During the lockdown, the legal services offered by the Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS) proved helpful and valuable to thousands of Filipinos, especially the marginalized, disempowered, and vulnerable groups who surrendered their livelihood to stringent lockdown measures
According to the advocacy and service institution who is recognized for its legal and technical services, it confronted at least 1,000 legal queries which revealed an array of distress issues ranging from labor rights, dispersal of government cash subsidy, virulent barangay officials and law enforcers, local ordinances, and up to the law passed to respond on the COVID-19 situation – Republic Act No. 11469 or Bayanihan To Heal as One Act.
“While it is true that the measures against COVID-19 were put in place to protect the people,” said lawyer Ansheline Bacudio, the group’s Program Manager for Human Rights, “we also saw firsthand how the virus gave birth to an array of social problems that highlighted existing inequalities.”
For IDEALS, there was a disconnect between the bigger goal of addressing the people’s needs and the course of action undertaken at the time of unrest and uncertainty. It was evident that access to legal services and information was a critical need of the people.
Hence, IDEALS intensified its efforts to help address the need of the people by providing free online counseling, on-ground legal aid, and production of popular education material for social media.
Online and phone counseling
The legal team of IDEALS received hotline calls, texts messages, and query comments over Facebook page.
Among issues brought in for advice were the following: validity of local ordinances, inhumane treatment in the guise of disciplinary measures, instances of arrests and detention, and bail procedures.
There was also a surge of queries about Cyberlibel, especially during the period where freedom of expression was threatened as a result of critical views by Filipinos against government interventions.
There were also inquiries on what possible legal actions can be taken on instances of corruption and discrepancies in the delivery of program support.
Considering mobility limitations of its legal team, IDEALS instead addressed these concerns through online platforms or by making a phone conversation with clients in order to provide an in-depth legal counseling.
On-ground legal aid
The group also provided legal aid on the ground especially on those who were subjected to curfew violations.
The team assisted the victims and their families in gathering data and evidence, such as: witnesses, CCTV footages, police reports, and other relevant documents.
There were also persons with pending cases and pending bail applications that were brought in to IDEALS for advice and assistance. For these cases, the legal team offered guidance to clients on what proper step to take and they assisted them in the preparation of documents.
Production of pop-ed materials
In its drive to further increase human rights awareness, it also produced popular education materials in order to complement its assistance and service delivery.
IDEALS released infographics online about human rights and para-legal guide. It likewise “localized” or simplified the mostly technical language used by government on its policies so that it will become understandable to the reading public.
Government programs and query issues that trended
According to IDEALS, the bulk of queries that it received were on government subsidies for the displaced workers and vulnerable sectors.
Among them were the following:
- Dept. of Labor and Employment (DOLE) – “COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) and Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) “
- Dept. of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) – How to obtain the P5,000 to P8,000 cash subsidy under the Social Amelioration Program (SAP).
There were also legal concerns that fall within the ambit of civil law, commercial law, and remedial law, said IDEALS, like the following:
- Civil law – there were issues concerning legal separation or annulment, child support, and civil registration. Clients inquired about their legal options in gaining custody of their children or separating from their abusive spouses.
- Commercial law – clients sought legal advice on policies related to rental payments of residential buildings, payment of outstanding debts, and payment of loans
- Remedial law – inquiries consisted of pending court hearings of preliminary investigations, ejectment, and conciliation proceedings even during ECQ.
In spite the gradual easing of the quarantine measures, the legal aid and services of IDEALS remains operational. Clients may send a message to:
Facebook: IDEALS, Inc.
Globe and TM: 0953 382 6935
Smart, TNT, and Sun: 0951 077 4411