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.

YOUTH EXPRESS THEIR THOUGHTS ON JUVENILE JUSTICE AND OTHER SOCIAL ISSUES IN THE ANNUAL JUVENILE JUSTICE VOLUNTEERS’ CONGRESS

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.