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.

Friday, August 12, 2011


A lot of corporations' CSR projects nowadays include the building of classrooms for public elementary and secondary schools (think the likes of Mcdonald's, GMA, Coca-Cola, Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, etc.).

But equally important to having enough classrooms is to have an adequate number of chairs and school desks inside the room, right?


I mean, what's the use of a classroom if it's empty. The teacher and her students might as well hold class under a tree.

This is where you come in.

Yes, you!

PBSP recently launched an on-line donation facility called iGiveBackNow where ordinary people, like you and me, can give back to the community by donating as little as P100 to help improve public education. The donor can choose to donate to either the President Cory Aquino School Desk Project or the School Chairs Assistance Project.

Did you know that more than 5 million Filipino students do not have a chair to sit on or a desk to write on?

They squat or sit on the floor! 5 million kids!

Which is pathetic because one school desk costs a mere P880! The shirt you're wearing is probably more expensive.

Now is the time for you to give back to the community. Pull out your credit cards or your ATM cards and donate to today!

Friday, August 05, 2011

When Ordinary People Commit Graft

We usually associate graft, embezzlement and other forms of corruption with high ranking public officials and controversial political leaders.

He stole 5 Million Pesos in a rigged public bidding; He pocketed 100 Million Pesos from a ghost infrastructure project; so on, so forth.

But graft is committed by ordinary people as well.

In a program the organization I work for manages, we discovered some irregularities in the reporting of check-ups by health workers.

The program is supposed to run like this: the patient goes to the clinic everyday to take his medicine. He is given an allowance for food and transportation. At the clinic, the nurse or a health worker gives him the medicine, and the patient drinks it in front of the health worker. The point being the health worker sees the patient taking the medicine, making sure the treatment works. That's the DOTS program. Directly Observed Treatment Short Course. And its used to cure tuberculosis.

This program, conceptualized by the Department of Health and the World Health Organization, would drastically lower the TB cases in the Philippines; and both organizations have shelled out millions and millions pesos to implement it.

But don't you notice, we haven't moved in the rankings?

There's still a lot of people in the country dying of TB.

It's because of corruption.

But there's no big time politician behind this, pocketing the funds for the program. Instead, you have regular people, like you and me, committing graft.

What happens is the nurse or the health worker would just simulate or fake the check-up. It's easily done because there's no way for the upper-ups to immediately find out if a TB patient died. All the nurse or health worker has to do is to "continue" administering the treatment, fill up the form and submit it as if the patient appeared before him and drank the medicine. The nurse or health worker then gets the food and transportation allowance of the deceased. Let's say that equates to P500 per patient per day. Why, that amounts to P3,500 per week and P14,000 per month! And that's only one patient! Imagine how many patients visit the clinic every day.

That's graft, man. No way of denying it.

The sad thing about this is that these nurses and health workers don't think there's anything wrong with what they're doing.

"P500 lang naman eh. Di naman mapapansin. Mas malaki ninakaw ni GMA at FG," they might say.

But stealing is stealing. Que one hundred pesos o one million man yan.

And this barangay-level stealing should be addressed as much as, if not more than, the coverage GMA, FG, Genuino, and other politicians get nowadays.

Corruption is everywhere and we have to tackle it from the bottom up. We cannot turn a blind eye to people stealing P500 because its just P500. Ang nagnanakaw naman ng 5 million nagsimula din sa maliit na halaga di ba?


PS: I'm not saying all nurses and health workers working in barangay health centers are corrupt. Ofcourse not. In fact, marami sa kanila sila pa minsan ang nag-aabono sa kelangan gastusin. But there are some who abuse the system, and THEY are the target of my blogpost.