UNAFEI professor to meet Siquijor, Negros Oriental volunteers
By Rizalie A. Calibo
Larena, Siquijor (22 January) -- Professor Koji Yamada of the United Nations Asia & Far East Institute (UNAFEI) for the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offender will visit and meet with the volunteer probation aides (VPAs) and Probation and Parole and officers from Negros Oriental and Dumaguete on January 22 at the Tanjay City Probation Office, Tanjay, Negros Oriental.
Yamada will have a dialogue with the volunteers on the various VPA programs in Japan that hopefully give insights and spur actions from the VPAs here for adoption and possible implementation in their localities, Probation and Parole Officer II Mario Q. Rocamora said.
Siquijor province has recruited 25 volunteers of which 23 were trained, 19 were appointed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and only eight were utilized, Elizabeth Gom-os of the Parole and Probation Office said.
But with only 13 parolees and 26 probationers in the province, as reported by Gom-os, the number of VPAs, active or not, in the province is more than enough to cater to their needs, Rocamora said. "We are only expecting one volunteer per five clients and we are very thankful to have more of them," he said.
These volunteers will assist parolees, pardonees and probationers to restore trust from the communities where they live but had once committed some crimes. Rocamora explained that the VPAs, as one of their three main functions (therapeutic community and restorative justice, being the two others), will assist them in the implementation of the programs categorized into economic/financial aspect, spiritual, behavioral and community service apart from the national programs.
He also said that poverty alleviation is also one of their priorities based on the belief that commission of crime is rooted on poverty and hunger.
In regular AGIO-7 Forum in Cebu city recently, Parole and Probation Administration (PPA) regional director Ofelia Quijano said the PPA has adopted the Volunteer Probation Aide (VPA) program since 1978 as it is mandated of them under Presidential Decree 968.
Quijano further said that the PPA through this program recruits members of the community that are of good refute, committed and with competence to assist the probation and parole officers in directly supervising a number of parolees, pardonees and probationers in their respective communities.
Their appointments are signed by no less than the secretary of Justice, Quijano added.
The volunteers shall monitor the actuations and conduct of the parolees, pardonees and probationers as well as guide and perhaps provide them with ways and services that will help the offenders, the victims and the community find healing from the pain and harm as a result of their crimes, Quijano explained.
It was initiated by then PPA administrator Dr. Gregorio Bacolod, who is himself now a volunteer probation aide. Inspired by the success stories of the Japanese volunteer probation program, Bacolod linked with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JAICA) and the United Nations Asia & Far East Institute (UNAFEI) specifically its Administration of Justice and Crime Prevention division for a model that the Philippines can adopt.
In 2002, JAICA and UNAFI supported the travels of the first batch of PPA personnel to Japan where they underwent an extensive training on its volunteer probation program coupled with 'hands on' and educational tour on Japan's success stories relative to the program.
Rocamora was also a participant of the Japan tour. He said that he was so impressed with the Japanese volunteer's dedication to their work of helping to make their country crime free for economic growth.
He said, the Japanese volunteer probation officers are richest and that they are committed to help in all possible ways the offenders (parolees, probationers and pardonees) to get back on their feet and be restored with the community.
"The success rate of Japan is nearly a 100% because its volunteer ratio to a probationer is 1:1 while our ratio in the Philippines is one VPA to 38 clients," one officer from Cebu also said during the Forum.
In Central Visayas there are 4280 parolees, pardonees and probationers with only 1700 VPAs recruited and so far only 480 of them have approved appointments from the DOJ.
Recently, the volunteer probation aides from Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental and Siquijor have organized into an association and elected Marion Sayson, an inventor and a businessman from Toledo City as its president. Elected as secretary was Edith Tumulak, a VPA from Siquijor.
The VPA association, also meet today (January 21) with the UNAFEI professor Koji at the EcoTech in Lahug for an interaction about Central Visayas' volunteer probation aides program, its concerns and its future action plan. (PIA) [top]