chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
June 12, 2022

ABA ROLI and IBP hold the 6th Legal Aid Caravan for Indigenous Peoples in Palawan

The American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) jointly organized their 6th Legal Aid Caravan (LAC) for indigenous peoples in Barangay Bacungan in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, on May 28, 2022. 

This activity 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. The ACCESS program seeks to ensure that opportunities for justice are not denied to any Filipino citizen by reason of geography, economic hardship, education, or other disabilities. To realize this objective, ABA ROLI supports IBP’s work to promote and institutionalize pro bono legal aid services.

At the caravan, 108 indigenous peoples (including 60 women) from the communities of the Tagbanua people from the Bacungan, Montible, Napsan, and Santa Lourdes Barangays in Puerto Princesa received legal aid from 22 volunteer-lawyers and eight law student volunteers from the Palawan State University, assisted by six Barangay Bacungan marshals. The activity was overseen by IBP National Center for Legal Aid (NCLA) Director Atty. Eric Alajar, IBP Palawan Chapter Vice President Atty. Susan Lacson and Palawan Chapter Legal Aid Co-Chairperson Atty. Anna Chavez-Fabro. 

ABA ROLI Country Director Peter Mackenzie opened the event, encouraging Filipino lawyers to commit to making justice accessible to the people and raising their awareness of their rights, thereby bringing about more active, broad-based participation in the justice system and a stronger, healthier rule of law. Atty. Lacson expressed IBP Palawan’s appreciation for USAID and ABA ROLI for supporting this initiative to provide free legal aid to one of the most marginalized and vulnerable groups in the Philippines, and to the volunteer lawyers and law students for providing their services.

Atty. Nesario G. Awat briefed the volunteer lawyers on the ad rem provisions of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and the culture and norms of the IP community, to ensure that the IPs’ concerns would be properly addressed. Palawan Provincial Officer for the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples Atty. Jansen Jontilla also held a learning session on indigenous people’s rights. Mr. Raul Manuel Blas from the Office of the Civil Registrar discussed the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) free registration of birth campaign with minimal requirements to encourage more Filipinos to formally register and have a valid government-issued document.  

The IP clients raised issues pertinent to their ancestral domains and ancestral lands, including those involving access to foreshores, disputable transfers of ownership to third persons, and non-compliance with the requirements of Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) principles before entering and using their land. The IPs also consulted with the IBP volunteers on the registration of births and marriages, which resulted in referrals to the Puerto Princesa Civil Registrar. 

Through the LAC, the Tagbanuas of Palawan gained a better, practical understanding of their rights and the legal services available to them and availed themselves of opportunities to consult with lawyers and make use of a referral mechanism. The activity afforded lawyers a chance to offer pro bono services, made law students more aware of the community’s needs, and allowed the National Center for Legal Aid (NCLA) to pursue its mandate of serving indigent communities.

Learn more about ABA ROLI’s work across Asia & the Pacific.