The National Paralegal Conference was held on November 28-29, 2019 at the Upper Story, Cubao, Quezon City. A total of 95 participants attended from area-based and national organizations.
After the Preliminaries, ALG Chairperson, Mr. Ritz Lee Santos III, gave the Welcome Remarks, while Atty. Sheila Formento (ALG Deputy Coordinator) led the introduction of the participants and organizations. Atty. Genee Mislang (ALG National Coordinator) then gave the Background and Context. She stated the objectives of the activity as: 1) To contribute to build and strengthen a national network of paralegals for sharing and documentation of best practices and cross-learning, and; 2) Participation of at least fifty community paralegals from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao in the formation of a national network of paralegals to share successes, challenges and best practices and/or to participate in learning exchange activities.
There were 2 Panel Discussions: Panel 1 looked specifically at the Context, and there were 3 invited speakers: 1) Human Rights and CSO Situationer (by Atty. Gian Miko Arabejo of ALG); 2) Environmental Situationer (by Atty. Gerthie Mayo-Anda of ELAC), and; 3) Paralegalism (by Atty. Marlon Manuel of NAMATI). Panel 2 focused on the experience of community paralegals on the ground, of which there were 3 speakers: 1) Mr. Randy Cirio (from Camarines Sur), 2) Mr. Weliton Palite (from Palawan), and 3) Ms. Peñaflor Bontuyan (from Dinagat Province).
After the presentation of the “Court Appointments Watch” project, the participants were divided into 3 sectoral workshop groups: 1) Women & Children, 2) Environmental Group, and 3) Farmers, Fishers and Laborers. They were asked to look at their sector’s context, challenges, responses, best practices, and recommendations.
After the groups presented their WS outputs, Ms. Lizel Mones (ALG) summarized the activity by saying that our communities are plagued by many different issues and concerns, and paralegalism is being used to invoke positive changes to address them. She added that although the contexts and situations may very much differ, awareness-raising is the key initial step. As the paralegals are being educated about their issues and concerns, the communities must simultaneously organize themselves into sectoral groups and link/coordinate with other groups which have similar concerns. And as the sectoral groups are being strengthened, they can push on to advocate for changes through campaigns. Legal empowerment of the paralegals is important as they are better able to help their organization’s advocacies and campaigns. As the organizations are working to address their issues and concerns, the positive effects of the changes will be felt by the society at large.
What are some of the best practices being done by our paralegals?
• Knowledge sharing and capacity building
• IEC materials development
• Assist victims in the litigation process
• Community organizing (including organizing of children, women, laborers, urban poor, tricycle drivers, etc.)
• Linkages and networking
• Awareness raising and use of media (social and traditional media)
• More trainings on community organizing
• Establish a national paralegal network (includes lawyers, academe, media, etc.)
• Regular paralegal conferences (mostly regional, but national level if there are available funds)
• Knowledge sharing down to the community level
• Strengthening the grassroots communities
• Development of second liners
• Dialogue with LGUs and relevant government agencies
• Document experiences (esp. examples of best practices, use of science/expert testimony in cases)
• Assistance in advocacy work
• Seeking financial support – either through LGU, NGO funding, coalition formation, fund sourcing, etc.
• Sharing of modules and additional trainings
• Sustain and broaden support groups (local, regional and international)
The activity was convened by ALG, with support funds from the Human Rights Defense Project (funded by ABA-ROLI), Endefense Project (funded by the Foundation for the Philippine Environment and Forest Foundation Philippines), and Hustisya Natin (funded by the European Union).