Kaalaman, Karunungan, at Karapatan – An Online Symposium conducted with Ateneo Law School

Over 60 jails and 1,000 PDLs attended the Kaalaman, Karunungan, at Karapatan, an online human rights symposium in partnership with the Ateneo Law School Clinical Legal Education Program, on January 9, 2024.

Clinical Legal Education Program (CLEP) law students from Ateneo Law School conducted an online symposium entitled “Kaalaman, Karunungan, atKarapatan” which allowed persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) to know and understand different topics such as the Safe Spaces Act and the Good Conduct Time Allowance.

CLEP law students said “As human beings or individuals part of the society, regardless of our status in life, it is important to know and learn about the rights that are inherent in us. As students of the law, we want to serve the people by fighting for their rights and to fight against injustice in our society”.

“We believe that holding this symposium will be very useful and essential for those who are deprived of their liberty and separated from society. By allowing them to know and understand the law as well as to learn more from the lessons imparted to us by our guest speakers, this symposium will be impactful for persons deprived of liberty and even the jail officers who are maintaining, operating, protecting the people behind bars and ensuring their safety”.

HLAF provides an experiential learning opportunity for the Ateneo CLEP law students. By involving them in facilitating such learning sessions, HLAF is offering them practical exposure to legal advocacy and community engagement. HLAF believes this hands-on experience can significantly enhance their understanding of real-world legal challenges and increase their empathy and understanding of the needs of marginalized communities, thereby shaping them into more compassionate and effective legal practitioners in the future.

Additionally, this initiative promotes access to justice for PDLs. By organizing educational symposiums, HLAF is ensuring that PDLs are informed about their rights under relevant laws and regulations. This knowledge empowers them to make more informed decisions about their legal situation, including understanding the mechanisms that may lead to reduced sentences or improved conditions inside correctional facilities.

Furthermore, it helps in fostering a more inclusive and just legal system. By engaging with PDLs and educating them about their rights, HLAF and the participating law students contribute to mitigating the information gap and ensuring that the legal system is accessible to all, regardless of their current circumstances.

HLAF, and the Ateneo CLEP, in this collaborative learning initiative, benefit both the PDLs and the law students, building a more informed community and nurturing the next generation of legal professionals with a strong sense of social responsibility and commitment to justice.

Val, an HLAF Volunteer leads others in an Anti-Discrimination Seminar

Even with minimum supervision, HLAF volunteer Valerie Ancero guides other volunteers during their planned program for persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) in Talisay City Jail, Talisay, Cebu.

She leads more than twenty-five (25) law student volunteers from the University of San Carlos (USC) in planning and implementing an Anti-LGBT+ PDL Discrimination Seminar for Male and LGBTQ+ PDLs, held on May 9, 2023.

The Anti-Discrimination Seminar to the LGBTQ+ Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) addresses gender-based harassment inside and outside the jail facilities. Moreover, this seminar serves as a vital educational platform to raise awareness about the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly those who are PDLs. It provides an opportunity to elucidate existing laws and legal protections against discrimination and harassment, empowering the LGBTQ+ PDLs to better understand and assert their rights.

This initiative signals a critical step towards combating discrimination and promoting inclusivity within the justice system. By fostering understanding and empathy through education, participants, including law enforcement, correctional officers, and community members, can gain insights into the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ PDLs, leading to positive changes in attitudes and behaviors.

HLAF believes by providing a safe and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ PDLs to voice their experiences, the seminar can help identify instances of gender-based harassment, both within the correctional system and in broader society. This knowledge can inform targeted interventions and policy advocacy to address and prevent such abuses.

This collaborative effort not only empowers LGBTQ+ PDLs but also contributes to building a more inclusive and equitable justice system, where all individuals, regardless of gender identity, are treated with dignity and respect

HLAF Volunteers: A Lesson to Learn

What is volunteerism to you and how did it affect you as a person, student, and member of a community?  

“Volunteerism is a way of giving back to the community. It helped me craft my mission and vision in life and opened my eyes to the sad reality of life given that growing up I was sheltered and provided with everything that I needed.” – Law Student Volunteer

“As I make new connections, learn skills, gain experience through HLAF volunteering, I feel happier and healthier. It is very fulfilling, it helps me improve my mental health and even my academic performance.” – Law Student Volunteer

“Volunteerism is a selfless act and through it, it makes me more humane as a person, student, and member of a community.” – Law Student Volunteer

Volunteering is a selfless act that transcends boundaries, enriches lives, and fosters a sense of community. It is a cornerstone of social progress and an embodiment of our shared humanity. Whether it involves lending a helping hand to those in need, contributing to a cause, or supporting local initiatives, volunteering holds immeasurable importance in our society. In this article, we explore the transformative power of volunteering and the numerous benefits it brings to individuals, communities, and the world at large.

Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation Inc (HLAF) volunteers are a group of dedicated individuals who are passionate about providing legal aid and empowering vulnerable communities. Through their selfless efforts, these volunteers offer valuable support to those in need, ensuring access to justice and advocating for human rights. In this article, we highlight the remarkable work carried out by HLAF volunteers, shedding light on their role in creating a more equitable society.

One quote that you lived by as a HLAF volunteer?  

