Davao lawyers aid Hong Kong OFWs

MARITAL issues and financial scams were among the major problems of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Hong Kong who were recently provided with legal services by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)-Davao City Chapter over the weekend.

 Lawyer Rogelio G. Largo, president of IBP-Davao City Chapter, said yesterday in the weekly Wednesdays @ Habi at Kape in Abreeza Mall that in the case of financial scams, it is disappointing to know that the OFWs were victimized by fellow Filipinos.

 Most of them also raised concerns on family and marriage. With one spouse working abroad, the family left in the country is rendered vulnerable to all sorts of problems. Alienation of affection, especially between mothers and their children, is a cross they have to bear in return for the material and financial support they can provide.

 IBP-Director Marie Kristine Reginio said that most of those who came to seek legal advice were mothers who had problems with their marriage. Some cases, the lawyer said, were heartbreaking considering the sacrifices the mothers go through while working abroad just so they can provide a better life for their children.

 The seven-member team from IBP-Davao were able to attend to about 150 OFWs, but there were about 500 OFWs given legal assistance by lawyers from Davao City, Cagayan de Oro and Central Luzon.

The activity of the chapter called “Legal Services Beyond Borders,” is its first endeavor in providing free legal assistance abroad. It will reach out to the communities in the city that needs legal aid, as well.

 Largo said they are eyeing partnership with government agencies such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Education and the Civil Registry in correcting birth certificates of indigents. He said some children cannot go to school due to problems with their birth certificates.

Legal Aid Warriors

 The lawyers said that they are trying to foster the value of volunteerism and philanthropy which should be at the core of the legal profession. To do this, the chapter has organized the Legal Aid Warriors who will provide free legal assistance to those in dire need. He said there are already 90 lawyers who have already signed up for the program and it is expected that more will follow suit in the coming days.

 He also mentioned that they will be lobbying for the opening of more courts as the city has only 14 Regional Trial Courts for a population of close to two million as compared to smaller cities that has more than 20 courts.

 Largo said more lawyers volunteering legal assistance will definitely help in de-clogging the courts and in speeding up the dispensation of justice.

 IBP-Davao City will have its second international legal mission in Singapore early next year. They have already made arrangements with the embassy in Singapore and they are looking at providing legal services to 1,000 OFWs with an estimated number of 50 lawyer-volunteers.

 One of their realizations during the Hong Kong legal aid mission is that they can propose measures that can be endorsed to the city’s Congressional Representatives on improving the plight of the OFWs.

 Reginio said it was a humbling experience for their members to provide free legal services to the OFWs, especially on helping to address their concerns.

 “Most of them had family and marriage concerns, and being able to vent their feelings somehow appeased their anxiety,” Reginio said.

 The workers, she said, also grabbed the opportunity to avail of the free legal service as it is expensive to seek a lawyer’s advice in Hong Kong.

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