Considered as the centerpiece of the UP WILOCI’s advocacy, the Legal Aid Program (LAP) started in the late 40’s, when President Manuel Roxas tasked our founder & President Emerita, the late Court of Appeals Justice Corazon Juliano Agrava, and the WILOCIs to provide legal services in domestic relations. Since then, the LAP underwent major transformations.
In the 1990’s, WILOCI President Dr. Purificacion Quisumbing, who was also holding the position of UNICEF Senior Regional Adviser for Social Mobiization and External Relations, conducted a consultative seminar-workshop with the theme, “The Child in the Justice System” as an expression of support and active compliance to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. A total of 84 participants attended representing the different departments of the country’s judicial system including government agencies, Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and media, i.e., Department of Justice, National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine National Police, Philippine Judges Association, Department of Education, Department of Labor and Employment and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), as well as representatives from the academic community, the UNICEF and other civic and religious groups.
Taking off from Dr. Quisumbing’s advocacy, the next WILOCI President Regina Padilla Geraldez, further strengthened the LAP by entering into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the DSWD. WILOCI then designated Minerva June Ambrosio, an active WILOCI legal aid volunteer lawyer, to handle all cases of child and women abuse referred by DSWD. A Legal Aid Committee chaired by Catherine Manahan was also constituted to aid the WILOCI and Atty. Ambrosio in complying with their obligations under the MOA.
Expanding further the outreach of its LAP, WILOCI under the leadership of President Delia Hermoso, successfully forged a partnership with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in 2003 whereby the latter agreed to provide a regular allowance for two(2) WILOCI members who will handle cases which were referred to the IBP. This agreement institutionalized the Women’s Desk at the National Committee on Legal Aid of the IBP National Office, with the deputization of two volunteer WILOCIs. As of July 2006, the WILOCI through the National Committee on Legal Aid Committee, has provided legal services relating to child support, illegal dismissal, child custody, domestic violence, land title problems, correction of birth records, physical injuries , urban poor housing, lease, ejectment, unlawful detainer, coercion, free patent, migrant workers’ duties, NLRC-pending cases, credit transactions, malicious mischief, trespassing and grave threats.
Inspired by this outburst of volunteerism, the term of President Teresita A.M. Villaruz witnessed further partnership with other government agencies and international agencies, in addition to DSWD, such as the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Under the UNDP-assisted IBP Jail Decongestion Program, WILOCI provided legal advisory and courtroom representation assistance to women detained in Quezon City, Manila, Pasay and PasigCity jails. It also participated in the preparation of the IBP Decongestion Publication and the MOA with CARITAS Manila for a more comprehensive and integrated approach to the jail problems. Still under Atty. Villaruz’ leadership, WILOCI began a partnership with CHR to study the human rights’ conditions of, and provide legal interventions to the Muslim women and children/juveniles in conflict with the law (CICL/JICL) who were detained in Metro Manila detention centers. This project entailed visits to 12 Metro Manila jails, interview of some 260 detainees and the review of their court records. Additional aid came in the form of trial assistance, pleading preparation, coordination with the providers of justice in government and actual courtroom representation.
The spirit of volunteerism among the WILOCI begun to spread out to other NGOs advocating the rights of children. This occurred during the incumbency of President Katrina Legarda. Volunteer WILOCIs then handled cases of violation of childrens’ rights referred by the Child Justice League, Inc. (CJL), an NGO located at the 4/F of the DSWD Central Office in Batasan Complex, Constitution Hills, Quezon City.
Further institutionalization of the LAP of WILOCI happened under the leadership of Fides Cordero Tan, when she executed two sets of MOA, namely: with the DSWD on July 7, 2011 and with Hyundai Asia Resources Inc. (HARI) Foundation, Inc. on November 18, 2011. The first MOA with DSWD reiterated the program of WILOCI to provide legal assistance to indigents through (a) legal counseling; (b) court representation; and (c) legal literacy; while the second MOA with the HARI Foundation provided a P1 Million grant to be released in tranches in order to help the implementation of the 3 pillars of WILOCI’s LAP, as outlined under the MOA with DSWD. It was also under this MOA with HARI that a Hyundai utility van was donated to WILOCI for use in its LAP. A total of 7 active trial cases involving abuse and violation of children’s rights were started, more than 10 consultations were rendered to walk-in and DSWD/IBP-referred clients and 3 legal literacy programs were conducted covering the topics on legal rights of women, domestic relations covering child support, legal separation and domestic violence, and the legal procedure for handling child complaints, including preparation of evidence, counseling, etc.
At present, the incumbent President Wilma Valdemoro Cua continues to support the 3-pronged legal assistance program with the appointment of a Coordinator, Anunciacion G. Ayo, who reports to the WILOCI Center every Monday and Wednesday to render legal consultation services from 9:00AM to 1:30 PM. Atty. Ayo also handles the overall coordination and management of the court cases being handled by the WILOCI lawyers. It also courses all new case referrals to the Legal Aid Committee for approval whose members include Assistant Solicitor General Marissa Guillen, Minerva June Ambrosio, Anna Maria Abad, Ma. Luz R. Raval, Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana, Fides Cordeo-Tan and the incumbent President Wilma Valdemoro Cua.