UP NCPAG holds forum on Juvenile Justice and Welfare

Written by Marjorie Barredo

University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance held a forum on Juvenile Justice and Welfare at the NCPAG Assembly Hall last Friday, February 15. (photo by Laiser de Guia, BS Development Communication student from Batangas State University)

Through the initiative, “Future of Children: Implementation of Juvenile Justice Welfare Act,” the forum brought together representatives from LGUs, experts, and stakeholders from different sectors who discussed good practices and the gaps in the implementation of the law, implications of lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility, and the realities on the ground. 

The said forum had two panel sessions – Restoring Children in Conflict with the Law: Good Practices and Challenges from LGU Perspective and Making it Work: Collaboration Towards Effective Juvenile Justice and Welfare System in the Philippines. Presenters from different barangays, municipalities, cities and representatives from other sectors shared their practices and thoughts regarding various issues regarding children. 

Atty. Rommel Abitria, Executive Director of the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc. (HLAF) and one of the presenters briefly discussed the mandates of the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act and the realities on the ground. He also highlighted the Center for Restorative Action, the organization’s program that focuses on restorative justice and strengthening of Barangay Councils for the Protection of Children (BCPC). 

The forum also included a public screening of the film “Bunso,” the award-winning documentary about three boys detained in Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center. They also held a round table discussion on JJWA implementation in which a representative from HLAF sat down, along with other stakeholders, and pledged a commitment in helping on the strengthening the implementation of the said law.


HLAF Exhibit promotes social awareness to Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Valenzuela community

Written by James Adrian G. Panganiban


The first step to change is awareness.

This was the driving idea behind the 2-day Agency Fair Exhibit, held last January 31 to February 1 at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Valenzuela (PLV). The event was organized by freshmen students from the institution’s Department of Social Work to provide NGOs an avenue for sharing of mutual knowledge, expertise and resources.

Centered on the theme, "Contribution and Challenges of Social Welfare in Inclusive Growth and Poverty Reduction," the Valenzuela City Social Welfare and Development Office and other participating NGOs outside Valenzuela City including the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation (HLAF), NORFIL Foundation Inc., SPECS Foundation, Ka-entrep Foundation, and Children’s Hour, campaigned for their initiatives through video presentations and engagement with PLV students.

Ma. Fatima De Guzman, a social worker from participating NGO NORFIL Foundation Inc., acknowledges this exhibit as an opportunity to advance their advocacy of protecting vulnerable children.  

On their end, Mrs. Precy Vallarta, adviser of the Department of Social Work, believes that NGOs play a crucial role in uplifting the development of the neglected and deprived sectors of the country, hence the inauguration of the event.

She also pegged this event as an eye-opener of sorts for the students to make them realize that they each have a role to play in contributing back to society. 

“Ang PLV community ay nangangailangan ng malalim na kamalayan hindi lang karunungan para makita at malaman nila ang mga dapat nilang gampanan,” added Mrs. Vallarta.


HLAF partners with the Malabon City Jail for reintegration phase



Last April 17, the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc. (HLAF) held its first session at the Malabon City Jail Male Dorm for the junior phase of the Focused Reintegration of Ex-Detainees (FRED) program.


Through the recommendations of the Jail Paralegal Officers, HLAF catered 30 FRED beneficiaries for the sessions. The session was facilitated by HLAF Community Organizer, Mr. Kio Jerome dela Peña, together with HLAF Social Work interns, John Lemuel Gardose, Christine Joy Gusi, Patrick Yeoj Peraz, Trisha Anne Fuentes, and Ma. Genella Flores.


The Malabon City Jail Male Dorm is the second jail where HLAF conducts sessions as HLAF kicks off the pilot session of FRED junior phase at the Quezon City Jail Male Dorm last October 28, 2016.


The session conducted an activity called “The Impostor” to build rapport to the beneficiaries. The activity was conducted for the beneficiaries and facilitators in getting to know each other phase. HLAF team divided the beneficiaries to a group of two in order for the beneficiaries and facilitators to have a focused exchange of sharing and expectation setting.


In the conclusion of the activities, the beneficiaries shared their sentiments about the session. 


“Nakalimot sa pag iisip ng kanilang kalagayan sa loob ng kulungan.” - Beneficiary A

“Masaya na nakasali sila sa programa.” - Beneficiary B

“Nagkaroon sila ng dalaw na kahit hindi nila kakilala o kamag-anak, masaya sa pakiramdam lalo na at wala silang ginagawa.” - Beneficiary C

“Masaya sila dahil masaya rin kami.” - Beneficiary D

“May natutunan sila at matututunan.” - Beneficiary E

“Nagkakaroon ng pag-asa.” - Beneficiary F





Life After Jail: A Forum on Reintegrating Former Persons Deprived of Liberty back to the Community

Written by Jenina Ysabelle M. Gutierrez

Last May 11, 2018, the students of Clinical Legal Education 102 of the Ateneo Law School, in partnership with the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation Inc., and the Ateneo Law Alumni Association Inc. conducted a symposium entitled “Life After Jail: A Forum on Reintegrating Former Persons Deprived of Liberty back to the Community”. The objectives of the forum are first to change the perspective of society that there is indeed life after prison, second is to determine NGO and GO policies and practices beneficial for jail decongestion, third is to determine if our criminal justice system is effective and fourth is to recommend a policy framework for jail decongestion.

