Protection of Women & Children Tops Freedom Project

Bahay Silungan sa Daungan or Port Halfway House (BSD), a program of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) that serves as a preventive mechanism for trafficking of women and children has been chosen as The Freedom Project 2012. The jury chaired by Former Governor Grace Padaca picked the project so that partnerships can be forged between the PPA and local governments and non-government organizations to build additional BSD, thereby save more potential victims of human trafficking.

BSD was first constructed at the North Harbor in Manila and originally served as a shelter for stranded passengers. Its conversion into a rescue center was unintended – PPA discovered during interviews that those who took refuge where those who ran away from their employers. These women and children travel to Manila from their provinces upon promises of a decent job, only ending up being dragged into prostitution or forced labor. Aside from free accommodation, BSD provides pro bono legal assistance and counseling. “Freedom is synonymous to responsibility and respect. Let us take it upon ourselves to protect the vulnerable and to always respect their rights,” encouraged Padaca. “BSD’s response to the situation of potential victims of human trafficking is remarkable because it’s immediate and easily replicable,” added Padaca.

The other members of the jury were Dr. Julio Teehankee, Associate Professor at De La Salle University (DLSU) and Lito Arlegue, Executive Director of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD). They deliberated on the merits of the 21 projects submitted as entries from across the Philippines and identified the top three. They reviewed them based on their 1) extent of collaboration with the national government, LGUs and NGOs, 2) impact on communities, and 3) uniqueness. How the recognition as The Freedom Project would boost the program’s efforts was also considered.

The jury awarded Mainstreaming Migration in Local Development, an initiative of Naga City that allows overseas Filipinos to participate in governance, and Biogas for Cooking and Power Generation, The Benedictine’s Eucharistic King Missionary Project proposed by the Department of Energy (DOE) to promote environmental consciousness as runners-up.

In the parallel online voting that garnered over 5470 confirmed votes, Sinag ng Pag-asa or Ray of Hope, a program of the University of Perpetual Help Rizal (UPHR) and the Bureau of Corrections emerged as winner with 26% or 1,445 votes. Sinag ng Pag-asa trains offenders in the penitentiary to become entrepreneurs, offering them an opportunity for a renewed life when they get out of prison. Campus Hour of Radio Veritas DZRH came close with 1,426 votes, a radio show that gives a voice to the youth.

The presentation of the winners of The Freedom Project 2012 will be on 06 December 2012.

“The entries to The Freedom Project are testimonies of various initiatives on good governance in the Philippines. They are proofs that institutions now use their power not to limit freedom, but to expand it,” said Jules Maaten, Country Director of Friedrich Naumann Foundation, a German liberal foundation that organized the search.

The Freedom Project was previously called The Liberal Project. In 2011, the Yellow Boat Project, Enhanced Literacy Programs of Tagum City, and House Bill No. 3773 advocating civil society participation in governance along with the United Nation’s Human Development 2010 were recognized as outstanding projects.