Access to Legal Aid and Paralegal Services, Rights Awareness, and Conflict Transformation Mechanisms
Since 2011, the Conflict Sensitive Resource and Asset Management (COSERAM) Program supports an integrated approach of poverty reduction and peace building in the region of Caraga and other conflict-affected areas in the Philippines. The COSERAM Program is a joint undertaking of the Philippine and German Governments, implemented by GIZ and partner agencies. The core process on Access to Legal Aid and Paralegal Services, Rights Awareness, and Conflict Transformation Mechanisms (LAPSRA), brings together the mainstream legal system and indigenous customary laws to create mutual awareness of the rights and duties of communities under existing mandated mechanisms and widen their access to legal and paralegal services. In close coordination with government agencies, local government units (LGUs), volunteer lawyers, and law students, conflict sensitive legal assistance and paralegal services are achieved.
Access to legal service is a right, not a privilege. The Bill of Rights of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that free access to the courts and quasi-judicial bodies as well as adequate legal assistance shall not be denied to any person by reason of poverty. Hence, barangay-based institutions are made operational with a view of ensuring access to effective, and high quality legal and paralegal services, such as the Katarungang Pambarangay (KP). The following needs have been identified to provide indiscriminate access to legal services:
- Increased recognition of indigenous processes to resolve disputes between and amongst Indigenous Peoples (IPs) and non-IPs.
- To explore the interfacing of mainstream legal system with customary laws of certain Indigenous Cultural Communities/ Indigenous Peoples (ICCs/IPs).
- Strengthened capacities of stakeholders to widen access to legal assistance and paralegal services.
- Sustainability of initial gains and mainstreaming of innovative processes, tools, and methodologies through various institutions, such as academe and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).
LAPSRA is divided into four sub-processes in order to achieve its goals: a) building capacities for a gender-responsive, child-friendly, culture- and conflict-sensitive barangay justice system, b) improving access to legal aid and paralegal services for marginalized groups through academe, c) integrating Conflict Sensitivity (CS)/Conflict Transformation (CT) discourses into the standard law curricula, and d) strengthening rights awareness mechanisms and processes on a regional and national level.
With the help of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Caraga, capacities of the barangay-based institutions are enhanced, and their functions are interfaced with indigenous political structures or customary laws.
Improved rights awareness, and effective legal assistance and para-legal services are provided by volunteer lawyers of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), while marginalized communities have access to legal aid programs of academic institutions, such as the Father Saturnino Urios University (FSUU)-Urian Legal Assistance Program (ULAP), Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU)-Legal Aid Office (LAO), San Sebastian College Recolletos-Surigao City Campus, Liceo de Cagayan University (LCU). To sustain the services, CSOs partner with these academe-based legal aid programs.
Through the Legal Education Board (LEB), peace and conflict discourses are mainstreamed in the model curriculum by integrating conflict sensitivity and conflict transformation into resource materials and teaching methodologies. Conflicts are resolved through the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms including customary laws of ICCs/IPs. Meanwhile, constructive dialogues among line agencies are proactively addressing resource-use conflicts at the community level such as the Joint Regional/Provincial Committees mandated by the JAO 01-2012 (DAR-Department of Agrarian Reform, DENR, LRA, NCIP).
- A KP Guide with training modules is used by the Local Government Operation’s Officers (LGOOs), barangay chairmen, volunteer lawyers and law students to make KPs gender-responsive, child-friendly, culture and conflict sensitive.
- Volunteer lawyers and law students provide conflict sensitive legal assistance and paralegal services to partner communities.
- Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representation (IPMR) at local government units (LGUs) effectively represent their communities’ concerns.
- Law Colleges produce conflict sensitive graduates.
- Convergent mechanisms (e.g. JAO 01-2012) are effectively resolving resource-use conflicts in a sensitive manner.
Lead Executing Partners:
Academic institutions for the legal aid program, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
Other drivers of the Process:
Civil society organizations (CSOs), Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples (ICCs/IPs, barangay local government units (BLGUs), line agencies: Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and Local Registration Authority (LRA)
Marginalized population especially the Indigenous Peoples and barangay folks
January 2011-December 2018