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); Daniella 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.

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