IBON Features / December 2009
HUMAN RIGHTS WEEK
Violations of economic, social rights severe under Arroyo administration
The basic economic and social rights of millions of Filipinos are
increasingly undermined and unmet daily, with greater numbers of Filipinos
falling into poverty and deepening deprivation
IBON Features-- The Arroyo government’s human rights record is considered
one of the worst in history, not just in violations of civil and political
rights but also in the economic, social and cultural realm.
Thirty-five years after the Philippines ratified the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR), the rights of
millions of Filipinos are increasingly undermined and unmet daily such as
the right to food, decent work, health, education, adequate standard of
living, protection and assistance of families, among others.
Right to food: Local food production has fallen drastically and the
country is now more dependent on foreign sources of food. Rice imports
increased 280% from 639,000 tons in 2001 to a record 2.4 million tons in
2008. There is widespread hunger with over 60% of Filipinos having
difficulty buying food and around 9.3 million households failing to meet
the 100% dietary energy requirement. Three million children aged 0-5 years
are underweight, while three million more children aged 6-10 years old are
Right to health: The Arroyo administration has the lowest record of health
spending compared to the past three administrations. Since 2001, it
allocated an average of only 1.8% for health, compared to 3.1% under the
Aquino administration, 2.6% under Ramos, and 2.4% under Estrada. In the
2010 national budget, the allocation for health fell by 7.4% from 2009, or
an average of only P1 per Filipino per day. Thousands of Filipinos are
afflicted annually of pneumonia and tuberculosis while heart and vascular
system diseases are on the rise. Some 180 Filipino children die everyday
of what should be easily preventable or manageable diseases.
Right to education: For school year 2008-09, there were 4.7 million
out-of-school youth in the country, consisting of 2 million elementary-age
children and 2.7 million high school-age youth. Out of every 100 children
who enter Grade 1, only 66 will finish elementary school, 43 highschool
and 14 college. This year, the government spent only P6 per Filipino per
day on education while paying the equivalent of P21 on debt service.
Right to decent work: The period of 2001-2008 is the longest period of
sustained high unemployment in the country’s history, with an average
unemployment rate of 11.3 percent. A record 1.24 million Filipinos were
deployed abroad in 2008 or almost 3,400 leaving per day. The quality of
many jobs available is poor, with millions of Filipinos in insecure,
unprotected, and poorly or non-earning work. In 2008 among those
considered employed were 4.2 million unpaid family workers, 12.1 million
own-account workers, 4.5 million non-regular wage and salary workers or
those with casual, contractual, probationary, apprentice or seasonal
status, and 11.9 million in part-time work. The NCR minimum wage of P382
in 2008 is less than half of what a family of five needs for a minimum
level of decent living, which is estimated at P917.
Right of families to protection and assistance: Worsening poverty in the
country has not only forced male and female heads to work abroad. Some
three million children aged 5-17 are also working to augment family
income, with over three-fourths employed as laborers in psychologically
and physically hazardous conditions. There are also around 1.5 million
street children across the country. Moreover, around 5.1 million families
live in weak houses, 3.5 million families do not have electricity, 3.4
million families do not have access to safe drinking water, while 2.4
million families do not have sanitary toilets. With barely half of the
employed in wage and salary work, this implies that millions of the
country’s poorest and most vulnerable workers and their families do not
have public social insurance or safety nets.
Right to adequate standard of living: Latest government data show that
some 80% of Filipino families survived on daily incomes of P560 or less,
with the poorest 10% of families having incomes of just some P88. Assuming
an average family size of five, some 70 million Filipinos each are
surviving on P112 per day. It is estimated that even using a low official
poverty threshold of P41 per person per day, the number of poor Filipinos
is at 27.6 million with at least 13 million urban poor residents in the
Violations of these rights have intensified because of government’s
aggressive implementation of neoliberal globalization, which further
liberalized the economy’s vital sectors and privatized public utilities
and social services. These have destroyed the livelihood of many Filipinos
and resulted in the unparalleled decline in the people’s condition.
International human rights law declares the principle of protecting the
full range of human rights required for people to have a full, free, safe,
secure and healthy life. It maintains that the right to live a dignified
life can never be attained unless all basic necessities of life such as
work, food, housing, health care, education and culture are adequately and
equitably available to everyone. The 1987 Constitution also recognizes
that the national economy exists to serve the needs of the people and that
the State has the duty to intervene when needed.
