DUBAI // Filipinos who find themselves on the wrong side of the law need not face their legal problems alone.
A group of 11 expatriates, mostly legal consultants and law graduates, have banded together to form Philippine Legal Advocates, or Plead.
The Filipinos provide free legal advice, and draft legal documents and written arguments to help their compatriots in court.
They intend to also offer practical legal education and training for Filipinos, and act as a link between the Philippine diplomatic missions in the UAE and the community.
"Ignorance of the law excuses no one," said Ian Joseph Uy, 36, a legal consultant at Law Firm International in Dubai and one of the founding members of Plead.
"Many are unaware that one can be held liable for being a guarantor for a personal loan.
"Also, once someone has served a sentence for a bounced cheque, he or she could face a civil case by the bank to collect the owed amount."
The idea for an advocacy group came after a series of paralegal training workshops in Dubai in July.
Gene Carl Tupas, 28, another member of Plead, said he wanted to teach Filipinos their rights and obligations.
"We would like to ensure that they follow UAE and Philippine laws, are able to seek redress, and prevent any violation of their basic human rights," Mr Tupas said.
The group started offering advice to their countrymen last month. In recent weeks, members have twice hosted radio phone-ins on Dubai Eye.
Most enquiries were about labour-related matters such as gratuity, the difference between a limited and unlimited contract, the penalties for resigning without notice, and breaches of contracts.
One of the group's long-term goals is to set up an all-Filipino legal consultancy and hire an Emirati lawyer to represent their clients in court.
"Filipinos usually seek help from their fellow countrymen when they have problems," Mr Tupas said. "Plead members have the legal expertise and are skilled in legal representation and negotiations."
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