Hindi sayang: Story of a meaningful internship

By: Jacob Esguerra

Sayang.

I have come to hate the word sayang. I do not want to feel regretful all my life just because of a wrong decision. Rendering my 200 hours at the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc. (HLAF), I can proudly say that I did something good and great at the same time.

Looking for a company to render a 200-hour on-the-job training had not been easy for me. When you do not know what you want to do in life, deciding becomes really hard.

Luckily, HLAF found me. Yes. I did not find HLAF, it found me. To cut the story short, a friend of mine recommended HLAF to me. I stalked its Facebook page and what they are doing in their organization caught my interest. I wrote a letter of intent, sent my resume together with my portfolio, then the rest is history.

My first week went really well. It was as amazing as the advocacies of HLAF. I had the opportunity to meet our training supervisor, Mr. Melvin F. Nuñez, who is an alumnus of BatStateU BS DevCom. Together with my co-interns, we also met with the HLAF’s Executive Director, Atty. Rommel Alim Abitria, who is so cool and super nice. We presented the initial draft of our communications plan to him, which summarizes the target deliverables we need to accomplish throughout the internship. We also attended several advocacy training organized by the organization in which we were tasked to document.

Those training became our starting point to know more about the organization. The second week was a bit challenging for me. It was my first time to interview a former PDL (persons deprived of liberty) for an article included in our deliverables. It was hard for me because I had to be cautious with my word choice and the way I talk. After all, we never want to bring up trauma or dig in the past they probably want to forget. Good thing, our supervisor never fell short in reminding me and my co-interns of the proper approach to talk to them. It was an amazing experience because it is not every day that we get to talk to people we thought we could not talk to.

I also had the opportunity to meet other staff of HLAF, Kuya Wendell Manaloto and Kuya Peter Olea, who are both officers of the Focused Reintegration of Ex-Detainees (FRED) Program of HLAF. I also interviewed them to know more about the FRED Kumustahan Group which was the subject of the first article I wrote for the organization.

The third week had been exhausting yet fruitful, as we had to finish several tasks assigned to us. We attended a consultation meeting of the ALG Foundation wherein we helped the members of the group improve their designs and content for their publication materials. We also managed to finish the report of the children’s code consultation of HLAF together with the province of Catanduanes. Also, we were able to attend a consultation meeting with the second-year Multimedia Arts students of De La Salle – College of St. Benilde for their HLAF Design Communication collateral.

Moreover, I was able to finish my article about the FRED Kumustahan Group. This FRED Kumustahan Group is simply a group chat in Messenger which serves as a support system for the former PDLs. In this article, I realized how hard it is to be a former PDL, and how HLAF continuously and consistently works towards helping them improve their lives.

During the fourth week, I had the chance to attend a courtesy meeting with the warden of the La Union Provincial Jail. During the meeting, HLAF staff and law student interns introduced the Jail Decongestion Program of the organization and what are its objectives. Afterward, I wrote a news article about it which is now available on HLAF’s Facebook page. I was also able to write two more news articles this week about the Lucena City Jail – Female Dorm Pre-Release Formation Session and Basic Orientation Seminar and Case Consultation of Roxas District Jail. These news articles are now available on the organization’s Facebook page. My FRED Kumustahan Group article finally got published, too. Productive week, indeed.

My fifth week had been positively draining. Meetings piled up so fast, I had articles to finish, plus the sudden tasks given by our supervisor. But it felt good, honestly. It felt good to know that you are contributing to achieving the objectives of the organization. I had the privilege to interview a jail officer from San Juan City, a Vice-Mayor from Catanduanes, a social worker from Good Neighbors International – Philippines, a principal, a barangay secretary, and a law practitioner. Simply, from different walks of life. I am just thankful for the opportunity to have interviewed them. The interviews will be used for the articles included in our deliverables. I was also able to write another news article about the Basic Orientation Seminar and Case Consultation that happened in Quezon City Jail.

The last week of our internship had been nothing but fulfilling. I was tasked to write several news articles about the five-day online paralegal training for jail officers. These articles are now available on the Facebook page of HLAF. On July 21, I attended the Bicol Regionwide Advocacy Session which aims to provide children from Region V and its neighboring provinces with basic knowledge of their rights as children. After the session, I was tasked again to write a news article. I was also able to attend the meeting of psych and law interns for their collaboration for a nationwide mental health webinar. The meeting was documented and our supervisor again tasked me to write a news article.

Having all those said and done, I can confidently say that I have learned and gained a lot because of HLAF. I got exposed to what awaits me in the future after finishing my degree. I have seen how the world works outside the four corners of the university. I have witnessed how challenging it is to survive a day knowing that your work haunts you even after working hours.

In a span of more than one month, I feel like I did something meaningful for the community and myself. My internship at HLAF is something that my future self will thank me for. Undeniably, it was an exhausting journey. But it was beautiful. It has a taste of magic. Hindi sayang

Adaptive programming as theme during barangay council for the protection of children congress

With the COVID-19 pandemic, we are living through a world crisis with the likes of which hasn’t been seen in 100 years.

The COVID-19 pandemic is distressing on the grounds that it’s difficult to foresee how things will develop and result, while our conditions are evolving quickly. This leaves us feeling frail on the things we cannot be in charge of. Similar to the case in numerous parts of our lives, there are things we can’t handle in the present circumstances. These incorporate the activities and responses of others, how long the circumstances will last, and what may occur later on.

The current health crisis challenges significant social, political, and economic features in our communities. This faces unfolding consequences for the most vulnerable; persons with disabilities (PWDs), senior citizens, health workers, children, other people at risk.

It tests how communities adapt quickly to lightning-speed difficulties and adjustments.

The Barangay Councils for the Protection of Children (BCPCs) did not go around and took immediate action to plan activities that promote the children’s welfare during the pandemic.

The BCPC is an assembly, in charge of planning and implementing activities on child protection at the barangay level. It consists of different committees that promote the rights of children. The council is a constituent that decides for the best interest of the child.