It is the government’s duty to promote and protect these rights, and it
should be made accountable for the increasing violations and greater
numbers of Filipinos falling into poverty and deepening deprivation. The
worsening state of human rights, whether civil and political or economic,
social and cultural, only proves government’s lack of seriousness in
ensuring the welfare of its people. IBON Features
IBON Features is a media service of IBON Foundation, an independent
development institution established in 1978 that provides research,
education, publications, information work and advocacy support on
US-Arroyo regime surpasses Marcos dictatorship as
worst violator of human rights
Jorge "Ka Oris" Madlos
National Democratic Front of the Philippines- Mindanao
December 10, 2009
On the occasion of the anniversary of International Human Rights Day, the
revolutionary forces in Mindanao reiterate their continuing respect for
human rights in the face of the US-Arroyo regime's utter disregard for
human rights. The new democratic revolution being waged by the CPP-NPA-NDF
is at the same time a national struggle in defense of the human rights of
the vast majority of the Filipino people.
The National Democratic Front-Mindanao strongly condemns the US-Arroyo
regime for its gross violation of human rights. In its nine years in
power, it has surpassed even the US-Marcos regime's brutality in its more
than two decades in power.
The US-Arroyo regime's record of human rights violations, especially in
the implementation of Oplan Bantay Laya and its record of extrajudicial
killings, enforced disappearances, torture, harassment, mass evacuations
and terrorism have become unprecedented and have turned out to be far
worse than that of the Marcos dictatorship and all previous puppet
Its repeated attempts in the past to impose martial rule in the country
and its exploitation of the widespread indignation at the Ampatuan
Massacre to declare martial law in Maguindanao as a trial balloon for
wider application reveal the US-Arroyo regime's propensity for tyrannical
rule and its obsession with outdoing Marcos.
The massive use of the military, police, CAFGU, SCAA and CVO as private
armies of Arroyo's warlord allies was purposely promoted under her
administration. Mrs. Arroyo's political allies use the military and police
to silence local opposition and lend their hand in the fight against the
revolutionary forces the same way the regime uses these forces to commit
extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights
violations to silence its critics and remain in power. These forces have
become mercenaries of Arroyo, her political allies and big foreign and
comprador capitalists to coerce people into submission in the face of
massive and shameless graft and corruption, abuse of power and greed for
The US-Arroyo regime's OBL 1 and 2 and continuing massive military
operations in the cities and countryside have spawned gross human rights
violations throughout the country. Since the onset of the US-Arroyo regime
in 2001, there have been 1,118 victims of extrajudicial killings and 204
victims of enforced disappearances. Such is her rule of impunity that even
media people are not spared. There have already been 97 killings of media
people under her regime including the 30 killed in the Ampatuan Massacre
on November 23. The total so far of 57 victims of the massacre add to the
already large number of those killed by government military, paramilitary,
police and security forces and by warlord private armies. That such a
vicious crime was clearly committed to ensure "victory" in the coming 2010
elections more grotesquely dramatizes the violence and cheating that
Arroyo and her military and warlord minions have been doing in the past
The US-Arroyo regime has poured the largest number of her military forces
in Mindanao, with more than 11 infantry battalions and several tens of
thousands of foot soldiers operating in the island. Not satisfied, it
recruits, trains and arms several tens of thousands more of paramilitary
forces such as CAFGUs, SCAAs and CVOs, adding to already large numbers of
private security forces of warlords and big commercial logging and mining
companies. These paramilitary forces are at the beck and call of political
allies and big mining and logging companies, and are practically converted
into their private armies to protect their interests, even as they are
paid for by the ordinary taxpayers. Arroyo's Armed Forces of the
Philippines creates, supports and arms Lumad paramilitary groups like the
Bungkatol Liberation Front (BULIF), Wild Dogs and Task Force
Gantangan-Bagani Force (TFG-BF) and tugs them along in military operations
especially in Lumad communities to sow terror and induce conflict among
the Lumad people.
These operations have resulted in more than 60 reported cases of
extrajudicial killings in Mindanao in 2009 alone, victimizing mostly
peasant and Lumad leaders of protests against big commercial mining and
logging operations and against land conversions of large lardlord holdings
to avoid coverage by agrarian reform.
In the Caraga Region there have been 11 recent cases of extrajudicial
killings, including one where a two-month old infant was also killed, two
cases of frustrated killings, a case of abduction with torture, and two
more cases of torture. In Northern Mindanao, from 2004 to date, there have
been 37 cases of extrajudicial killings, the most recent done by the
paramilitary Bungkatol Liberation Front (BULIF) and 23rd IB against three
Lumad datus in September 28, 2009 in Agusan del Sur. In Southern Mindanao
Region, from January to November 26, 2009, there had been 10 cases of
extrajudicial killings, bringing up the total to 115 victims since 2001.
Who cannot forget the rape and murder of Ka Parago's daughter Rebelyn
Pitao last March in Carmen, Davao Norte, and the killing of the child
Grecil Galacio on March 31, 2009 in New Bataan, Compostela Valley? In the
SOCKSARGENDS area, there have been 25 victims of extrajudicial killings
and 25 victims of enforced disappearance since 2002. In Muslim areas,
there have been 16 cases of extrajudicial killings, 43 cases of frustrated
killings and two cases of enforced disappearances in this year alone, not
counting the 57 Maguindanao massacre victims.
