About Us

Balay Rehabilitation Center, Inc. is a non-governmental organization that works for the psychosocial relief and rehabilitation of survivors of human rights violations. It provides services primarily to the survivors of torture and organized violence, as well as to those who are displaced by armed conflict (IDPs).

The word balay, in many dialects in the Philippines, means a house, a shelter or a home. The name itself depicts protection, safety, and nurturance of well-being. In the course of the organization’s existence, the word balay have also signified a space where the people can work towards empowerment and development.

History

The massive human rights violations during the martial law period led to the founding of BALAY on September 27, 1985. One of its prime movers was the late Senator Jose Diokno, a distinguished champion of human rights who became the chairperson of the Presidential Committee on Human Rights following the downfall of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986. Other founders were Dr. Mita Pardo de Tavera who served as the first Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) under the Aquino administration; and Dr. Mariano Caparas, a physician who is an ardent proponent of health and human rights.

During its early years, its staff and volunteers have helped in documenting cases of torture and provided political prisoners and their families of their immediate needs. Balay also served as a half-way house for human rights defenders who were released from detention. Psychosocial programs addressed the individual, group and family dimensions. Not long after, it developed a program for youth and children and offered livelihood assistance to its partners as part of psychosocial support.

The unprecedented rise of the phenomenon of internal displacement due to armed conflict and development aggression in the 1990s challenged BALAY to broaden the scope of its work. Around the mid-1990s, its general assembly decided to serve another type of target population – the uprooted peoples who have been affected by traumatic armed conflicts, particularly in Mindanao. From thereon, Balay embarked on a holistic community-based psychosocial approach in its project sites while continuing its therapeutic partnerships with political prisoners, torture victims and other survivors of human rights violations.

As the country made its transition from authoritarian regime (under the Marcos regime) to democracy, the occurrence of torture remains to be pervasive. However, it may be argued that torture have assumed a different form in post-Marcos Philippines. While, torture before was directed towards political activists – torture as a form of political repression – torture is on the rise in urban centers and is increasingly being used to fight criminality and eliminate society of its “scum”. In addition, this brutal action is often directed against young people. This is manifested in the countless reports of “salvaging” and ill treatment perpetrated by the police against those who are suspected of doing a crime. This does not mean that torture against political activists does not exist or is declining. This however suggests that torture (1) as an urban phenomenon and (2) as an instrument to fight crime is increasingly being relevant. Having these context in mind, Balay in 2003, have embarked on to launch a psychosocial program in Bagong Silang, Caloocan (an open community unlike jails and prisons which are closed institutions) to facilitate the prevention of torture and help mitigate its effects on survivors.The psychosocial intervention targeted young people who were considered to be most vulnerable to violence and in experiencing torture.

At present, the organization consists of an interdisciplinary staff and volunteers who have academic backgrounds and experience in the fields of psychology, social work, community development, popular education, social enterprise development, and peace and human rights advocacy.

Vision

Balay envisions a free, just, peaceful and human society where individuals, families and communities have the opportunity to develop their potential to the fullest for their own well-being and for society. It aspires for a society where human rights are respected and fulfilled and where human dignity and equality are upheld.

Mission

BALAY facilitates the holistic psychosocial development response and advocates for the rights of IDPs, political prisoners, torture survivors as well as other victims of human rights.

Goals

  1. To develop partnerships among victims of human rights violations regardless of political beliefs, race, religion, culture, age and gender to help them regain their capacities for active participation in the family, community and societal affairs.

  2. To help develop youth and children into “zones of peace” and as peace-builders in families, communities and in the wider society.

Psychosocial Development Programs

  1. Psychosocial Development Program for Internally Displaced Persons (PDP-IDPs)

    BALAY’s program in Mindanao combines projects and activities geared towards the healing, empowerment and development of IDPs, with special focus on the most vulnerable sectors particularly the children and young people. At present, BALAY’s project sites cover more than 45 villages in different municipalities in Mindanao.

    1. Space for Peace

      The Space for Peace in Pikit, North Cotabato consists of seven villages populated by Maguindanaons, Manobos, Bisaya and other families of migrants and settlers. Current projects include establishing child-friendly spaces for psychosocial activities, peace camps, counseling, and life-skills training for young people, peace advocacy and the promotion of natural farming system and cooperative as livelihood undertaking. The activities aim to help consolidate, preserve and expand the gains of the Space for Peace in conflict-prevention, community rehabilitation and multi-cultural cooperation to address the social trauma arising from war.

    2. Peace Education, Psychosocial Training and Risk Reduction Project

      Peace Education, Psychosocial Training and Risk Reduction Project in Datu Paglas and Paglat in Maguindanao, Tulunan in North Cotabato, and Columbio in Sultan Kudarat Province. The project partners are young people, Barangay officials and other community duty bearers in more than 30 villages and local government unites. The goal is to build a network of young people who have basic knowledge and skills in peace-building, human rights, peer counseling and to help community institutions for local governance to adopt disaster preparedness and risk management mechanisms to reduce their vulnerabilities to complex emergency situation.

