PARALEGAL DEVELOPMENT PROJECT WITH DAR  

In partnership with the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), PESENTech (a consortium of like-minded legal resource institutions composed of KAISAHAN, BALAOD and SALIGAN) implemented its paralegal development project in six (6) provinces with high LAD balance in the country.  The Project was conceptualized in line with the desire to develop more farmer paralegals, especially in the top 20 provinces with the biggest LAD balance, and to enhance the knowledge and skills of previously trained paralegals in these areas to help DAR fast-track the distribution of lands.   Phase 1 of the Project was implemented from January to August 2012 involving six (6) provinces, two (2) from each island region, namely: North Cotabato, Bukidnon, Negros Occidental, Leyte, Quezon II and Camarines Sur.  KAISAHAN implemented the Project in the two (2) pilot areas in the Visayas -- Negros Occidental and Leyte.

The objectives of the Project are: (i) to increase the access to legal services by the farming communities whose rights are threatened; (ii) to facilitate the resolution of agrarian disputes; and (iii) to speed up the acquisition and distribution of lands in these communities.  The challenges in agrarian reform (AR) implementation are overwhelming and, with few years remaining for the acquisition and distribution of lands, the farmer beneficiaries and AR advocates are racing against time.  With these concerns, the formation and strengthening of community-based paralegals, as well as Barangay Agrarian Reform Committees (BARCs), in the target provinces are necessary to ensure that these will be jointly addressed and resolved by the farmers, the AR advocates and DAR.

The Project involved, among others, the conduct of a 3-day paralegal training, two (2) paralegal clinic and tactic sessions, and monitoring of the implementation of the paralegal plans.  Issues in CARPER implementation shared by the participants and their respective Municipal Agrarian Reform Officers were accordingly raised to the DAR Central, Regional and Provincial Offices.

Through this Project, KAISAHAN has helped in increasing the awareness and involvement of more than seventy (70) paralegals in the land tenure improvement resolution processes.  This is characterized by: (i) increased knowledge on agrarian reform laws and on the recent administrative issuances of DAR regarding land acquisition and distribution; (ii) enhanced skills in case documentation, case analysis, conduct of legal interview, affidavit and case brief making; and (iii) participation in local dialogues, in developing action plans, presenting and validating data and status of landholdings.  More effective/efficient planning for problematic areas was also established with local mechanisms put in place.

For its target landholdings, the Project identified more than 6,000 hectares of lands in twenty (20) cities/municipalities in Negros Occidental and around 1,500 hectares from ten (10) cities/municipalities in Leyte.  Significant changes in the status of these landholdings from March to August 2012 were noted.

In order to continue what has been initiated by the Project, sustainability plans were made in each province.  Provincial federation of paralegals in Negros Occidental and Leyte were established, and municipal clusters composed of paralegals and DAR officials in charge on the land acquisition and distribution were created for faster resolution of agrarian reform issues.

Together with KAISAHAN’s local partners (Social Action Center, Peoples Organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations), the Project activated working mechanisms to facilitate immediate resolution of land tenure issues at the local and national levels.