Knowing your rights through Free Legal Counsel

By: Enrique Agcaoili
March 04, 2019

GAINING KNOWLEDGE. Guest lawyers giving free counseling at the Salon de Actos. Photo by Kara Calamba.

Many people view human rights as a set of moral principles that applies to everyone. However, human rights are relevant to all of us, not just those who face mistreatment or repression.

With the goal of promoting the importance of having access to legal help, the Letran Legal Management Society (LLMS) along with senior students under the program hosted a free legal counseling event titled, “Free Legal Counsel: Access to Basic Human Rights”, on February 2 at Salon de Actos.

The event was graced by lawyers headed by Atty. Abelardo De Jesus, the president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Manila IV
Chapter and Atty. Earla Hilario, the lead representative of the Community Legal Assistance Service (CLAS).

According to Legal Management faculty member Atty. Kriden Balgomera, one of the objectives of the event is to provide those who need legal help from the Integrated Bar.

“This is to determine who are the one that IBP Manila IV can help. We, lawyers, will know what are your legal concerns and see if we can provide you with a lawyer in court and to see if you’re qualified and to enlighten you with the law,” Atty. Balgomera emphasized.


Having been a practicing lawyer for so long, Atty. De Jesus took the time to conduct a lecture on basic human rights and free legal access.

“That’s your right, it’s part of your human rights to have free legal access and the ones who provide these in the government are the PAO (Public Attorney’s Office) and the DOJ (Department of Justice),” he pointed out.

De Jesus explained the role of the legal institutions, wherein the DOJ prosecutes a person’s case, while the PAO provides the lawyer. With this, he cited that the overpopulation in the country hinders the functions of PAO and the DOJ to provide legal help to the common man.

“Because of the population explosion, [with so many Filipinos] the people working at the DOJ and PAO are not enough to provide basic human rights to our citizens,” he disclosed.

“That’s when CLAS came in,” he added.


On Atty. Hilario’s segment, she shared her experience from handling civil cases from the family such as marital problems, and even community issues coming from barangays.

“Cases that always come to our office comes from family problems such as, marital problems,” Atty. Hilario said.

“If you will notice the conflict in your communities, it does not end only with barangay mediation,” she added.

She gave emphasis on the importance of cases being resolved first at the community level before it goes to courts, in order for their office to provide the necessary legal aid.

“Cases that can be filed first at the barangay level must be resolved there at first before it can go to the legal measures,” she ended.


The event was spearheaded by the LLMS through chairwoman Angela Lopez and vice-president for academics Mae Angelee Aquino.

Lopez recalled her experience with Aquino on the events that they attended together outside Metro Manila which served as an inspiration to come up with the event as such.

“I was with Mae during the summer [of 2018] in a leadership training program in Pangasinan. We were proposing activities to help the community since that time there were crimes like extrajudicial killings,” Lopez shared.

As a pre-law student, Aquino, on the other hand, cited the sustainable development goal of the event they attended in Pangasinan, saying: “Since we’re in the legal studies track, we did it in promotion with the sustainable development goal number 16 which is ‘peace, justice, and inclusive society. That's what inspired this event.”

When asked if they see themselves in the shoes of their guest lawyers providing the free legal counsel, they are both optimistic about the vision of providing legal help. “I chose this [track]. It will be sad if I don’t push it through,” Aquino said.

For Lopez, she looked back on why she took the program with her goal to uphold the rule of law: “I chose to study legal management is to uphold the rule of law and to provide equal opportunity with justice.”

Aquino and Lopez also encouraged legal management students to attend conferences outside Letran. “I think they shouldn’t settle with learning inside the school. They should go out and attend conferences that is not organized by Letran,” Aquino said.

Moreover, with regard to their partnership with Letran, Atty. De Jesus mentioned plans to form a partnership with the Colegio, in providing legal aid.

“We’re willing to enter into such kind of MOA with Letran College. It’s an honor and a privilege,” he ended with delight.

(First published on The LANCE's Jan-Feb 2019 Issue)