Balaod Mindanaw Inc. (Balay Alternative Legal Advocates for Development in Mindanaw, Inc.) is a non-stock, non-profit legal resource institution providing capacity-building and legal services to its partner communities on Resource Tenure and other Justice Issues primarily in Mindanao. It was formally established and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on 11 August 2000 through the efforts of a small group of individuals, lawyers, paralegals and community organizers.
As an institution, “Balaod,” which is also the Visayan word for law, believes in the legal empowerment of the marginalized groups and communities as a means to advance their access to justice, gender equality, and resource tenure improvement in the context of active peoples’ participation in Governance. To this end, Balaod engages with various marginalized groups through paralegal formation and capacity-building, alternative lawyering, policy formulation and advocacy guided by active non-violence as integral principle thereto. Hence, ”bringing the law in the hands of the marginalized sectors and communities.”
Poverty in a land of plenty.
This, in a phrase, best describes the situation in Mindanao, the second largest island in the Philippines. For while Mindanao is blessed with an expansive territory, abundant natural resources and a vast potential for human capital, majority of its people has yet to reap the island’s bounty. Close to half of its population live below the poverty line. And this is further aggravated by the marginalization of Mindanao in the policy-making structures and processes of the country. Main offices of government, business establishments, and even non-government organizations are based in Manila. Hence, much of Philippine history and experience, business and politics, are shaped and viewed from the perspective of Manila.
This marginalization is experienced intensely even in the field of the legal profession and the sector involved in the administration of justice. While the Local Government Code has devolved certain powers and authority of the executive and legislative branches of government to local government units, the judicial branch sadly remains highly “centralized”. This highly “centralized” and alienating legal system and profession contributes to the continuing disempowerment of the majority of Mindanawans.
It was in early 2000 when a small group of lawyers, paralegals and community-organizers, majority of whom were from Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Inc. (BMFI), set up a separate and independent organization aimed at pursuing a vision of equity, development and peace in Mindanao, Philippines. It was eventually named Balay Alternative Legal Advocates for Development in Mindanaw, Inc., or simply BALAOD Mindanaw, and duly registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission on 11 August 2000 as a non-stock, non-profit and developmental legal organization. (“Balaod” is the Visayan word for “law”. It is a non-stock, non-profit, and developmental legal organization based and operating in Mindanao.
“BALAOD envisions a society where legal empowerment is a way of life and a means to protect and advance the people’s access to resources and justice.”
BALAOD Mindanaw works with marginalized sectors and communities in Mindanaw through alternative lawyering and paralegalism, stressing active non-violence as an integral part in the advancement of justice, gender equality, and resource tenure improvement in the context of active peoples’ participation in Governance.
A. Legal Empowerment Through Community-Based Paralegal Formation.
BALAOD believes in the legal empowerment of the marginalized communities (farmers, indigenous peoples, fisher folks, women and children), through paralegal formation and development, in resolving their issues on access to justice, in enhancing gender-equality, and in people’s participation in governance and policy changes. To this end, BALAOD assists in the formation of community-based paralegals and in building their capacities in the adoption of paralegal strategies and non-violent means of resolving issues and conflicts.
B. Advocacy of Local and National Policy Reforms Responsive to the Needs of the Marginalized Sectors.
Addressing access-to-justice and resource-tenure issues will be more meaningful if significant reforms are instituted on existing laws and policies that guarantee the rightful claims of the rural poor. Crucial to the strategy of paralegalism in the context of local governance is to ensure that local legislations are geared towards advancing the justice issues of marginalized sectors and communities, and that alternative dispute resolution mechanisms are institutionalized. To this end, BALAOD conducts policy research and policy advocacies, in partnership with various advocacy networks, on access-to-justice issues that puts substance to its local and national policy reform work. In the past years, BALAOD has pushed for policy reforms in the areas of agrarian reform and rural development, national land-use policy, enhanced sectoral participation in governance, reproductive health rights of women, alternative modes of conflict resolution, harmonizing overlaps in laws and conflicting claims, and in the protection of women, children and the environment, among others.
C. Handling of Test Case and Policy-Determining Litigation Work.
The powerful and the privileged (big landowners, corporations and commercial fishers) have regularly used the courts in defeating the rightful claims of marginalized communities and advance their self-interests. The courts, thus, have become an arena of legal struggle by the marginalized and have been deemed as crucial venues in addressing the resource-tenure and gender equality issues of the rural poor. As such, BALAOD handles policy-determining cases of the marginalized by directly using the court as an avenue of its advocacy for the development of relevant jurisprudence and policy reforms on social justice. BALAOD also provides legal assistance to individuals and organized groups especially in cases involving access to resources affecting farmers, indigenous peoples and fisher-folk; in cases concerning conflicting claims; cases involving participation of women; and in cases protecting the environment.
D. Mainstreaming Alternative Lawyering through Partnerships with Legal Organizations and Law Practitioners.
BALAOD helps in building a network of law practitioners, law organizations and schools, and law students in Mindanao that provide alternative legal assistance to marginalized communities and organizations through their participation in the various paralegal formation programs; involvement in the handling of policy-determining cases; envelopment in social justice advocacy work; implementation of internship programs; and integration of human rights and social context education in law school curriculum.
Aside from establishing Paralegal Formation Program and litigation work, BALAOD conducts orientations, trainings and seminars on the following: Laws:
Ritz Lee B. Santos, III
Paralegal and Legal Services
Atty. Perfecto Justino A. Mendoza
Atty. Kristine Kay M. Lazarito-Calingin
Maryland R. Gargar
Sergio V. Dacup, Jr.
Bianca Paola R. Magtajas
Hanzel Luke P. De Vera
Anti-Human Trafficking and Women & Child Protection
Verna Emy Z. Pilayre
Cyrly May G. Salise
Jocelyn S. Dolar
Ethyl Vilgrace O. Pacaldo
Melascom O. Malicay Van Vugt
Administrative and Finance
Ritchille D. Abucejo
Jasmin J. Navarro