“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.”  – Law Student Volunteer

Volunteering at HLAF empowers individuals and communities by providing them with the tools and resources they need to create a better future. Through educational programs, vocational training, and community development initiatives, HLAF strives to uplift disadvantaged individuals, equipping them with skills that enable self-sufficiency and economic stability. Volunteering at HLAF is an amazing feat. Especially if one has no experience in dealing with PDLs, or has even had the chance to talk to persons deprived of liberty. The common thought process when it comes to PDLs is that they are horrible people with no good moral standing. 

What were the common misconceptions about PDL’s that you have debunked in your journey as an HLAF member? 

“PDLs are friendly and respectful. Even though they have been inside for a period of time, they are very relatable. They enjoy simple things. They’re grateful. And they care for their family even if they’re away from home.” – Law Student Volunteer

The act of volunteering at HLAF offers immense personal growth and development opportunities. Through service, people can enhance their skills, expand their knowledge, and gain valuable experiences that can shape volunteers’ personal and professional life. Whether it’s honing leadership skills, improving problem-solving abilities, or fostering teamwork and collaboration, volunteering equips people with transferable skills that are highly sought after in various domains. Furthermore, the sense of fulfillment derived from making a positive impact on others’ lives can boost self-esteem, increase sense of purpose, and foster personal happiness.

Expectations vs. Reality. Were your expectations met? Why or Why not?  

“Yes. Before I only intended to share my legal knowledge and learnings to others, but more than that, I have learned a lot of things through my experience with HLAF Volunteering. I did not only give, but I gained.” – Law Student Volunteer

“Yes, I participated in several events that the jail decongestion program of HLAF organized and became a speaker for the recent AsiKaso event. Not only was I able to share my learnings from the study of law but I was also able to learn more from my co-speakers and from the PDLs themselves. The workshop with HLAF also helped the group come up with the event.” – Law Student Volunteer

Volunteering at HLAF encourages the cultivation of global citizenship by fostering understanding, empathy, and cross-cultural connections. As a volunteer, people have the opportunity to work alongside individuals from diverse backgrounds, gaining a deeper appreciation for different cultures and perspectives. By engaging in meaningful interactions, they can break down barriers, bridge divides, and promote harmony among people from all walks of life. This global outlook not only enriches one’s own life but also contributes to the creation of a more inclusive and compassionate world.

What were your personal experiences with PDLs that created a lasting impression?  

“I have interviewed a minor PDL who was charged with a drug-related offense. She has been regretting the time she has associated herself with (bad influence) barkada which led her to try using drugs in their past times. She was also a product of a broken family, and was neglected most of the time. She became rebellious. At the time when she was arrested, her parents did not even know. She only told them that she was in prison, at the time when her case was closed and she’s waiting for her probation to be approved. She said she never told her parents since would not even bother. She was wrong. Her parents loved her, and they have reconciled their relationship even if she was still detained. In the midst of hardship, she found peace. While in jail, She rekindled her relationship with her parents.” – Law Student Volunteer

“PDLs showed their willingness to change and learn the laws that will help them become better persons and understand their cases fully well.” – Law Student Volunteer

“That they are still people who can sing, dance, and talk just like any other people who are not deprived of liberty.” – Law Student Volunteer

The dedication and compassion demonstrated by Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation Inc volunteers are invaluable in promoting access to justice and empowering vulnerable communities. Through their selfless efforts, they make a significant difference in the lives of those who need it most. By providing legal aid, raising awareness, and advocating for human rights, HLAF volunteers exemplify the power of volunteerism in creating a more equitable and just society. Their work serves as an inspiration to others, highlighting the importance of using one’s skills and resources to uplift and empower those in need.

What are the tips/advice that you can give in order to balance life as a law student and as a volunteer/intern for HLAF?  

“Prioritize commitments; study well not study hard; and remember why you’re doing it in the first place.” – Law Student Volunteer

“Study and analyze the law not just for yourself but also for the people who needs your help such that you can give back by sharing what you learned.” – Law Student Volunteer

“Time management, know your priorities, and one task at a time but if you can multitask then it’s much better.” – Law Student Volunteer

Volunteering at HLAF is not just an act of kindness; it is a transformative experience that has the power to change lives, communities, and even the world. Through dedicated service, people become an agent of positive change, helping those in need, empowering communities, and fostering global understanding. By volunteering at HLAF, people play a vital role in building a brighter future for humanity. So, step forward, lend a helping hand, and join the HLAF community in making a difference—one act of kindness at a time.

Bayanihan: FRED Program of Malabon City

On the 30 of May 2023, 6th floor of Session Hall at Malabon City Hall, the beginning of the program “Ugnayang Laya” took place. It is a program that aims to strengthen the second chance program implementers. The Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation Inc., in partnership with the Malabon mayor, Mrs. Jeannie Sandoval, invited LGUs, NGOs, and other facilities that help with the reintegration of detainees and enhancing the programs that are in place which help rehabilitate them after getting back into society. In the 4-day program, the participants engaged in activities that helped them reflect upon themselves and help with the betterment of the programs for PDLs. Many partook in the debates and open forums, learning about the crucial role of a multidisciplinary team and how coordination is key to aiding the people that need their help. Here are some testimonies that came from the participants of Ugnayang Laya.

