Written by Ma. Luisa Bautista
Sta. Maria, Bulacan – “Hindi sa iyong nakaraan nakasalalay ang iyong kinabukasan”, voiced-out by the youth participants during the Juvenile Justice Volunteers Congress as part of the advocacy to oppose the lowering of the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility from 15 years old to 12 years old and advocates to strengthen the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act. Among the individuals that supported the message is the Filipino actor, Mr. JM de Guzman, as he sent a video message and sang a song of redemption addressed to the participants of the activity.
The Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation (HLAF) together with youth participants from partner barangays and child rights organizations joined hand-in-hand for the annual Juvenile Justice Volunteers Congress last Nov. 24-26 at Sitio Lucia Garden and Hotel Resort, with a theme, “Kami naman po! A Millennial’s Participation in addressing issues concerning juvenile justice in social media platform.”
Youth members of the Barangay Children and Youth Association (BCYA) from Malabon, Navotas, and Quezon City and youth from child rights organizations came together to attend the three-day congress. This year’s theme focused on the role of today’s youth towards their participation in using various social media platforms.
As the event started, HLAF spearheaded the facilitation of the activities among the youth as each of the participants showered the world with colors through the Color Your World activity. Teamwork among the participants was also molded as they went through every stage of the team building activity. The Color Your World Activity aimed to remind everyone that every child deserves a colorful life and future. And to remind everyone that treating children as criminals deprives them of a colorful life and a bright future.
The second day of the event involves the plenary session. Invited speakers discussed different topics such as role of the youth in the social media campaign by Ms. Melanie Ramos-Llana, and social media and responsibility by Ms. Nirva Anna dela Cruz.
"Bawat isa sa inyo, tinawag kayo para dito. May plano si God kung bakit kayo nandito. Isipin nyo na kailangan niyong maging maayos kasi kailangan kayo ng Pilipinas.”, Ms. Nirva Ana Dela Cruz quoted while giving her talk about social media and responsibility during the plenary session. After the plenary, break-out sessions were also participated by the youth which are facilitated by different experts in theatre presentation, mobile photography and digital arts.
Ms. Marichris Arienda, President of the Children World Aid Program from Bicol, also graced the event as she gave an overview of the film “Rehas” in relation to the existing campaign on strengthening the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act. She also thanked HLAF for giving her the chance to be part of the event. Moreover, she also gave a brief message for the students about using social media. “Be a responsible millenial. Be a responsible Facebook user.”, she quoted. Nicole Arienda, youth representative of the Children World Aid Program also said, “We need to fight for our rights pero wag din natin sanang kalimutan yung mga responsibility natin.”
Youth delegates also come up with a performance that speaks about their stands and advocacy about juvenile justice. Presentations were showcased in the structured socialization night. Invited guests were also present in the event. Youth participants from Brgy. Culiat also showcased their talents as they entertained everyone with their wowing theatre act performance which depicts the current issues faced by the youth today. As one of the participants stated, “Everyone is an artist and everything is art.”
A video message from JM De Guzman surprised the participants. The actor left an inspiring message which says, “At alam ko na marami ring kabataan na kagaya ko na maaaring mas malalim pa nga o mas mahirap ang pinagdaanan o pinagdadaanan ngayon sa buhay nila. Maaaring dahil sa kapabayaan ng mga magulang, pang-aabuso, karahasan na naranasan nila na maaaring nag-udyok sa kanila na gumawa ng mga maling bagay tulad ng pag-dodroga, bisyo, paggawa ng krimen dahil sa hirap ng buhay. At siguro, oras na, oras na para boses naman ng mga kabataan, nyo, ang madinig at maunawaan.”
On the third day of the Congress, a forum was made to address the queries and concerns of the delegates. This also gave the youth delegates the chance to process their experiences in the duration of the event. Suggestions and recommendations for the next Juvenile Justice Volunteers’ Congress are also gathered during the forum. Ms. Claudette Almadin, HLAF’s Senior Community Organizer, processed the inputs of the film “Rehas” which was shown among the participants. Words of encouragement for the youth to actively involve themselves in activities like JJVos and synthesized the three-day congress was delivered by Mr. Jun Tumamao, HLAF’s Senior Social Worker.
Since 2012, HLAF has been providing a venue for all the children and youth members organized by the barangays that the organization has trained in the annual Juvenile Justice Volunteers’ Congress to get together and share ideas with having in mind the right of children to participate in matters that affect them.
HLAF is a non-profit, non-government organization that advocates for the protection and promotion of the rights of persons deprived of liberty especially the children, the elderly and those who are sick. One of HLAF programs, the Center for Restorative Action Program, empowers the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) in different barangays to be able to implement the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act (JJWA). Moreover, HLAF also sees the need to conduct activities which involves children to prevent them from being juvenile delinquents and serve as role models not only to every child but to be responsible citizens of the nation as well.