We harness each other's strengths in the developmental use of the law and critical engagement of the legal system.


  • Strengthening WEDefenders towards a Resilient and Inclusive Natural Resources Governance

    In 2021, the Philippines was identified as the deadliest country in Asia and third in the world for environmental defenders, with women facing unique vulnerabilities and even graver threats. In the face of continued extractive human activities that have devastating environmental impacts, along with the persistent feminization of the burden of managing natural resources for a household's survival, the WEDefend (Women Environmental Defenders) Project will advance women's leadership through innovative and direct support that empowers and capacitates the women environmental defenders (WEDs). The complete project name is “Strengthening WEDefenders towards a Resilient and Inclusive Natural Resources Governance” (or “SWING”) project and is being supported by The Asia Foundation (TAF).The project will be implemented by the island-wide clusters:      Luzon = SALIGAN Bicol, Tanggol Kalikasan, and Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC)      Visayas = Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC), PROCESS Panay, and KAISAHAN Negros      Mindanao = BALAOD Mindanaw and LRC (Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center) The Objectives of the project include:     Equip WEDs and civil society organizations (CSOs) with the necessary skills to conduct their work safely and effectively and influence policies without threats of violence.       Improve access to justice of WEDs who face violence, abuse, or harassment.       Advance women's leadership and advocacy on local and national priorities related to natural resources and the environment.       Strengthen public and institutional knowledge of technical environmental information.The project components include:      Building a multi-sectoral coalition of WEDs      Embarking on capacity-building program for WEDs      Provision of Psycho-Social Support (PSS) for WEDs      Legal Defense Fund for WEDs      Launch campaigns for WEDs  

  • Stories from the Field: Overcoming Access to Justice Barriers through Grassroots Communities’ Participation and Collective Action

    The project, “Stories from the Field: Overcoming Access to Justice Barriers through Grassroots Communities’ Participation and Collective Action” is a 3-year project supported by the IDRC (International Development Research Centre).It consists of multi-thematic research studies to generate knowledge and evidence on key legal empowerment approaches and their contribution to empowering and strengthening grassroots communities’ participation and collective action to bridge access to justice gaps.The project has several specific objectives:      To understand the effective and innovative legal empowerment approaches that help and strengthen grassroots communities in addressing policy and enforcement gaps in access to justice      To generate evidence on the impact of key legal empowerment approaches in empowering grassroots communities for justice system reforms and their ability to access and use legal mechanisms and remedies for addressing their issues and concerns, and for protecting and enforcing their rights.      To develop a common framework and learning agenda for legal empowerment organizations to strengthen legal empowerment strategies in the Philippines and the Southeast Asia region.The project focuses on 3 key legal empowerment approaches that the ALG network has been using: Strategic Litigation, Paralegal Development, and Policy Reform Advocacy. Aside from this, there will also be parallel research to be conducted by our partners in Malaysia (DHRRA Malaysia), Thailand (Community Resource Centre Foundation), and Indonesia (Indonesia Judicial Research Society).  

