THE City Government of Cagayan de Oro has begun implementing a program that provides free legal assistance to thousands of inmates of the city jail in Barangay Lumbia in an effort to decongest the city jail.
Called Hapsay Buhay, the program brought together lawyers and inmates last Friday, August 25, for the first of what many sessions inside the city jail, according to Patrick Gabutina, Hapsay Buhay focal person.
"This program, we have volunteer lawyers, mga private practitioners, lawyers from Public Attorney's Office, Integrated Bar of the Philippines, young lawyers, to help inmates na wala intawon mga abogado (without lawyers), naa pud uban na kulang nalang ug gamay na push para ma-resolve ang kaso (while others just need one more push for their case to be resolved)," he said.
Friday’s consultation had 15 lawyers but Gabutina said they expect more lawyers to volunteer for succeeding consultations.
He said the program aims to decongest the 400-capacity jail facility, which now houses some 2,700.
Lawyer Ernesto 'Tonton' Neri who volunteered last Friday said addressing this problem is a big challenge for the city, lawyers fresh out of law school and even law students are stepping up to pitch in.
"This is the answer sa challenge na dako na kaayo ang congestion rate sa cagayan de oro jail, then daghan kaayong kaso diri na kailangan nalang ug usa ka push or pirma para makalaya na sila (Cagayan de Oro jail has a high congestion rate, a lot of cases here just needs one more push or a signature for them to be freed). This is also part of our efforts to mobilize new lawyers and law students to help make this program successful," Neri said.
Neri said the volunteer lawyers also want to help inmates get representation to speed up the disposition of their cases.
"Naay uban diri wala nakaila sa ilang abogado, naay uban, wala na-constitute ilang records, wala silay hanaw sa status, so tsada ni siya na higayon para mahatagan ug assistance tong wala gyuy hanaw, naay uban na state in limbo ilang kinabuhi, so we hope makatabang mi (Some of the inmates here has no lawyers, while some others' records are still not constituted, they have no idea of the status of their cases, so this is good opportunity to help them)," he said.
The Hapsay Buhay program will also infuse some P19.2 worth of infrastructure for a new building dormitory inside the city jail.
The group has been hosting other activities for the inmates such as holding medical missions and spirituality and livelihood programs.