“Salamat for the opportunity na pwedeng makatulong sa pdls at sa family nila during reintegration” – Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP)

“It’s a big help for us, especially to me being a worker in a barangay who has a lot of chances to talk and to listen to PDLs in our Barangay. It’s also a first step for giving PDLs a solution to the new life they want to have.” – Brgy. Hulong Duhat

“Ugnayan Laya is a good program for the ex-PDLs wherein to give them a 2nd chance to reintegrate to the community with the help of Barangays and other sectors.” – Malabon CJFD

The successful reintegration of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) into society is a crucial step in promoting rehabilitation, reducing recidivism rates, and creating safer communities. Achieving this goal requires a comprehensive approach that goes beyond traditional correctional methods. By assembling a multidisciplinary team, consisting of professionals from various fields, we can harness the collective expertise and resources necessary to fasten the process of reintegrating PDLs. In this article, we explore the importance of a multidisciplinary team and how their collaborative efforts contribute to successful reintegration.

To begin, a multidisciplinary team brings together professionals from diverse backgrounds, such as psychologists, social workers, vocational trainers, healthcare providers, and legal experts. This diverse skill set enables a holistic assessment of PDLs’ needs, strengths, and challenges. Each team member contributes their unique perspective, allowing for a comprehensive understanding of the individual’s circumstances. This holistic assessment helps in developing personalized reintegration plans that address specific needs, such as mental health support, vocational training, addiction treatment, and legal assistance.

Second, by combining the expertise of different professionals, a multidisciplinary team can offer a wide range of services within a single framework. This approach eliminates the need for PDLs to navigate multiple systems independently, reducing bureaucratic hurdles and saving valuable time. Services may include educational programs, vocational training, substance abuse counseling, mental health support, legal aid, and employment assistance. The collaborative efforts of the team ensure a seamless delivery of these services, promoting continuity and minimizing gaps in care.

Furthermore, the multidisciplinary team fosters collaboration and knowledge sharing among professionals. Regular meetings, case conferences, and shared documentation allow for a comprehensive understanding of each PDL’s progress and challenges. Through these interactions, professionals gain insights from different perspectives, expanding their own expertise and refining their approaches to reintegration. This collaborative environment ensures that PDLs receive the best possible support, as professionals learn from each other’s experiences and adapt their strategies accordingly.

Reintegrating PDLs into society involves managing potential risks and addressing underlying factors that contribute to criminal behavior. In addition to what was stated above, a multidisciplinary team excels in developing targeted intervention strategies based on the individual’s risk factors, needs, and strengths. By collaborating on risk assessments, professionals can identify potential triggers and tailor interventions accordingly. This proactive approach aims to mitigate risks, enhance protective factors, and promote positive behavioral change, reducing the likelihood of reoffending.

And last but not least, a multidisciplinary team engages with the broader community to facilitate the successful reintegration of PDLs. By collaborating with community organizations, employers, educational institutions, and housing providers, the team helps create a supportive environment for PDLs’ transition back into society. Community involvement reduces stigma, fosters empathy, and creates opportunities for PDLs to access resources and build social connections. This community engagement is vital for creating a sense of belonging, reducing isolation, and increasing the chances of successful reintegration.

The reintegration of persons deprived of liberty requires a multifaceted approach that acknowledges their diverse needs and challenges. A multidisciplinary team brings together professionals from various fields to provide holistic support, targeted interventions, and comprehensive services. By collaborating, sharing knowledge, and engaging with the community, this team creates an environment that accelerates the reintegration process, reduces recidivism rates, and ultimately leads to safer and more inclusive societies. The power of collaboration cannot be understated, as the collective efforts of a multidisciplinary team provide the foundation for successful reintegration and the opportunity for PDLs to rebuild their lives.

By Jiro Pepito

References:

Latessa, E. J., & Smith, P. (2011). Correctional Rehabilitation. In The Oxford Handbook of Sentencing and Corrections (pp. 203-226). Oxford University Press.

Bloom, B. (1994). The Path to Prison: Understanding and Treating Antisocial Individuals. Sage Publications.

Sullivan, E., & Tift, L. (2001). Helping Women Recover: Creating Gender-Responsive Treatment. Hazelden Publishing.

Travis, J., & Visher, C. (Eds.). (2013). Prisoner Reentry and Crime in America. Cambridge University Press.

Taxman, F. S., & Marlowe, D. (Eds.). (2006). Risk, Needs, Responsivity: Managing Offenders with Special Challenges. National Institute of Justice.

National Institute of Corrections. (2017). Multidisciplinary Team Collaboration: Enhancing Coordination and Collaboration Among Professionals Working with High-Risk Offenders. Retrieved from https://info.nicic.gov/multidisciplinaryteamcollaboration

Lee, M., Porter, L. E., & Williams, S. K. (2015). Reentry and the Ties that Bind: An Examination of Social Ties, Employment, and Recidivism. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 42(3), 334-354.

Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). (2013). Legal environments, human rights, and HIV responses among men who have sex with men and transgender people in Asia and the Pacific: An agenda for action. Retrieved from https://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/2013_grund_rechte_asien_pazifik_en_0.pdf

Out of the bars, straight to the net: Former PDLs Digital Reintegration

The effects of incarceration on people include the loss of parental rights, a reduction in family income, disruption of family stability, and a detrimental effect on the mental health and well-being of the family.

The use of video and electronic communications on digital communication platforms benefits PDLs and their families. Communication with family members improves PDLs’ chances of finding work and receiving various treatment services following their release by helping them maintain relationships and family ties.

The Philippines has a unique hearsay culture in the community, especially when talking about other people’s lives.

