Experts’ Full Force for HLAF’s Human Rights Training



SAN RAFAEL, Bulacan - In order to introduce the staff of the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc. (HLAF) to the fundamental concept of human rights, their sources and the existing human rights machineries, HLAF invited notable persons from the Commission on Human Rights, Alternative Law Groups, Rainbow Rights Philippines, The Asia Foundation, and from Task Force Detainees of the Philippines for a Human Rights Training last January 7-9. The discussion of the speakers focused on the relevant international instruments in order to equip the staff to identify human rights violations that they encounter in their work, and to properly document these violations as part of HLAF's staff development.

Atty. Kristoffer Claudio from the Commission on Human Rights, Atty. Gian Arabejo from the Alternative Law Groups, Atty. Jazz Tamayo from Rainbow Rights Philippines, Atty. Carolyn Mercado - HLAF’s President, Atty. Roda Cisnero from The Asia Foundation, Ms. Sunshine Serrano from the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, Atty. Rommel Alim Abitria and Atty. Jean Aubree Ruby Sadural from HLAF were the speakers who graced the three-day training.

Fundamental Concepts of Human Rights, Sources

To help the staff to be able to recall and describe the fundamental concepts of human rights as well as the sources of human rights, Atty. Claudio gave the introduction to human rights. He emphasized that human rights is inherent to all human beings and stated as well that it is important to be able to live with freedom and dignity and human rights should be viewed in all lenses. As per the line of HLAF’s work, Atty. Claudio expressed the need to bring hope inside. “Even within us, we should always envelop hope… “ Atty. Claudio added.

Atty. Arabejo then discussed in the Human Rights training the Anti-Torture Act where he explained that the severance of torture is case to case basis. He listed as well the elements when they can identify if there’s torture in their midst.  He reiterated as well the kinds of physical torture, mental/psychological torture, and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. He explained as well how the victims can extend for help, who can file a complaint, who are liable and other clauses related to torture.

“Start thinking before we speak.” was the line left by Atty. Tamayo as she discussed Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression. She explained that sexual orientation is who am I attracted to; gender identity is how do I see myself, and gender expression is how you express yourself. She explained that persons of diverse SOGIE is different, but equal to all human beings.

Provisions of Basic HR instruments, HLAF’s VMG

HLAF’s President, Atty. Mercado, graced the HR training and explained that the organization was created based from the virtue of great love and compassion by the founder. She thoroughly discussed how Loving Kindness and Non-Inquiry, Honesty and Non-Lying, Moderation and Non-Excessiveness, Consistency and Non-Laziness and Generosity and Non-Stealing are inclined to the programs of HLAF and its relevance to HLAF’s vision, mission and goals. She quoted that “…as HLAF staff, you should incorporate these virtues as a person and as a professional.” She also expressed that Divine Intelligence, Love and Power are incorporated with the virtues and if these virtues manifest as an individual, it will manifest as an organization.

In order to know the current situation of the jails in the Philippines, Atty. Sadural led the discussion of the congestion in jails and the design of jails in the Philippines. She noted that the Philippines ranked 1 in the most congested jail in the world as of July 2018. It was then followed by the discussion of the HR in administration of justice by Atty. Abitria. He first listed the sources as the force of the law, the declaration and principles and the acts during apprehension, during investigation and the basic principles that should be treated accordingly to their needs.

Monitor and Document HR Violations related to HLAF work

“…as an interdisciplinary introduction…” is what Atty. Cisnero noted as the approach for children’s human rights. She stated the need to know how to re-tool and how to improves messages in promoting children’s rights and presented the primer video on the UNCRC published by the Philippine Human Rights Information Center as well as the Child Protection System Approach on OSEC Socio-Ecological Model. She also encouraged the release of Information and Communication Technologies and to prove that not all are lost in relation to the knowledge about children’s rights.

Ms. Serrano demonstrated how to monitor and document Human Rights Violations as she explained how to document as this verify allegations of human rights violations. She proceeded as well to the art of interviewing, things to not forget when talking with the witness and basic information needed to be considered in documenting HR violations. She later on presented the character of a fact sheet and proceeded with a workshop where HLAF’s staff learned how to write a fact sheet about a HR violation.


The HR training was provided as a need for HLAF staff since not all have formal training in human rights. The basic knowledge of what human rights is needed for them to be able to incorporate in their work and more importantly, to be able to identify the human rights violations that they encounter so that they would be able to act accordingly.