“If there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers”. – Charles Dickens
That is one of those quotes that indicate our knowledge of the term lawyer, and not surprisingly, I can almost determine that a lot of us think of lawsuits right away whenever we hear this term. Apparently, lawyers are solely often thought of as defenders – which, in any sense, they are – but there is so much more about them than being defenders alone.
It may not be common knowledge but lawyers can actually greatly affect a country’s economic growth and development. To exterminate a nation’s poverty and encourage its growth, certain skill sets are needed, and its people’s broad understanding of the law and comprehensive thinking are absolutely part of these. Sadly, in the Philippines, many Filipinos lack awareness of our laws and constitutions. One good proof of this is a survey in 2018 that said three out of four Filipinos are not familiar with the 1987 Constitution, which could greatly affect our decisions in voting for proposed constitutional change and amendments that can directly impact the country’s economy.
In line with the information provided above, the question still remains: how can law firms in Manila, Philippines help in improving the country’s situation?
Well, before being our defenders, our lawyers (and law firms) serve as the country’s and its citizens’ protectors first – this will be explained further later on, but first, let’s take a glimpse of what happened at a fast food drive-thru in Albuquerque in 1992. There was a woman, aged 79, who spilled a cup of McDonald’s coffee on her lap, which caused third-degree burns that required expensive medical treatments. She filed a lawsuit against McDonald’s and was granted more than $3 million in disciplinary damages. How did the jury come up with such a decision? First of all, we all know that coffee is hot, so wouldn’t it be the customer’s fault? Yes, coffee is hot and that’s understandable, however, McDonald’s coffee at that time was not only “hot” but dangerously hot (they required the franchise to hold its coffee at 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit) that’s why it caused third-degree burns. Had there been a standard of maximum temperature for hot beverages, the burns wouldn’t have happened. And this is where laws, lawyers, and lawmakers can protect us, the civilians of the country – by creating laws and regulations for our safety.
You see, even though this case seems a bit petty, or it seems as if it can’t affect the country as a whole, we can look at it this way: we all can get injured, hurt, or even die even when we’re just eating at a restaurant no matter how small the possibility is. Because of this reason, people may either not eat at restaurants at all, which would eventually cause the closure of businesses and loss of jobs, and then later affect our country’s economy.
But thank goodness for there are lawyers and lawmakers who can prevent these things from happening, and therefore save our country’s economic status, right? Customer security and business regulations are being taken care of by our Republic Act No. 7394 or The Consumer Act of the Philippines, which definitely gave consumers, business owners, and all possible investors (local or overseas) the confidence of getting protected from lawsuits and dangerous things that can occur during business transactions or product consumption.
R.A. No. 7394’s main objective is to protect the interests of every consumer, promote their overall welfare, and to build a set of standards of conduct for business and industry in the country. Let us say that what happened to McDonald’s in 1992 happens today in the Philippines – things would definitely be very different. First of all, hot coffee or any hot beverage would have already been displaying a “warning”, “caution”, or a frank statement saying “causes burns”, “hot surface”, or any other similar phrases, together with the precautionary steps describing the action to be followed or prevented. Yes, a lot of us have already probably seen these warnings and you are right, it’s because creating appropriate labels for food, drinks, and hazardous materials or substances is one of the things that are included in The Consumer Act of the Philippines.
Upon seeing this label, an old woman would have been more careful in handling her cup of coffee, and there would have been a bigger chance of preventing the accident. Or McDonald’s would have considered the welfare of their customers, followed certain regulations, and therefore wouldn’t be sued, saving them millions of cash. This is the kind of protection we all need, and this is one example of why lawyers play a vital role in the country’s economic growth. If laws and lawyers can make consumers and businessmen feel guarded and secured, businesses would feel less risky to establish and consumers would have no fear in consuming business products – which greatly helps the country.
Okay, so we are secured when it comes to food and business industry, but is that all our lawyers can offer? Definitely not! Familiar with medical malpractice? You’re right, we are going to discuss it too – how it affects our country, and how lawyers and law firms are connected to these things.
What is medical malpractice? According to the Philippines’ Anti-Medical Malpractice Act of 2004, “malpractice” refers to any personal injury (including death) caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any medical practitioner (physician, dentist, nurse, pharmacists and the likes including medical and dental technicians, nursing assistants, and therapists).
The most significant purpose of the medical profession is the protection of life and well being of the people, and medical negligence can cause any of the two, or worse, both. Sadly, no matter how vital, proving medical malpractice is one of the more complex civil cases in the Philippines. Aside from having to possess enough knowledge and understanding about the involved medical procedures, there are also legal requirements of the law that needs to be completely fulfilled. In order to successfully pursue a medical malpractice suit, the patient must prove the four elements of medical negligence: duty (the professional connection between the doctor and the patient), breach (violation of the standard of care required of other similarly trained medical professionals performing under the same conditions), injury (must be the direct outcome of the doctor’s breach), and proximate causation (the relation between the negligence of the medical practitioner and the resulting damage to the patient).
Because of these technicalities, the country’s medical tourism can get affected and tourism jobs may suffer. In 2015, International Healthcare Research Center and Medical Tourism Association (a global non-profit organization for medical tourism and international patient industry) collected a list where the Philippines earned the 8th spot for being a top medical tourism destination in the world. Our country provides to about 250,000 foreign patients every year and this number may lessen if medical malpractice remains to be difficult to prove.
Certain medical procedures are way cheaper in the Philippines compared to the US, allowing patients to save up to 90% in total cost. Though this reason alone shall be enough to attract foreign customers, better laws, guidelines, and implementation that will serve as additional security can help in enticing more patrons. More customers mean more jobs, more establishments, and more income – our country can rely on lawyers, firms, and lawmakers to make things better in this field too.
Speaking of business and income, let’s talk about our country’s business monopolies. A monopoly basically refers to an industry controlled by one corporation, firm or entity. Yes, we have a lot of monopolies in the Philippines (think about telecommunications and energy companies, the biggest banks, and retails), however, the biggest monopoly in the country is still the government itself. How can business monopolies affect our country’s economy and development? That’s the last thing that we will discuss in this article.
In 2015, the Philippines Competition Law or R.A. 10667 was passed which became the main competition policy of our country for the promotion and protection of a competitive market. Surprisingly, this law is still “new” that’s why monopoly still exists in the country until today, hindering its growth. Having a market that has a lot of competitions/competitors can be great for a country – the prices and qualities of each product or service will continuously improve as one would want to be better than the other. There will be a lot of job offers. Many people will be employed and the rate of poverty can be lessened.
The sad truth, however, is that even though constitutional outlines (1987 Constitution Section 19, Article XII and 1973 Constitution Section 2, Article XIV) about monopolies exist, the implementation of these laws is still progressing, and because of this, the country suffers. The Philippines is one of the most restrictive markets in ASEAN hence, for this reason, there is no sense of competition in the country, resulting in poor services and high charges such as:
- Having the slowest Internet rates and the highest Telco charges.
- Shipping prices are more expensive compared to neighboring countries.
- We are among the highest priced electricity globally.
But let us not lose hope. The Chairman of Philippine Competition Commission announced that current policy improvements are underway and that National Competition Policy (NCP) is being finalized. NCP is an executive order that sets a comprehensive structure that steers ordinances and regulatory procedures to promote free and fair market competition.
Creating better and comprehensive laws for the betterment of the people are something that top lawyers can do in the future, they also play a major role in improving old laws and regulations and these are some of the things that can definitely improve our country and drive its growth and development.