Aey, a former PDL and FRED (Focused Reintegration of Ex-Detainees) beneficiary told she was uncomfortable during her release because of the communities’ attitude toward her Ang iniisip ko ay iniisip nila na may pagka-ex PDL ganyan, parang hindi ko maiwasan na baka may discrimination sa family or sa kapit-bahay ganyan. Di mo maiwasan maisip mo yun eh”.

Lulu, another FRED beneficiary shared the same kasi syempre meron po stigma paglabas dahil galing ka nga dun which is sa akin po nilabanan ko po kasi para sa akin po, kung ano po, ipapakita ko po sa kanila, iba yung nakita nila noon, malaki pagkakaiba nakita nila noon sa ngayon. We cannot please everybody naman po diba. Laban po talaga and manalangin ka na tulungan ka ng Diyos para makapagbagong buhay. Sa actions po naman makikita yun eh kung may may nagbago sayo or wala. Mahirap kasi syempre hindi sila nagsasalita pero alam mo sa sarili mo na may ganun thinking sila, which para sa akin bahala kayo kung ano gusto niyo isipin. Basta ako gagawin ko ang tama sa ngayon hanggang sa kasulukuyan po”.

One of the many difficulties that PDLs face upon release is searching for job opportunities. Compounding this challenge is the growing necessity for digital literacy which has become increasingly important in today’s job market.

Given all these, it is critical to study the role of the Internet on PDL reintegration in terms of job opportunities. Internet access could help PDLs in terms of job searching and skill development, including if these contribute to higher chances of successful reintegration into society. 

Lulu told “Tindera po ako. Nagtitinda po ako siomai, siopao, french fries, hotdog, yan po. Ngayon po di po kasi ako nagtinda kasi may activity po. Women’s Month po ngayon ma’am, may gagawin po kaming activity mamaya sa barangay, yun po di po ako nagtinda ngayong araw na ‘to. Saka po nagchat po sakin si Sir Wendell na may interview. Mamaya pang 4pm meron po kaming activity sa barangay kaya ngayong araw di ako nagtinda, pero tindera po ako. Dati pa po yung mga tinuruan po, gumagawa din po ng empanada, yung turo samin dati, paminsan-minsan. Tas yung mga palaman gumagawa din po ako, sardinas, ganyan po. Lahat po yun ma’am ginagawa ko rin para kahit papano onting kita malaking bagay ‘yon sa amin ma’am, pambigas, pang-ulam”.

Aey said ” Sa ngayon po dahil nag face-to-face na yung mga estudyante, nagpirme nalang po ako sa bahay dun sa online food business saka sa sari-sari store. Pero before po mga January, kakaresign ko lang sa call center, bumalik po kasi ako sa call center mga 3 months after kong lumaya. Tapos dahil po face-to-face na, kailangan tutukan na yung anak ko, nagdecide po ako na manatili nalang sa bahay, magfocus nalang dun sa tindahan”.

A glimpse of Hope

Once in a while, a sudden life-changing moment will happen to a person. An event that has ruined everything with just a snap and things suddenly changed out of nowhere.

One sin is equivalent to countless hardships. Being in jail is such a nightmare that no one would ever want. The feeling of fear and sorrow dominates the emotion of being in that situation. To land behind bars was the darkest mark of yesterday that no one would dream of. Who would wish to experience that miserable life behind bars? Would anyone be able to describe how helpless one experiences? Destiny, for some reason, challenges humans’ strength in their hopeless times.  

A woman who’s been committed for more than two years at Quezon City Jail, has been a kitchen crew during her incarceration. A mother who strives harder for a better change and fosters positivity in life, a former PDL, Ms. Lulujane.

Food hooks up her interest and leads her to love cooking. It has been her passion ever since she was assigned to the kitchen. Her life behind bars revolves around cooking and serving food throughout her stay in jail.

Way back in 2020, when she was acquitted from jail and started over again. She knew about the FRED program from a friend and felt like a new door opened for her. It appeared that the FRED program gave opportunities to helpless ex-detainees like Ms. Lulujane.

She has witnessed and experienced the activities offered by the FRED program for a new beginning. She commented on how webinars and activities helped her to continue her life despite the experiences that she had been through. She was able to learn about simple yet delicious foods that she hasn’t tried to make before. The activities such as yema making, Spanish Sardines making, and empanada making served as her livelihood to earn income for their everyday living.

However, the stigma of the people had been a challenge for them to start over again. Applying to companies for a job had been her struggle upon thinking if they would accept her or not. Additionally, the expenses spent on the application were also a challenge. So, the livelihood program of FRED led them to put up a small business that will support the needs of their families.

She was not aware of how to make yema spread nor sardines or even empanada until when she joined the FRED program.  Focused Reintegration of Ex-detainees is one of the programs of HLAF, that primarily focuses on the reintegration of the PDL by providing activities such as those mentioned earlier that will imply knowledge and experience to help them start over again in putting up a business. In this sense, Ms. Lulujane was able to determine her strengths through those activities.

To be exact, she struggled in making the ode of the empanada among the three activities since it was her first time making it in her forty-nine years of existence. Fortunately, among the three, yema spread has been the easiest followed by making Spanish sardines. She has proven that she excels in cooking as she joined the FRED program.