Without a doubt, dealing with the COVID-19 has caused a great social crisis that presented challenges to the BCPCs forcing them to face unprecedented times, and to reconceptualize how to provide better service for children necessary for their optimal growth and development. While these crises occur, came opportunities for changes and improvements, for innovations and creative solutions, some of which should be adapted and incorporated into their daily practice and social routine, even in the post-COVID-19 pandemic era.

In order to know how the barangay councils adapt their programs and campaigns for children, HLAF initiated the 2021 Online Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) Congress, which theme is “Sinong mag-aadjust? Pag-aangkop ng Child Protection sa Pamayanan sa pagbabago ng panahon”.

This year’s theme aims to focus on how communities and community-bearers adapt their strategies to provide needs and better protection of children during the pandemic, as well as showcase the resiliency of their respective communities.

The Online BCPC Congress runs May-October 2021.

Estimating: Tatak Barangay Practice (TBP) pre-judging stage

Barangay Gordon Heights, Olongapo City

Priscilla Ponge, Barangay Captain of Gordon Heights, Olongapo City presented her office’s ways and strategies that help families and children in need during the pandemic. “Higit pa sa ayuda, kalinga, at aruga ang mas kailangan ng bata” discussed the services they provide, especially in food and daily supplies assistance to families and children in their barangay during the strict health protocols and lockdowns.

Their food relief caravan activity was the highlight of their presentation. Ponge said the local lockdowns have caused families to lack a daily food supply. The strict community quarantine surely lost regular jobs to households and those requiring physical presence.

Moreover, their programs for children adapted to the current rules being implemented by the health protocol such as but not limited to children violating curfew hours and those involved in illicit activities. Their child protection desk is active, while logbooks and record books are properly used to document child-related cases.

Ponge said curfew violators are accompanied until their homes. Pinagsasabihan namin ang kanilang mga magulang na maging mahigpit sila sa kanilang mga anak. At kung mauulit ang pangyayari, mga magulang na ng mga bata ang papanagutin.

Children involved in illicit activities are given rightful actions and intervention programs. Ang mga bata naman na masasangkot sa mga ilegal na gawain sa panahon ng pandemya ay bibigyan ng karampatang aksyon ng pamahalaang barangay. Sila ay isasangguni sa iba pang tanggapan/ahensya ng gobyerno tulad ng Police Station, City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO), Social Development Center (SDC) at Center for Youth na siguradong tutugon sa kanilang naging suliranin upang patuloy na mapangalagaan ang kanilang karapatan at kapakanan sa kabila ng paggawa ng mali.

Ang tanggapan naman ng Children’s Protection Desk ay nagsasagawa ng mga intervention at diversion programs para sa mga CAR at CICL upang maituwid nila ang nagawang pagkakamali. Binibigyan din sila ng oportunidad upang maipaliwanag ang kanilang mga naging kalagayan, Ponge added.

Gordon Height’s community involvement played a huge part in the implementation of the BCPC’s activities. Naging makabuluhan ang naging papel ng pamayanan sa matagumpay na pagpapatupad ng aming mga programa para sa kanila at sa mga kabataan. Dahil sa implementasyon ng paghihigpit sa galaw ng mga tao sanhi ng pagtaas ng bilang ng kaso ng COVID-19 sa komunidad, ang tanging gawi ng mga tao ay manatili sa loob ng bahay hanggat maaari at kung hindi naman importante ang dahilan ng paglabas ay marapat na pumirmi sa tahanan upang makaiwas sa banta ng coronavirus.

Gordon Heights reported that the pandemic caused a low criminal rate of 1%. Bumaba ang bilang ng kriminalidad sa barangay, ayon sa datos, one percent (1%) criminality rate ang barangay sa gitna ng pandemya. Bumaba rin ang bilang ng mga batang nagkasala sa batas, hindi lalampas sa sampung kaso ang reported cases ng mga CICL sa kasagsagan ng pandemya, said Ponge.

No child has been recorded to have COVID-19, said the barangay health center. Over 4,000 children received supplies such as food, vitamins, milk, bread, and toys to play with, while 3,000 children received polio and measles vaccination.

Sa mga nabanggit na programa ng pamahalaang barangay, masisiguro na magtutuloy-tuloy ang pagpapanatili ng epekto ng mga gawaing nasimulan sa gitna ng pandemya hanggang matapos ito dahil sa pagtutulong-tulong ng Gordon Heights, Ponge concluded.

Barangay Longos, Malabon City

I think before I click, is an online campaign to become a responsible social media user, as well as give children real and appropriate knowledge on current online platforms, said Edna Morit.

Morit shared kagaya ng mensaheng nabanggit sa awiting “Bawat Bata” ng APO Hiking Society ang bawat bata sa mundo ay isinilang na may karapatan kung kaya’t dapat sila ay pinoprotekhan at pinapahalagahan. Ngunit, kasabay ng kanilang pagtanda ganun din ang pag babagong nangyayari sa lipunang kanilang kinagagalawan, na ngayon ay nababalot ng teknolohiya na isa naring masasabing new normal.

Longos’ plan was to create online advocacy mainly to reduce and keep children away from the possibility of online abuse and neglect. The program aims to equip children, parents, teachers, duty-bearers, and other individuals responsible for social media usage.

The COVID-19 pandemic turned most people’s attention on social media where they get their daily news, updates from family and friends, and other events. Morit said that Longos saw the urgency to provide social media literacy that will guide online users’ responsibility. Sa tulong nga BCPC Council, Barangay Children and Youth Association, Barangay Council, BCPC Volunteers, Guro, at iba pang indibidwal ay naisagawa ang programang ito, said Morit.

Longos expects that the Barangay Council and the Sangguniang Kabataan continue to provide reminders to children and the youth of the limitations of social media use. While the Barangay Children and Youth Association is expected to persuade members of the community to be part of the online advocacy to promote children’s rights. Teachers and parents are looked forward to share their extensive knowledge and experience to responsible social media usage, as well as guide children whenever they use web platforms.

