The Paralegal Program Implementation Journey

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Paralegal Program Update

The Paralegal Program is focused on the formation and strengthening of community-based paralegals, Barangay Agrarian Reform Council (BARC), and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in target high LAD provinces. Barangay Agrarian Reform Council (BARC) and other Agrarian Reform Advocates in partnership in the Agrarian Reform support the program. The program aims to enable the community-based paralegals to increase the access to legal services, facilitate the resolution of agrarian disputes, speed up the land acquisition and distribution of lands in the target areas and participate in protecting and sustaining the gains of the Agrarian Reform program.

Legal cases are expected to rise due to contentious and problematic lands remaining to be acquired and distributed in the remaining three years of CARP implementation. The Department has limited number of lawyers and legal officers deployed in various field offices who provide farmers with legal advice and assistance. These community-based paralegals are responsible for assisting, capacitating, as well as educating the farmers on the significant provisions of the amended CARP.

The formation and strengthening of community-based farmer paralegals through enhancement and equipping the farmers’ capacities with relevant knowledge and skills, together with the DAR will help them become effective partners in facilitating the movement of claim folders and resolution of problematic landholdings.

The program implementation is a joint effort of the Central Office Field Operations, Legal Affairs, BARIE, DARRO, DARPO in partnership with the three Alternative Law Groups: Sentrong Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (SALIGAN) for Luzon, Kaisahan tungo sa Kaunlaranng Kanayunan at Repormang Pansakahan (KAISAHAN) for Visayas and the BALAOD-Mindanao.

The program implementation is divided into four (4) components namely:

1) Local Planning,
2) Paralegal Training on Human Rights and Paralegalism, AR Law/Policies and Skills Enhancement,
3) Clinics and Tactic Sessions and
4) Provincial Assessment.

The program covers priority areas with identified problematic landholdings with high legal cases. The program is implemented in 2 phases. Phase 1 is implemented in 6 priority High LAD Provinces of Quezon 2, Negros Occidental (North & South), Camarines Sur (A & B), Leyte, Bukidnon (North & South) and North Cotabato in February to September 2012. Phase 2 implementation is for the 15 provinces of Isabela, Cagayan, and Quirino. Albay, Masbate, Negros Oriental, Iloilo, Western Samar, Zamboanga del Norte, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Saranggani, Surigao Sur and Agusan Sur is scheduled in May to December 2013.

Included in the paralegal plans are the fast tracking of the acquisition and distribution of lands in the target communities and resolution of agrarian cases.

The 8-month Paralegal Program implementation of the six (6) priority provinces in Phase 1 resulted to the following:

- Some notable movements from the original status of the target landholdings. The status of landholdings specifically located in Quezon, Leyte, Negros Occidental and Camarines Sur have been changed to workable, after the validation and research done by the farmer paralegals.

- Established support mechanism and partnership with BARCs/PO leaders/CSOs. Through this program, a total of 195 active paralegals were developed and continuously performing their roles to assist in the acquisition and distribution of lands.

- Paralegals demonstrated strong camaraderie and shared commitment to push for the implementation of LAD in their respective municipalities/provinces

- Formation of the Paralegal Association/Provincial Federation of Paralegals. The paralegal associations/federations are now responsible in conducting the regular clinic- meetings in their respective municipalities/provinces.

- Immeasurable results in some project areas like harmonious relationship of paralegals with MAROs and improved partnership of some paralegals and MAROs. They were able to open their line of communication because of the need to work out their plan.

With the Phase 2 program implementation for the 15 remaining provinces, more farmer paralegals are expected to be developed as partners of DAR in facilitating the movement of landholdings and resolution of cases for problematic landholdings. The provinces of Surigao Sur, Agusan Sur, Saranggani, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Western Samar, Albay, Masbate, Negros Oriental and Zamboanga Norte have completed the local planning activity in preparation for the actual training of the paralegal participants. The local planning for the provinces of Iloilo, Isabela, Cagayan and Nueva Vizcaya are scheduled this 3rd week of July and 1st week of August 2013.

Actual training of the paralegal participants is scheduled in the last week of July and 2nd week of August 2013. The area-based clinics and tactic sessions are scheduled in September to November 2013. The provincial project assessment will be conducted on December 2013.

We are posed with the challenge to continuously monitor and document the strategies and contributions of the paralegals in the program implementation and accomplishments. The efforts made by the paralegal in sustaining the program beyond the program plan are worth documenting.