It turned out that through HLAF activities, she was able to begin a new chapter of her life after being detained. Discrimination and stereotyping are against people like her. Seeing others look at her from head to toe reminded me of her past. What a judgmental world for helpless people! A negative comment from everywhere tries to pull her down.

Ex-detainees who are seeking another chance to be better the second time around is their ultimate goal. HLAF lit up the path for that second chance. This company gave hope to her to conquer the challenges that former PDLs face. In this regard, the learnings from HLAF, the experience, were sentimental for them wherein they used it in the real world. Relying on her experience, she hasn’t encountered any dilemmas while performing activities. It was just a matter of effort and following the procedures correctly to produce good quality products.

Before this, she tried to apply her learnings in cooking, then she sells it in their area Luckily, it worked knowing that she was the first one to sell products like yema spread, Spanish sardines, and empanada. She enjoys it so much even though she earns a small amount. The quality of products is what matters to her. She considers the taste, quality, and appearance to guarantee the customers good products. It’s not the quantity but the quality of food for the customers to enjoy it. She even researched some techniques on how to improve her skills.

Unfortunately, she stopped making empanadas due to Inflation. On the other hand, she was looking for fresh tawilis fish for the Spanish sardines since she cannot find fresh fish at their market. She emphasized that she will pursue the business because she sees potential in it. For her, It doesn’t matter if she earns a small amount because quality is the best of it. She wants to see her customers fully and happy with her products.

Also, she already made a sticker logo for the Spanish sardines for a good presentation. Thus, she’s exerting effort for the growth of her business. Seemingly, she is passionate about doing so. All of this won’t be possible without HLAF. They taught ex-detainees like Ms. Lulujane to come up with her livelihood. Moreover, they also taught the PDLs to be strategic in their ways.  Along with this, Ms. Lulujane was very grateful for being a beneficiary of the FRED program.

She became inspired to continue change within herself and be a better individual. She also stays away from people with bad intentions and never commits any violation as part of the change. The support from HLAF influenced her to strive for positive change and encourage other ex-detainees to become better citizens. Her gratitude for all the support and contributions of HLAF to her life is overflowing and priceless. Indeed, she will continue to participate in other activities that HLAF will offer.  

Her story conveys an array of hope and not giving up. Things fall into places according to plan. It features that positivity must prevail despite the obstacles that hinder one’s goal. An Inspiring story that does not tells the experience itself but the lesson learned from it. A piece of evidence that a second chance is worthy to give. It may take a long to be accepted in society. But, a sense of perseverance, dedication, and determination will sooner make it. 

Not back to black: COVID 19, Decreasing Cases, Philippine Jail Situations

Despite the glaring data that there is a drastic decrease of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, it may be imperative to know what the current situation of jails, persons deprived of liberty (formerly called inmates), and their families are right now.

It may be said that in the Philippines, many are not aware of the plight of PDLs. In my more than 2 years in advocacy and development work, often than not, I have to explain who the PDLs are, the work that we do, and frequently, the worthiness of giving hope to our beneficiaries.

The Philippines is known to have one of the highest jail occupancy in the world. According to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), Philippine Jails have hosted 125,347 PDLs in December 2021 with a congestion rate of 386% while the total ideal capacity of our jails is only 24,248.

The existence of the underlying unfair social and economical support stiffly bounds to the cruel and unequal welfare outcomes. The elderly and the sick’s battle to survive multiple health conditions, the PDL’s reintegration inside jail, vulnerable children’s active involvement to diversion and intervention programs, and the social challenges of former PDLs are only a few that the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc. (HLAF) has been addressing.

We must believe that there should be no barrier that older people and PDLs with long-term medical conditions should be transported to hospitals or temporary medical facilities within detention centers where they can receive the appropriate medical care since there is lack of the provision of proper health care and assistance in Philippine Jails.

I still haven’t heard well from the public news on the government’s concrete plan to address the on-going health crisis where PDLs must be included in the National Action Plan for COVID-19, although I know the actions, programs, events, and partnership activities from the BJMP.

Until now, since the COVID-19 information sharing is only little to none to PDLs, it must be called to action that PDLs must be kept up to date on what is going on in the world, particularly in relation to health crisis. PDLs should also be informed about how to prevent themselves and others from contracting and spreading the virus.

Many prisons and jails have restricted PDLs’ access to the outside world by prohibiting physical visits from relatives, friends, and even their lawyers should they already have. Physical contact to families, friends, and the community outside jail have transitioned to online such as E-Dalaw (visitation), E-Konsulta (case consultation), and even E-Burol (wake/burial).

Authorities should ensure that PDLs are not cut off from the outside world while restricting interaction. It should be remembered that interaction is necessary for persons in jail to maintain their mental health.

NGOs in Action

While it was very tough for service providers on how they can connect their efforts, non-government organizations (NGOs) such as HLAF, its partners, and friends did not stop conducting their activities even online.

In 2021, HLAF’s continuation of its Jail Decongestion program has released more than 1,600 PDLs, conducted 1,426 case consultations, visited 7 jails online, and facilitated 56 paralegal trainings for PDLs and jail officers.

HLAF strengthened the access to justice of detainees through jail
decongestion, capacity building, coordination, and knowledge sharing by
promoting the detainees’ right to liberty, health, and reformation. It has also
established programs in legal aid clinics and enhanced the abilities of law
students to conduct and facilitate the program’s activities.

