Thursday, January 26, 2017

Exemption from payment of legal fees is only granted to indigent litigants

The clear intent and precise language of the aforequoted provisions of the Rules of Court indicate that only a natural party litigant may be regarded as an indigent litigant. The Good Shepherd Foundation, Inc., being a corporation invested by the State with a juridical personality separate and distinct from that of its members, is a juridical person. Among others, it has the power to acquire and possess property of all kinds as well as incur obligations and bring civil or criminal actions, in conformity with the laws and regulations of their organization. As a juridical person, therefore, it cannot be accorded the exemption from legal and filing fees granted to indigent litigants.

That the Good Shepherd Foundation, Inc. is working for indigent and underprivileged people is of no moment. Clearly, the Constitution has explicitly premised the free access clause on a person’s poverty, a condition that only a natural person can suffer.

There are other reasons that warrant the rejection of the request for exemption in favor of a juridical person. For one, extending the exemption to a juridical person on the ground that it works for indigent and underprivileged people may be prone to abuse (even with the imposition of rigid documentation requirements), particularly by corporations and entities bent on circumventing the rule on payment of the fees. Also, the scrutiny of compliance with the documentation requirements may prove too time-consuming and wasteful for the courts.

In view of the foregoing, the Good Shepherd Foundation, Inc. cannot be extended the exemption from legal and filing fees despite its working for indigent and underprivileged people. (In re: Query of Mr. Roger C. Prioreschi Re Exemption from Legal and Filing Fees of the Good Shepherd Foundation, Inc., A. M. No. 09-6-9-SC, August 19, 2009)

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