Legal Alternatives for Women (LAW) Center, Inc., 22 years
Last Saturday, Fiesta of the Señor Sto. Niño, LAW Center, Inc. celebrated its founding anniversary with a Eucharistic celebration and general assembly.
Fr. Aladdin, OSA reminded us of the virtues of the Holy Child: Humility, openness, trust and a sense of wonder.
He also reminded us of the faithful presence of women, especially the Blessed Virgin in the life of Jesus.
Atty. Irene Contang-Caballes very ably managed the general assembly.
Those who joined the celebration were provided with forms wherein they could indicate their form of support; member, contributor, volunteer and others.
Those who chose to be members then voted for the members of the LAW Center, Inc. board. There was a good balance in the elected: Dr. Madrileña L. de la Cerna of the University of the Philippines; Maylin A. Ligad (Women in Socio-Economic Undertakings-WISE); Prof. Marie Segarra-Tabotabo of the University of San Carlos; Gerarda Warain Barsobia (WISE); and Delia B. Etcuban (WISE). Atty. Virginia Palanca-Santiago remains as ex-officio member of the board.
The heritage house of the Villacastins hosted LAW Center, Inc. in its beginning with Atty. Alice K. Morada as the president. From the very beginning, LAW Center, Inc. envisioned a society wherein women are empowered and enjoy equality.
Their awareness of the local, national and global situation made the people involved with it made them decide to make available legal and related services at first in Cebu. Its first case was a rape case of a married woman.
The perpetrator was acquitted. He appeared to be a mini-drug lord who was supported by a barangay captain who was also into drugs. Among the earlier cases was that of an office girl sexually harassed via the computer.
Many of the earlier cases were those of economically-challenged women. In fact, many female victims of domestic violence hesitate to file cases against their husbands because of the family’s dependence on them.
So Women in Socio-Economic Undertakings was organized. So through their struggle to assert their rights and at the same time the rise of their economic independence, women were awakened of their self-worth.
A part of LAW Center, Inc.’s history was spent at the Cebu Provincial Capitol. With Hon. Agnes Almendras-Magpale leading the province in its women advocacy.
The GO-NGO partnership was very productive. The formation of the Provincial Women’s Commission, the writing of the Cebu Provincial Women’s Development Code, and the printing of the Heritage Cards, Sugboanang Tag-Una (Cebuana Trailblazers). Working together, the various municipalities were evaluated regarding their gender-responsiveness.
Women served the cause of women admirably: Connie Gestopa, Arbet Sta. Ana-Yongco and Portia Dacalos. Atty. Arbet-Sta. Ana-Yongco (LAW Center, Inc. coordinator of legal services) was actually martyred; she was murdered as she fought to have the mastermind of the death of Alona and her brothers punished.
LAW Center, Inc. over 22 years has experienced expansion of work and membership. With the help of Marit Stinus, the group was able to have means of clarifying women’s rights and laws via Takna sa Kababayn-an aired at dyLA on Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. with Atty. Noemi Truya Abrintos and Lolet Aliño.
Malu Inocando-Tabar helped it assist women not only in Cebu but also in northern Mindanao to have enlightening sessions through “Sa Mata Sa Kababayn-an” by viewing CCTN.
But teams from LAW Center, Inc. usually led by Atty. Virginia Palanca-Santiago went as far as Bantayan and Santander to provide education related to laws to empower women, informing about the VAW desk.
Actually, all kinds of support have been with LAW Center, Inc. — like Cathy and Gaying assisting in the women’s performance; or Piang serenely documenting events.
Working with LAW Center, Inc. has been such a fulfilling experience; what fills me with gladness is that I can feel the joy of the other women who have been involved, too!
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