NGO launches crisis hotline, gives free legal advice amid COVID pandemic

Legal focused group launched a quick response hotline to provide accessible legal advice, consultation, and information aid to the public amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS, Inc) aims to address the crucial need of the communities for correct information and communication in times of crisis and emergencies.

“Everyone should have access to factual and relevant information and practicable advice, so they can have guided decisions during this challenging time,” IDEALS legal coordinator Atty. Ansheline Bacudio said.

Lawyers and paralegals, through the hotline, give free legal assistance by responding to queries about government protocols, relief operations, social welfare concerns and legal rights education in the context of the enhanced community quarantine.

The abrupt declaration of President Duterte to implement an enhanced lockdown in Luzon on March 15 has brought panic and confusion to millions of Filipinos. The continued press briefings of the government, however, lacked clear and detailed plans and strategies on how to overcome this health emergency.

Thus, the government, up to this date, fails to appease the public. While other countries battle the coronavirus, the Duterte administration wages a war that hurts mostly the poor, the organization believed.

Because of this, IDEALS, Inc. came up with several efforts to reach out to the public and provide a platform where the public can air their concerns and in return, give them attainable and immediate solutions.

Since the onset, IDEALS has already catered to over 200 clients mostly consisting of employees, from low to middle income earners, who seek clarification on their rights during the lockdown.

Among others, they are taxi drivers, street vendors, construction workers, LGU employees, utility personnel including janitors and guards, and concerned citizens who wish to inquire about the latest government announcements and ordinances. Most of them reside within the NCR, but there are some who reside outside as in Tarlac, Bacolod, or Cabanatuan.

Hotline data analysis also shows that the most Filipinos are affected by illegal dismissal or suspension of employees, salary and hazard pay issues, closure of the employer’s business and slow or lack support from local government units.

“Many respondents are distressed over meeting their day to day expenses. Without work and pay, daily wage earners in low-income communities have no money to buy food and other necessities, and must rely on government dole-outs that may or may not be given to them. This proves that the right to quality life is greatly compromised. ” Atty. Bacudio added, emphasizing that the government fails to assure its citizens, especially the marginalized, by securing their primary needs.

The hotline receives an average of 10 to 20 questions daily through SMS using the IDEALS Dignidad hotline, the IDEALS Facebook page and Radyo Veritas.

Deemed necessary, IDEALS also pushed an online information campaign to equip the public with pressing news, critical information and comprehensive reports in connection to the current events.

This campaign drive hopes to compensate for the inefficiencies of the government to provide a transparent and thorough action plan for curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

“We want to reinforce our advocacy to empower citizens, most importantly the vulnerable sectors, by providing them with truths, human rights and legal education that will help them cope with their situation,” Project Manager for Media and Communications Mikhaela Dimpas said.

The organization published a series of communication materials that tackle rights of workers, FAQs on checkpoints, relief assistance, guidelines for the community quarantine, psychosocial support, gender issues, rights of OFWs and many other pertinent topics.

Apart from the heightened information aid, the organization also monitors and documents emerging human rights violations prompted by the government’s procedures. After verifying these cases, the legal team then assists their legal needs to help them access justice.

The government’s response, instead of acknowledging the severity of the pandemic, rather tightens grip on human rights, leaning on a fractured and unsupported healthcare system that is buckling under the weight of the pandemic, IDEALS maintained.

“Human rights must always be upheld and respected at all times. This crisis is not an excuse to violate the rights of the citizens. The government should ensure that even in trying times, the citizens should continue to live with dignity,” Atty. Bacudio insisted.

For any concerns and questions, you may reach the IDEALS Hotline through 0966 760 9397 or chat our IDEALS Facebook Page.