The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Monday said it has resolved 606 land dispute cases or 43 percent of the 1,419 cases referred to its alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program since 2019.
DENR assistant secretary for legal affairs and ADR committee chair Michelle Angelica Go noted that previous delays in resolving land dispute cases generates “mistrust” in the DENR, but the speedy resolution of land cases through the ADR mechanism raised the agency’s integrity,
“a crucial determinant of citizens’ trust in government.”
At least 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, she 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 agency’s adoption of ADR mechanism was pursuant to Republic Act 9285 or the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 2004 and DENR
Administrative Order 2005-18.
Some 412 ADR mediations were conducted in 2022 mostly via online, exceeding by 110 percent last year’s 376 ADR mediations conducted.
Go credited 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 that spelled 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.
According to Go, majority of the DENR-ADROs are non-lawyers, “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,” she said.