Indirectly, the online advocacy created a space for children to shared discussions and stories which did not tackle only social media use, but as well their life during the community quarantine.

Morit said that she thinks that the activity is a success and is effective to the target participants. Masasabi namin na naging epektibo ang aming programa dahil ito ay sinuportahan ng ilang kasamang BCPC hindi lamang sa Malabon, pati na rin sa Navotas. Naniniwala kami na ang munting mensahe para sa mga bata ay naipahayag ng maayos.

Their hearts and dedication for children are their sustainability plan, yet of course, the allocated 1% budget for the BCPC. Puso ang aming naging puhunan kung kaya puso din ang magpapanatili upang maipahayag sa lahat ang adbokasiya na mayroon ang BCPC Longos , patuloy na proteksyunan at isulong ang karapatan ng mga kabataan.

Barangay Pinyahan, Quezon City

Pinyahan was represented by BCPC Secretary Elvie Laurito who shared their handling, diversion, and intervention program.

Laurito said

Ang Mapagligtas na Karanasan

As we support Prison Awareness Sunday and the National Correctional Consciousness Week, here’s HLAF’s exceptional story of Kuya Freddie.

For many reasons, Alfredo has often been regarded as the black sheep of his family. During his childhood, he would always see his parents quarrel and fight for certain causes. His childhood was different from many kids today. As young as 12, he already learned to drink alcohol and even smoking a cigarette. When his family knew his bad habits, he was beaten badly by his elder brother and locked in his room. Being locked, and beaten, he felt that he didn’t belong to them, so he began enjoying and exploring things with his friends. With his eager will of trying to be along with his friends and the pressure from his peers, he then learned to do different crimes. Crimes such as Robbery, Physical Injuries, and even came to a point where his friends and he did a Homicide.

He was caught and went to jail in 1971 at Muntinlupa City Jail. However, because of Martial Law, and its implications, he was one (1) out of the 1,500 inmates thrown to Iwahig Penal Colony in Palawan. Inmates in this facility were known to be notorious and dangerous. According to him, his life was really challenging at that time. Every day, he would climb mountains and work in the general services department of the facility for twelve (12) hours.

As time pass by, he realized that he misses his Mother, since no one could visit him apart from the distance and the strict protocols of the facility. This instance gave him the determination to do good and become stronger. He was transferred to an outpost where he could roam freer after eight (8) months.

He was given parole in 1977. He then came home to Quezon City, where his family lives. However, he said that the attitude of his father and his older brother never changed for him. It was like a flashback of the older years, he said.

Longing for care and acceptance, he wandered at Luneta (Rizal Park), which is situated on the eastern shore of Manila Bay, and plays a significant role in shaping the history of the Philippines. After several months of being in Luneta and becoming friends to many, he was then called “Freddie Luneta”, and established Pamilya Paraya which grew a number of members and was fed by devious crimes and actions.

Now, because of the deviant actions of the group, he was captured and detained again in 1978. That time, he believed that it was the end for him, he felt that he will rot and die in Muntinlupa City Jail. Three (3) years later, he was involved in Life, a Spiritual Seminar inside the jail, and met Rogelio “Altar” Gloria, his discussion leader. Altar was a Death Row inmate and known for multiple killings until he was given a chance to change and renew himself. According to Alfredo, Altar worked really hard and pursued him to listen to God, changed his perspectives and views in life, and taught a lot of life-long learnings.

This time, he felt lighter and understood himself, his capability, his characteristics, and his skills. He became more open and started reading the Bible, where he would stay all night long. It was that moment when he realized that God was preparing him for his release and adorn life.

When the Spirit of God moves, even the toughest of prisoners cannot stand in His way. I’ve done so many things wrong in my life, made so many wrong turns,” Alfredo said. “But I know that God is real. I want more of Jesus, more of His presence”. The presence of God felt evident through his years, he even met the love of his life when being transformed and after being released.

Alfredo no longer did crimes but served in the Parishes of Taguig until he was able to establish a community in all of them. He believed that God used him to create these communities for people. When he became friends with Bishop Anton Pascual, he was engaged in multiple speaking activities. It was not only his role during his transformation, he also tried to understand and even train for Law related concerns such as Case Follow-Ups and Consultations which he obtained by participating in various organizations in Metro Manila.

Alfredo or Kuya Freddie, which most of us know, then expanded his jail work where he was involved in HLAF (Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation) as a volunteer. It was in 2008, where he met Atty. Rommel Iyok Alim Abitria (HLAF Executive Director) at Taguig City Jail. After years of hard work, dedication, established connection, and trust, he became a regular staff in the organization as a Paralegal Assistant.

Kuya Freddie would always want to highlight that this Salvific Experience changed his life, views, attitudes, and love for God. This time, it was Pagbabago at Pag-Asa who led him to who he is today. He prays that Prison Fellowship and the Ministry will bear more volunteers, continue watering the seed, and see it grow.

Nog’s Adventurous Journey

According to the National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health, the majority of mental healthcare is provided in hospital settings and there are underdeveloped community mental health services. There is 1 doctor for every 80,000 Filipinos (WHO & Department of Health, 2012); the emigration of trained specialists to other countries, particularly English-speaking countries, contributes to this scarcity.

Once in jail, many individuals do not receive the treatment they need and end up getting worse, not better, in most instances. They can stay longer than their counterparts without mental illness. They are at risk of victimization and often their mental health conditions get worse. Jails can be scary, the unfamiliar surroundings, the loud noises, undetermined movements, and, what else? One has no idea, who they are with.

Many individuals, especially without access to mental health services and support, wind up homeless, in emergency rooms, and often re-arrested. Jailing people with mental illness creates huge burdens on law enforcement, corrections, and state and local budgets. It does not protect public safety. And people who could be helped are being ignored.

