HLAF Assessment Tool Receives Good Reviews from Duty-Bearers

In the ongoing mission to support Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) and enhance their rehabilitation process, the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation (HLAF) has been making significant strides. Following the FMC training attended by Malabon duty-bearers last February, HLAF’s FRED program took a crucial step by conducting an interview with Malabon City Jail’s Male and Female Dorms. This initiative aimed to evaluate the latest version of their assessment tool and ensure its effectiveness in the reintegration journey.

The interview process was comprehensive and revealing. It was designed to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the assessment tool, providing invaluable insights into its administration, effectiveness, and the receptivity of the PDLs. The assessment tool, a cornerstone in evaluating the needs and progress of PDLs, needed to be both robust and adaptable to serve its purpose effectively.

During the interview, the team, along with the duty bearers discovered several strengths of the current tool. It was praised for its thoroughness and the structured manner in which it gathered essential information about the PDLs. The PDLs themselves expressed appreciation for the tool, noting that it helped them reflect on their personal growth and reintegration progress.

Recognizing these challenges, the HLAF team, along with the duty-bearers, engaged in a collaborative effort to refine the tool. They classified specific areas for improvement and brainstormed diverse approaches to enhance its administration. This collaborative spirit underscored the commitment of all parties involved to make the reintegration process as effective and supportive as possible.

The collaboration also explored ways to enhance the receptivity of the PDLs. This involved making the tool more engaging and less intimidating, perhaps by incorporating interactive elements or providing additional support to PDLs as they complete the assessments. By making the assessment tool more effective, the hope was to encourage more honest and reflective responses, thereby improving the quality of the data collected.

The HLAF’s FRED program, in partnership with Malabon duty-bearers, demonstrated that through careful evaluation and collaborative refinement, tools and processes could be significantly enhanced. This initiative not only aimed to improve the assessment tool but also served as a reminder of the importance of continually seeking feedback and being open to change.

In the end, the collective efforts of the HLAF team, duty-bearers, and the PDLs themselves have paved the way for a more effective and compassionate reintegration process. This ongoing journey of improvement ensures that each step taken is a step closer to a future where every PDL has the support and opportunities they need to rebuild their lives and reintegrate into society successfully..

Small Hands, Big Heart “STELLA Project”

The Small Hands, Big Hearts event became a beacon of hope and joy for the children of Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs). In collaboration with the Fine Arts students of Technological University of the Philippines Manila—Fauget and the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc. (HLAF), this memorable occasion was a testament to the power of community, creativity, and compassion.

The event, held with the enthusiastic participation of the Quezon City Female Dormitory, it was a dedicated to the children of PDLs. These young hearts, often faced with the challenges of their circumstances, came together to create something beautiful with their mother.

From the moment the event began, the atmosphere was filled with excitement and joy. The children, with their boundless energy and creativity, quickly immersed themselves in the activities designed to inspire and uplift them. One of the highlights was the sharing of children in the story of “Stella,” a short story coloring book. The children used their artistic talents to color and illustrate the book, transforming it into a vibrant masterpiece and bonding with their loving mother.

As the pages of “Stella” came alive with color, so did the spirits of the children. Their small hands, guided by big hearts, created a tapestry of hope and joy that someday just like Stella, their mother will comeback to them.

The event was not just about creating art; it was about creating connections and fostering a sense of community. The TUP student was moved by the children’s enthusiasm and the powerful messages they conveyed through their artwork. The “Small Hands, Big Hearts” event was a profound reminder of the impact that through our small gesture to help and efforts can make it meaningful.

The sense of accomplishment and hope. The “Small Hands, Big Hearts” initiative had not only brought joy and inspiration to the children but also highlighted the power of initiative and the importance of supporting one another. Through this event, a brighter, more compassionate future was colored—not just on the pages of a coloring book, but in the hearts and minds of everyone involved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Online BCPC Congress runs May-October 2021.

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

Barangay Gordon Heights, Olongapo City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barangay Longos, Malabon City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barangay Pinyahan, Quezon City

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

Laurito said

The Peer Group of former Persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic

One’s life must continue to bloom and stretch stems even carrying big challenges.

Family, friends, peer groups, local government units, non-government organizations, and the community plays a vital and huge role in ensuring the welfare and well-being of persons deprived of liberty (PDL) during the current health crisis. Sometimes, it takes a broader perspective to people with big hearts to conquer realities, and this contributes a lot to the goals of a developing humane society.

Looking not only at the impact of reintegration on former persons deprived of liberty but also the impact on their community and on wider society change perspectives and narratives on humanity and lessen stigma even if people do not know them.

HLAF’s special story from its beneficiaries from the Focused Reintegration of Ex-Detainees (FRED) program summarizes this humane empowerment all up.

Ate Susan, a former beneficiary of the program, who is currently a business manager of a cosmetics, dietary supplements, and personal care brand based in the United States has been lending her hand to create job opportunities for her fellow FRED groups.

When I asked her why, she told me that although she and her family was stressed-out and still coping due to the challenges brought by the health crisis on financial, emotional, and even physical aspect, she knew that there were more people suffering than them, and the first few people she thought of was her FRED peer groups.

Alam kong hirap na hirap tayong mga tao na mabuhay ngayong panahon na ito, lalo’t lumalaban tayo para lang may makain kahit ngayon araw. Ako at ang aking pamilya ay nawalan rin ng pag-asa nung una at nastress. Ang mister ko po ay hindi makasampa ng barko, tapos ‘yung mga apo ko nandito pa, nagtiwala lang kami sa Panginoon na hindi tayo pinapabayaan. Isa pa, ‘nung nalaman po ni Sir Wendell ang aming kondisyon, ay nagpaabot rin po sila ng tulong tapos po dun kami nabuhayan.

