US Embassy 2 legal aid clinics conducts Empowering Legal Aid Clinics to Reduce Armed Conflicts, Social Tensions in Mindanao PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 03 December 2014 13:54

The Centro Advocacia Legal, the legal aid clinic of Western Mindanao State University’s College of Law, in cooperation with the U.S. Embassy-Manila and Liceo Legal Aid Center, conducted on Nov. 24-25 a forum and workshop on “Empowering Legal Aid Clinics to Reduce Armed Conflicts and Social Tensions in Mindanao, which include gathering of opinions and suggestions from the participants coming from three sectors namely Security, Civil Society and Youth on how to improve peace efforts in Mindanao, particularly in westernmost portion

The forum was held at Lantaka Hotel, Zamboanga City.

It was already past one year after the unprecedented Zamboanga siege which involved conflict and peace crisis affecting thousands of individuals, closed key economic centers and worst of all took several lives. It is on this context that the lead organizers came up with the plan to convene 59 leaders coming from Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga Del Sur, Zamboanga Del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga City.

The forum and workshop was a follow through program which seeks to assess the past and present situations of armed conflict and social tensions and whose objective is to provide concrete solutions, create network of peace advocates and possibly draft ordinance and legislations.

The modular workshop focused on understanding Mindanaos Challenges on Armed Conflict and Social Tensions of which no less than the Dean of the College of Law of WMSU Atty. Eduardo F. Sanson as the Resource Speaker. He challenged the partners to strengthen our analysis of the struggle of Mindanao despite century-old conflict and be motivated to reach out to communities that need our very help.

The participants further identified key challenges of one’s respective communities. It included challenges anchored on political, socio-cultural, economic, and security. Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur mentioned that their challenges includes Extortion, Proliferation of Firearms and Illegal Drugs, Discrimination on Employment, RIDO or Family Feud and Lack of Knowledge on Laws. Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi shared that their core challenges includes Political: Political Dynasty and Narco Politics, Warlordism, Flying Voters and Ballot Snatching; Economics: Poverty, Unemployment and Lack of Education; Security: Kidnapping, Extortion, Carnapping, Piracy, Illegal Drugs and Lack of Access to Social Services;  and Socio-Cultural: Stereotyping and Prejudices, Usurpation, Rido, Culture of Silence and Traditional Leadership with poor values.

Meanwhile, Zamboanga City focuses on the following key challenges and Societal Divide: Continuous tensions between Christians and Muslims and Indigenous peoples; Human Security to include the Migrant issues; Political barriers between political parties and political will and lack of knowledge on basic law; Gender biases and lack of education causing higher poverty. Zamboanga Sibugay mentioned that part of their struggle is the lack of participation of the youth in the programs and affairs of the province.

Prof. Moh. Taha S. Arakama, City Director of Department of interior and Local Government, stressed that the Government wanted to concentrate on building peaceful and resilient communities as well as gender responsive programs. It had integrated Public-Private Partnership as a response to the emerging threats of conflict and social tensions and empowering the legal aids can further restore the justice in the Philippines.

Engr. Mohammal Ali Urao, Special Envoy of Golden Crescent Consortium of Peace Builders and Affiliates, introduced the concept of conflict resolution and peace-building as a response to the key challenges of our society. He further moved to look at community policies through dialogues and consultation. Key messaging to important stakeholders and continuous pressuring on policy lobbying and demand to government can help us achieve the needed peace in our community.

Fiscal Eldred Cole, Deputy Prosecutor of Region X based in Cagayan De Oro City, shared significant lessons on Basic Criminal Procedure especially focused on Arrest/Search Seizure, Evidence, Detention, and Prosecution. She oriented the participants about legal procedures and equipped them with the context and content for better appreciation of legal works. She shared that Legal Aids are mediums to assist communities prepare basic affidavits especially to underserved communities.

Atty. Neil Pacamalan of the US Embassy in Manila introduced the various programs of the embassy and its functions. Supports and Aids through grants to organizations and institutions were shared to the participants and further challenged them to develop community projects with Cash grants to be shared for implementation to communities. He cited best practices where the US Embassy’s support had been for the past many years and up until now had been sustained.

The two-day event was an avenue for the local government units, police force, peace groups, youth sectors, non-governmental agencies and the academe to unite hands to attain long, lasting and just peace. At the end, the WMSU CADLE will monitor for the next three months eight significant projects in the above-mentioned cluster areas.

The US Embassy gave Project Grants for the implementation of the projects to include Zamboanga Sibugay Student Leaders Convention, Human Rights Orientation, Intensification of the Barangay Information Network System, Training for Seaweeds Farming, Institutionalization of the Drug Awareness and Prevention Program among High Schools, Security Summit, Birth Registration Project and Legal Aids, Livelihood Training among Women and Sustainable Social Enterprise among ex-combatants.

Lead organizer Engr. Aldrin Bucoy-Abdurahim, President of Centro Advocacia Legal- WMSU, approved the project with hope and prayers that the support of the Legal Aid Clinics in  Mindanao can bring better impacts to the interventions that the group committed to do in the next couple of months. With guidance coming from the US Embassy, truly empowering legal aid clinics can reduce armed conflict and social tensions in Mindanao.