DENR Mediates Over 600 Land Dispute Cases in 4 Years

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has resolved a total of 606 land dispute cases or around 43 percent of the 1,419 cases referred to its Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program since 2019.

This was disclosed by DENR Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs and ADR Committee Chair Michelle Angelica Go during the awarding ceremony for Best ADR Officers (ADROs) which was the highlight of the DENR’s National ADR Day 2022 celebration held last December 6 at its central office in Quezon City.

Noting that previous delays in resolving land dispute cases feed “mistrust” in the DENR, Go said the speedy resolution of land cases through the ADR mechanism raises the agency’s integrity which, she said, is “a crucial determinant of citizens’ trust in government.”

According to Go, the 606 mediated cases over the four-year period “is quite a feat” considering the longer time and costly expenses these cases would have entailed if resolved through court litigation.

Go said the ADR mechanism benefits disputants in terms of time and costs compared to resorting to filing lawsuits where two parties are put through an adversary system and court decisions are based on the merits of the dispute.

The DENR’s adoption of ADR mechanism was pursuant to Republic Act (RA) 9285, or the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 2004 and DENR Administrative Order (DAO) 2005-18, which called for the adoption of the ADR principles and procedures in the resolution of conflicts.

Some 412 ADR mediations were conducted in 2022 mostly via online, exceeding by 110 percent last year’s 376 ADR mediations conducted.

Go attributed the increase in ADR mediations last year to the full implementation of DAO 2021-01 entitled “Guidelines on the Conduct of Virtual Alternative Dispute Resolution Proceedings in the Resolution of Land Claims and Conflicts and Other Natural Resources Disputes in the Department” issued on Jan. 29, 2021.

Besides RA 9285, DAO 2021-01 is likewise pursuant to RA 11494 or the “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act” which spells out measures for COVID-19 response and recovery interventions and to the Supreme Court’s Administrative Circular No. 37-2020 that calls for the pilot testing of hearings through videoconferencing.

The lands sector is the first to be adopted in the DENR’s ADR program. In 2018, a comprehensive 80-hour accreditation training was conducted for the purpose.

Of the 427 individuals who completed the training program, active ADROs presently stand at 346 following the transfer to other government agencies or retirement of the other 78 ADROs.

According to Go, majority of the DENR-ADROs are non-lawyers which is an advantage as opposed to lawyer-ADROs.

“As mediation facilitators, ADROs go beyond the legalese. The mindset should not be legalese. You get out of that box and it’s better if the ADRO is a non-lawyer,” Go pointed out.

She expressed optimism over the program’s further institutionalization at the agency and rollout in the mining and forestry sector citing the support given by DENR Secretary Antonia Loyzaga at the opening of the ADR photo exhibit held in the morning of the awarding.

“The environment chief expressed appreciation for the number of non-lawyers in DENR’s roster of ADROs as she noted that dispute resolution requires a mindset that is not legalese,” Go bared.

Go also said the DENR is currently boosting its ADRO recruitment and accreditation with its plan to roll out the ADR mechanism to the forestry and mining sectors as well.

Named as 2022 Top ADROs were Mildred Atienza Pascual (DENR Region IV-B), Sebastian Miguel Magat (DENR-Region II), Alexis Valdez Abrasaldo (DENR-Region II), Jose Angelo Nermal Fabila (DENR-Region VI) and Orland Julius Moscardon Padios (DENR-Region VI).

The DENR regional offices I, II, IV-B, VI and X also received the Top Pool of ADRO Awards in recognition of their support to institutionalize the ADR mechanism within their respective areas of jurisdiction.

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