In Samar, the journey towards justice for children in conflict with the law (CICL) and those at risk (CAR) has taken a significant step forward through the establishment of a local justice zone. Spearheaded by the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation (HLAF), this initiative has played a vital role in safeguarding the rights and well-being of vulnerable children in the region. By focusing on rehabilitation, reintegration, and preventive measures, the local justice zone has become a beacon of hope, offering support and guidance to CICL and CAR individuals.
The formation of a child’s character and behavior is shaped by a multitude of factors, and one significant aspect is their surroundings. From the family environment to the neighborhood and broader social context, the influences children encounter can have a profound impact on their development. In some unfortunate cases, certain environments can contribute to the path leading children toward criminal behavior. Recognizing the pressing needs of CICL and CAR in Samar, HLAF took the lead in creating a local justice zone, acting as a catalyst for change in the lives of these children.
One of the primary goals of the local justice zone is the rehabilitation and reintegration of children in conflict with the law. Instead of focusing solely on punitive measures, the zone adopts a restorative justice approach, prioritizing the well-being and future prospects of the child. Through counseling, educational programs, skills training, and recreational activities, CICL individuals are provided with opportunities to heal, learn, and develop positive life skills.
The local justice zone also ensures that CICL receive proper legal representation and support during their encounters with the justice system. By offering legal aid services, HLAF ensures that their rights are upheld, and they are treated fairly throughout the process. This holistic approach not only addresses the immediate needs of CICL but also aims to break the cycle of criminal behavior, enabling them to become responsible, productive members of society.
Recognizing the importance of prevention, the local justice zone implemented various programs aimed at children at risk (CAR) to intervene before they engage in illegal activities. These preventive measures focus on identifying and addressing the underlying issues that contribute to a child’s vulnerability. For instance, HLAF works closely with local communities, schools, and families to raise awareness about child rights, child protection, and the importance of education. Through counseling and mentorship programs, CAR individuals receive guidance and support to help them make positive life choices.
The success of the local justice zone for CICL and CAR in Samar is due to the collaborative efforts of various stakeholders. HLAF works closely with local government units, law enforcement agencies, social welfare offices, educational institutions, and community organizations to ensure a comprehensive and coordinated approach. This multi sectoral cooperation maximizes resources, expertise, and knowledge to provide a comprehensive support system for CICL and CAR individuals.
There are two juveniles who are the best examples of how the local justice zone facilitated by HLAF has been helping them, leading them toward a better life after their run in with the law. “Jasper” and Christian were teens when they committed their first criminal act. Jasper was to be sent to the (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) BJMP for 5 carnapping cases, all of which have now been terminated. The sacrifices were made by the Public Attorneys Office (PAO) and City Social Welfare and Development Officer (CSWDO) with Sir Robert, who guaranteed his presence in Jasper’s trial. He was sent to the Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth (RRCY). Jasper is now a college student and has earned two NC II from TESDA for Bread and Pastry Making and Cookery.
“Ako po ay isang CICL na natulungan ng PAO, CSWD, UNICEF, HLAF, RRCY at ni Atty. Mary Ann Llanera at Atty. Cheska. Maraming salamat po sa inyong tulong at handa po akong babaguhin ang sarili sa pamamagitan ng inyong programa.”
– Jasper “Bilanghoy”
Christian was arrested when he was only 15 years old and was charged with carnapping, robbery, and frustrated murder. Everything with the probation was well underway, but there was a minor bump, his case of frustrated murder. With HLAF encouraging Christian’s probation officer to attend the Local Justice Zone (LJZ) meeting. During the meeting, his case of frustrated murder was brought to light, where the judge, prosecutor, and PAO were present. The archived case was set and after one hearing, the judge dismissed it, keeping the best interests of Christian in mind. Now he has a job and he has a one year old child. Everyone was set on one vision, and that helped Christian. These two are the perfect examples of CICLs turning their lives around, the crime they committed was heavy in the eyes of the law. They had a huge impact, helping CICLs like them with open communication.
“May mga bata dito na nagpapasalamat sa UNICEF. Although hindi nadidiscuss yung cases nila sa LJZ meetings pero indirectly, nakakabenefit sila until now because there is constant and open communication between CSWD, RRCY, PROBATION at lahat ng government agencies concerned. So marami ang naka benefit.”
– Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth (RRCY)
A key aspect of the local justice zone is its emphasis on community engagement and empowerment. HLAF actively involves the local community, including parents, teachers, and community leaders, in the rehabilitation and reintegration process. By fostering a sense of ownership and responsibility, the community becomes invested in the success and well-being of CICL and CAR individuals, leading to greater acceptance, support, and opportunities for their reintegration into society.
“We are very glad to work hand in hand with you. with our commitment to serve and to make these unlovable children become lovable. We at RRCY, the staff and the dswd as a whole are doing our best that we can to really serve these children and to be able to achieve the mandate of the agency with this sector, the CICL.”
- Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth (RRCY).
The local justice zone facilitated by the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation (HLAF) in Samar has transformed the lives of children in conflict with the law (CICL) and those at risk (CAR). Through a restorative justice approach, the zone emphasizes rehabilitation, reintegration, and prevention, offering CICL and CAR individuals a chance to rebuild their lives, develop new skills, and become active contributors to their communities. By engaging various stakeholders and promoting community involvement, the local justice zone sets a remarkable example of how collaborative efforts can bring about positive change for vulnerable children. The impact of HLAF’s initiatives extends beyond the justice system, creating a safer and more inclusive environment for children in Samar.
By Jiro Pepito