At least 14 lawyers and members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Negros Occidental Chapter provided free legal consultation to 30 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) at the San Carlos City District Jail on November 13.
The event called “Libre Konsulta Legal” was coordinated with the San Carlos City Hall of Justice and the local government of San Carlos in support of the Pagkalinga sa Kapwa Project of the Office of the Court Administrator of the Supreme Court of the Philippines.
Executive/Presiding Judge Amy Avellano of the San Carlos City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 58 said Pagkalinga sa Kapwa Project was organized because of Judgment Week where decisions on long-time pending cases will be hastened.
Avellano added that jail visitation and medical consultation are also part of the said project aimed at caring for the PDLs being away from their loved ones, which should not be a one-day activity but rather a whole year-round event.
She said she hoped that the PDLs would feel at ease during court hearings or visits of Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) lawyers who represent them and the nurturance and love of the people in the front line of the justice sector.
Moreover, Atty. Josephine Maria Natalaray, IBP Negros Occidental Chapter president, said the Libre Konsulta Legal is an institutional project of their organization aimed at listening to the legal problems of the PDLs in addition to giving sound advice on what to do.
Natalaray added that they believe in restorative justice, and if there’s a chance to help them start anew and let them become better citizens of the community, then they will be there to help as their lawyers.
Retired Judge and current City Administrator Atty. Estefanio Libutan Jr. thanked the lawyers for coming to San Carlos City despite their hectic schedule to provide free legal services to the local PDLs.
Libutan said he hoped the said program becomes a yearly event since the PDLs needed it due to a lack of lawyers from the PAO and private agencies; assured that the local government will always support such activity.
Jail Warden Chief Inspector Felix Sariana of San Carlos City District Jail thanked the lawyers for their noble project that could help decongest the jail. He said that the population of the San Carlos City District Jail is now at 418.
Sariana also thanked the strong support of the local government and urged PDLs not to waste the chance given by the government and start the change within themselves.
Gerry Llena, IBP Negros Occidental Chapter vice president, and Atty. Juniven Rey Umadhay, Regional Prosecutor BJMP VI, were present during the event, aided by the 3rd year-practicing law students of the University of St. La Salle-Bacolod City.*