Our Call

PDLs must be provided with sufficient food and water for both nutrition and cleanliness. The access to proper and sufficient number of hygiene kits (soap, alcohol, sanitizers, wipes) of PDLs must be ensured to promote safety of co-PDLs, staff, and visitors (if allowed).

The government should fund more electronic devices such as computers, laptops, tablets, and projectors for the sufficient availability of online (e-dalaw, e-konsulta, e-burol) and educational use to ensure the rights of PDLs.

Service providers such as NGOs, and other external partnerships must be continued and allowed for PDLs to avail services and activities that can promote their rights, welfare, and well-being inside jail.

Lastly, expedite the release of cases with light offenses, as well as see through PDLs who have been over-staying, those whose cases aren’t regularly heard and brought to court, sick, PWD, and elderly PDLs, and those unaware of their rights.

It’s not back to being black, as we’re still seeing PDLs whose eyes are shining with hope and change after reintegrating back to the community.

Taking huge steps to dev work

By: Roland Reyes

Prior to the launch of our internship, my colleagues and I, have managed to communicate with the organization for an orientation about the activities. The organization sent a DevCom alumna, Melvin Nuñez to be our internship supervisor. What started as a purely business manner of arrangement forged into a deeper connection motivated by the pursuit of HLAF’s goals.

The orientation proved itself to be fruitful as our supervisor stressed the primary objectives of the organization. We listened in awe as the video presentation showcased the organization’s flagship programs and its services extended to the vulnerable groups within the country’s correctional institutions.

The first deliverable assigned to us was to formulate a communication plan that guarantees our activities for the span of our OJT. The planning part of it was tricky for we had but little knowledge of the processes within the organization. Nevertheless, the motivation to showcase our honed skill for the synthesis of contributions prevailed. 

The first week arrived and we have already spent an all-nighter on the conceptualization, planning, and narrative of our communication plan. Tired, yet motivated, we were granted a meeting with the Executive Director of HLAF, Iyok. Iyok (as he stressed that we should refer him as such) is a lawyer-in-practice with magnanimous experience in project management and development-oriented advocacies. He elaborated prior confusions on the systematic processes within the organization.

Along with Jannela Magtibay, a colleague in the internship, we designed and articulated key points in our presentation. I managed to present highlights of our presentation and as a team, received a remarkable response as we filled in visual gaps in their communication platforms. Aside from the delegation of activities, we conceived additional deliverables assigned by Mr. Nuñez. I added to my list of outputs an updated branding strategy that highlights the key features of our advocacy plans in the available social media spaces of the organization.

During the course of our internship, we were met with numerous tasks that add up to our workload. This was not a surprise given the current standing of NGOs in the country in hindsight to the necessity of such organizations in uplifting the different sectors of the nation. Our meager outputs serve as fuel for the engagement of our communication agendas further adding up these meaningful transitions to the accomplishments of the organization as a whole.

I devised a process of branding strategy that takes the lead in our tasks in relation to this prospect. From the evaluation, up to execution, we aligned the visual properties of every publication material, social media content, and output thumbnails according to this discipline.

On the sidelines, we were communicative assistants covering projects and events for the organization. Since most of these tasks were done virtually, previous engagements allow us to do the documentation after work hours with the help of pre-recorded zoom meetings. In all regards, despite this task being tedious, it improved my writing ability furthering to adapt conciseness and accuracy necessary during these documentation opportunities.

The month of June breezed through as we were assigned one task after the other. It takes a huge step for me to be able to build confidence in myself as the organization trusted me with important business tasks. This includes delivering an introduction to students from De La Salle University-Manila as they take on their research projects in partnership with HLAF. To speak on behalf of an organization and its three-fold flagship programs and advocacies is a feat to remember, after all.

The second month of our internship was less overwhelming. By this time we already have a grasp of our role in furthering the organization’s goals. Meanwhile, I am still continuing the processes of the branding amplification that we started last month. The month of July presented fewer documentation opportunities for me but additional write-ups and layout design to add to my design processes.

I formulated a branding peripheral that includes key points for the celebration of the foundation’s 20th anniversary. We were part of a team communicating with the entirety of the organization in this aspect. During staff meetings, we solidified our stance in developing the visual appeal of the brand. This gained traction as soon as we set up due to the new principles of design that we applied in our deliverables. Our team of DevCom interns presented our plans for the following weeks in retrospect to the previous arrangements we have learned last month.

Staff meetings are considered very important as these keep the whole organization posted on the happenings of each department. I witnessed how direct and eager each staff member is in their specific fields be it a paralegal officer, a field worker, a lawyer, or an intern like us. Each cog of this development-oriented gear strengthened the advocacies of the foundation leading to sustainable outputs in jails and institutions along respective regions.

Our part in this endeavor is to ensure that the activities prepared, planned, and executed by the organization gain traction on social media. This is vital for the outreach of support both financially and morale and is a trusted opportunity for additional partnerships. 

One specific highlight is the partnership with De La Salle College of St. Benilde forged by the organization. HLAF, as directed by Iyok, entrusted the communications and redirection of tasks to us DevCom interns. It still fills my heart with a sense of responsibility when Iyok mentioned his trust in our palate of branding and that we will relay the same principles to multimedia students on behalf of HLAF.

