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.


STA. MARIA, Bulacan- Through the initiative of the Juvenile Justice Volunteers (JJVos) from different Barangay Children and Youth Associations (BCYAs) and the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc. (HLAF), youth advocates once again gathered for the 5th Juvenile Justice Volunteers’ Congress (JJVos) last September 16-18, 2016 at Sitio Lucia Training Center and Hotel Resort, Sta. Maria, Bulacan with the theme “Sa Tulong ng Aktibong Pakikilahok ng JJVo, Tamang Pagpapatupad ng JJWA ay Masisigurado”.

The congress’ theme focused on the impact of the involvement of children and youth in the implementation of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (JJWA), especially at the community level. 

The event gathered the Barangay Children and Youth Association (BCYA) members from partner barangays in the Cities of Malabon, Navotas, Caloocan, and Quezon City. Partner agencies like the City Social Welfare and Development Department and development partner NGOs all over the country were also invited to join the congress together with their children and youth representatives.

During the Congress, HLAF optimized the participants’ skills and talents as they advocated for the implementation of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act. In order to do so, HLAF sought the assistance of different individuals and organizations in offering different workshop sessions such as poster making, theatre, singing, declamation and cookie painting, and paper bag making.

To ensure that the children’s rights are protected, the 2016 Juvenile Justice Volunteers Congress staff, trainees, volunteers, students, development partners, and parents or guardians signed the Child Protection Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct ascertains particular values, principles, and standards of behavior that inform the culture and identity of HLAF. Also, a Psychology Professor from the University of the Philippines, Mr. Bryan Egay, gave a seminar on counseling to the JJVos guardians and security personnel.

On the second day of the congress, the youth participants held a unity walk in order to acknowledge the active involvement of the organized Barangay Children and Youth Association (BCYA) within HLAF partner barangays.

Also, the Spokesperson of the Office of the Vice-President, Ms. Georgina Hernandez-Yang, the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Ms. Maria Lourdes H. Turalde, the Youth Peace Ambassador of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Mr. Joseph Justin Vinzons, and the Project Development Officer IV under the Advocacy and Communications Division of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC), Ms. Maan Julia Gonzales, graced the event.

“The Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation, of course, has done wonders in strengthening 54 barangays in Quezon City., 14 in Navotas, 12 in Malabon, and 10 in Caloocan. I find these numbers very encouraging. It shows that the law can be enforced at the community level and they empower barangay officials, police, members of the LCPC, youth home staff, and members of the BCPC. Truly there is no limit for people who want to change the country. Each act is important, there are no small or big ones, each time you make yourself present to make sure a law enforcer officer abide by the law, you prevent future abused. So meet on my Gmail my dear volunteers, tomorrow and the rest of your time in the programs, smile with more joy, and speak with more confidence. I will not promise you that everything will be easy, there will be times that you will be frustrated, you may lose one of those you are mentoring, you will cry, we will be there with you, you will not alone. Let’s do this together, in the end, it is better to try and get hurt than not to have tried at all.” message from Vice President Leni Robredo, delivered by Ms. Georgina, during her inspirational message in the JJVos.

“The four rights of youth are survival, development, protection, and participation. All rights are important but the fourth one, youth’s participation, is the one we need to polish. Let’s continue to strengthen ourselves, continue to protect ourselves. I hope that besides strengthening or improving your condition, think that you belong to your community. And you can play a big part if the community can be better for our fellow countrymen, be better for our youth and of course, we dream the betterment of our country for next generations. At least, we did something for the next generation. For us to not take the blame why when we were in our youth years, we didn’t do a step or didn’t play a role. Let’s show them now and let’s show our support for the future we want to be experienced in the future and in the present as well. I salute the youth participants here today.” (Isusuma ko lang ang apat na karapatan ng kabataan, survival, development, protection, and participation. Lahat ito ay mahalaga subalit, yung pang-apat, yung partisipasyon ng mga kabataan, yun talaga ang kailangan nating patingkarin… Patuloy ninyong palakasin ang inyong mga sarili, patuloy na proteksyunan ang inyong mga sarili. Sana maliban sa inyong pagpapapatatag o pagpapabuti ng inyong kalagayan, isipin nyo din na kayo ay kabilang sa inyong komunidad. At malaki ang papel na magagampanan ninyo, kung ang komunidad ay magiging mas maayos para sa ating mamamayan, mas maayos para sa ating mga kabataan at syempre papangarapin natin na mas maayos yung ating bansa, na sa susunod na mga henerasyon atleast may mga nagawa tayo para rin sa ating mga susunod na henerasyon. Para hindi tayo masisi, na bakit nung tayo/kayo  ang mga kabataan, hindi kayo gumawa ng hakbang o hindi kayo nagpakita ng inyong papel… ngayon pa lang ipakita nyo yun… at ngayon pa lng pagtulung-tulungan na natin iyun, para yung kinabukasan na gusto natin ay hindi lamang natin matamasa sa hinaharap kung hindi ngayon na…saludong saludo ako sa mga kabataan na nandito ngayong hapon.) said Asec. Turalde in her keynote speech in the congress.

