Rationale and Concept
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, there are about 3,000 Filipinos overseas who are currently in prison in different countries, mostly in the Middle East and Asia. These Filipinos are in custody for various charges, ranging from immigration-related violations to commission of common crimes such as theft and drug trafficking. A number of them could have avoided serving jail time if only they were afforded timely legal assistance or at the very least have been informed of their legal rights and options. Such circumstances magnify the need for the Philippine Government to institute programs and policies to advance not only the legal rights but also advocacy for other significant interests of overseas Filipino communities such as, but not limited to: mutual recognition of skills and professional competencies, and portability of Medicare benefits.
The Global Legal Assistance and Advocacy or GLAAD, as one of the components of the Diaspora to Development program, has two parts:
1. Provision of legal assistance and funds for overseas Filipinos
2. Advocacy to protect the rights and promote the interests and welfare of overseas Filipinos
GLAAD aims to come up with country-based networks of legal experts and counselors that can extend voluntary legal assistance to Filipino victims of illegal recruitment and human trafficking as well as members of Filipino communities overseas who are suffering legal injustices in relation to their status (immigrant or employment-related) as overseas Filipinos (OF). The legal assistance shall include representation in courts and other tribunals, drafting and filing of legal documents, and provision of legal counseling, among others.
Said network of legal experts will also be in charged in providing a forum for advocacy and lobbying efforts aimed at advancing the interests of overseas Filipino communities in their respective countries of employment or residence, in partnership with other groups and associations which are not necessarily legal in nature, in their area of residence or jurisdiction.
The program also aims to establish a permanent fund for the purpose of providing pro bono legal services on site to OF in countries where there are no existing institution or organization that provides such service. The fund shall serve as complementary to existing government funds for OF legal assistance and shall be used to cover fees for the foreign lawyers to be hired to represent OF facing charges or in filing cases against individuals or institutions for violation of OF rights, bail bonds to secure OF temporary releases, and other litigation expenses.
The components of this program include:
a. Work with the government, non-government and international organizations, lawyer's associations, and private institutions engaged in the area of providing legal assistance to overseas Filipinos in distress and implementation of advocacy programs and lobbying efforts to promote the interests of overseas Filipino communities. The group will review existing programs and projects in the provision of free legal services and lobbying efforts, identify best practices and develop a system that could be implemented in other countries of destination of Filipinos overseas.
b. Work with the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Labor and Employment, its attached agencies such as Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, government financial institutions and business sectors with CSR programs for the protection and promotion of interests of overseas Filipinos. The group will also develop strategies to establish needed funding to sustain the program as a whole.
a. Identify existing related organizations and institutions in other countries of destination and institute partnership arrangement with such institutions to implement the developed system of providing pro bono legal services to and promoting the interests of Filipinos in their respective areas.
b. Work with Filipino communities and organizations overseas, and develop strategies to establish needed funding to sustain the program in the respective countries of implementation.
The objectives of GLAAD as one component of the D2D program include:
Establish region-based networks of legal experts and counselors, both local and international that can extend voluntary legal assistance to Filipino victims of illegal recruitment and human trafficking as well as members of Filipino communities overseas who are suffering legal injustices in relation to their status as overseas Filipinos (OF).
Establish a permanent fund for the purpose of providing pro bono legal services on site to OF in countries where there are no existing institution or organization that provides such service.
Establish region-based networks of legal experts, counselors and advocates which shall be in charged in the advocacy and lobbying efforts aimed at advancing the interests of overseas Filipino communities in their respective countries of employment or residence.
Establish a permanent support network and partners for the advocacy and lobby efforts of Filipino migrants.