Violence victims

PHILIPPINES: Clients of slain lawyer Arbet Sta. Ana-Yongco are already assured of free legal assistance after the Cebu City Government allocated P500,000 for the trial of women and child abuse cases.

Councilor Gerardo Carillo said there is also a proposal to include in the program the murder case of Yongco, who was gunned down in her office last month.

The City Government will undertake the project with lawyers’ groups and advocates of women and children’s rights, including the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Cebu City and Cebu chapters, Federacion Internacional de Abogadas, Children’s Legal Bureau, Legal Alternatives for Women Inc. and Lihok Pilipina Inc.

Carillo said the initial financial assistance of P500,000 will be allocated to defray the expenses for the support for women and children who are victims of violence, especially those Yongco helped.

Yongco, a women and children’s rights advocate, was the private prosecutor in the parricide case against former mayor and cult leader Ruben Ecleo Jr. She was murdered last Oct. 11.

Carillo said the IBP has already assigned a panel of lawyers to handle the cases that Yongco left, including the Ecleo parricide case.

“So it’s not true that lawyers who volunteered to help Arbet already chickened out as perceived by the public and the media. For professional reasons, it’s difficult to just represent the client without being given the authority,” Carillo said.

Lawyers’ fees

All the cases handled by Yongco, he said, will be divided among the volunteer lawyers, “since it’s quite improbable for all lawyers to be in one case.”

Under the program called “Support for women/children victims of violence,” a total of P10,000 will be allotted for each case, which will be charged against the funds of the Women and Children’s Affairs Commission.

The P10,000 honorarium for the volunteer lawyers will be released in three tranches: P3,000 upon the acceptance of the case, P3,000 when the case has rested and P4,000 when the case is already submitted for decision.

“With the agreement, we are encouraging the lawyers to handle the cases of Attorney Yongco and other similar cases and extend legal assistance to the underprivileged. We will subsidize and although our funds are not enough, we hope it will help shoulder the incidental expenses of the lawyers,” Carillo said.

The City Government is expected to sign the memorandum of agreement with the lawyers, children and women’s groups later this month.