Church in Bacolod, lawyers’ group sign free legal aid pact for poor litigants

BACOLOD CITY – The Diocese of Bacolod has signed an agreement with a group of young lawyers for free legal services to the poor who seek assistance from the Catholic Church here.

ATTY. Carmela Yasay Feria (left) of the Young Lawyers Association of Negros Occidental (YLANO) and Bishop Patricio Buzon (center) of the Diocese of Bacolod sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for free legal services to indigents of the Church in the presence of Social Action Center (SAC) Director Fr. Chris Gonzales at the Bishop’s House, SAC in Bacolod City on Tuesday, May 23. (Photo courtesy of Adrian Prietos)

The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed between the Young Lawyers Association of Negros Occidental (YLANO) represented by lawyer Carmela Yasay Feria and the Diocese of Bacolod represented by Bishop Patricio Buzon was signed at the Bishop’s House, Social Action Center (SAC), this city, on Tuesday, May 23.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Bacolod with its established social services arm, the SAC, have been partnering with individual or groups providing legal or para-legal assistance to the poor who are victims of injustice and have no capacity to hire private lawyers.

Based on the MOA, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Bacolod, through SAC, shall organize and conduct free legal clinics with YLANO within the Diocese of Bacolod and provide venue or location to YLANO for free legal clinics.

The SAC will provide the necessary furniture, fixtures, and equipment for the group’s operation and deploy personnel to assist in the pre-registration and registration on or before the day of the free legal clinic.

Collected data and documents from those who seek the free legal clinic will be shared to YLANO, and can refer walk-in indigents to YLANO members, when necessary, for free legal advice.

YLANO will regularly hold free clinics in partnership with the SAC  and organize its attorneys to provide free legal advice to indigent clients in the Church community.

In a press briefing after the MOA signing, Feria said there is an abundance of cases waiting for the intervention or participation of lawyers, such as domestic abuse, land and property disputes, child abuse, and violence against women and children.

Feria said that this platform is not just to get exposure as new lawyers but also to get networking and mentoring opportunities.

Buzon welcomed the initiative, saying that many of the challenges are precisely in this field, as it is technical and needs competence.