HLAF conducts Online Welfare and Legal Mission to PDLs

Written by Melvin Nuñez

HLAF has started to conduct an Online Welfare and Legal Mission even in the midst of battling against COVID-19 and the challenges brought by the enhanced community quarantine to connect and know, even virtually the situations of PDLs (Persons Deprived of Liberty), and see how they feel amidst the happenings brought by the pandemic.

HLAF has already been able to contact and conduct the Online Welfare and Legal Mission with the Quezon City Jail – Male dorm, Manila City Jail – Male dorm, and San Mateo Municipal Jail – Male dorm on April 3 & 6, 2020.

The PDLs expressed their gratitude, and said that they were happy to know that there are still people and organizations like HLAF, working even virtually to promote their rights, welfare, and well-being, and know how they feel during the challenges brought by the virus.

Moreover, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) expressed their support on this HLAF activity. They were thankful that activities like this rise-up to the needs of PDLs, and in promoting their welfare and well-being.

The Online and Legal Mission is also attended by the Ateneo Clinical Legal Education Students (CLED), from the Ateneo Law School. The students said that they felt a good vibe after the session since although virtually, they were still ignited to help PDLs during challenging times. “Helping them never was a waste of time”. They were thankful to take part on this HLAF’s advocacy activity.

Currently, HLAF continues to provide activities in promoting the rights, welfare, and well-being of PDLs together with its volunteers. Although only through virtual means, HLAF commits to work together in promoting the welfare and well-being of every Filipino, especially those most vulnerable.



Nog's Adventurous Journey

Written by Melvin

According to the National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health, the majority of mental healthcare is provided in hospital settings and there are underdeveloped community mental health services. There is 1 doctor for every 80,000 Filipinos (WHO & Department of Health, 2012); the emigration of trained specialists to other countries, particularly English-speaking countries, contributes to this scarcity.

Once in jail, many individuals do not receive the treatment they need and end up getting worse, not better, in most instances. They can stay longer than their counterparts without mental illness. They are at risk of victimization and often their mental health conditions get worse. Jails can be scary, the unfamiliar surroundings, the loud noises, undetermined movements, and, what else? One has no idea, who they are with.

Many individuals, especially without access to mental health services and support, wind up homeless, in emergency rooms and often re-arrested. Jailing people with mental illness creates huge burdens on law enforcement, corrections, and state and local budgets. It does not protect public safety. And people who could be helped are being ignored.

Nog (not his true name), a former-PDL who has been released from the Manila City Jail through the help of the FRED (Focused Reintegration of Ex-Detainees) program of HLAF is one. Nog has been in jail for 15 years, he has been identified to have mental health concerns, according to the National Center for Mental Health and Manila City Jail.

On the other hand, Manila City Jail does not want to release Nog yet even though he should be already be out, since his family is unidentified, and he doesn’t know where to go. They are also anxious of the possibilities that Nog might just be rearrested again.

Nog spent 15 years in jail because his family is nowhere to be identified and located. This is where HLAF decided to help him get back to his family. Through HLAF’s partnership with the different municipalities and its barangays, the program has been able to identify his family in Malabon City, Metro Manila.

Nog’s time in jail has been adventurous, he said. “Okay naman ako ‘dun” in a pleasant tone. He had been helping in cleaning their cell and wiping the floor. He also said that he has a particular duty, he was among the people who had been guards whenever the other PDLs have to go to sleep since Manila City jail is among the over-congested jails in the Philippines, “naglilinis lang ako nun sa kulungan, nagbabantay ng mga tulog kasi may oras din yung pagtulog, pero masaya”.

         Meanwhile, his family were extremely merry since Nog’s return. His Mom said that when he came home Nog lost a lot of weight, although he was thin on the first hand. She was dazed that through those years, Nog’s mental state improved, he became mindful of his thoughts, and were easily understood. His Mom, as a tinapa (smoked-fish) vendor said that they were coping through life even with this circumstances, while his step-father is a truck-helper.

It is not only the Family who is thankful, but the community as well. This includes the Manila City Jail, his friends, and other people concerned of him.

Since Nog’s release, he has not been doing much. He is currently on a hard time finding a good job. “Ngayon, ang binabantayan ko na lang ay ang bahay, tapos minsan lumalabas ako tapos kwentuhan lang, pero mas masaya na ako ngayon”, he said. “Sa tingin ko, 100% na ako ngayon”, he ended.

Although their gratitude was in silent mode that time, their eyes were our witness that them being together again shows how HLAF works, for its advocacies. 

Currently, Nog is under the FRED program of HLAF.

HLAF interviews Malabon TFKK

Written by Melvin

HLAF conducted an interview with Executive Judge Ma. Antonia Largoza - Cantero (Malabon RTC branch 291) and Judge Misael M. Ladaga of (Malabon RTC branch 292).

