HE HAS tough words against criminals especially those into drugs, but the detention center for women in Davao City shows that even those who have fallen into a life of crime are given a second chance through an ordinance and programs that was an initiative of and continued to have the full support of City Hall. The women of the Davao City women’s jail may be wearing yellow shirts with the word “detainee”, they are called and treated as Bakasyonistas or on-vacation. What could have been a nightmare for the female inmates at the Davao City Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) turned instead into a ground to improve their skills in art, an opportunity to be educated and earn a diploma, and a quality time to learn ways on how to earn a livelihood while they are detained at the facility as they wait for the court to issue the verdict on their cases. There are currently 449 Bakasyonistas housed inside the women’s facility called the GK Ray of Hope Village in Ma-a, Davao City, where 85 percent of them are undergoing trial for drug-related cases and 15 percent are being tried for theft, murder, estafa, and others. Instead of being housed inside cells, they are assigned in colorful cottages and instead of iron bars, they have decorative gates. In an interview with Sun.Star Davao, Female Jail Warden Superintendent Grace Sun Taculin said that they inculcate one thing to the minds of all the female inmates upon the day of their entry at the facility and that is if they behave as a Baskasyonista, they will be treated as one. Otherwise, punishments await. The term Bakasyonista was coined during 2008 when the separate women’s facility was finally built, separate from the jail compound for males. In that year, 82 women packed up and left the original compound and were thus dubbed bakasyonista. From 82, the population is now 449. “We want to get rid of the idea na instead na maging nightmare ang pagpasok nila dito ay magiging blessing in disguise. Here, they can have ample amount of time to think and evaluate themselves. New skills are also introduced to them (We want to get rid of the idea that instead of treating their stay here as a nightmare, it will be a blessing in disguise for them),”Taculin said. To make sure that the inmates will become productive members of society, the Bakasyonistas make use of the time they spend there through undergoing trainings in twine bag-making, baking, sewing, and availing of educational services through the Alternative Learning Services accredited by the Department of Education (Deped). The bags they made had earned a place in the market not only in the Philippines but in the United States, Japan, and Europe, as well. Gawad Kalinga also helps the inmates sell their products every time they have conventions. Civic organizations also buy their bags for similar reasons. Every Kadayawan and Araw ng Dabaw, the bags by the Bakasyonistas are exhibited and sold at the Pasalubong Center in the City. The creation of the female-friendly facility is supported by the Women Development Code of Davao City also known as the City Ordinance 5004 and Executive Order 24, according to Taculin. Recommendations on the study made by Warden Taculin on the assessment on the rehabilitation of the female inmates served as the guiding concept in the creation of the facility. The same study was presented to incoming President Rodrigo Duterte when he was still the City Mayor. “It is only here in Davao that a women code stipulated a support to women in detention,” Taculin said, adding that the facility is the community that it is now because of the faith and respect of Duterte in every individual. The 5,400 square-meter jail compound used to be an idle lot that now holds the 20 bungalows that ideally accommodate 10 people each cottage. However, now that the populations of the Bakasyonistas have doubled, each cottage now houses 20 to 26 Bakasyonistas. Each Bungalow has a television, toilet, and shower room. The facility has made strides in rehabilitation and helping women detainees start a new life, it has received recognitions like the award given by the Commission on Women, which declared the compound as one of the learning hub in the country. This means that the facility has now become one of the Lakbay-Aral destinations starting two years ago. It is also recognized as one of the best female detention facilities nationwide.
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