December 01, 2014

Alternative Dispute Resolution Trainings Broaden Lawyers’ Views

December 2014

Participants in business mediation trainings that the Asia Foundation—an ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) subgrantee—conducted between March and May say that the trainings have helped them view their roles in a new, broader way. A total of 60 private and government lawyers, as well as entrepreneurs, participated in the two trainings held in the cities of Davao and Iloilo from March 3–7 and from April 28–May 2, respectively.

Attorney Joannes Vinarao-Pilapil of Iloilo City, said that following the training, she doesn’t necessarily consider winning a case the hallmark of being an excellent lawyer. She added that the values-based mediation training helped her realize that “having a genuine desire to facilitate the resolution of conflicts is the true essence of being an ADR [alternative dispute resolution] lawyer.”

The trainings included modules compliant with the accreditation standards that the Philippine Office for Alternative Dispute Resolution set in keeping with the Republic Act No. 9285, which institutionalizes the use of ADR, and an internship program that allowed trainees to mediate actual cases in government offices.

Organized at the request of the National Mediation Center (NMC), a private mediation service provider in the Philippines, the trainings have produced 60 accredited mediators, who now serve as the center’s business mediators. Vinarao-Pilapil said that the business sector should be enlightened on the benefits of ADR as it “goes beyond the bounds of advocacy to help clients help themselves.” As an ADR lawyer, she believes she can help educate the business community about the range of options they have to settle disputes.

Araceli G. Espiritu, a loan portfolio officer with a private bank, said that the knowledge she gained from the training augments her experiences. She emphasizes that mediation has the added advantage of improving labor relations.

Another trainee, Tessie Vlummen, said, “[Mediation enhances] the capacity of the disputants to understand the position of [their] adversary.” As an NMC mediator, Vlummen said she hopes to work in the business sector, especially with small and medium enterprises to help clients to “solve business problems and to keep the relation between the disputants alive.” She added, “[I’d like to help] keep the communication channels open for future, sustainable business.”

As of September 2014, NMC business mediators successfully mediated 29 out of the 32 cases referred to their office. Twenty-seven of those cases were commercial disputes involving consumer complaints or credit issues.

Implemented by ABA ROLI and the Asia Foundation, the trainings were funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. As part of the efforts, the foundation also provided copies of a mediation handbook to local mediators in the Visayas and Mindanao regions.

To learn more about our work in the Philippines, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org.