Nog (not his true name), a former-PDL who has been released from the Manila City Jail through the help of the FRED (Focused Reintegration of Ex-Detainees) program of HLAF is one. Nog has been in jail for 15 years, he has been identified to have mental health concerns, according to the National Center for Mental Health and Manila City Jail.

On the other hand, Manila City Jail does not want to release Nog yet even though he should already be out, since his family is unidentified, and he doesn’t know where to go. They are also anxious about the possibility that Nog might just be rearrested again.

Nog spent 15 years in jail because his family is nowhere to be identified and located. This is where HLAF decided to help him get back to his family. Through HLAF’s partnership with the different municipalities and its barangays, the program has been able to identify his family in Malabon City, Metro Manila.

Nog’s time in jail has been adventurous, he said. “Okay naman ako ‘dun” in a pleasant tone. He had been helping in cleaning their cell and wiping the floor. He also said that he has a particular duty, he was among the people who had been guards whenever the other PDLs have to go to sleep since Manila City jail is among the over-congested jails in the Philippines, “naglilinis lang ako nun sa kulungan, nagbabantay ng mga tulog kasi may oras din yung pagtulog, pero masaya”.

         Meanwhile, his family was extremely merry since Nog’s return. His Mom said that when he came home Nog lost a lot of weight, although he was thin on the first hand. She was dazed that through those years, Nog’s mental state improved, he became mindful of his thoughts, and he was easily understood. His Mom, as a tinapa (smoked-fish) vendor, said that they were coping through life even with these circumstances, while his step-father is a truck-helper.

It is not only the Family who is thankful but the community as well. This includes the Manila City Jail, his friends, and other people concerned about him.

Since Nog’s release, he has not been doing much. He is currently on a hard time finding a good job. “Ngayon, ang binabantayan ko na lang ay ang bahay, tapos minsan lumalabas ako tapos kwentuhan lang, pero mas masaya na ako ngayon”, he said. “Sa tingin ko, 100% na ako ngayon”, he ended.

Although their gratitude was in silent mode that time, their eyes were our witness that them being together again shows how HLAF works, for its advocacies.

Currently, Nog is under the FRED program of HLAF.

BCPC develops life

An interview with Senior Pastor Domingo Plomantes Sr. on how HLAF guided them in a functioning BCPC.

Nagkaroon ako ng tyansa na makausap si Senior Pastor Domingo Plomantes Sr., ang secretary ng Barangay Talon Uno upang kamustahin ang kanilang BCPC (Barangay Council for the Protection of Children).

Tinanong ko sya kung paano nakatulong ang HLAF sa kanilang BCPC at ano ang naging kahalagahan nito sa kanilang barangay. Sinabi nya na noong wala pang BCPC, hindi nila alam ang gagawin nila sa mga batang CAR (Child at Risk) at CICL (Children in Conflict with the Law) dahil walang proseso ang kanilang barangay para dito. Nakita n’ya ang mga problema ng mga bata sa kanilang barangay noong hindi maayos ang konseho nila dito. “Palibhasa, wala pa ngang batas noon, hindi konkreto ang management sa mga bata, walang BCPC, walang tumutulong”.

“Malaking tulong ang HLAF sa paggabay sa aming mga nanunungkulan sa barangay upang ma-fully implement namin ang JJWA (Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act)”.

Sinabi rin nya na napababa na ng kanilang barangay ang level of criminal acts ng mga bata. “Simula noong magkaroon kami ng BCPC sa barangay, at maayos na ipinapatupad ito, kasama ng mga organisasyon at local na pamahalaan na ang layunin ay tulungan ang mga bata; ay nabibigyan na namin ng intervention programs ang mga CAR, habang diversion programs naman para sa mga CICL”.

“Natuto kami ng tamang kalakaran sa HLAF BCPC Congress kasama ng ibang barangay.”

Nagkakaroon rin sila ng monthly meetings with children and parents, “nagkakaroon lamang ng challenges sa coordination with the parents, kasama ng homeowner’s association, kasi alam naman natin na mayroon din silang ibang schedules”.

We also monitor schools. “Hindi biro ang manungkulan sa BCPC, you develop life”.

Sana maunawaan ng mga kapitan at ng mga sangguniang council natin na we are developing, building, a certain life”.

Nagkaroon na rin ang kanilang mga eskwelahan ng SBCPC (School-Based Committee for the Protection of Children) na nagsasagawa ng guidance counselling, monitoring of grades, at ibang programa para sa mga estudyanteng daycare, grade school, at high school. Pinapanatili naming maayos ang monitoring system sa mga eskwelahan at isinasaayos ang coordination ng mga magulang.

“Para sa akin, napakagandang programa ng BCPC Talon Uno ang Sunday formation with the Church kasama ng mga magulang dahil nagbi-build ng effective communication ang magandang pagsasama ng pamilya”.  Nagkakaroon rin sila ng Home Visitations sa kanilang barangay upang kamustahin ang lagay ng mga bata sa kanilang barangay, una nilang tinitingnan ang kalusugan at kung pumapasok ang mga bata.

Failure of Parenting is seen to be the most dominant problem why children commit wrongdoings. “Bini-build up namin sila (pamilya), we destroy barricades that hinder them from communication and openness to create family development”.

Noong tinanong ko s’ya kung sino ang dapat na mga katulong sa BCPC, sinabi nya na “Kailangan maging very cooperative and understanding ang mga kapitan with the chairman of the BCPC. Kailangan ng great teamwork ng lahat ng kasapi upang mapaganda ang buhay ng mga bata.”

Isa pa, Kailangan concrete ang BCPC sa buong Pilipinas para mas mapababa pa lalo ang mga kaso ng mga bata. Malaking tulong ang ginagawa ng HLAF sa nasabing BCPC, sa pagtulong nila upang fully-mai-implement ang batas para sa mga bata.

Isa pa, malaking tulong ang partnership with organizations, faith-based organizations and volunteers sapagkat nabibigyan ng tamang gabay, tamang programa (maaaring ayon sa kanilang gusto ngunit tinitingnan rin kung paano mabibigyan ng importansya ang gusto ng bata).

