IN THE KNOW: FLAG
The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) is a nationwide, legal assistance group that specializes in human rights cases.
Composed of human rights lawyers, the group traces its roots back to the martial law days. It was founded in 1974 by Jose W. Diokno, Lorenzo Tañada Sr. and Joker Arroyo to provide legal assistance to political prisoners and other victims of martial law.
After President Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law in 1972, all opposition was suppressed.
The press and the national legislature were padlocked and activists opposing Marcos were labeled as enemies of the state.
Many were arrested, detained, and were either tortured or summarily executed.
Led by a small core of lawyers and nonlawyers, FLAG pioneered the strategy of training and deploying paralegals for “first aid legal aid.”
Other similar organizations, including the Protestant Lawyers League and the Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood Integrity and Nationalism Inc., followed the FLAG model.
Among the many advocacies of the group is to help those against political repression, military and police abuses, and the death penalty.
Aside from civil and political rights activism, FLAG also handled cases of the urban poor, indigenous peoples, workers, students, and other disenfranchised sectors of Philippine society.
The group took part as private prosecutors in the impeachment trial of President Joseph Estrada.
In 2006, FLAG also took a strong stance against the revision of the Constitution.
The current chair of the organization is the son of Diokno, Jose Manuel Diokno, law dean of De La Salle University. —COMPILED BY MARIELLE MEDINA
Sources: Inquirer Archives, http://flagfaqs.blogspot.com/, Community Based Paralegalism in the Philippines: From Social Movements to Democratization
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