The interview tackled questions on the establishment of TFKK (Task Force Katarungan at Kalayaan) in Malabon City, and its accomplishments.

Moreover, a TFKK meeting will be held on February 21 with other stakeholders to discuss its future plans and actions.

The TFKK is a doorbell for us

Written by Melvin

The space inside prisons is not adequate to receive such an influx of people and has led to severe overcrowding. Individual cells now hold up to a gazillion times their capacity, forcing prisoners to sleep virtually piled up on one another.

In Manila, inmates at this desperately overcrowded remand prison pray for the small things. That it won't rain, that they can buy some food to supplement meagre rations, that the case against them will soon be heard in court.

Unbearable prison conditions are made even tougher by the fact it could be years before their trials are decided. Many are not eligible for bail or cannot afford the bail bond. The Public Attorney's office, a legal aid agency attached to the Department of Justice, says it has more than what you think outstanding cases.

In the Philippines, trials typically take a number of years to begin, two or three to complete, and two or three more if the outcome is appealed. The Task Force Katarungan at Kalayaan (TFKK) served as a doorbell for the Malabon Regional Trial Court to expedite the lawful release of the PDLs (Persons Deprived of Liberty). According to Executive Judge Ma. Antonia Largoza-Cantero and Judge Misael M. Ladaga, “it’s a recap call for the judges to alarm the judicial body since we have to be always on top of the situation of our PDLs”. That also paved the way of monitoring of every court especially on how long the process has been for a particular PDL. 

The Malabon TFKK was referred by Executive Judge Danilo S. Cruz of the Pasig TFKK. "Before, the Malabon RTC has no idea with what HLAF does, as well about the TFKK. We then had our preliminary talk and meeting, where Judge Ladaga was appointed", Executive Judge Cantero said. The meeting was blockbuster since there were representatives from the Malabon RTC (Judges), the local government units, the city prosecutor's office, the Public Attorney's Office (PAO), BJMP wardens, and other invited stakeholders to discuss on how the program on expediting the release of PDLs be done.

Moreover, the BJMP should improve their facilities first, since Malabon has only 2 vehicles to transport the PDLs from different facilities and from their hearings, the Executive Judge requests. 

The legal procedure can be shortened through TFKK, so we give priority to those who have been anguishing for long, Judge Ladaga said.

Although the Malabon TFKK faced tough challenges, they still trusted what hope can bring to these PDLs through looking for a legal basis for their release such as: recognisance, bail, and other forms. So, they partner with HLAF in these difficult situations.

We are very thankful to HLAF's coordination for bringing us the TFKK. "Had there been no coordination, there will be no US for the PDLs", Judge Ladaga emphasized. "Actually, TFKK brought us to realizations and awareness that we have partners that can help us in making the processes straightforward, such as the: Bahay Pag-Asa Malabon, MADAC (Malabon Anti-Drug Abuse Council), and the BADAC (Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Council), Executive Judge Cantero added. Malabon hopes that the collaboration between them and HLAF will continue to help in expediting the release of those deserving PDLs. 


How HLAF guided the Paralegal Officers and Paralegal Aides to be effective in their “Special Duty”

Written by Melvin Nuñez

An accord Special Duty




Paralegals aren't lawyers but they do a lot of legal tasks, such as drafting motions, researching the law and collecting evidence. Prison advocate paralegals use their skills on behalf of prisoners, fighting to protect their legal rights and determining if they are being treated humanely. Paralegals who take up this line of work usually find the motivation in their personal ideals, like HLAF.


HLAF has trained Paralegal Aides since then. The organization, through its founder Grandmaster Choa Kok Sui, believes that the right to liberty should be respected not only because it is guaranteed by the highest law of the land but because it emanates from the very dignity of every human being.


But, wait. What’s a Paralegal Aide again?


A Paralegal Aide, an individual with strong commitment to help his internees understand in the knowledge of law, has a strong will to learn about our Constitution, and creates compassion to everyone, inside his surroundings, a PDL.


Thus, HLAF is committed to work for the freedom of every person who is arbitrarily and unjustly deprived of liberty.


            What can a Paralegal Aide in Jail even do?


            HLAF has given us a deeper human understanding that even PDLs (Persons deprived of Liberty) can still help their internee”, according to SJO3 Ellen L. Balan, Quezon City Jail – Male dorm.


The Paralegal office is as well training PDLs and qualified Paralegal aides on the Basic Rights of PDLs, the Miranda Rights, Modes of Release, and other subjects, like what HLAF do. “We equip them with guides, kalimitan walang grado ang PDLs. Kaya’t laking pasasalamat namin na tinutulungan kami ng HLAF dahil sa mga programa nila na ganito”, the grateful SJO3 Balan said.


            Moreover, she hopes that HLAF still continue their Paralegal Trainings for PDLs. It has been seen that there are already freed PDLs. “We want to continue this journey with you”.