On July 8, 2022, ABA ROLI and the Cebu Province Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) kicked off their expanded Legal Aid Caravan (LAC) at the Binghay Sports Complex in Balamban, Cebu. The event was officially opened by former American Bar Association President Paulette Brown, ABA ROLI Philippines country director Peter Mackenzie, IBP Cebu Chapter president Atty. Cheryl Palacao-Condat, and members of IBP’s national leadership.
The LAC is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of ABA ROLI’s five-year “Access to Justice and Support for the Rule of Law” (ACCESS) program, which seeks to ensure that justice is not denied to any Filipino citizen regardless of geography, economic hardship, education, or disability. Eighty-seven volunteer lawyers and two paralegals provided free legal aid to marginalized clients, including indigenous peoples, the indigent, senior citizens, women, and children in need of legal aid. This LAC also included the provision of basic medical services for young boys and adults with visual limitations.
In her remarks at the opening ceremony, Atty. Brown stated, “I’d like to really commend the [IBP] and the [volunteers] for doing this … I am so inspired and so overwhelmed by the willingness of so many lawyers and doctors to give up their time and their energy to provide these services.”
Atty. Palacao-Condat added that “when [lawyers] see their leaders conducting legal aid and being on the ground with them, doing the work with them, they can see that we are open to talking to regular Joes. They will also see that we are sincere… [which] also attracts sincere people.”
Mr. Mackenzie emphasized that “We at ABA ROLI share IBP’s goal of bolstering access to justice for every Filipino. We believe that IBP lawyers’ commitment to making justice accessible to the people and raising their awareness of their rights will lead to more active broad-based participation in the justice system and a stronger healthier rule of law.”
To maximize the communities’ opportunity to receive legal aid, in addition to the counselling services provided, the volunteer lawyers drafted 610 documents, and notarized 481 documents. Various services from government line agencies including the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Philippine Statistics Authority’s Philippine Identification System Project (PhilSys), and the Registry of Deed were also made available. Most notably, the local civil registrar accepted 245 applications to correct legal documents.
One of the beneficiaries, Emilia Bareno from Baliwagan Balamban, needed an affidavit of loss for the registration of her child but could not afford lawyer’s fees.