The youth participants shared their advocacies on juvenile justice through their presentations in singing, dancing, theater acting, poster making, declamation and cookie painting, and paper bag making.

A graduate of Interior Design at the University of Santo Tomas and taking a break for designing homes and commercial spaces, Ms. Daryl Wendi del Carmen (Cookie Painting and Paper Bag Making); HLAF interns from Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), Jsa Turabilla and Georgia Sacrez (Dancing); JJVos Youth Facilitators, James Maravilla and Carl Geronimo (Dancing); Raniella Grande and Mhico Yambao (Declamation); HLAF Executive Director, Atty. Rommel Alim Abitria (Declamation); visual artist specializing in portraits and a graduate of Social Work in Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, Mr. Von Enrique (Poster Making), Area Coordinator at the Office of the Vice Mayor of Quezon City, and two-time national grand champion in Poster Making, Mr. Randy Robles (Poster Making), Ninoy and Cory Aquino Foundation (Singing), freelance artist, street educator, teacher and consultant of Barangay Culiat BCPC, Mr. Romy Florendo (Theater) and a seven-time Carlos Palanca Awardee, Inang bayan awardee for the literature of PUP, National Fellow of UP Creative writing Institute, Gawad Liwayway Awardee, CCP Awardee for a full-length play titled: Ina and One time Balagtas Awardee, Mr. Levy de la Cruz (Theater) were the facilitators in the break-out sessions at the JJVo Congress.

HLAF believes that the workshops will not only hone the skills of the children and youth participants but also pave the way for their creativity to be able to contribute to nation-building by giving them an active voice that will be noticed and heard by our policymakers.

Also, on the third day of the congress, the youth facilitators conducted a team-building activity for the youth participants, guided by guardians and security personnel, within the area of Sitio Lucia. Atty. Abitria then debriefed the youth participants after the team building and explained the essence of having a team-building activity. He then asked the youth participants how they felt after the three-day congress.

Ano nga ba ang ibig sabihin ng isang boluntaryo? Ang isang boluntaryo, kahit may hugot, gumagalaw, kumikilos. Kahit ang isang boluntaryo ay may problema, patuloy na tumutulong dahil lahat naman tayo may hugot. Lahat naman tayo may problema. Lahat naman tayo may pinagdadaanan sa buhay. Ngunit ang lahat ng ito, itong mga hugot na ito, ay hindi dapat maging hadlang para tayo ay gumalaw. Tayo ay sama-sama para isa-boses ang nasa ating mga isip, para isa-boses ang ating mga nararamdaman. At napatunayan nyo yan kahapon kung kayo ay sama-sama. Ako’y nagpapasalamat at nawa’y dala-dala nyo ang mga karanasan, dala-dala nyo ang mga kasanayan at dala-dala nyo ang magagandang ala-ala upang kayo ay kumilos, gumalaw sa barangay dahil napakahalaga ng boses ninyo upang mapaitupad ang isang maayos na pamayanan, isang maayos na barangay at upang maipatupad ang mga batas na nagproprotekta, hindi lang sa karapatan ng mga nandito kundi ang karapatan ng lahat ng bata na wala dito sa JJVos 2016.” said Atty. Abitria during his closing remarks in the graduation ceremony of JJVos.

Since 2012, HLAF has been providing a venue for all the children and youth members organized by the barangays that we have trained in an annual Juvenile Justice Volunteers’ Congress to get together and share ideas with having in mind the right of children to participate in matters that affect them. HLAF has been giving particular focus on preventing juvenile delinquency in all the JJVos Congresses.

HLAF is a non-profit, non-government organization that advocates for the protection and promotion of the rights of persons deprived of liberty especially the children, the elderly, and those who are sick.  One of HLAF programs, the Center for Restorative Action Program, empowers the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) in different barangays to be able to implement the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (JJWA). In addition, HLAF empowers them to be able to organize their children and youth to advocate for the prevention of juvenile delinquency within their barangay.