As our internship draws nearer, we found ourselves wanting more of this job experience as mere 200 hours doesn’t make the cut in an exposure. Nonetheless, for the coming weeks, I invested in building a timeframe for my deliverables that has taken a toll due to the processes involved therein. One specific learning experience was the value of adaptability in a fast-paced organization. The key motive in revisions of publication materials necessitates clear, concise communication to our supervisor to avoid delays in production.

I also had the wonderful chance to host a podcast initiative started by my peers discussing the highlights of HLAF to potential listeners. This communication peripheral allows us to master the technology and apply the principles of trusted podcast series in our future work.

In this particular episode, I discussed the rights of PDLs at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Guided by research, I learned that in a recent tally of PDLs in the Philippines, BuCor reported that there are 48,284 PDLs in the country as of May 2021. In contrast to the -2.34% increase rate last year, the number of PDLs increased by 0.04%. 

In this light, it is important to note that in a recent speech given by Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta in Tarlac State University, he said that hearings were taking place and a total of 192,444 videos conference hearings was done from May 4 of last year to February 5 of this year. The hearings have a success rate of 88%. As a result, he said up to 122,178 PDLs were released.

This is proactive in the pursuit of HLAF in aiding the gears towards jail decongestion. As part of the organization’s values to empower and capacitate duty-bearers, the community, and LGU, HLAF has been active in the goal objective of alleviating the circumstances in these jails.

I communicated these facts to Mr. Melvin Caymo, the chief paralegal officer of the Jail Decongestion program of the organization. He shared multiple insights on the role of HLAF in furthering these advocacies in spite of the pandemic. He even ended on a good motivational note featured in the title of our podcast.

The internship was a fruitful experience and it geared me for my future ventures in development-oriented work. I see myself fit in this environment where living meant alleviating the living conditions of the people I serve. That perhaps must be the ultimate goal.

My HLAF Journey: How I Thrived Outside the Box

By: Julius Mojares

During our internship application period, I told myself I was doing it only for compliance. I was not really putting much thought into it. I could have sent out resumes to companies I did not know at all. Luckily, I have friends who introduced me to HLAF or Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation. A law firm. Or an NGO. Whatever, I thought. I had not realized that what I was getting myself into was a roller coaster ride.

During our first week, it was all meh. Meetings. Event documentation. Piece of cake, I thought. But after one meeting with the executive director, that was when it dawned on me: they are expecting so much from us. They made us do a comprehensive Communication Plan. Not like the one we did in our course. They want a comprehensive and well-articulated communication plan. 

So, that night, we spent twelve hours collaborating with our ideas, plans,  and congregations. It was stressful. We even had to produce a PPT presentation. We worked until six in the morning and then prepared for the presentation at eight. It was exhausting.

Now, why am I telling you this?

I would go back to my first sentence: I was doing it for compliance. If I could, I would have just signed up for it and then slack off. But the thing is this company where I got myself into is not just a company. It was an NGO that advocates for the rights of persons deprived of liberty and it is something that is just close to my heart.

That’s when I told myself that when I write for this company, I would pour my heart out. When I directed our company podcast, I poured my heart out. I have learned to love the company, its advocacies, and I have learned how things work in a real-life job. 

To keep it short, HLAF acquainted me with what it is like to actually work. 

What we do in HLAF

As communication interns, we are tasked to produce the communication materials HLAF use in their social media page. There were days when we would attend meetings or events in which we will write a news article. Or a narrative report to be sent to funders.

We also produced publicity materials and infographics. I am not that skilled in terms of design so my role in this particular project is to plan the content and the captions. 

Also, we produced the company’s first-ever podcast. We titled it AMPLIFY. I spearheaded this project with the help of my co-interns and supervisor. I wrote scripts, revision after revision. And by the end of our internship period, we were able to produce three episodes.

Our tasks do not end when we are off the clock. There were days when our supervisor would ask us to produce urgent content in the middle of the night. We understood, however, that it was part of the job.

Who I worked with

We were four interns. Jacob, Jelai, Roland, and myself. We have known each other for almost four years now. We have been working in the same group ever since we met in college.

Before the internship started, we had already decided to apply in the same company and live under the same roof. Despite the pandemic, we pushed through with our plan on renting an apartment in Alangilan, Batangas City.

Living together had a lot of advantages. We can easily coordinate with each other. We can also help each other out whenever the tasks are overwhelming. Roland and I shared the same room while Jacob and Jelai shared the other room. Whenever we feel down or tired, we can always find diversion by sitting together with our coffee and garlic bread.

I realized, working is a lot more fun when you are doing it with your friends. Now, I wonder if I could have survived it without them. Probably not.

What I learned

My internship with HLAF taught me a lot of lessons I will never forget.

Working with lawyers and communication professionals, I have learned that it is not enough to have excellent communication skills. One must need to understand that every company has its own voice that it uses and as communication interns, we need to learn how to speak their language. Their voice. 

Also, I learned how important design thinking is. We were taught to harness every idea we have before putting it into paper. Before any of our works had been approved, they had to go through processes of revisions. Of course, it was difficult to accept at first but over time, I realized it was part of the growth we were seeking at this internship, to begin with.

Furthermore, the lesson I will always bring with me is the lesson I learned from the PDLs I interviewed. They taught me how to value freedom and not let anyone take it away. Their stories were very touching I could hardly write about them. I wanted to be as careful as possible when I wrote about them.

Outside the box.

