SALIGAN is a legal resource non-governmental organization doing developmental legal work with women, farmers, workers, the urban poor, the indigenous peoples and local communities. SALIGAN seeks to effect societal change by working towards the empowerment of women, the basic sectors, and local communities through the creative use of the law and legal resources.
SALIGAN’s partnerships with the marginalized sectors and local communities are vast and deep. It has more than one hundred (100) partner-organizations all over the country, from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Founded in 1987, SALIGAN is one of the oldest member of the Alternative Law Groups, Inc. (ALG), a coalition of law groups in the Philippines engaged in the practice of alternative or developmental law.
SALIGAN operates in different areas throughout the Philippines. It has two branches – one branch operates in the Bicol Region (Naga City), one of the biggest and poorest regions in the country, and the other branch operates in Mindanao (Davao City).
SALIGAN has several major programs, each addressing a particular concern:
SALIGAN’s work in each of the five programs can be divided into the following major activities: (1) Legal literacy or alternative legal education; (2) paralegal formation; (3) Litigation support; (4) Policy work; (5) Research and publication. In addition to these, SALIGAN also has an internship program for law students.
Through its programs and activities, SALIGAN pursues an integrated advocacy program that addresses the needs of women, the basic sectors and local communities, and effects policy changes at the national and local levels. SALIGAN expects that leaders and members of its partner people’s and non-governmental organizations, and local communities will be able to use the law and the legal processes to advocate their interests.
Analysis of the Legal System
The Philippine legal system is both a by-product and cause of the socio-political-economic system. If the system maintains and protects the status quo, wherein the landed, propertied and traditionally powerful are favoured, the legal system is characterized by the elite’s monopoly of information, knowledge of the law, and representation before the government. The basic sectors lack the power in the making, influencing and administration of the law. Legal practice is skewed in favour of the wealthy. These constitute obstacles to structural transformation.
The Future of SALIGAN
SALIGAN has braved so many challenges in the 23 years of its existence. It has outlived four presidencies, faced eight congresses lobbying for measures that address policy gaps, questioned the decisions of the courts, quasi-judicial tribunals and even the ruling of the Supreme Court in the many cases that it has handled, joined mobilizations and other concerted actions to show indignation, to commemorate special occasions and to celebrate small victories.
SALIGAN has experimented with different internal structures and systems; agonized over shortage of funds that would cover its operations; triumphed over internal dynamics, both major and petty; and mourned the loss of two comrades.
SALIGAN looks back at its beginning, its triumphs and failures and the way it has tried to faithfully work by its vision, mission, principles, programs and chosen strategies. By looking back, it intends to learn from history, hoping to bring to future endeavours the valuable insights gained from both victories and losses. The success of projects and the achievement of targets, to a large extent, depend on how healthy the organization is – how it is able to manage its internal systems and structures, take care of the personal and professional needs of its staff, access resources for its continued operations, locate the most effective and efficient structure, and the like. SALIGAN remains to be challenged to be a healthy organization as it continues its journey as a catalyst for social change. As SALIGAN faces this challenge, it affirms its past and renews its undertaking to help empower the basic sectors, the women and local communities through the created use of the law and legal resources.