Balay Trains Community Paralegals
Antipolo – 22 young people from Bagong Silang, Caloocan participated in a training aimed at equipping them with basic paralegal skills. The youths who participated in the training are current partners of Balay in their program for torture prevention and rehabilitation of victims of torture in Bagong Silang. The group is composed of young people who have experienced torture and ill treatment from the police and young people who are not victims of torture but are perceived to be vulnerable to experience it.
During the training, topics such as the Anti-Torture Law (RA 8745), the Philippine Justice System, basic paralegal skills and fact sheet making skills were discussed. The 3-day training was organized by Balay Rehabilitation Center. The content and facilitation of the sessions was likewise done by Balay staffs.
Balay's experience in working in Bagong Silang has revealed that at least one case of torture or extra-judicial killings (salvaging) happen every month. In lieu of this observation, the paralegal training conducted may be viewed as a response to these human rights violations (HRVs). Trained paralegals are intended to assist possible HRV victims or refer cases to authorities or organizations such as Balay. In effect, these trained individuals may also serve as community-based "watchdogs" – their presence as a deterrent to state authorities in committing such horrible acts.
Business of Saving Lives
At the start of the training, Mr. Ellecer Carlos, one of the facilitators, noted that "torture can happen to anyone". In this light, at the end of the training, it was emphasized to the participants that paralegal skills can someday "save your or somebody else's life". As one of the facilitators succinctly, paralegal work "is in the business of saving lives".
HRV Monitoring System
Aside from forming a pool of paralegals – individuals that may help victims of human rights violations – the training is also intended to create a pool of human rights violations monitors. The information collected by the paralegals, which shall also serve as HRV monitors, shall be used to gauge the human rights situation in Bagong Silang. This information is hoped to be used for research – describing the extent of HRVs in Bagong Silang as well as to come up with trends – and policy reform advocacy within the Barangay and City Government.