    3. Promoting Children as “Zones of Peace”

      Promoting Children as “Zones of Peace” in a Lumad community in Brgy. Angga-an in Damulog, Bukidnon. It introduces the idea of “child-oriented” governance in the community through the revival of the “school of living tradition,” psychosocial activities for children, primary health and nutrition component, youth participation in community activities, and awareness raising on the rights of the child and peace education. The activities are intended to strengthen the community resources to promote their area as a zone of peace.

  2. Psychosocial Development Program for Survivors of Torture and Organized Violence (PDP-STOV)

    Torture is a crime under domestic (RA 9745) and international law and is prohibited in all circumstances even in situations of armed conflict. Though legal instruments and treaties (i.e. RA 9745 and UNCAT) are already established in order to prevent torture from happening, the practice of torture in the Philippines is still pervasive. The practice of torture is routinely employed by State authorities to quash the expression of legitimate political dissent or as a shortcut method to address the problem of criminality and keep peace and order. In any case, the practice of torture is deeply rooted in the worsening problem of poverty and inequalities within the Philippine society. Torture destroys the will and spirit of the victim, alters his or her relationship with others (traumatization) and instills fear and anxiety to family and community members of the victim (collective traumatization).

    1. Focus Jails

      Balay provides a comprehensive psychosocial and developmental intervention to around 100 inmates who have been denied of their freedom and tortured under political circumstances. The objective is to manage and reduce their suffering from their torture experience, improve the condition of prisons (thru jail advocacy), and enable them to increase their (positive) coping abilities and resources until they obtain justice. The kind of support includes counseling and related therapeutic activities, psycho-education, life-skills enhancement, food and non-food support, as well as legal and health assistance not covered by other service providers. Psychosocial support is also extended to family members of detainees and prisoners, including the facilitation of prison visits. The focus jails are the (1) Metro Manila District Jail (MMDJ) and the (2) National Bilibid Prison (NBP) in the National Capital Region; and the (1) Compostella Valley Provincial Jail and (2) Davao City Jail in Mindanao.

    2. Outreach Jails

      Located in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, these jails are visited quarterly by BALAY staff to deliver relief and welfare assistance to political prisoners, document reports of torture, and monitor prison conditions. Counseling is also facilitated for individuals and groups who are in need. BALAY, in line with respecting the rights and promoting a humane treatment of the detainees, recommends actions to the authorities for transformative actions.

    3. Community-based Program in Bagong Silang, Caloocan City

      The community-based activities in Bagong Silang – the largest Barangay, in terms of land area – are intended to provide rehabilitation assistance to young people who have suffered from torture. They are also geared at influencing duty bearers (i.e. parents, Police and Barangay officials) to pursue programs that will enhance the well-being of the Salinlahi. Activities include individual and group counseling and other related therapeutic activities, family enrichment sessions, psycho-education, life-skills training, human rights education and paralegal training. BALAY works with the local social service office and the council for the protection of children.

    4. Freedom from Torture Advocacy

      BALAY is one of the conveners of the United Against Torture Coalition (UATC), composed of more than 20 organizations working for the effective implementation of the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 (RA 9745). For years, it has been supporting the observance of the international Day in Support of Torture Victims. It also campaigns for the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) and pushes for the creation of a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) to monitor prison conditions and dissuade state agents from committing torture and other forms of organized violence. As the secretariat of the Inter-Agency Committee for Prison Reforms (IACPR), BALAY works with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), prison authorities (i.e. BJMP) and other executive departments for the improvement of jail conditions.

  3. Advocacy for Peace and Humanitarian Protection

    BALAY works for the passage of the law to protect internally displaced persons and for the establishment of a national mechanism for humanitarian protection of civilians affected by armed conflict. It is a founding member of the Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPQ). MPQ is a peace group that brings the voices of the affected civilians in the peace talks between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine Government. It is also one of the conveners of the Mindanao Solidarity Network (MSN) and the Civil Society Initiatives for International Humanitarian Law (CSI-IHL) which contributes in promoting humanitarian protection while building a peace constituency in support of the peace initiative in the Philippines.

  4. Youth and Children Development Program (YCDP)

    A major project under the YCDP is the building of a network of young people to articulate their views to enable them to participate in the peace process. Guided by the idea of “children as zones of peace,” BALAY sets up a mobile peace training program for young people in Mindanao. It also organizes peace camps and leadership seminars to develop young peace builders and human rights defenders. It works with the Department in mainstreaming peace education in schools and promotes a child-oriented governance in communities covered by its projects.