Lawyers’ group to serve poor clients

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Monday, February 17, 2014


A GROUP composed of lawyers and paralegals now caters to people belonging to the marginalized sector who have no money to pay for fees when seeking consultations from law firms, said Ritz Lee Santos III, Balaod Mindanaw legal officer.

The group, identified as Balay Alternative Legal Advocates for Development (Balaod) Mindanaw, “works with marginalized sectors and communities in Mindanaw through alternative lawyering and paralegalism, stressing active non-violence as an integral part thereof in the advancement of justice, gender equality, and resource tenure improvement in the context of active people's participation in Governance,” its website stated.

Santos said Balaod Mindanaw gives legal assistance mostly to victims of human rights violations and those affected by land disputes or who are unaware of their rights.

“Law firms require consultation fee but there are individuals who can't afford to pay,” said lawyer Normita Batula of Balaod Mindanaw.

“We are working with the poor and the marginalized sector,” Batula added.

On issues of land disputes, Batula said they can give advices and opinions and refer them to lawyers to discuss the issue.

Batula said their office is available with free consultation every first Thursday of the month at their office located at 32 Kalambaguhan St., Cagayan de Oro.

She said with the pool of lawyers, they will be able to provide legal advices based on social justice and respect to human dignity to everyone who comes to their office.

Santos added that they also cater to members of the local media who have been exploited by their employers.

In fact, he said, Balaod Mindanaw had participated in protest action initiated by the local media in commemoration of the Maguindanao massacre.

Lawyer Katheri Ann Charcos-Puyo said there are cases that they will personally handle for a minimal fee but these cases must be based on the Balaod Mindanaw criteria.

Puyo explained that the client must belong to the marginalized sector and their cases should be policy-defining.

She said that as much as they wanted to help everybody with their cases, their resources is limited.

“When we started Balaod Mindanaw, we were 22 in the team but now we are down to three lawyers who stayed to our commitment and social responsibility to the community,” Puyo said.

She added that they have tap from a pool of lawyers, and from Xavier University and Liceo de Cagayan University’s legal centers.

Batula urged local lawyers in the city to join their group.

Balaod Mindanaw is serving for almost 14 years in the city and areas in Bukidnon, Armm, Misamis Oriental, Davao Provinces and Surigao del Sur.

Batula said they have won 29 cases so far since they started operating.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on February 18, 2014.

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