When her company regained full operations again last month, she then tried to offer reselling jobs to her FRED group.

Dahil dito, narealize ko na kaya ko naman tumulong dito sa trabaho ko, bakit hindi ko dalhin sa kanila, para kahit paano kung may mabenta sila ay may kita rin sila”. It is not only the profit that they earn but the learning process of how online businesses work as well.

She has been able to sell more than of her regular day operations because people nowadays are more concerned about their health and immunity, which they had products of. The expense of transportation and effort of going to the locations we had have been lessened. She said that it is important to see light in these most challenging times, “if we can help, help out”.

Although many of us may not know the situations of former Persons deprived of liberty and how they bounce back, it is not mysterious to us that being a flower to a gloomy garden brings color to it.


It would only take a matter of time before the corona virus disease or COVID-19 enter Philippine jails. “All prisons and jails should anticipate that the coronavirus will enter a facility, and jails need to have proper plans for monitoring and treating anyone who has symptoms”, according to a Healthcare Research Institute in the United States.

The corona virus spreads quickly in closed spaces, like jails and prisons which make the Persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) and Jail officers vulnerable to severe forms of the virus. One way to reduce the impactful spread of the virus is to protect themselves from each other.

Philippine jails are always a jampack.

Currently, the San Mateo Municipal Jail – Male dorm holds 744 PDLs. According to SJO1 Bonayon, they have already provided cautionary measures before the spread of the virus through the practice of wearing of face masks for jail officers and detainees, as well as for visitors. She added that HLAF’s provided face masks were of huge help in containing the virus.

Since the spread of the virus and the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine, jail personnel are in a no-in & no-out policy, this means that they are not allowed to go out to see their families, in a straight time to prevent from getting the virus and bring it inside.

Moreover, to relieve from stress and anxiety thinking about their families, the jail officers together with the PDLs practice daily activities such as 30-minute morning exercises, watch Bible-based films and mass, and play board games among others. They are also among jails who practice and implement the E-dalaw program which allow detainees to talk to their relatives and loved ones via online video calls.

The conducted Online Welfare and Legal Mission of HLAF in San Mateo Municipal Jail also seemed to make them relaxed since going outside is prohibited for jail personnel. It made them of ease because they knew that there are people and organizations willing to lend time and talk about how they feel.

Bonayon said that the least she can do today is to look after the PDL’s welfare and well-being amidst the health crisis. She believes that the spread will end soon, and everything will go back to normal. “I am thankful to HLAF’s initiatives in protecting the BJMP and the PDLs, especially in these challenging times. HLAF has always lent their time to check our needs and situations. We hope that HLAF will never forsake us in these situations. We thank you again for your continued support”, she added.

The San Mateo Municipal Jail is currently in need of hygiene kits which include: bath and laundry soaps, toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, and face towels due to limited stocks brought by the heath crisis.

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.

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.

A line between BCPC Office and BCPC Interview Room

To set a wall of boundaries for promotion of the confidentiality of the case and protection of the children.

One of the instances in dealing with children at risk (CAR) and children in conflict with the law (CICL) is the interview with the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC). Many fail the attempt to gather information during interviews because of many factors.

One of these factors is the failure to provide an accommodating, warm and welcoming atmosphere to the interviewee. Based on observation, interviews that were done in a comfortable and private area give the interviewee the motivation to provide information and comfort of security to the confidentiality of their story.

With this, the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc. (HLAF) Center for Restorative Action (CRA) Team encourages all the barangays to have a separate BCPC office and BCPC interview room. At present, there are 19 barangays that have separate BCPC offices and BCPC interview rooms.

BJMP-NCR partners with HLAF to hold this year’s first JPO Kamustahan

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology – National Capital Region (BJMP-NCR) Regional Office held its quarterly Jail Paralegal Officers’ (JPO) Kamustahan last March 20 at the 5th floor Conference Room, Seneca Plaza Building.

HLAF supported the event by providing snacks for the attendees, and a stress debriefing session by partnering with National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) in the Philippines. The event was attended by JPOs from all the jails in NCR.

The Warden of Las Piñas City Jail and the Chief Jail Paralegal Officer J/C Supt, Joe Jay P. Arejola, welcomed the participants to the event. He thanked the organizers for having the opportunity to be there to meet new and old faces among the JPOs. He then went directly to a very important issue for the jails – the releases through the use of the good conduct time allowance. He said that the National Capital Region had a low number of releases despite having the most congested jails in the Philippines. It came third, next to Region 7 and Region 9.

After his welcome remarks, he proceeded to lecture about the good conduct time allowance, together with JO3 Michael San Agustin. They pointed out the relevant concerns for the JPOs such as how to compute for the time allowances when to compute for those crimes punishable with life imprisonment, when to begin computing the time allowances, and who are eligible to receive time allowances. They also discussed the procedures and the bodies that were in charge of providing the time allowances. The open forum was also held simultaneously with the discussions, which made the topic more interesting and relevant for the JPOs.

After the discussion, the NADA Philippines provided ear acupuncture to some of the JPOs who wanted to experience it. At the end of the activity, those who had availed of the acupuncture said that they felt more relaxed, achieving the intended results for the stress debriefing session.

To close the event, Regional Director Romeo Elisan, Jr. said that he was thankful for the support of HLAF and NADA Philippines. He reflected on the importance of the good conduct time allowance, especially since from having a national jail population of 26,000 last year, we now have 33,000. He highlighted that the number of inmates are increasing but the jail capacities are not. He said that the more inmates there are, the riskier the job gets.

In saying all these, he also shared that it is also important to see the inmates as mere numbers. Each inmate is an actual person that they provide services to. In the end, he thanked the JPOs and told them that all their hard work will pay off eventually, especially those who are taking up law.

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.