This article was about the experience and challenges of being HLAF’s scholar. There are two HLAF’s scholar in Region 5, Danica Nol and Liezl Recierdo, law students from University of Sto Tomas-Legazpi. By reading this article, you were going to know the side of being an HLAF scholar.
Danica V. Nol is a 25 year-old, 4th year law student in UST - Legazpi. Danica is HLAF's scholar for 2 years scholar, it has been 2 years ago when she was accepted. Danica is a former volunteer of HLAF in conducting jail decongestion activities. She stated that her knowledge in HLAF before was not extensive. Her idea in HLAF was only to conduct some activities in jails. Danica was always grabbing what opportunity come to her so that when she was asked if she's interested to be a scholar of HLAF, she doesn’t have any hesitation to accept the opportunity. She applied and passed the forms needed and she was interviewed by Atty. Cathy through phone call and happily, she was accepted to be a scholar of the institution. It is a struggle for her before as she doesn’t know HLAF's staff in NCR and also, there was no proper turnover of the assignment. For Danica, when it comes to challenges, she considered it as an opportunity for them to create innovative ideas to improve themselves as an aspirant lawyer. To recruit volunteers to be committed to HLAF's activities was one of the challenging parts of her HLAF journey before. The students were not obliged to join some activities especially when it is not included in their curriculum. It is also become a challenge to them when the Mayon Volcano was erupting that time that they were searching for volunteers for HLAF's activity that they were going to conduct for that quarter. They encounter difficulties to look for the volunteers.
How can she face her challenges as a scholar, when it comes to have a recruit for a volunteer? They used social media as a platform to disseminate the information regarding what they’re doing as an HLAF scholar and volunteer. And by promoting it in the social media, the students reaching them out to be a volunteer.
She manages her time by calculating the time that she will spend to HLAF's activities and in the school. She enjoys what they do in HLAF; ‘worthwhile’ is what she see in her experiences in HLAF since they can use it as a law student. It helps them to improve their communication skills especially when having an interaction with the PDLs. For her, it is a good experience so that instead of taking it as challenges, she takes it as an opportunity for improvement.
When talking about on how committed she was in HLAF, she really wants to do the things what HLAF do, and jail decongestion program concept was acceptable for her. As she volunteers before in other NGOs, she doesn’t see like what she saw in HLAF's program, how productive jail decongestion program was and how it is have a concrete result. She is thrilled to the experience that they get as a scholar of HLAF.
Experience is one of the advantages that being HLAF scholar brings to her. “Experience is the mother of knowledge”, she said, and that experience for her is where she can get more knowledge than the four corners of the room.
For the future scholars of HLAF, she recommends that they should have ‘more commitment’ in the program. Since you are a scholar, you have to do something to give back the support HLAF have had given you. “Take it not as a burden, just go with the flow and take it as an opportunity to apply what you get in school and take it as an opportunity as an advance experience for you to use in the near future as a lawyer”.
Aside from Danica, there is also Liezl Recierdo. Liezl is a 3rd year law student at the same university. As her experience in HLAF, she see it as an opportunity, challenge and an advantage. “It’s like having a life like real lawyer”, she said. They talked with the PDLs, conduct case follow ups to courts, got interactions and interviews with the stakeholders of the community. She also describes her life as HLAF scholar as full excitement, thrill and joy. Excitement, because they exercise their life as a lawyer like on how she meet up her schedules and their interaction with the PDLs which is a productive experience for them to look forward; joy, when they have a little chitchats with the PDLs you give them words of enlightenment and motivations. Just like what Danica shared regarding the lava eruption of Mayon Volcano that time, due to that circumstance, jail visits, lectures, case interview and case follow up are postponed and rescheduled. Weeks had been counted before the situation went back to normal. By the cooperation of the jail officers and detainees they were able to still conduct their activities as they make sure to find time to accommodate them.
Time management and conflict of schedules regarding duties to HLAF and school matters (such as exam and recitation) are her challenges as HLAF scholar. In time management, she got to handle her time right as she divided it for HLAF’s concern and her studies. She have to allocate properly which time of the day and for how many hours she have to spend her time to perform her HLAF's duties. As Atty. Rommel Abitria reminds them, "Give priority to your studies, that's the main reason why we have you as scholars, to help you become a lawyer". Indeed, it helps them, not just in terms of financial assistance but also as a legal assistance – as when times they conducting lectures in jails regarding criminal procedures, bill of rights and modes of release – undeniably, it is a medium that will help them as a bar candidates.
When talking about conflict of schedules regarding their commitment to HLAF and school matters, they do their task such as passing the letters to different offices regarding HLAFs proposals, they have to do personal follow ups to ask for the updates. Those tasks would not take only a day per week but for two days or more. There are times that their examination or recitation falls conflicts with their schedule of tasks in jails. Thus, proper scheduling is the key to avoid conflict of schedules, as not to affect their time to study and at the same time, to be able to execute well the task as an HLAF regional staff.
To be part of realizing its vision has defined her commitment in HLAF.
For her, the good side of being a HLAF scholar is to be able to be reviewed from the existing laws and the opportunity to meet different stakeholders, especially persons deprived of liberty. Being an HLAF scholar, it gives her an opportunity to be familiar with the laws, as the Paralegal Aide Training and case consultation requires an adequate knowledge to be able to accommodate the PDLs queries. It's a challenge to her but she took it as an opportunity to master the subject on criminal justice. ‘Connection is important and learnings are endless’ she said. Being able to talk with Judges, Lawyers, Court Personnel, BJMP Officers and PDLs took part in the platform for her to grow in the field of law. “Legal matters could not only be sought in books but also to persons who’ve been involved with it.”, she added.
For aspiring law students who want to be a future HLAF scholar, she advised that just need to be guided of HLAF's vision, mission, goals and objectives and they will never go wrong. They should be as compassionate as how HLAF promote compassion and legal assistance. She quoted that "HLAF is a ground that bears a (statement), Lawyer with a Compassionate heart!"