“Ang BCPC ay one of the most important councils in the barangay, naaalala ko nung Kabataan ko ang kanilang mga sitwasyon, kung tutuusin napakaswerte ko na kahit ganito ang nangyari sa akin, may pamilya akong nakakasama. Yun din sana ang gusto kong mangyari sa kanila, plano ng Diyos ito para sa akin, na baguhin at ayusin ang buhay ng mga batang ito”.

“Kaya’t laking pasasalamat na rin namin sa HLAF na natulungan at nagabayan ang aming barangay”.

He happily shared that Brgy. Talon Uno has been twice awarded as the “Most Outstanding Child-Friendly Barangay” in two consecutive years because of the programs in their BCPC and how they handle the children, and the families involved.

Pagpapanatili ng Positibong Pananaw

Hindi maikakaliang mahirap ang buhay sa kulungan. Bukod sa pagkawalay sa pamilya, marami pang kaakibat na pagbabagong kailangang makasanayan ang isang tao sa loob ng kanyang bagong mundo.

Sa panahong ito, marahil na panghihinaan ng loob ang isang tao. Normal lamang na malugmok sa kalungkutan subalit sa kabilang banda, maaari namang magkaroon ang isang detainee ng panibagong motibasyon para magbagong buhay.

Sa ganitong sitwasyon natagpuan ni Raul (hindi nya totoong pangalan) ang kanyang sarili nang yanigin ang mundo niya sa pagkakadakip niya sa kanyang bahay na noo’y isang ‘drug den.’ Kwento niya, bagamat hindi siya nagbebenta ng droga, binigyan niya ng permiso ang mga kaibigan niyang magdroga sa kanyang lugar kapalit ng pagkain at minsanang pakikisali sa kanilang bisyo.

Lingid sa kanyang kaalaman, minamatyagan na pala ng mga pulis ang isa sa mga kaibigan niya na naging dahilan sa kanyang pagkakahuli isang umaga kasama ang apat pang mga suspek.

Sa pagkakataong ito, unang pumasok sa isipan ni Raul ang takot. “Sabi ko patayan na sa loob to. Kasi ang portrayal ng media sa loob, bugbugan suntukan kailangan matatag ka,” aniya.

Gayunpaman, hindi niya sukat akalain na ang kanyang paglagi sa Quezon City Jail pala ang magiging hudyat ng lubusang pagkilala niya sa kanyang sarili.

The Lord works in mysterious ways

Para kay Raul, unang hakbang sa pagtanggap sa kinahinatnan niya ang pagkakaroon ng bukas na isipan. Bagamat marami siyang maling desisyong pinagsisihan, mas pinili niyang tanggapin na lamang na nagkamali siya.

You have to learn to accept na mayroon kang mistakes. Huwag mo ilugmok ang sarili mo. Learn from it. Learn from your mistakes,” kwento niya.

Dagdag pa ni Raul, dahil din sa karanasang ito kung kaya’t higit pa niyang nakilala ang Panginoon. Isa ito sa mga rason kung bakit agad niyang nabago ang persepsyon niya sa kanyang kalagayan. Naiintindihan niya na dahil wala siyang dalaw, tanging sarili niya lang ang maaasahan niya.

Bahagi sa pagturing niya sa kanyang pagkakakulong bilang isang oportunidad para magbago ang pakikilahok niya sa mga gawaing pwede niyang salihan gaya ng pagiging paralegal coordinator.

Dito, nagamit niya ang kanyang pinag-aralan upang makatulong sa kanyang mga ka-kosa na mapabilis ang kanilang paglaya. Dahil rin dito, nalaman niya ang tungkol sa programang Focused Re-integration of Ex-Detainees (FRED) ng Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation.

At kahit na noong umpisa’y nahikayat lamang siya dahil sa libreng pagkain tuwing Biyernes, hindi naglaon ay naging bukal sa loob niya ang pagsali sa mga bible sharing at ang pakikilahok sa alternative learning system.

Natulungan si Raul ng programang FRED hindi lamang para magkaroon ng motibasyon kung hindi para muling mangarap para sa kanyang kinabukasan. Aniya, “ang tao pag hindi na nangangarap ‘yun na ‘yung end.”

Isa ito sa mga problemang kinaharap niya sa loob kung saan may mga kasama siyang mas pinipili na lamang na manatili sa kulungan sa halip na magpakabuti upang makalaya. Isa rito ang kanyang ka-kosa na ayaw nang lumabas sa paniniwalang wala na siyang buhay na babalikan pa sa labas. Kwento ni Raul, dalawang taon na dapat siyang laya pero sa tuwing tinatawag ang pangalan nito ay hindi siya tumutugon. Dagdag pa niya, may mga kakilala siyang lumaya na ngunit mandudukot sa labas para makulong sila ulit.

Sa mga pagkakataong ito napapaisip si Raul kung paano babaguhin ang mga taong tulad nila na sumuko na sa buhay. “Uy, okay ka lang mas gusto mo sa loob? Hindi yan ang mundo. Ang mundo nasa loob,” tanong niya.

Gayunpaman, hindi siya sumuko na tulungan ang mga ka-kosa niya. Para matulungan sila, inudyok niya ang mga kasama niya na magpursige para makamit ang mga bagay na nagbibigay sa kanila ng motibasyon para makalaya gaya ng kagustuhang makita ang pamilya nila.

Bucket List

Ngayong nakalaya na siya, nakatuon na ang atensyon ni Raul sa kanyang pamilya. Mas binibigyang importansya niya kung paano siya makakabawi sa kanyang tatlong anak na ngayo’y nasa Sultan Kudarat matapos niyang mawalay sa kanila ng limang taon.

Nagpatuloy siya sa senior phase ng programang FRED kung saan nakilahok siya sa mga sharing para mapanatili ang bago niyang pananaw sa buhay. Ang mga natutunan niya dito ang isa sa mga dahilan kung bakit hindi na niya alintana ang mga pasaring ng ibang tao tungkol sa kanyang nakaraan.

