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European Union supports the first local Legal Aid Forum in Cebu City

“When the marginalized and the disadvantaged struggle to find a voice, the significance of legal aid cannot be overstated. It is through forums like these that we come together, united in our commitment to making a tangible difference in the lives of those who need it most,’’ said Executive Judge and Convenor Marlon Jay Moneva.

To coordinate all the legal aid activities in Cebu and optimize legal assistance to marginalized communities, the first local Legal Aid Forum: Advancing Access to Justice through the Legal Aid Clinics in Cebu City was held on 3 July 2023 at the Marco Polo Plaza Cebu, bringing together the key legal aid actors in the city.

Legal aid is a key element of access to justice.

At its heart, it’s about equality. Provided at no cost, legal aid protects the poor, the marginalized, and the disadvantaged. It provides them the means to defend their rights in the criminal justice system: leaving no one behind.

“With our theme, Advancing Access to Justice through the Legal Aid Clinics, we are privileged today to have a diverse group of participants, including deans, LSPs, advocates, volunteers, and representatives from various organizations. Your presence here signifies your dedication to the cause of justice and your unwavering belief in legal aid's ability to transform lives,” Executive Judge and Convenor Marlon Jay Moneva said.

Participating Organizations included:

University of San Carlos

University of Cebu

University of San Jose-Recoletos

University of Southern Philippines Foundation

University of the Visayas

Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Legal Aid

Department of Justice

Regional Trial Court Office Cebu City

Public Attorney's Office-Cebu City

While legal aid helps marginalized communities navigate the justice system, which can be complicated and overwhelming, it also poses challenges for organizations providing legal aid services. A panel discussion of law schools providing legal aid services revealed an array of challenges: from lack of financial and logistical resources to safety concerns for their law students, yet legal aid organizations also came up with innovative solutions and partnerships to resolve these challenges.

“On the security of our students, we partnered with the Philippine National Police Cebu Province. We went to all the police stations in Cebu and our law students taught them about making judicial affidavits and in this way, we knew we were safe even as we traveled to far flung communities, the first stop was always the police station,” said Atty. John Menguito from the University of Cebu.

And while legal aid has an impact on those it supports and their families and communities, law schools implementing the Clinical Legal Education Program (CLEP) - a credit-earning teaching course - also provides law students with knowledge for the application of the law, delivery of legal services and promotion of social justice, especially to marginalized communities.

“Legal aid is important to me because it is preparing me for real world issues. It is also exposing us to different communities including marginalized groups and has also helped me develop skills such as communication and leadership skills,” said Angel Phyllis Prias, a law student practitioner from Gullas Law School of the University of the Visayas.

As the forum wrapped up, participants across the legal aid community in Cebu learned more about each other’s activities, the challenges that they have come across and the solutions and good practices that they implemented to resolve them. The key insights, good practices, list of activities articulated from the forum and its accomplishments will serve as a model for other Justice Zones and legal aid clinics across the country as they protect the poor, the marginalized, and the disadvantaged.


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