In December 2013, the Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services, Inc. (IDEALS) embarked on an advocacy to help Typhoon Yolanda survivors and
assist them in accessing and claiming benefits from government and non-government institutions by conducting legal missions. The engagement revealed the high demand for civil documents as these were important requirements in accessing benefits but were unfortunately washed out by the typhoon. Considering this apparent need of survivors, the success of the engagement, and with greater push from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), IDEALS tread the advocacy of providing assistance to reconstruct civil documents. With pooled funding from ICCO, OXFAM, UK AID, Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF), and Foundation for Sustainable Society, Inc. (FSSI) and assistance from the Philippine Statistics Authority – National Statistics Office (PSA-NSO), IDEALS has since facilitated the reconstruction and distribution of at least 40,658 civil documents including birth, marriage, and death certificates and certificate of no marriage, among others. More importantly, these documents have been instrumental for the beneficiaries to access benefits and services offered by government and non-government institutions. As of the last assessment, at least P33,261,000 worth of benefits, claims and legal services were accessed by the beneficiaries including GSIS benefits, DTI and SSS loans, Pagibig and insurance claims, shelter/housing project requirements, legal representation, and legal documents such as affidavits and deeds of contract.

By April 2014, IDEALS started working on the objective of producing Certificates of Live Birth (COLB) printed in NSO Security Paper (SecPa) for children age 18 and below to assist them in their education needs. With the help of UNHCR, IDEALS collaborated with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and PSA-NSO to produce some 37,500 Certificates of Live Birth. At about the same period, IDEALS was already working on an expanded coverage of the earlier civil registration project in the provinces of Leyte and Western and Eastern Samar with UNICEF Philippines. Both initiatives materialized and were launched in November 7, 2014 in Guiuan, Eastern Samar coinciding with the commemoration of the anniversary of Typhoon Yolanda. While IDEALS was eager in requesting DSWD to include the distribution of the SecPa COLBs during the government’s commemoration rites, the short program attended by President Aquino can only include so much. In the end, a simple ceremony was held for the launching and distribution of COLBs graced by UNICEF Country Director Lotta Sylwander, DSWD Secretary Corazon “Dinky”Soliman, and a representative from the PSA Regional Office.

Very recently, UNICEF has released the equipment requested by Local Civil Registrars from the project areas that will be instrumental in the expeditious implementation of the project.  This includes desktop computers, printers, and scanners, among others. On the other hand, the DSWD has transferred P5 M worth of funds to PSA-NSO in January 7. Both were capped by a ceremonial turn-over in January 9 in Tacloban City, and January 14 at the DSWD Central Office in Batasan, Quezon City, respectively.The latter was graced by Sec. Dinky Soliman and ASec. Vilma Cabrera of DSWD, Interim Director National Statistician Paula Monina Collado and Interim Assistant National Statistician Lourdes Hufana of PSA-NSO, Country Representative Mr. Bernard Kerblat and Mr. Rico Salcedo of UNHCR, and Board President Joey Faustino and Executive Director Egad Ligon of IDEALS. During the turnover of funds at DSWD, Sec. Soliman said, “Having a paper that says you are recognized as a citizen is very empowering.” Mr. Kerblat, on the other hand, said, “Yolanda has thrown millions of people in total disarray. They lost lives and livelihood and they also lost their civil records and our concerted action on civil registration is a fundamental contribution for their recovery.”

With these developments, IDEALS is looking forward to reaching out to over 110,000 individuals and providing them greater access to social protection. “In its 10th year, IDEALS is looking at a continuing advocacy for civil registration and legal identity for all. This may be a low profile project, but it has a high impact on the lives of people – beyond numbers, these are people that we can actually identify,” Mr. Faustino said.

Civil Registration: A fundamental step in rebuilding the lives of Yolanda survivors

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