Like I said, at first, it was only for compliance. But working as an intern in HLAF challenged me. And I took it. I learned volumes of knowledge and skills and I couldn’t be any more thankful.

For me, my internship experience was a way to get out of my comfort zone. I grew not only as a development communication practitioner but also as a human being. What I learned in HLAF, I will take with me from here on forward. Like a sword. Like a knight ready to conquer.

A Deeper Take on Humanity: HLAF Internship at a Devcom Perspective

By: Jannela Mae Magtibay

From blended learning to online access in education, the world of digital and computerized technologies are now reshaping the learning experiences of the students amidst the pandemic. With the new modes of education, these students started to learn within the premises of their homes without being compromised on their studies. These events were considered as a huge adjustment for everyone. Although it has brought its fair share of benefits and difficulties to the majority, those who are affected are doing their best to comply with such changes. Hence this approach was also implied in internships and on-the-job training. Guided by their respective curriculums, each program rendered the required working hours into a work-from-home setup.

Enrolled under the BS Development Communication program, we were given adequate access to choosing the company we want to work with during our 200-hour internship. And as a future development practitioner, I decided to apply as an intern in Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc. to harness my skills in graphic and layout design as well apply the values of being purposive, pragmatic, and value-laden.

For the first week of my internship, I was tasked together with my colleagues—Jacob Esguerra, Julius Mojares, and Roland Reyes to present our proposed communication plan to the Executive Director of HLAF. Together with Mr. Melvin Nunez, our OJT supervisor as well as HLAF’s Communications committee, we expounded our plans and proposed various projects that will cover the upcoming weeks of our internship. Given the specific advocacies inclined with a specialized community of individuals, we learned that HLAF seeks to provide development in some of the most underserved areas of the country. And with that as regard, we aimed to introduce new concepts of audience engagement inclined with the sustainability of our endeavors as development communicators; and establish additional opportunities for organizational support where our programs, projects, and outreach services are distinguishable in the 21st century and a devcom perspective.

As we have tackled in our communication plan, our team aims to amplify the company branding, upgrade the quality of publicity materials, and build a wider network by utilizing modern audience-engagement platforms and still preserve the values and advocacies of HLAF. Such modifications can be done through amplification of the brand using a revamped color palette that will maintain the theme of our core values, typography, and more; updating publication materials for the social media accounts, webinars, and other communication efforts to establish a more grounded public appeal highlighting HLAF’s vision and mission; and integrate available communication spaces such as podcasts and virtual hangouts to appeal to the different sectors of our society. Through these objectives, I’ve learned how to incorporate the principles of modernity into a specific style that will fit the demands of the company.

Likewise, we also attended a Child Protection webinar in Virac, Catanduanes which aimed to raise awareness of children’s rights in various aspects. To sum up the week, we passed a revised version of our communication plan afterward and documented a 4-day pre-recorded Flipchart webinar.

The second week started with presenting an accomplishment report in the company’s staff meeting. As the team’s graphic and visual artist, I prepared different t-shirt and mug designs for the 20th commemorative anniversary of the company. I also prepared publicity material templates to revamp the social media branding and aligned the concepts with the existing guidelines of HLAF.

The third week mainly focused on the revisions of the proposed template for the publicity materials that will be published in the company’s social media accounts. Moreover, I was also tasked to create an artwork for a Feature article about the establishment of HLAF’s FRED Kamustahan Group which aims to connect former PDLs amidst the pandemic.

As a continuation of the tasks from the previous weeks, we were assigned to attend a presentation of BA Multimedia Arts students from De LaSalle – College of Saint Benilde. As an official partner of HLAF, they are tasked to assist us to improve the branding guidelines and website of the company. Although we are also students ourselves, HLAF entrusted us to lead the students from LaSalle to help them incorporate the values of the company in their outputs and adjust them from a devcom perspective.

HLAF taught me that organizing projects takes great courage and doing it during the pandemic takes magnanimity. The second week of July focused on one of their biggest projects—BCPC Congress 2021 which acknowledges the hard work of our duty-bearers and the efforts they put into all the programs and projects they are conducting for the protection of our children. I was tasked to create various publicity materials that will highlight the said event to increase the audience and participants’ engagement. Likewise, I was also assigned in making pub mats for Jail Decongestion Program activities in La Union Provincial Jail, Lucena City Jail, and Roxas District Jail and artwork for our feature article.

My internship for the third week of July focused on creating pubmats for another illustration for our second story of reintegration. It was then followed by creating a poster for a nationwide webinar in the basic child orientation protection program which I drew various elements and integrated them all with the core values of HLAF. Moreover, we also published posts regarding Quezon City Jail’s female dorm basic orientation seminar and case consultation, and Makati City Jail paralegal training.

The last week of my internship was hectic. I was tasked to create a poster that will show the official HLAF email for queries and invitations. I also created a pubmat that features HLAF’s Internship FAQs, Donation FAQs. Likewise, Mr. Nunez asked me to provide a digital ID for every HLAF staff. He also asked me to transfer the designs and templates that I made to Canva which he will use for future postings after we leave the company. In addition, I also created artworks for each article that will be published soon on HLAF’s official Facebook page.

Although it is such a waste that the internship only lasted for a month, I would still like to acknowledge how we managed to learn and experience various things in just a short period. My stay in HLAF made me realize how significant my skills are in the professional field and I should still pursue graphic and layout design with inclinations in the devcom field.