Kaka Bag-ao

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Arlene "Kaka" Bag-ao
Member of the Philippine House of Representatives from Dinagat Islands' Lone District
Incumbent
Assumed office
30 June 2013
Member of the Philippine House of Representatives from Akbayan Partylist
In office
30 June 2010 – 30 June 2013
Personal details
Born 3 July 1969
Manila, Philippines
Nationality Filipino
Political party Akbayan Citizens' Action Party
Alma mater De La Salle University, Ateneo de Manila University
Profession alternative lawyer

Arlene "Kaka" J. Bag-ao (born July 3, 1969) is a Filipino human rights lawyer and agrarian reform advocate who is a member of the House of Representatives of the Philippines since 2010. Currently, she serves as the Representative of the Lone District of Dinagat Islands.

Education[edit]

Raised in Loreto, Surigao del Norte (now part of Dinagat Islands), Bag-ao earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the De La Salle University, and her Juris Doctor (JD) degree from the Ateneo de Manila Law School. She passed the Philippine Bar Examinations in 1994. She was a Law and Human Rights Humphrey Fellow — in the Academic Year 2006-2007 - at the University of Minnesota, under a program implemented by the Fulbright Commission.

Career[edit]

As an alternative lawyer[edit]

Bag-ao believes that alternative lawyering is not simply a career but an advocacy for a particular way of life for lawyers and legal advocates; alternative lawyering is a life that is not based on sacrifices and compromises, but a choice and a lifelong commitment.

Bag-ao is one of the founders and the former Executive Director of BALAOD Mindanaw,[1] a law group based in Mindanao, Philippines working for the advancement and protection of the rights of farmers, fisherfolks, indigenous peoples and women’s and other marginalized groups through the creative and developmental use of the law.

As an alternative lawyer, Bag-ao's work is not limited to litigating cases. She is also involved in policy reform both at the local and national levels, working with different advocacy groups and law school based organizations in the country. Committed to the goal of demystifying the law as a monopoly of lawyers and the formally educated, she provides paralegal training and legal clinics to grassroots organizations and has won cases with them.

Bag-ao is a member of the independent secretariat to the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Revolutionary Worker’s Party of Mindanao (RPMM) that facilitated the signing of the agreement on the cessation of hostilities and the agreement to integrate community consultations as an essential component of the peace process.

In 2004, Bag-ao was asked to become the special consultant to the Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform and facilitated the awarding of numerous land titles to farmer-beneficiaries. She was also responsible for the formulation and issuance of a Memorandum Circular—later affirmed by the Supreme Court- requiring the DAR to proceed with the acquisition and distribution of lands to farmer-beneficiaries despite injunction orders issued by regular courts.

Bag-ao provided leadership for the Alternative Law Groups (ALG),[2] as a Convenor in 2005-2006 and as a Council Member thereafter. The ALG is a coalition of twenty (20) alternative legal resource non-government organizations engaged in developmental lawyering in different parts of the country. Under Bag-ao’s leadership, the ALG implemented a program in partnership with the Supreme Court which complemented its Action Program on Judicial Reform and resulted in the Supreme Court’s programs on access to justice by the poor. The ALG also pushed for the enactment of several social legislations, including the enactment of the Juvenile Justice Law and the Supreme Court ruling on the indefeasibility of titles issued under the agrarian reform program.

Bag-ao was the lead counsel in the Sumilao Farmers’ case, a case of indigenous farmers who walked for 1,700 kilometers from Bukidnon, Mindanao to Manila to claim rights to their lands under agrarian reform against one of the biggest corporations in the Philippines. The Sumilao Farmers’ case generated national and international attention and support. The case also inspired the Church to shepherd their cause and eventually resulted in an agreement under which the farmers would be given back their land.[3] She also became one of the counsels for the Banasi Farmers of Camarines Sur who have reclaimed their rights in 2008 and the Calatagan Farmers of Batangas. Bag-ao and other co-counsels, together with Farmer Leaders, helped educate the Banasi Farmers on their rights and how they could fight for these peacefully. After they won the case, the Banasi Farmers continue to be partners in the implementation of agrarian reform and in pushing for good governance.

As Akbayan representative[edit]

On 20 June 2010, Bag-ao was sworn in as the second representative[4] of Akbayan Party in the 15th Philippine Congress.

Together with fellow Akbayan Representative Walden Bello, she is the author of numerous progressive bills in Congress such as House Bill 3763[5] (Minerals Management Bill), House Bill 513[6] (Reproductive Health Bill), House Bill 468[7] (Sangguniang Kabataan Reform and Empowerment Bill), House Bill 515[8] (Anti-Discrimination Bill), House Bill 5312 (Comprehensive HIV and AIDS Bill), and House Bill 4268 (Healthy Beverages Options Bill or the 'Chip's Bill').

Bag-ao is a principal author of Republic Act 10354[9] or the Reproductive Health Law. She is also the principal author of House Bill 6545[10] or the National Land Use Bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives.

Bag-ao is the current Vice Chairperson of the House Committee on Agrarian Reform. She is one of the champions of Kaya Natin,[11] a non-government organization founded by the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo that advocates good governance and ethical leadership. She is also one of only two lady public prosecutors in the impeachment trial of convicted Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.[12]

As Dinagat Islands caretaker[edit]

As a native of the province and through the endorsement of Surigao del Norte Representatives Francisco Matugas and Guillermo Romarate, Jr., Bag-ao was appointed by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. as the Legislative Liaison Officer or Caretaker of the Lone District of Dinagat Islands.[13][14]

Upon her assumption as Dinagat caretaker, Bag-ao led a series of consultations in the province's 100 barangays, asking the residents of their community concerns and development projects they wish to see. In just three months, Bag-ao was able to roll-out the following development programs and projects:

  • P3-million worth of free medical assistance at the Caraga Regional Hospital;
  • P8-million worth of scholarships for the Dinagat youth at the Surigao State College of Technology (SSCT) and other state universities and colleges;
  • P120-million worth of infrastructure projects for all barangays, including roads, bridges, water systems, barangay halls, barangay gym, sea walls, etc.; and
  • 77 ”Sasakyan Ng Barangay” multicabs for faster delivery of government services even in the province's remotest communities.

As Dinagat Islands representative[edit]

At the May 2013 general elections, Bag-ao was elected representative of the Lone District of Dinagat Islands, edging out Dinagat municipal mayor Gwendolyn Ecleo with 3,248 votes.[15]

Achievements[edit]

Because of her work with the Sumilao Farmers, Bag-ao was awarded the 2008 Frederik Ozanam Award said to be “given to exemplary individuals who, in living out the demands of faith, justice, and love, have given distinctive and continued service to their brothers and sisters, especially the poor and suffering” during the Annual Academic Convocation of the Ateneo de Manila University.[16] She was also the recipient of the 2010 Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) Award in Alternative Lawyering.[17]

References[edit]

External links[edit]