Ayon kay Raul,kailangan lang ng tamang mindset dahil para sa kanya, siya dapat mismo ang makisama sa mga taong nakakasalamuha niya.

“Kung wala silang pang-unawa ako, ‘yung uunawa,” sabi niya.

Isa pa sa mga naitulong ng programang FRED kay Raul ay ang house visit kung saan nakilala niya ang BCPC ng kanyang barangay na naging dahilan naman para mas mapadali ang pagkakaroon niya ng barangay ID.

Sa ngayon, apat na buwan na siyang nagtatrabaho bilang call center agent sa isang BPO company noon pang Oktubre ng 2018. Sa edad na 42, dream job na niyang maituturing ang pagiging call center agent sapagkat ito ang industriyang hindi tumitingin sa kanyang edad o itsura.

Pasok ito sa kanyang bucket list kasama ang ilan pa niyang pangarap tulad ng mag sky jumping at maihatid sa altar ang nag-iisa niyang anak na babae. Nais din niyang maibahagi ang mga natutunan niya sa kanayng buhay sa kanyang mga anak at dalangin niya na huwag silang matulad sa kanya.

“Huwag na kayo maghanap kasi ako ang perfect example kapag ‘di kayo nagseryoso sa pag-aaral niyo,” aniya.

Sa dami na ng napagdaanan ni Raul, maihahalintulad niya ang kanyang sarili sa isang matibay na puno gaya ng Acacia o Narra na kahit papaano ay hindi na basta-basta matitibag ng bagyo.

Biro nga niya, sana lahat magkaroon ng pagkakataon na maranasan ang tumira sa loob.

Barangays take a stand against the lowering of the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility

Different barangays from Malabon City and Navotas City decided to take a stand against the lowering of the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR) as they release position papers from their Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) members.

With the timely issue of the possible lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility or the age at which a person may be held criminally liable for the commission of an offense, the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation’s partner barangays from Malabon City and Navotas City expressed their sentiments as they said that lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility is not the solution.

Having said this, HLAF’s partner barangays has written their position about why they oppose the lowering of MACR and quoted in their position papers are the following:

“Ang Brgy. Catmon ay hindi sumasang- ayon sa pag-amenda ng batas RA 9344 Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 na maibaba sa edad na 9 taong gulang ang mga batang mapaparusahan sa kadahilanang:

·     Hindi pa sapat ang edad ng bata para malaman kung tama o mali ang kanilang ginagawa.

·     Mas maraming bata ang masisira ang kinabukasan kung sila ay ibibilanggo dahil hindi sila makakapag-aral sa paaralan.”

(Brgy. Catmon, is opposing the amendment of the RA 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 to lower the age to nine years old due to the following reasons:

·     The age, nine years old, is not old enough for a child to know whether his actions are right or wrong.

·     There will be an increasing number of children whose future will be at risk if they will be held in jails because they were not able to study at school.)

“Kami, ang BCPC ng Brgy. Baritan ay hindi sang-ayon sa pagbaba ng edad ng criminal responsibility ng bata mula 15 taon sa 9 na taon gulang sa kadahilanan:

·   Sa aming karanasan sa Barangay, kadalasan ang mga batang nasa edad na 9 na taon ay napapasama lamang at naiimpluwensya lamang ng mga batang mas may edad sa kanila;

·     Kapag sila ay amin ng nakakausap ay makikita mo sa kanila ang kalambutan ng kanilang murang isip;

·     Na wala pa kaming naging kaso na ganyang edad na siya mismo ang gumawa ng hindi maganda o ng krimen;

·     Karaniwan sa edad na siyam ay siyang nagiging biktima ng mga batang mas may edad sa kanila (ex: pambubully)

Kung kaya’t sa aming paniniwala na ang mga batang nasa edad na siyam na taon ay hindi pa mulat sa kanilang murang isipan sa mga bagay na hindi naman nila ginusto. Maaaring kulang lamang sila ng atensyon at pagmamahal mula sa kanilang pamilya at komunidad na kaya pang hubugin tungo sa kabutihan na pwedeng ihalintulad sa murang halaman na nagsisimula sa binhi na kayang hubugin hanggang sa paglaki na dahil sa maayos na pag aalaga at gabay ng magulang ay magbubunga ng mabuti.”

(On the other hand, the BCPC of Brgy. Baritan opposes the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility of children from 15 years old to 9 years old due to the following reasons:

·     Based from our experience in the barangay, children on the age of 9 years old are mostly misled and influenced by older peers around them.

·     When we are interacting with them, you’ll see the tenderness of their young minds.

·     We have no record in our barangay wherein a nine-year-old child did an unpleasant deed or a crime.

·     Mostly, children in the age of 9 years old are the victims of the children older than them (ex: bullying)

With this, our stand is that children at the age of nine years old are not yet aware in their young minds of the things they do not prefer to do. Maybe, they feel a lack of attention and love from their family and community that the children can still be shaped into a fine member of the community. )

“Kami ay mula sa Brgy. Bagumbayan North Lunsod ng Navotas ay di sumasang ayon sa pag-amyenda ng batas R.A. 9344 o ng Juvenile Justice Welfare Act of 2006 na ibaba ang edada ng criminal liability mula sa labing limang taong gulang sa siyam na taong gulang sa kadahilanang:

·     Naniniwala kaming hindi sapat ang kanilang kaalaman sa tama at mali na kanilang ginagawa.

·     Lalo lang magiging mas masama sa darating na panahon kapag nakaranas nang makulong.

·     Pananagutan ng mga magulang ang kanilang mga anak ang paulit-ulit na pagkasangkot ng kanilang mga anak sa matinding paggawa ng krimen.”

(We, members from Brgy. Bagumbayan North, Navotas City, are opposing the amendment of RA 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 years old to 9 years old based on the following reasons:

·     We believe that they lack knowledge in acknowledging whether they are doing right or wrong.

