MANILA – Victims of human trafficking, illegal recruitment and mail-order brides can now have access to legal counseling online, for free.
The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) partnered with the Office of the Legal Aid (OLA) of the Arellano Law Foundation (AFL) for the creation of the online legal counseling service, “Itanong Mo Kay Ato!”
“We are very excited about this. This is the first time we are having this,” said Chairperson Imelda Nicolas of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO).
The CFO and the OLA-AFL launched the web application as both agreed that technology is the fastest and most efficient mode of communication to reach out to Filipinos here and abroad.
“We started training the lawyers. Hopefully within two to three weeks it will be online already,” said Nicolas.
Nicolas said the online legal counseling service will be part of the 1343 Actionline Against Human Trafficking website.
“Itanong Mo Kay Ato!”, can be accessed by the public even those based overseas. Partner lawyers will receive and provide legal advice in a 24/7 basis through live chat or e-mails, and all information will be kept private and confidential.
“Initially, the counselling is free. But the moment you say kailangan mo na ng lawyer, ibang usapan na yun. But if they are indigents, kasama na yun sa aming first MOA,” said Nicolas.
Nicolas was referring to the first agreement that the CFO signed with the OLA-AFL last May.
Under the first agreement, cases received through the 1343 Actionline will be referred to ALF. Through its OLA, they shall assist and provide legal services to survivors of human trafficking and other related cases such as illegal recruitment, mail-order bride scheme, organ and drug trafficking, among others.
The partnership aims to help Filipinos who cannot afford to avail the services of a private lawyer for the speedy disposition of their cases. It is an effort to bring justice closer to needy individuals, the CFO said.
As a member of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) and Chair of the IACAT-Advocacy and Communications Committee (ADVOCOM), the CFO supervises the operations of the 1343 Actionline against Human Trafficking, a 24/7 national hotline primarily dedicated to campaign against human trafficking and other related acts. The provision of the online legal counseling is in line with the campaign against human trafficking and other related cases.