People we assist are truthful about their situation and frank with their emotions. 

I was assigned to the case of a lady who is wife to a healthcare worker. As reply to my question where her husband was she said he went out to buy food, “Birthday niya kahapon pero late na nakauwi sa 16-hour shift. Tapos ito pa nangyari.” I can hear children playing in the background.

I decided: the only way to start this legal consultation was for me to express gratitude for the sacrifice her family makes every time her husband clocks in.

“The only way to start this legal consultation was for me to express gratitude for the sacrifice her family makes.”

Encouraged, the lady explained that she was agonizing: barangay officials asked her husband to choose between staying-in at the hospital where he works, or staying in their neighborhood. She felt she needed legal advice—“Puwede po ba papiliin kami na huwag na pumasok asawa ko sa hospital, Attorney?”

Time to follow through: the lady needed to be assured that we are behind her; our talk is not cheap. I discussed with her, and told her I will be sending her an SMS of legal points she needs to raise during her talk with the barangay. I included very specific penal provisions, and told her I was ready to connect to barangay officials if our points fall short.

“We are behind her; our talk is not cheap.”

She messaged me thirty minutes later, “Ok na daw po, hindi na po siya pipilitin sa gusto nilang mangyari. Salamat po mam ng marami. Napakalaking tulong po ninyo. Salamat po.”

I closed our consultation, and asked the lady if she could, please, greet her husband a happy birthday for me. I imagine her family will continue to sacrifice the safety of her husband, for the rest of us.

Mimi Banayat, Volunteer Lawyer

This was how VLAD helped me locate myself. During the first days of quarantine, life was uncertain—it still is—and, I wondered what role lawyers play in this pandemic. This fellowship of volunteer lawyers proves that legal advice is an essential service. Lawyers are here to provide reason, logic, and expertise; because we need to preserve our community, because we need to preserve our humanity.

Note: The author, together with more than a hundred volunteer lawyers, provides free legal assistance and can be contacted through the Facebook Page of the Volunteer Lawyers Against Discrimination or any of its mobile numbers: 09992298705 for Smart subscribers; 09177052333 for Globe subscribers.

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