On November 20, 2021, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) and its partner the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) conducted its inaugural legal aid caravan for indigenous peoples (IPs). The event was part of ABA ROLI’s ACCESS to Justice and Support for the Rule of Law program (ACCESS program), a five-year year project supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Two of the ten planned legal aid clinics took place in Dinalupihan, Bataan and Barangay Busdi, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon on November 20 and 24, respectively. Atty. Charina P. Ramos, IBP Bataan Chapter President, and Atty. Heinz Guderian Villanueva, IBP Bukidnon Chapter President each led their respective legal aid clinics. Local chapters of the IBP will organize the other eight legal aid clinics with ABA ROLI, which will provide legal counselling services to attendees from various local IP communities in selected IBP chapters throughout the country.
The Bataan Legal Clinic was the first in-person activity for the ACCESS program since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, and the government-imposed restrictions to curb the spread of the virus. As the number of COVID cases continue to decline in the country, and lockdown measures have eased restrictions for in-person events, ABA ROLI and IBP took the opportunity to reach out to vulnerable IP communities in-person.
Atty. Ramos welcomed more than 30 attendees from various cities and municipalities in Bataan, namely City of Balanga, Dinalupihan, Bagac, Orion, Limay, Abucay, Samal, Orani, and Mariveles. Subsequently, four volunteer lawyers and 52 indigenous peoples joined the Bukidnon leg of the caravan.