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Masaoy, Queencel Mae M. 17, 2012 B. A.

Legal Studies II 1:00-2:00, P503 CRITIQUE PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION IN THE PHILIPPINES: CHALLENGES, PROBLEMS, AND PROSPECTS By Romeo T. Capulong President, Public Interest Law Center (PILC) Chairperson, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) Philippines

July TThS

Lawyers perform a tactical role in shaping our national life. It is true that legal education in the Philippines and the educational system in general have been so structured and oriented to serve elite and foreign interests. It cannot be denied that some of those who are in legal profession have completely abandoned their moral values. Our historical experience has shown that lawyers, by nature, are sensitive to social and political conditions and especially to injustices and human right violations. The legal representatives normally take action to the challenge to contribute their skill in defending the less fortunate people and even serve and lead in the struggle for a just and humane society. The Philippine legal system serves the poor in two ways: The first is through traditional legal aid or free legal assistance to poverty-stricken complainants, a practice introduced by our Spanish and American colonizers along their legal systems. The second is through human rights lawyering or public interest law practice. Sometimes it is also called alternative law practice, to distinguish it from traditional law practice. The late senator Jose W. Diokno called it developmental aid. The Philippine Constitution defines the rights of poor litigants to adequate legal assistance in the following emphatic terms: “Free access to the courts and quasi-judicial bodies and adequate legal assistance shall not be denied to any person by reason of poverty” (Article III, Section 11). So in accordance to the said article the Department of Justice maintains a bureau called Public Attorneys’ Office which renders free legal assistance in almost all courts in the country. Philippine society is highly stratified, with a tiny elite monopolizing political power and economic resources. Our economic, political, social and cultural life has been dominated by our elite and foreign masters. An overwhelming majority of our people remain poor and disenfranchised. Public interest law practice is also lawyering for the poor, just like traditional legal aid. The fundamental difference is that the people’s lawyers extend legal services to the poor not merely because the client cannot afford to pay legal fees, but because the clients' poverty and the injustice committed against them result from a social system that needs to be changed.

It is not the resources alone coming from our poor clients that matter. The balance between governmental authority. By this. as guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. The author. the remaining 97% cannot serve as a reliable material base for public interest law practice. They believe their struggle is also our struggle. It was rather helpful that the author devoted the introduction in establishing the importance of the law profession in the growth and maturity of a well-ordered society. His points were clear and his manner of discussing the subject matter at hand was absolutely informative to the ordinary man. Atty. who is a distinguished member of the law profession. urban poor. Capulong spoke before lawyers like him and did so without much of the legalese that we are always bound to hear inside a courtroom. workers. They are looked up to in intricate matters involving the law and its proper interpretation. has been increasingly slim in the past decades which saw a rapidly growing economy changing the way of life for most people. lawyers are in a league of their own. it is also their recognition of the value of our services and that they alone can make public interest law practice truly viable. as granted by statutes and fundamental freedoms. Ramon Magsaysay The matter presented elaborately in this discourse could not have come in a more significant time. and promotion of the human rights of millions of Filipino migrant workers. From there. Capulong makes mention of “lawyering for the poor”. knew from the start what he has to say and effectively expounded on his topic. The speaker is an advocate of self reliance. . protection. they have occupied vital positions in government and business. One is free legal assistance. in a highly stratified society controlled by a tiny elite constituting 3% of the population. the other is what the author calls public interest law practice or developmental legal aid. Indeed. Public interest law practice still lacks a strong and stable material base to support it. – Pres. He has gone through a chronology of events to show that within the Philippine legal system there is that conscious effort to uplift the plight of the impoverished masses.Unlike in traditional legal aid. indigenous peoples and migrant workers as our material base. but also confront the root causes of such migration by providing adequate job opportunities in our own country. he means they have to develop their client base: the peasants. The speaker does not see any reason why. And he lists down two ways to help the poor. With their higher learning and wisdom. They remain deeply committed to the legal defense. and the government should not only respond to the problems of migrant workers in the host countries. Others rely on other private sources or even on government programs. Many public interest law firms and practitioners rely on funding partners to support their practice. a traditional way derived from our colonial masters. It was lawyering with a heart. Notable is the fact wherein he mentioned the commitment of the legal profession to be involved in the social aspirations of the client and not merely the dispensation of competent and dedicated legal service. small fisherfolk. These men and women of the Bar have also altered the course of history and have been instrumental in bringing about social reforms. Atty. the work of people's lawyers did not end upon termination of the case. Those who have less in life should have more in law.

