Since its founding in 1946, the UP WILOCI has seven (7) decades of experience in handling legal aid cases , particularly for disadvantaged women and children.
UP WILOCI is a non-stock, non-profit organization dedicated to public service. Its inspiring objectives then and now are “the promotion of the advancement and welfare of disadvantaged Filipino women and children, the sharing of legal expertise in activities aimed at promoting social justice and the rule of law, the conduct of, and participation in humanitarian activities, such as but not limited to rendering free legal aid, publishing legal materials and sponsoring legal seminars, fora and research programs for the promotion of legal literacy to all;… x x x “
Founded 69 years ago on November 9, 1946 , the U.P. Women Lawyers’ Circle (WILOCI) emerged from the ashes of World War II – a unique sisterhood of talented and dedicated professionals eager to participate in rebuilding and restoring a ravaged country. On the call of its President Emerita, former Court of Appeals Justice Corazon Juliano -Agrava for a long- awaited reunion, eight women graduates of the UP College of Law met at the Orchid Room of Ang Tibay shoe store on Rizal Avenue.
From courtrooms, government offices, and the War Damage Commission, from their homes, business enterprises and places of work, they converged on that fateful day to establish a sorority which they named “The U.P. Women Lawyers’ Circle.”
Then President Manuel A. Roxas, initially requested the WILOCIS to first provide for legal services in domestic relations cases.
The President Emerita, Justice Corazon Agrava then founded the Domestic Relations Consultation Center (DRCC) which was serviced by the WILOCIS. From 1958 to 1960, the Center was managed successively by Attys. Pagasa San Agustin, Elena Cuevas, Floreliana Castro – Bartolome (later appointed as Justice of the Court of Appeals) with Gloria Mayang serving as volunteer attorney without pay. The Center was then renamed WILOCI Legal Consultation Center with Carolina Griño Aquino(later Supreme Court Associate Justice) as Executive Director.
Aside from the regular domestic and juvenile cases, the services were then expanded to cover, civil, criminal and administrative cases. But the bulk of the legal work still consisted primarily of the prosecution and defense of actions of destitute litigants. Justice Agrava thereafter was appointed as Presiding Judge of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court of Manila in 1962 and thereafter as the First Woman District Judge of the Court of First Instance in Davao 1964.
Since then the WILOCI Legal Center has been led by luminaries such as Mary Concepcion Bautistaand Yolanda Quisumbing Javellana. It was able to build its first office bldg. in Arroceros Street Manila through the indefatigable fundraising efforts of past Presidents Teresita Cruz- Sison and Ester Sison- Cruz.
The Legal Aid program of the WILOCIS continued in 1975 under the direction of the ff. succesive Executive Directors: now retired Regional Trial Court Judge Rosalina Luna Pison, the late Marilyn Salamanca- Guzman and past President Fides Cordero Tan. Because of the rising incidence of physical and sexual abuse of women and children, the WILOCI under the presidency of Purificacion Valera – Quisumbing re-directed the legal aid efforts to enforce social compliance with and advocacy of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In 1992, the WILOCI and UNICEF organized a symposium on “The Child in the Judicial System,” which explored the vulnerable position of the child as a complainant, witness and accused.
Since its inception, the WILOCI has been headed by a succession of private practitioners and public servants, like : former Insurance Commissioner Gregoria Cruz- Arnaldo, former SEC Chair and Ambassador to Geneva Lilia R Bautista, Violeta Calvo- Drilon, Bellaflor Angara- Castillo, Victoria de los Reyes, Regina Padilla -Geraldez, Cleofe Verzola, Anatess Arnaldo- Oracion, Eva Policar-Bautista, Maritess Sison-Go.
In 1993 the DSWD requested assistance from the WILOCI in prosecuting cases of physically or sexually abused women and children. In the latter part of the ‘90s, Minerva June Ambrosio, then Legal Aid Officer, together with Katrina Legarda and Lourdes Cruz-Matters have made the WILOCIS proud of their efforts in prosecuting a case of statutory rape of an eleven year old child committed by a well-known lawmaker.
On its 60th year, WILOCI established a partnership with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and formed a Women’s Desk at the National Committee on Legal Aid. It also signed together with IBP, a Memorandum of Agreement with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in its UNDP–assisted Jail Visitation Program, where WILOCI conducted surveys to determine treatment of Muslim women and children prisoners and detainees and determine the legal intervention and other forms of assistance to human rights victims therein in the Muslim Mindanao and various detention centers in Metro Manila. These projects, handled by Ma. Luz Raneses Raval, commenced during the terms of past PresidentsDelia Hermoso and Teresita Villaruz.
As of July 2006, the WILOCI Legal Aid Committee has provided services relating to support, illegal dismissal, child custody, domestic violence, land title problems, correction of birth records, physical injuries, public market vendor stalls, urban poor housing, lease, ejectment, unlawful detainer, coercion, free patent, migrant worker’s duties, NLRC-pending cases, credit transactions, malicious mischief, trespassing and grave threats, covering some 52 female and 36 male clients.
Legal Aid has continued through the terms of past Presidents Katrina Legarda, Fides Cordero Tan, Fina dela Cuesta-Tantuico, Diana Franco and the current officers led by Wilma Valdemoro Cua. Its offices have been moved to the TOPS Bldg in Santa Ana, Manila and their efforts at fund-raising have been a constant bi-annual endeavour to fund their Legal Aid Program
(Reference Material: “The U.P. Wiloci A Unique Sisterhood of Women Lawyers” by Attys.Regina Padilla Geraldez and Diana Franco, published by the UP WILOCI, entitled “The U.P. WILOCI NEWSLETTER, May 2004 and “ 60 Years Diamonds are Forever,” 2006 WILOCI YEARBOOK).