LEN-SEA convenes to strengthen legal empowerment strategies and approaches

Delegates from the core group of LEN-SEA convened in Manila, Philippines The Legal Empowerment Network - Southeast Asia (LEN-SEA) convened in the Philippines to discuss legal empowerment strategies and approaches, propose solutions to the shrinking civic space, and identify the network’s activities for the next three to five years.Entitled, “Building Resilience for Legal Empowerment: Strengthening Grassroots Justice Defenders in SEA,” the four-day regional convening aims to strengthen the community, members’ engagement and internal structure of the regional legal empowerment network.Attorney Marlon Manuel, Namati’s Senior Advisor, led an activity where the delegates shared the current legal empowerment challenges they are facing. Some of the key issues include language barriers, lack of support from the government, lack of funding and resources, and the shrinking civic space.“It’s the government who freely allows injustices to happen. Instead of government regulators as primary workers in the development of communities, some become tools for abuse. They choose to turn a blind eye,” attorney Raffy Pajares of Environmental Legal Assistance Center, Inc. (Philippines) said.The shrinking civic space is a cross-cutting issue faced by Southeast Asian nations. Forum Asia’s Laura Law virtually shared their input on the regional situation of the shrinking civic space. She said it continued to worsen because of the COVID-19 pandemic.“There was a limit for gathering. They [governments] implemented many states of emergencies and implemented decrees and orders without considering the already existing laws at the domestic level.” Law said.In Cambodia, non-government organizations and civil society organizations (CSOs) can be charged with terrorism and their activities are being monitored online by the government. In Myanmar, the CSOs were targets of threats and harassment and pandemic was used to introduce new repressive laws.In Indonesia and Malaysia, protests are suppressed, and community-based organizations are surveilled. The government supports the arrest and detention of refugees and undocumented people. In Thailand, the law is being used against the people. The COVID-19 emergency law is being used to arrest activists and charge protesters with SLAPP suits. While defamation lawsuits are used to control CSOs. In Laos, no one dares speak about human rights issues because the government does not implement the treaties it has signed and everyone is heavily surveilled.In the Philippines, the recently signed Anti-Terrorism Law sends a chilling effect to journalists and the youth. Critical voices experience red-tagging or are charged with trumped up cases. Lastly, disinformation plagues social media – a modern weapon used by the ruling class.Law recommended building solidarity and movement within each country to fight against the shrinking civic space.“This kind of solidarity and collaboration cross-border is important in countering the shrinking civic space. We are organizing capacity building for the youth to understand the human rights situation. Providing training to local journalists and lawyers in the tactics on the shrinking civil space will be really good,” Law said.Despite these challenges in the legal empowerment practice, there are also best practices. Sor.Rattanamanee Polkla of Community Resource Centre (Thailand) said one of the best practices in legal empowerment is to work on advocacy and campaign. Sor.Rattanamanee Polkla of Community Resource Centre (Thailand): “You can do a very small thing, but it can also affect a big thing.”Attorney Ray Paolo Santiago of the Ateneo Human Rights Center (Philippines) discussed the roles of the ASEAN bodies and the opportunities for engagement.“If you are persistent, you can push your agenda little by little. You really have to develop relationships. It's really about how to create those openings [for collaboration and engagement], Santiago said. As part of the education advocacy of LEN-SEA, the delegates broke down into three groups and went to the grassroots communities of various sectors: labor, women, and LGBTQIA+. Rainbow Rights Philippines Executive Director Attorney Jazz Tamayo discussed how their organization works with the LGBTQIA+ sector and communities. During these visits, the participants learned new legal empowerment approaches and paralegal formation strategies. They also shared and compared the situation of these marginalized sectors in their respective countries. After the community visits, the delegates identified the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges of the network. Here are some: StrengthsCapacity-building and empowerment of communitiesRegional and global network buildingGrassroots engagementWeaknessesResource mobilization and buildingWeak monitoring and evaluation, researchInstitutional memory fragilityOpportunitiesDigitalization (cross-border movement building online)Engaging with ASEAN bodiesPolicy advocacy ChallengesEmergence of authoritarian regimes in SEAShrinking civic spaceDwindling funds and limited funding for legal empowerment work The Building Resilience for Legal Empowerment: Strengthening Grassroots Justice Defenders in SEA culminated with the strategic planning of activities of the LEN-SEA for the next three to five years.  The strategic plan focused on learning, collective action, community building, and fundraising activities for the network. This includes improvement of digital communications, strengthening the members through capacity building, and popularizing legal empowerment work, among others. The regional convening was attended by delegates from Cambodia, Canada, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Thailand.Alternative Law Groups (ALG) is the regional anchor of LEN-SEA.

ALG convenes to re-strategize and discuss human rights situation across the country

The Alternative Law Groups convened in a general assembly at the WB The Ivywall Resort-Panglao, Bohol on August 22-24, 2022. Representatives and communication officers from ALG member organizations have discussed project updates, new and potential coalition projects, and the national human rights situation in the communities we’re working with. During the human rights discussion, the coalition conducted breakout sessions where delegates from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao shared insights on the human rights situation in their respective regions. They were also able to pinpoint pressing issues that our community partners face ranging from environmental, gender, to political concerns, where mining, disinformation, red-tagging, and punitive policies were determined to be the major cross-cutting concerns. In the two-day general assembly, the network was also able to look back at its strategic goals and plans and assess if they remain true to the mission and vision of the Alternative Law Groups. Through thorough discussion, ALG was able to realign as a network, reaffirm their impact statement, and refine external and internal goals.

Community-Based Dialogue in Region IV-A Held

The Community-Based Dialogue (CBD) on the Enactment of Human Rights Ordinances in Selected Cities and Municipalities in CALABARZON was held on Sept 14, 2022 at the Hotel Seda in Nuvali, Sta. Rosa, Laguna.After the Opening Program, there was a discussion on the proposed ordinances, specifically:·        Establishing and Operationalizing the Barangay Human Rights Action Teams (BHRACT) – presented by Ms. Eileen Edades (Division Chief, PAD, CHR IV-A)·        Localization of Article 1 of RA 11313 – Atty. Jack Diamante (LD, CHR IV-A)·        Establishment or Designation of Freedom Parks – by Atty. Jack Diamante (LD, CHR IV-A)·        Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Ordinance – by Atty. Mila Punzalan-Sobreviñas (LD, CHR IV-A)There was also a sharing of enacted ordinances by:·        Atty. Ronaldo Mariano (Municipal Legal Officer, Sta. Cruz, Laguna)·        Hon. Severino Medalla (City Administrator, Sto. Tomas, Batangas)The invited LGU representatives were made to understand the legal bases for the proposed ordinances, as well as the need to have these local ordinances passed. Towards the end, the invited LGU representatives committed to push for the passage of the proposed ordinances. This is an activity under the Community-Based Dialogues Project, which is a collaboration project between ALG, the Commission on Human Rights, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (through the Center for the Law of Armed Conflict/CLOAC), the Philippine National Police (through the Human Rights Affairs Office/HRAO), the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), and the Hanns Seidel Foundation of Germany.