·     They will be in their worse state when they experienced being in jail.

·     The parents will be held responsible when their child repeatedly involved themselves in serious offenses.)

Since 2011, the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation-Center for Restorative Action has been seeking to empower the different stakeholders, especially the barangays, with knowledge and skills to be able to properly implement RA 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (JJWA) of 2006 through the provision of training. HLAF, through these pieces of training, has consistently been dispelling the notion that children cannot be made accountable for the crimes that they commit. Instead, the law seeks to make children accountable in a process that is appropriate to them.

Through the training in different barangays, the BCPC members were able to correctly handle cases of children in conflict with the law and children-at-risk. Through this, they were able to realize amongst themselves that the JJWA is implementable. They also realized that the true purpose of the JJWA is to create a child-appropriate system to make children accountable and find and resolve the root cause as to why they commit an offense.

Advocates and implementers of juvenile justice come together for the BCPC Congress 2017

Sta. Maria, Bulacan- “Tayo Rin Para Sa Bata:  A community’s response to the challenge of sustainable implementation of juvenile justice” served as this year’s theme of the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation for the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children Congress 2017 participated by among 165 delegates from the members of the BCPC held last December 11-12 at Sitio Lucia Resort.

The Congress showcased the remarkable and effective barangay practices from the partner barangays of HLAF in accordance with the implementation of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act at the community level.

During the first day of the event, participants from Quezon City, Malabon City, Navotas City, and Caloocan and other active implementers of the law protecting the children and the youth were gathered. Barangays who were already chosen and qualify for the Tatak Barangay Contest presented their practices among the audience and the judges. These barangays were from Brgy. Culiat, Commonwealth, and Greater Lagro, Quezon City.

Child Protection Officer of UNICEF, Mr. Jesus Far; Ms. Marlyn Verian-Pulga from ASMAE Philippines; and Information Management Officer of CARE Philippines, Mr. Randy Rimpongan graced the event and headed the panel interviews among the contenders in the Tatak Barangay Contest. This contest was made to determine the best practices of the barangays in implementing the JJWA.

“Napakaraming struggle pero ang nakakatuwa po kay Bimbo ay pag tinatawag siya eh nagbibihis siya ng maganda. Parang sige lang, continue lang. Yun po ay malaki nang pagbabago, yung magbibihis siya, laging nakangiti, nakayakap. Napakahirap buksan ang puso ng bata para makapagkwento, ito po ay dahilan sa mga case manager namin. Nakakuha po kami ng katuwang sa pagsulong ng karapatan ng mga bata.”, Kgd. Cristina Bernardino addressed while presenting their entry for the Tatak Barangay Contest during the Congress.

During the Gawad Kalayaan with the theme, “Para sa mga Mapagpalaya”, nominees and winners for the Tatak Barangay Contest and other categories to highlight the remarkable efforts of the youth, adults and organization behind the success of their practices in the barangay were given recognition and trophies.

The winners for the Tatak Barangay Contest were:

Tatak Barangay Award Champion- Brgy. Commonwealth, Quezon City

Tatak Barangay Award First Runner-Up- Brgy. Culiat, Quezon City

Tatak Barangay Award Second Runner-Up- Brgy. Greater Lagro, Quezon City

“Naniniwala ang HLAF na bawat tao ay may dignidad. Kung gusto nating i-promote ang dignity ng bawat tao, mas maganda na makikipagtulungan ang HLAF sa gobyerno, nakikipag-usap sa bawat duty bearers. Yung objectives na yun ang siyang naging tali kung bakit tayo ay nagkaroon ng isang magandang bonding because we all want to promote yung dignidad ng tao, kahit ano pa ang kanyang nakaraan.”, said Atty. Rommel Alim Abitria as he welcomed the invited guests and participants during the Gawad Kalayaan 2017.

Other participants who were recognized during the event were:

Outstanding Child Rights Advocates (Individual Children/Youth Category)

Mark Kevin Amador – Brgy. Commonwealth, Quezon City

Sherwin Bumanglag – Brgy. Culiat, Quezon City

Charles Solar – Brgy. Culiat, Quezon City

Ma.Michaella Balleta Flores – Brgy. Longos, Malabon City

Outstanding Child Rights Advocates (Individual Adult Category)

Kgd. Cristina Bernardino – Brgy. Culiat, Quezon City

Alvin Abdul – Brgy. Culiat, Quezon City

Thricia Mae Esguerra – Brgy. Tinajeros, Malabon City

Xyza May Espinosa – Brgy. Tinajeros, Malabon City

Rubilyn Abagao – Brgy. Commonwealth, Quezon City

Melbrian Aňoza – Brgy. Culiat, Quezon City

Outstanding Child Rights Advocates (Organization Category)

Anak ng Culiat Theater Group – Brgy. Culiat, Quezon City

City Government of Navotas City

Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) of Brgy. Greater Lagro, Quezon City

Malabon City’s Barangay Children and Youth Association (BCYA)

Best Case Managers (Individual Category)

Alelia Bernardo – Brgy. Culiat, Quezon City

Ramir Aroc – Brgy. Culiat, Quezon City

Leticia Siasit – Brgy. Longos, Malabon City

Merlie Quilala – Brgy. Longos, Malabon City

Mercy Aloro – Brgy. Commonwealth, Quezon City

Best in Case Management (Organization Category)

Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) of Brgy. Longos, Malabon City

Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) of Brgy. Commonwealth, Quezon City

Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) of Brgy. Culiat, Quezon City

On the second day of the Congress, the panel interviewers composed of HLAF’s Executive Director, Atty. Rommel Alim Abitria, winners of the Tatak Barangay Contest representatives- Ms. Rubilyn Abagao (Brgy. Commonwealth), Kgd. Cristina Bernardino (Brgy. Culiat) and Ms. (Greater Lagro). Sherwin Bumanglag and Mark Kevin Amador (Outstanding Child Rights Advocate Children/Youth Category); Ms. Mhel Soque (Navotas) and Ms. Alelia Bernardo (Brgy. Culiat) also joined the panel interviewers as the open forum went through. The forum aimed to share the experiences of their respective BCPC members among the other participants.

