Monday, August 22, 2011

Becoming a Mediator

I've always believed that alternative modes of dispute resolution are what this country needs to declog our courts and restore the public's trust in the judicial system. The different modes I learned of in law school include negotiation, mediation and arbitration. (For more information about ADR, you can read RA 9285)

Last week, I attended a 4-day seminar on basic mediation to place me one step closer to becoming an accredited mediator of the Supreme Court. There is no mediation office in my province of Ilocos Norte and I hope to be the one to organize it in the near future.

The seminar, organized by the Philippine Judicial Academy, was held in Cauayan, Isabela (PhilJA plans to establish a mediation office there).
At the seminar venue
35 professionals participated in the course. 2 from Metro Manila, 1 from Laoag City (that's me), 1 from Baguio City, another from Nueva Ecija, and the remaining 31 from the cities of Ilagan, Cauayan and Santiago in Isabela province.

8 of us were lawyers, some were court personnel and the rest were from the private sector. (Yes, anyone can become a mediator, as long as you are at least 30 years old, a college graduate and of good moral character. For more information about becoming a mediator, log on to the Philippine Mediation Center website
DCA Raul Villanueva
We had a total of 9 speakers who discussed various subjects on mediation. On our first day, Atty. Manny Caparas gave the most lectures. He talked about ADR mechanisms and the role of lawyers in mediation; Deputy Court Administrator Raul Villanueva discussed conflict management; and Fr. Raffy Cruz shared wth us his thoughts on social and cultural context in negotiation.
Fr. Raffy Cruz 
I stayed in Hotel Andrea, the only boutique hotel in the city. My room was kind of small and had no windows, but it was okay for the price (P1,050.00). May aircon, flat screen TV, hot shower and free wifi naman.
I did not know anyone in Cauayan. The only friend I knew in Isabela was Mayor Jeng Reyes, but she lives in Alicia town, which is a good 45 minutes away. Luckily, my fraternity batchmate, Allen Cortez, who works for URC, was doing his rounds in the area and we had a drink one night.
On Day 2, Justice Tess Dy-Liacco Flores taught us the fundamentals of communication. That as mediators, we should listen to both parties and be aware of verbal, as well as non-verbal forms of communication. Mediation is less rigid than court litigation. Mediators can be flexible when negotiating with the parties. There are no strict rules of procedure. In fact, lawyer participation is optional, if not discouraged! 

Also, mediators are not judges or arbiters. They don't decide cases. Instead, mediators act as facilitators. They provide an opportunity for both parties to voice out their concerns.
The seminar was held in the compound of UPHS-Isabela Campus
Later on, the class was introduced to the 6 stages of mediation. Usec. Linda Hornilla started it off with the mediator's opening statement. And then Atty. Caparas followed it up with the parties' opening statement. Justice Flores returned to discuss joint discussion and identifying the issues. The 4th stage was on what to do during impasses (the answer is to hold a caucus with each of the parties). Atty. Egon Cayosa of the Tuguegarao PMC Unit talked about joint negotiation, and on the 6th and final stage about closure.

The goal of mediation is to get the parties to agree on settling their differences outside of court and to enter into a compromise. More importantly, the ultimate mission of mediation is to bring back the peace between the parties. Sa korte kasi very adversarial. Magkaaway na kaagad yung mga parties. May nasa tama, may nasa mali. May panalo at may talo. Not in mediation. Pwede magkaroon ng win-win solution.
Atty. Cayosa
Usec. Linda Hornilla
That's me with Dingdong Agcaoili of Santiago City MTCC (he's not looking at the camera)
Mediation Role-play
In Day 3, Dean Agabin taught us how to write a compromise agreement, while Usec. Hornilla informed us about the PMC grievance machinery, if ever someone complains about our performance in court-annexed mediation.
Dean Agabin 
On the 4th and last day, Dean Agabin talked about ethics and reminded the participants that when we sit as mediators we become officers of the court (I already am, as a lawyer. The rule is for non-lawyer mediators). Mr. Jose Name informed us of the fees we will be receiving. As mediators, we get a whopping P1,000.00 for every successful mediation! (Dean Agabin and Atty. Cayosa told us we shouldn't be mediating for the money. Mediation is really volunteer work.) And the last talk was given my Atty. Mark Polonan of PMC. He discussed the mediation forms and the accreditation process.
The resource speakers with all the participants
Me, Mr. Name, Usec. Hornilla, Dean Agabin, Atty. Polonan and 2 other Manila-based lawyer-participants
Having earned my Certificate of Completion, the next step is a two month internship. I have to mediate 3 successful cases within the period. After that, PhilJA-PMC endorses my application to the Supreme Court for resolution.  Mark said the process might take another 3 months. So, I'm looking at getting my accreditation by January next year.
But that's still a long time from today. Right now I'm thankful to have been given the opportunity to take the course.

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