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October 01, 2010

Small Claims Courts and Barangay Justice Advocates Collaborate to Resolve Disputes

October 2010    

On September 17, the Gerry Roxas Foundation’s Barangay Justice Peace Project (BJPP) held an event to celebrate its achievements over the past year. Backstopped by an ABA Rule of Law Initiative’s (ABA ROLI’s) conflict resolution program and funding support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the BJPP works closely with local government and civil society to reduce violent conflicts by promoting family and community peace.  The BJPP trains and mobilizes approximately 1,000 advocates to serve as mediators, peace counselors and network providers in 60 municipalities in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.  

During the event, Judge Filomena Singh of Quezon City, stressed the complementary relationship between the informal Bangaray Justice System (BJS), or Katarungang Pambarangay, and the formal justice system, including the newly implemented small claims courts. She also emphasized how the Philippine Supreme Court, USAID and ABA ROLI have worked to foster this relationship, to the benefit of the justice sector.  While the small claims court cases are relatively insignificant in terms of the value or amount being litigated, they can nonetheless cause conflicts and increase burdens on the underserved populations.

Moreover, BJPP advocates supplement the formal justice system by mediating conflicts and promoting respect among neighbors, within families, and within political rivalry systems, resolving disputes before they ripen into the violent feuds that have long plagued the region.  A 2007 study by the Gerry Roxas Foundation found that these advocates successfully settled 87% of the 1,620 disputes endorsed for mediation, 33% of which were found to be highly prone to violence. Additionally, mediation helps to ease court caseload and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the Philippine justice sector.

Rey Campang, a pastor and volunteer advocate in Davao del Sur, said that many unresolved disagreements have been passed from one generation to the next.  “I believe that successfully resolving these disputes requires personal counseling that directly addresses the root of the problem and describes their repercussion to the parties, their family and community.” 

While showing the handful of small claims case materials he collected from the event, he said that he will share this new system with his colleagues and clients.  “The small claims court system will be very effective in promoting respect for agreements and deter people from resorting to threats, harassment and violence,” Campang said.

To learn more about our work in the Philippines, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at <[email protected]>.