Monday, 20 Nov 2017
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Tales from the empowered barrios

 

1:  Women ‘fight’ back vs. batterers
Women in Barangay Naranggasan in Milagros, Masbate are using their newfound knowledge of the law to prevent domestic violence.

Trained paralegals in the area have been drafting Barangay Protection Orders themselves as provided for in RA 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children law.  They learned after through a training program by the alternative legal NGO Saligan and Plan Philippines, which includes courses on criminal law, environmental protection, agrarian reform, fisheries and tenancy laws, among other common rural community concerns. 
“Our paralegals have significantly helped facilitate access to justice among the poor,” said Saligan’s Aison Garcia.
Pacienca Venzal of Tudela in Camotes, Cebu admits that in the past her husband had thrice wielded a knife against her. “Now that I know the law, whenever he gets mad at me I tell him that he can never do that again,” she had warned.

The men are also doing their part. Alexander Paul Dagatan, also of Tudela, has provided legal assistance to five women in one family that have been victims of incest, and a special child raped by a 70-year-old man. 
“There are more people to help. They need to be educated and informed about our laws and the importance of their rights,” Dagatan added.
With 73 other paralegals from Masbate, Cebu and Samar, Venzal and Dagatan will be at the Celestial Inn in Antipolo for a national conference dubbed as ” Paralegal sa Kanayunan Tungo sa Makatarungang Kinabukasan.” Dean Marvic Leonen of the UP College of Law delivered the keynote speech and women’s rights advocate, Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros gave the inspirational message in the afternoon.

 

2: Poro town says no to water rate hike

Locals of Eastern Poblacion in Poro, Cebu have taken the law into their own hands but not in the way you would think. 
In February 2007 the Sangguniang Barangay released an ordinance increasing the water rate from P3 to P16 per cubic meter. Like many residents, Maximo Claros found it too high and launched a signature campaign in protest. A trained paralegal, he then attended the third reading of the ordinance by the Sangguniang Barangay and delivered a speech resulting in its postponement and review prior to implementation.
“This [paralegal training] changed my life and I told myself, ‘Why not help other people especially our barangay?’ So I started attending sessions and other barangay activities,” said Claros, who has helped settle many fights among neighbors through alternative dispute resolution. 
From December 1 to 4, Claros and other paralegals from Cebu, Masbate, and Samar will be at the Celestial Inn in Antipolo for  a national conference dubbed as ” Paralegal sa Kanayunan Tungo sa Makatarungang Kinabukasan.” They were participants of a three-year paralegal training program by the alternative legal NGO Saligan and Plan Philippines, which includes courses on criminal law, environmental protection, agrarian reform, fisheries and tenancy laws, among other common rural community concerns. 

At Barangay Solsogon in Gandara, Samar, one of their graduates sought redress from the Barangay Council by drafting an ordinance upon receiving complaints against gambling dens in the area. This led to the closure of the illegal operations after the ordinance was passed.  

Another paralegal, Mansueta Leondico opposed small-scale mining in four barangays of Pilar by citing that no public hearings and consultations were conducted prior to the project launch as mandated by law. There was also no compliance on several prerequisites provided for in RA 7076, which she raised during their Parish Pastoral Council meetings. 

She added, “Many people in our barangay have come to me for advice and information on legal matters.” Others like Leondico since completing their training have also helped neighbors that cannot afford lawyers.  

“Our paralegals have significantly helped facilitate access to justice among the poor,” said Saligan’s Aison Garcia. 

Government officials including Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros and legal officers of various line agencies attended their three-day conference in support of the project and its participants.

 

3:  GOVERNMENT LAUDED PARALEGALS

The Supreme Court cited the achievements of a group of trained paralegals from Cebu, Masbate and Samar.

Seventy five of the 146 graduates of a three-year training course conducted by alternative legal NGO Saligan and Plan Philippines received the commendation during their national conference, ”Paralegal sa Kanayunan Tungo sa Makatarungang Kinabukasan” from December 2 to 4 at the Celestial Inn in Antipolo. The activity was aimed at determining the next steps for the project by discussing their experiences as trained paralegals and common sectoral concerns in their communities.

Guests of honor Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros and Dean Marvic Leonen took part in the conference and acknowledge the group’s contributions in facilitating access to justice by the poor.

Emma Gutierrez of Sta. Margarita, Samar shares extending assistance to neighbors in need of legal services that most cannot afford. “I now know how to prepare affidavits and handle cases myself,” she added.


Paralegals like Gutierrez have helped address rampant child trafficking in the province. Upon receiving information that a woman had sold her two daughters to a white slavery agent, the paralegal immediately contacted a local NGO and the National Bureau of Investigation, which led to a sting operation in Matnog town in Bicol.

After the rescue, cases were filed against the perpetrators. “Knowledge of proper procedures empowers these communities to take action,” said Saligan lawyer Aison Garcia. 
At Barangay Solsogon in Gandara, Samar, one of their graduates sought redress from the Barangay Council by drafting an ordinance upon receiving complaints against gambling dens in the area. This put a stop to the illegal operations after the ordinance was passed.

In addition to lobbying for legislation, trained paralegals promote the rule of law and alternative dispute resolution, earning notice from other representatives of key government agencies including the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and the Commission on Human Rights, attended the three-day event.