“Wala nang batang dapat nakukulong. Kasi ang kabataan dapat hindi nakukulong, dapat sila ay binibigyan ng atensyon at suporta.” said Jude Fortes, one of the barangay staff of Brgy. Batasan Hills and the chairman of Buklod Ka, an alliance of youth organizations from different barangays, shared his thoughts about the advocacy campaign and expressing his support towards it. Fortes is one of the participants who joined the public advocacy caravan held at Brgy. Commonwealth.
The public advocacy caravan initiated by the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc. (HLAF) was conducted at Brgy. Commonwealth, Quezon City and Brgy. 168 Deparo, Caloocan City last March 15 and March 20, respectively aimed to strengthen the advocacy #ChildrenNotCriminals campaign to strengthen the implementation of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (JJWA) and oppose the lowering of the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR). Sharing his thoughts, conducting such activity is effective in promoting an advocacy; however, there will always be a need for massive action. “Kapag nagkaisa ang kabataan, walang imposible.” said Fortes as he discuss the massive action that we need to take. The need to know to whom we should focus on is also a significant thing to be able to make this advocacy a successful one.
“Naniniwala ako na ‘yung mga um-attend dito ay natuwa, lalo na ‘nung nalaman nila na may grupo na ipinaglalaban ang karapatan nila bilang kabataan,” said Don De Vera, a barangay staff also from Brgy. Batasan Hills, when asked about the possible impacts made by the activity for the participants. He emphasized the significance to children and youth of knowing that there is an organization standing for their rights. According to him, through this kind of activity, the youth are able to be aware of the situation their fellow youth are going through, something that is very important to them.
However, not only the children and the youth are the targeted audience for this event. The caravan also aimed to raise awareness among the parents of the youth about this advocacy according to the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) focal person of Brgy. Commonwealth and the president of the BCPC federation of Distric 5, Ms. Rubilyn Abagao. “Ibig naming pukawin ang kamalayan ng mga magulang dahil dapat, sila ang unang-unang magsumikap para itaguyod ang mabuting kinabukasan para sa ating kabataan.”
As quoted upon her discussion of the objectives of the caravan and its importance to all the parents, “Paano na ang ating kinabukasan?” referring to the children and youth if the age of criminality was lowered. “Paano kung mga anak nila ang nasa ganyang kalagayan? Maaatim ba nila na ‘yung kanilang pinagpaguran, mababalewala lang. ‘Yung kanilang mga anak, makikita lang sa kulungan?” said Abagao, leaving a very challenging remark.
“Epektibo,” answered Mrs. Emy Liwag with conviction when asked about the effectiveness of conducting the public advocacy caravan. “…dahil narinig ng mga bata na sila pala ay may karapatan.” Mrs. Liwag is a volunteer member of BCPC from Brgy. 168 Deparo, Caloocan City. According to her, through the caravan, the youth are able to know about organizations and institutions they could run to in times of conflict and needing help.
It is not only the fun and interaction that made the public advocacy caravan effective according to the participants of the caravan, but also the involvement of the youth to the advocacy and showing their support towards it. Not only that they enjoyed the activities of the event but they get to learn from it. They get to know about their rights and that there are people willing to stand with them in fighting for their rights. The public advocacy caravan paved way to gather different people with the same purpose: to fight for children’s rights.
“Palagi naming sinasabi na kabataan ang pagasa ng bayan. Noong panahon, pinaniniwalaan siya. Pero sa sistema ngayon – sa sitwasyon ng kabataan – mukhang may question mark sa dulo.” Fortes shared their organization’s ideas and thoughts towards the youth. “Kabataan hawak mo ang kasaysayan, patunayan mong pagasa ka ng bayan. Hawak mo na ang kasaysayan at ikaw lang kabataan ang pwedeng magpatuloy ng kasaysayan na ‘to.” He added, emphasizing the significance of children and the youth despite of all the controversies being faced by them.
The participants also expressed their support to children and the youth, leaving their message to people to support them and the advocacy campaign opposing the lowering of age of criminality in the Philippines.
“Sama-sama nating ipaglaban ang karapatan natin bilang kabataan upang magkaroon nang maayos at matiwasay na pamumuhay.”
“Bigyan natin ng freedom ang kabataan na gawin ang gusto nila para mapatunayan at ma-solve nila ang problem na meron tayo ngayon.”
“Tingnan natin kung sakaling mapababa ang edad ng criminal responsibility. Paano na lang ang darating pang henerasyon? Paano natin mapapaunlad ang ating komunidad kung sa maliit na bagay, sa mga bata pa lang, sinasakal na natin sila kung paano sila uunlad. Sa bata pa nga lang hindi na natin mapaunlad, paano pa ang komunidad?”
“Panahon na para suportahan ang mga bata. Pakinggan niyo ang sigaw at bulong ng mga bata. Magsimula tayo sa mga bata. Pondohan natin ang mga bata. Mag-invest tayo para sa mga bata. Walang kriminal, walang magnanakaw, walang corrupt sa bansang Pilipinas kung ngayon pa lang ang bata na ang bibigyan natin ng atensyon.”
The caravan at Brgy. Commonwealth was participated by students, youth organizations and BCPC members from Brgy. Batasan Hills, Brgy. Payatas, Brgy. Commonwealth and Brgy. Holy Spirit. On the other hand, the caravan at Brgy. 168 Deparo, Caloocan City was participated by students from La Consolacion College, children from the barangay and members of the BCPC from different barangays of Caloocan City, paving the way for the establishment of BCPC federation in Caloocan City.
Activities were prepared involving the students to voice out their thoughts as they stand for their rights. The caravan was another activity by HLAF in promoting their advocacy campaign #ChildrenNotCriminals, opposing the bill of lowering the age of criminality in the Philippines. Not only to engage the youth with this activity but also to share with them what is HLAF doing and to introduce their programs.