like for instance in the holding of rallies expressing indignation for a particular misdeed or the conduct of symposia that will enlighten the public more and enjoin them to support all actions for a common stand for or against an issue. Atty. This is understandable. The rigors of law school marked by endless nights of pouring into law books and studying jurisprudence should be rewarded with a bright career in the profession. though mostly from the legal profession. material gain and. It deals with the case not only inside the courtroom but also outside of it. prominence in the field of law practice are making lawyers shun public interest law practice. Public interest lawyering wants everybody to talk about the case because either way it is going to be decided by the courts. the author’s efforts to make public interest law practice as an acceptable specialized field have been stymied by most lawyers. Capulong brilliantly revealed their differences. One enters the legal profession with the notion that it will bring him fame and fortune. The challenges took root from the problems effectively explained by Atty. it will affect a substantial portion of the population. but because the clients' poverty and the injustice committed against them result from a social system that needs to be changed”. this line of thinking is unacceptable. Atty. would not have a hard time understanding the points being driven at by the author and speaker. Atty. so much like public interest law practice. Whatever benefit maybe derived from public interest litigation practice. The latter. Thus. The growing pains are quite evident in the examples given by Atty. however. to a certain degree. Capulong’s apparent disappointment is without good reason. For years. one would think that the two are synonymous as there very purpose is to help the poor. which is commendable as the audience.At first. Capulong. giving them the assistance they need in fighting for their rights or protecting their interests. They want to create an impact as to alter inequities in the laws and in the justice system itself which most of the time favor the affluent and takes the side of those who are of great influence in society. “extend legal services to the poor not merely because the client cannot afford to pay legal fees. it is encountering numerous challenges. It certainly would be a . And we could not agree more. Traditional legal aid caters to the plight of the poor man. Personally. making one far worthy to establish in the present with the varied problems posed by legal entanglements that touches the core of society’s poor population. The lawyers who espouse this kind of legal practice – and Atty. Capulong is one of them – desires to effect social change. Capulong has done a superb review of the many instances wherein the rich and the powerful have their way against the uneducated and the poor. Capulong. Lawyers have been given the distinct privilege of putting the law in motion for the very purpose it was crafted. Public interest lawyering wants to go deeper into the problem. The lawyer is merely fulfilling his dreams of having a good life when he undertakes to represent the cause and defends the interests of paying clients. It is not difficult to agree with the author who wanted public interest law practice to change the seeming inequality that is giving the poor a great disadvantage.

great honor to be of great service to the people who are anchoring their rights and interests in the proper interpretation of what the law is. While the presentation of the problems as well as the suggestions of the author and speaker on the development of public interest law practice is splendid. Rather. to encourage the development of public interest law practice. It gives a sense of delight and assurance that the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. Capulong is an eye-opener – a good read for the well-informed whether a lawyer or not. the author has given a consolation to the fact that efforts have been started and we will have to wait and see what happens in the future. Romeo Capulong. as shown by Atty. There isn’t a direct and all encompassing answer for all the problems raised in the speech. The enthusiasm though has a bit tapered at the end of the discourse. there appears to be a lack in persuasion when it comes to putting into perspective practical solutions on the challenges encountered by public interest lawyering. a handful of lawyer groups and law firms as well as private institutions are doing a lot to promote free legal assistance to the poor who have nary a chance in defending their rights without competent and professional guidance and support at no cost. . There is a real need indeed. the speech of Atty. Overall.