The event was attended by students from Ateneo Law School and Unibersidad de Manila, stakeholders from different sectors like the Ateneo Human Rights Center, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation and the persons formerly deprived of liberty themselves. The forum’s distinguished and esteemed speakers are Dr. Resurrecion Morales, Congressman Vincent ‘Bingbong’ Crisologo and Professor Bryan Engay.

The program started with an enlightening opening remarks from Atty. Rommel Alim Abitria, the Executive Director of HLAF and the professor of CLED 102 Class. He started the program by giving the audience an insight that the reintegration of persons deprived of liberty back to the community is not an easy task. He said that the national government still has to craft a comprehensive national policy on reintegration and the local government has to develop programs to provide services to persons formerly deprived of liberty.

After the opening remarks, the hosts introduced the first speaker, Dr. Morales, the Bureau of Corrections Technical Chief Superintendent, which gave a comprehensive overview of the Philippine penal system. She started by explaining the structure of the Bureau of Corrections, its mandate and its reintegration program. She said that the ultimate goal of the Bureau of Corrections is to prepare former PDLs for their reintegration back into the free community because they believe that an offender rightfully belongs to a free community, not to prison. She also discussed that the rehabilitation program of the Bureau of Corrections has a holistic approach, meaning all aspects are being developed by the 6 reformation programs -- the intellectual aspect, the social, psychological, spiritual, and physical aspects.

The second speaker is Cong. Vincent “Bingbong” Crisologo, a member of the House of Representatives and the current congressman of the first district of Quezon City. He is a former PDL himself. He was sentenced to suffer double life imprisonment at the age of 23 years old and was confined before the New Bilibid Prison from 1972 to 1988. He narrated to the audience his personal experience that he encounter when he was in prison. He recounted his struggles inside and the challenges he had to overcome. He also shared his personal views with respect to the flaws in our judicial and penal system. He said that any law that should be made should consider the point of view of an innocent inmate and guilty inmate.

The third speaker is Professor Bryan Engay. He is a Psychology professor from UP Diliman. He talked about the negative sides of the prison experience – modern implications in the post-prison experiences of persons deprived of liberty especially during reintegration program. He specifically talked about experiences of children in conflict with the law, who have had experiences of being imprisoned. He said that those cases are controversial because as we know, there should be no minors in jail. But reality tells us otherwise. There are some isolated cases and some experiences of children being detained. He discussed the the implications of the prisonization, post-prison experiences of Children in Conflict with the Law. Prof Engay also works with the HLAF in its FRED Program or what they call as the Focus Reintegration Program for Ex-Detainees. He shared what they do in FRED in order to reintegrate former PDLs back to society.

After the three speakers delivered their respective speeches, the open forum began. Some former PDLs shared their personal stories and the struggles they encountered while they are inside the prison. They also shared the hardships they dealt with when they were released. They narrated that it was difficult to have a life after prison because the society discriminates them. They also expressed their gratitude to the organizers of the forum because it served as an avenue for them to share their personal stories. The Warden of Manila City Jail was also present in the event. She narrated that there are a lot of recidivist inside the jail because when they first go out of prison, they have nowhere to go because the society doesn’t accept them. The result is, they will again go back to the practice of doing illegal acts which will eventually lead to being imprisoned again. She suggested that the government should focus on reintegrating the offenders back to the community.

After the open forum, the closing remarks was given by the CLED 102 Class Beadle, Mr. Nester Mendoza. He expressed his gratitude to the sponsors, speakers, stakeholders and the students that attended the symposium. He emphasized the lessons that we learned from the talk, that the former PDLs were an inspiration because they didn’t give up and continued to fight their own battles inside the prison because they know that God loves them. He pointed out that the Lord himself loves sinners. He ended the speech by encouraging the audience to help out former PDLs in order to reintegrate them back to the society and to prove that there is indeed life after prison.


HLAF and other Child Rights NGOs seek CHR’s support to oppose the lowering of MACR

Written by Ma. Luisa Bautista and Gian Miko Arabejo

Commission on Human Rights - Along with Ms. Ma. Victoria Diaz, Ms. Melanie Ramos-Llana of Philippine Action for Youth Offenders, and Ms. Zenaida Rosales of Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse, the Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation (HLAF), met with the Commission on Human Rights Commissioner, Hon. Leah Tanodra-Armamento to discuss the effects and implications of lowering the age of criminal responsibility in light of children in conflict with the law (CICLs) and the perception of the public regarding the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act last July 21.