“Bakit nga ba may BCPC Congress? Ito yung platform natin na naga-gather tayo, nakikita yung mga iba’t ibang city. May mga ibang privinces kung saan pinag-uusapan natin yung problema at challenges at best practices para ma-sustain ang juvenile justice sa community level.”, said Ms. Claudette Almadin, HLAF’s senior community organizer as she facilitated the open forum.

HLAF annually conducts the BCPC Congress in order to recognize the efforts made by the barangays in exercising the JJWA at the community level and also discuss the challenges they encountered while implementing their programs for the entire year to adapt and gather strategies to further implement their practices.

Barangays of Malabon City prepare for the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children Functionality Training

In order to create a city-wide Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) Federation, the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation (HLAF) facilitated a series of focus group discussions to the nine barangays of Malabon City last April as a preparation for the BCPC Functionality Training.

The said series of focus group discussions were conducted in order to present a brief discussion of HLAF programs and the partnership for the one-year training of the barangays with HLAF. The activity was participated by BCPC members through the lead of HLAF Community Organizers, Ms. Carmelita Torrefiel and Mr. Kio Jerome deal Peña, with the participation from Malabon City Social Welfare and Development Office, Ms. Ma. Victoria Gonzales.

The barangays that participated in the focus group discussion were Brgy. Acacia, Brgy. Bayan-Bayanan, Brgy. Flores, Brgy. Ibaba, Brgy. Muzon, Brgy. Niugan, Brgy. Potrero, Brgy. Tonsuya and Brgy. Panghulo.

In the previous partnership of HLAF with KIYO last 2014-2016, HLAF was able to train 12 barangays of Malabon City through three batches of training. The partner barangays of HLAF are Brgy. Concepcion, Brgy. Tinajeros, Brgy. Tugatog, Brgy. Maysilo, Brgy. Baritan, Brgy. Dampalitan, Brgy. Hulong Duhat, Brgy. San Agustin, Brgy. Santulan, Brgy. Catmon, Brgy. Tañong and Brgy. Longos.

“The barangays we’ve met for the focus group discussion showed their willingness to learn and to strengthen their Barangay Council for the Protection of Children,” said HLAF Community Organizer, Ms. Carmelita Torrefiel.

According to Torrefiel, the nine participating barangays are now finalizing their structure and the attending members for the training. The CSWDO also showed their full support for the upcoming training.

Torrefiel also added that one of the good stories of the series of focus group discussions was the participation of the Barangay Captain, Barangay Secretary, Barangay Treasurer, Barangay Kagawads, and youth.

The scheduled training will kick off on June 20 for the BCPC Functionality Training Module 1 at the Malabon City Penthouse.

Jail Paralegal Officers seek assistance to conduct Paralegal Training- HLAF and Ateneo Law students reach out to help

Malabon City Jail Paralegal Officers initiated to conduct the Paralegal Training seminar last March 2,3 and 7.

Malabon City Jail (Male and Female Dormitories), in partnership with the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc. (HLAF), conducted the Paralegal Skills Training for 60 Paralegal Aides.

HLAF Paralegal Officer, Mr. Juanito Vinluan Jr., LL.B., RSW, and HLAF Community Organizer, Mr. Kio Jerome de la Peña facilitated the said training. Also, Ateneo Law School Clinical Legal Education (CLED) students, Mr. Patrick Arcellana, Mr. Ivan Darwin Zamora, and Ms. Marisse Aldeza participated in the training discussion.

In the three-day training, Introduction to Law / 5 Pillars of Criminal Justice System, Orientation in the Main Objective and Policies of the BJMP, Good Conduct and Time Allowance GCTA LAW and its IRR Probation and ROR, Rehabilitation Treatment and Correctional Programs, Criminal Procedure, HLAF JD – Forms, Modes of Release, Affidavit Making / Documentation, Case follow-up and Interviewing Skills were the topics discussed.

J/Supt Jun Melchor O. Boadilla and SJO3 Gil Pagatpat gave their remarks during the first day of the training.

“For the PLAides, you have to be equipped of the necessary tools in helping your co-inmates so make sure you complete and be sincere in this three-day seminar. And for HLAF, thank you for the overwhelming support,” said Warden Boadilla.

Mr. Vinluan tackled to the participants the expectation setting, overview of the training, and paralegal ethics before starting the discussion. In line with this, Mr. Arcellana and Mr. Zamora discussed Introduction to Law / 5 Pillars of Criminal Justice System at the Paralegal Skills Training.

J/INSP Daisy O. Ignacio, JO1 Fernan R.Villaga, SJO3 Gil Pagatpat, JO1 Eduardo Carreon and JO1 Rufa Magracia, JO1  Benedict Sano and JO1 Nelson Rin participated as speakers as they discussed the Good Conduct and Time Allowance GCTA LAW and it’s IRR Probation and ROR, Rehabilitation Treatment and Correctional Programs and Orientation in the Main Objective and Policies of the BJMP respectively.

On the second day of the training, Ateneo Law CLED students, Mr. Arcellana and Mr. Zamora discussed the Criminal Procedure and its additional workshop. The workshop on Criminal Procedure focused on stages of trial and the participants were grouped and they created flow charts of stages of trial

On the third day, the topics discussed by Mr. Vinluan were HLAF JD Forms, Case Follow-Up and Interviewing Skills, and Affidavit Making and Documentation. The Modes of Release and the workshop on Affidavit Making and Documentation were discussed and facilitated by Ateneo CLED students,

The Paralegal Training at the Malabon City Jail was the second stretch of HLAF Paralegal Training as the first training of 2017 was conducted at the Caloocan City Jail Male Dorm last January 11 and 12.