Gawad Kalinga builds humane haven for Davao female inmates

Patricia Esteves - The Philippine Star

DAVAO – Female inmate Jed Sy, who has been accused of drug trafficking, confessed to almost losing her sanity while doing time in the cramped and overcrowded detention facility in Ma-a jail here.

With over a hundred other female inmates, Jed and company had to cope with and squeeze in three small individual cells with little ventilation and light, some of them even sleeping in shifts.

For Jed, night time was the hardest because aside from the congested jail, she always thought about her daughter whom she had to leave behind.

Jed’s Chinese husband is a drug trafficker. When he fled, she was the one arrested then later charged.

Jed and her fellow inmates thought they would just bear with their situation in jail. Fortunately, Gawad Kalinga (GK) came along and saw their need for help.

GK and partners built a humane haven for the women prisoners, a special and unique GK village called the GK Ray of Hope.

This is the first GK village built inside the  compound of the Ma-a city jail here. It serves as an inspiration and hope for the women inmates that they are not forgotten and their needs are being met even though they are prisoners. After all, they  are not yet convicted.

The GK Ray of Hope Village is a collaborative project of GK, the city government of Davao, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology-Davao City Jail, New City Commercial Center (NCCC) and other partners who are guided by the vision of  providing a humane environment for the female inmates and at the same time, trying to embed a human rights culture here.

The houses were donated by the Lim family, owners of the NCCC mall in Davao.

GK champion Tony Meloto and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said GK and the local government of Davao support the humane treatment of women prisoners, in accordance with the United Nations law.

GK Coordinator for Davao Ricky Villanueva and Senior Superintendent Romeo Elisan, Regional director, RBJMP XI, share the views of Meloto and Duterte.

“We hope all jail facilities would follow our lead. We want to inspire all jails to do it. If we have done it in Davao, they can do this in other jails,” they said.

Ten houses, each with a comfort room, now stand in the village and an additional ten more will be built inside the compound.

The inmates have transferred to the roomy houses two weeks ago.

Jed and other prisoners are very happy with their new detention facility.

“My fellow inmates are very happy. Here in GK Ray of Hope, we don’t feel like we are detained, and instead, we feel like we live in a subdivision,” Jed said.

Ma-a Jail Warden Senior Superintendent Grace Dun Taculin said the houses are designed with landscape and veranda.

The main space serves as sleeping quarters during the night where the inmates sleep on rubber cushions, but during the day, it is used as a multi-purpose room, a prayer and counseling room, work area, classroom or music room.

“Windows are made of decorative steel grills to keep a home-like ambiance so that  transformation is made easier considering that 95 percent of our female inmates are mothers,” said Grace.

“Yes, it is still a jail, yet it is a home at its heart. It carries the GK character and spirit thus the name ‘Ray of Hope Village.’ Instead of gray and gloomy type building and cells, houses of different rainbow colors are in place. It exudes an aura of a warm, caring and nurturing home,” Grace said in an interview.

At the forefront of the support for the homes of the female inmates is Mayor Duterte.

Although he hates criminals and criminality, Duterte supports the humane treatment of prisoners.

Davao City GK head Vic Rosario said Duterte pledged more homes for the inmates when he saw that they still need more.

Unknown to many, Duterte is a fierce GK advocate. A quiet worker, Duterte holds fund-raising activities and mobilizes his businessman friends to help in raising money for the homes of the poor of Davao.

He has built three GK villages all over Davao and is on a mission to build more houses for the poor in the province through GK.

Last year, he gathered 50 of his friends to a dinner in Marco Polo for P50,000 a plate for a GK fund-raising activity and was able to generate P2.5 million, the amount needed to fund 30 homes in a GK village in Riverdrive.

Right now, there are 31 completed houses in Riverdrive and more are being constructed. Twenty-nine families have moved into their own brand new houses.

“He annually holds golf tournament with the Metro Davao Sports Association(MEDSA) and give the proceeds to GK,” Vic said.

 At present, there are a total of 15 villages spread all over Davao City with some villages numbering 50-200 houses.

The MEDSA, Filipino-Canadians in Canada and the Redemptorist fathers have donated the homes for GK beneficiaries in Tibungco.

In Toril, Davao City, there are now three duplex houses donated by Fil-Ams in Canada.

Aside from Duterte, several other Davao mayors and governors have been supporting GK.

In Mati, Davao Oriental, Gov. Cora Malaniaon is developing one site. GK and the local government office will also start to build homes in three other municipalities.

 Mati Mayor Michelle Rabat also supports GK Dahican which has 70 percent of Muslims mixed with Christians and the homes are sponsored by Filipino-Canadians from Etobicoke, Canada.

GK villages will also be built in Compostela Valley province, in the municipalities of Maragusan, Nabunturan and Montevista (GK Canadian village).

In Tagum City, Davao del Norte, there will be two GK villages in partnership with Mayor Rey Uy.

In Davao del Sur, Gov. Douglas Cagas partnered with GK to build two GK sites in Digos City. The first village was named after his mother, Dona Ralota Salud Cagas.

GK villages are also being built in the municipalities of Sulop, Hagonoy, Padada in Davao del Sur.

Meloto thanked all the mayors and governors of Davao for partnering with GK.

“Our goal is really to bring GK in every town of Davao,” said  Meloto.

To date, GK is already in 362 towns all over the country.

“The LGUs are doing their best to address landlessness and by doing their share in providing a better quality of life to the poor,” said Meloto.

Meanwhile, Jed and other female prisoners are very thankful to GK, Mayor Duterte and the Ma-a jail officers for letting them live with dignity.

“We are inspired because we have not been judged Even if we are prisoners, we are also human. It’s hard for us mothers to be here, but we make the most out of what we have, until such time that we are freed,” Jed said.









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