Barangays report JJWA is successful in helping children in conflict with the law

Written by Ma. Luisa Bautista, Maria Luisa Villarin and Camille Mendoza
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Different barangays from Malabon and Navotas participated in the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) Kamustahan held at the Penthouse of Malabon City last July 15.

In the said Kamustahan, the participating barangays were trained by the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation (HLAF) – Center for Restorative Action (CRA) program.

The BCPC Kamustahan was initiated by HLAF due to the aspiration of sharing the success stories of the trained barangays’ BCPCs to other barangays within the three batches under the BCPC Training of CRA Team. It is also a chance for HLAF to present the current status of the barangays’ scores in the BCPC Performance Meter.

“The children need the voices of BCPC, HLAF needs their voices.” the Executive Director of the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc. (HLAF), Atty. Rommel Alim Abitria, message during the Kamustahan as he expressed his belief that the BCPC has gone a long way since they started. He pointed out that HLAF was happy that those who kept on complaining and asking questions about the law about the rights of the children before are those who are defending the law today.

Good Stories

One of the good stories shared was by Ms. Cecilia de Guzman from Brgy. Baritan as she told the story about Juan (not his real name), one of the cases she handled in BCPC.

According to Ms. de Guzman, the intervention with Juan happened last February 12, 2016. Based from Juan’s story, his group got involved in a fight which ended with a minor getting stabbed. Juan’s gang surrendered themselves and they were under the attention of Bahay Sandigan since January 19, 2016 until they were turned over to the barangay.

Cecilia did not know how to approach Juan but after a while, they noticed that Juan has been enjoying his life as a teenager in their care without being with his group of friends. They also noticed that Juan has been feeling at home with them and with the whole community. She further explained that this is an improvement because he used to be sensitive and would just cry when asked about his family.

She also noted that after the election, they were able to find Juan an opportunity in the barangay. She even told Juan to tell his mother that he will start working in the barangay. Juan also told her that he does not hang out with his former group of friends anymore and that he gives most of his salary to his mother.

In line with this, Cecilia shared one of her unforgettable moment with Juan when she told Juan to stop smoking cigarettes. Later on, she learned that Juan did quit smoking cigarettes because of her advice.

Ms. De Guzman realized that Juan needed a mother or a sister figure, which he did not feel in his family. She realized that maybe kids like Juan only needed attention, love and care and that a child’s development depends on his family. She further explained that HLAF helped her change her perception on kids like Juan because she used to have a low tolerance when it comes to naughty kids like Joshua. Now, because of HLAF, she understands that the character of a child depends on the foundation of his family.

(For the rest of Ms. de Guzman's sharing, kindly download the file below.)

Another success story was delivered by the Secretary of Brgy. Concepcion, Mr. Eduardo Antoja Jr. He expressed his gratitude over many things he learned in HLAF like public speaking, documentation, and child advocacy.

With the skills he learned, he was able to attend different seminars as resource speaker about topics regarding UN Convention on the Rights of Children and Barangay Governance.

Mr. Antoja Jr. admitted that before, he thought of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act as nothing more than a piece of paper. Thanks to HLAF, however, he realized that there was truth and purpose in the law. He now sees that there are a lot of challenges to the law. He also delved in the children in conflict with law and children at risk and how it is important to learn case management and to know its worth.

According to the Secretary of Brgy. Concepcion, the BCPC had helped in making the children feel that they are an important part of the community. He also shared the story of Christian (not his real name) who used to be a bully. At first, they had a hard time convincing the child to stop bullying but when they found out that the child had no parents, only an aunt as his guardian, they began addressing the needs of the child that were lacking. After the counseling, Christian started to attend school again and joined the badminton team of his school. The BCPC members were delighted as they learned that Christian won third place in a badminton competition.

On the other hand, the executive officer from Navotas West, Mr. Manuel Salao, shared that last May, he represented Navotas in the BCPC gathering of the whole Metro Manila. He shared his experience to the BCPC Kamustahan participants wherein the purpose of the gathering last May was to help a private NGO to create a manual which will be used by the BCPCs. This manual will be distributed all over Philippines.

According to Mr. Salao , this was the third attempt to create a manual for BCPC. It was difficult for them to finish creating one because there are a lot of laws that are being amended. Today, the proposal of changing the MACR to nine years old poses as a challenge to the creation of their manual. There is a possibility that the printing will be delayed.

The executive officer then told the participants that in the Kamustahan, he learned that although most of the barangays in Manila already have BCPC, they are not yet trained. They do not have seminars and trainings similar to HLAF’s. When it comes to discussion, those who underwent trainings and seminars from HLAF stood out from the rest. The speaker felt proud because they were not left behind and they have sufficient knowledge regarding BCPC because of CRA Trainings.

 

“I give my thanks to other BCPCs for being determined to learn and I encourage everyone to continue on our advocacy because all of the things we learned will be used in the long run.” said the officer-in-charge of the City Social Welfare Development of Malabon, Ms. Patria Agcaoili, RSW.

Ms. Agcaoili believed that the help HLAF provided and the determination the BCPC have are the contributors to their strengthening as public servants. More importantly, these especially help the CICL and CAR in the communities. She said that they should help each other in fulfilling their duties in the barangay.

According to the staff of CSWD Navotas, Ms. Melissa H. Soque, they are thankful to HLAF in behalf of the City Mayor and hope that the advocacy would not end with the implementation of the JJWA and encourage increasing experiences in order to strengthen further advocacy.

BCPC Federation

The partnerships of HLAF with Malabon and Navotas have the time span of three years within specific barangays only. With the partnership coming to its end, the partner barangays from Malabon and Navotas have an agreement with HLAF to organize a BCPC Federation. In the BCPC Kamustahan, both cities presented their elected officers.

”We will push the system forward until it would reach our city’s local council for children. We would also help each other in catering to the needs of each barangay.” according to the Chairman of the BCPC Federation from Malabon, Mr. Eduardo Antoja Jr., as they expressed their willingness to continue the processes HLAF started such as the referral system. They also want to monitor the different activities of each barangay.

Also, the Chairman of the BCPC Federation from Navotas, Bro. Romeo Soriano, gave his speech as he thanked everyone in the barangay who trusted the leadership to him. According to Bro. Romeo, the first plan of the federation is to conduct a meeting for starters.

 

In the conclusion of Atty. Abitria remarks, he hoped that it will not be last BCPC Kamustahan. He encouraged seeing the three batches help each other in working on their BCPCs. He then thanked everyone for their determination, patience, and guidance.

“The children cannot speak for themselves. It is you who can bring out their advocacy.” the HLAF Executive Director said as he encouraged the members of BCPC to take part in the current issue of Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act as they are the voice of the youth.