP will appoint a private lawyer who will assist you free of charge.

UPDATE: As of September 1, 2017, with the effectivity of the Revised Guidelines for Continuous Trial of Criminal Cases, in case a party fails to qualify for PAO services, the IBP is now REQUIRED to provide free legal assistance to him/her. The IBP is required to submit a list of its lawyer-members to the Executive Judge for possible appointment as counsel de officio in such cases.

For more information, visit

(3) Law Schools with Legal Clinics

Some law schools in the Philippines have clinical legal education programs that offer free legal services to indigent clients. Law students who have completed their third (3rd) year of the regular four-year curriculum will handle your case under the supervision of a lawyer.4
U.P. College of Law

You may visit the following legal clinics in Metro Manila:

  1. UP College of Law - OLA (Office of Legal Aid) - Room 107, Malcolm Hall, University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City, 1101; UP College of Law Trunkline Phone No. (02) 920-5514, Office of Legal Aid - loc. 106.
  2. San Beda College of Law - Legal Aid Bureau - Mendiola, Manila. Tel. no. (02) 489-1670
  3. UST Institute of Civil Law - CJ Roberto Concepcion Legal Aid Clinic - Espana, Manila; +63(02) 731-4027 or +63(02) 406-1611 (Local 8225)
  4. San Sebastian College Institute of Law - Sebastinian Office of Legal Aid - Trunk Line: (02)734-8931 to 39, Locals: 313 and 173.
  5. Ateneo Legal Services Center (ALSC) Ateneo Professional Schools Building, 20 Rockwell Drive, Rockwell Center, Makati City, Philippines. Phone No.: +63 (02) 899-7691 ext. 2113.

*If you know other law schools near you that have legal clinics, kindly post them in the comment section below.

(4) Other agencies offering free legal services:

  1. Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Crisis Intervention Unit (CIU) Rehabilitation Unit - Tel. No.: (02) 734-8635 NCR Ugnayang Pag-asa, Legarda, Manila Tel. Nos.: (02) 734-8617 to 18
  2. Philippine National Police (PNP) Women and Children’s Concern Division (WCCD) - Tel. No.: (02) 723-0401 loc. 3480 Call or text 117 (PATROL 117)
  3. National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Violence Against Women and Children’s Desk (VAWCD) - Tel. Nos.: (02) 523-8231 loc. 3403
  4. DOJ Public Attorney’s Office Women's Desk - Tel. Nos.: (02) 929-9010; 929-9436 to 37
  5. Philippine General Hospital (PGH) Women’s Desk - Tel. Nos.: (02) 524-2990; 521-8450 loc. 3816
  6. Women’s Crisis Center Women and Children Crisis Care & Protection Unit – East Avenue Medical Center (WCCCPU-EAMC) - Tel. Nos.: (02) 926-7744; 922-5235  

1 Read the PAO Operations Manual

2 Read Section 3, PAO Operations Manual.

3 Read Section 2, PAO Operations Manual.

4 Read Rule 138-A, Rules of Court

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