Thousands have been forced to evacuate from their communities because of
aerial bombings and military operations in an effort to cleanse the area
of protests against the entry of big commercial mining and logging
operations, as part of the government's counter-insurgency program. In the
Caraga region, more than 900 families were dislocated from their
communities in 2009 alone. As schools and residences of families continue
to be used as military barracks, the children are prevented from attending
schools and their human rights violated. In the Southern Mindanao Region,
there have been 22 recent cases of forced evacuations, displacing 930
families (5,129 individuals) . In the Northern Mindanao Region, forced
evacuations have affected 5,193 families (29,657 individuals) in 2008,
mostly in Lanao. In February to May 2009, there have been four instances
of aerial bombardment resulting in the forced evacuation of 4,553
individuals. In the SOCSARGENDS area, there have been 307 cases of human
rights violations involving 34,624 individuals and 3,704 families since
2006. There have been many more cases of human rights violations in Muslim
areas, including the forced evacuation of hundreds of thousands.
The active role of the US armed forces in committing these human rights
violations cannot be discounted. Various reports have cited the presence
and direct participation of US troops in combat operations across the
island, especially in Zamboanga City; Tawi-tawi; Jolo, Sulu; Lamitan,
Basilan; and Maguindanao. Human rights violations committed against the
Filipino people by the mercenary AFP, PNP and paramilitary forces mirror
that of the human rights violations committed by US soldiers in
Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and other parts of the world where they
But the increasingly fascist methods of the US-Arroyo regime have not
cowed the people into silence. Instead of becoming afraid, people are even
bolder in raising their outrage against the record gross human rights
violations of the ruling regime, decrying the culture of impunity it has
been sowing and resisting its intensifying fascist rule. More and more are
taking to the streets to decry the rotten, plunderous and brutal US-Arroyo
regime and call for the ouster of an utterly corrupt, liar and tyrannical
president. More and more people are joining the ranks of the revolutionary
forces and the New People's Army, taking up arms and waging people's war
against an unjust and cruel state and system currently presided over by
the US-Arroyo regime.
Uphold human rights!
Make the US-Arroyo Regime pay for its crimes against humanity!
Oust Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo!
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
On the Occasion of the 3rd National Congress of Karapatan – The Alliance
for the Advancement of People's Rights
Ciudad Christia Resort, San Mateo, Rizal
15 August 2009
LEILA M. DE LIMA
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines
Good morning to all of you.
First of all, let me thank Karapatan Secretary General Marie Hilao-Enriquez,
for the invitation to address the membership of Karapatan today. Through
the tireless efforts of the organization in furthering human rights of all
people in our country, the Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights
truly is a significant institution in Philippine society and an invaluable
partner in the cause of human rights. You are human rights defenders in
the truest sense, so much so that dozens of your colleagues have dedicated
their lives, even at the cost of it, in pursuit of this aspiration. They
sought to protect the rights of members of their communities and this
country, and for doing so they paid the ultimate price and made the
I am here today, representing the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), in
order to honor their lives and their work, and the work that you continue
to carry out in order to further the cause that they believed in, that
they struggled for, and that they died for.
The work of Karapatan is especially important in light of the dismal human
rights situation prevailing in the country today. It has been stated by
some that the Philippines does not in fact have a human rights problem. It
has been claimed that we have laws and rules, programs and policies,
assurances and statements, all resulting in an environment where human
rights are adequately respected and protected.
To that we respond in the same way that other individuals and institutions
have responded, both at the local and international level, across a
diverse range of sectors and backgrounds. The promotion and protection of
human rights may look spectacular on paper, but that is nowhere near
We call on the government to respect human rights, not just on paper but
in reality. We call on the government not just to give the appearance of
human rights protection, but to provide it in truth and in fact. We call
on the government to not merely talk about human rights, but to actually
do what they say and thereby carry out their international legal
obligations under a number of multilateral treaties.
It has been claimed that there is no human rights problem in our society,
and perhaps people think that if they repeat this statement often enough,
over and over in the press and public gatherings, then the people will be
convinced of its truth.
They are wrong however. We can see through the subterfuge, and the
Filipino people are more intelligent and more aware of what is going on,
than they think. The people know that torture is being carried out. The
people know that individuals are being abducted and spirited away to
places unknown with frightening regularity. The people know that sometimes
shootouts are actually rubouts, and sometimes gang-related deaths are
actually summary executions. The people know those individuals who speak
their mind, who decry abuses, who stand up for the oppressed and who
defend the human rights of others, are subjected to silencing, through
threats and harassment, through frivolous lawsuits and baseless legal
action, and through abduction, torture and extrajudicial killing.
Only recently we witnessed how the people can be moved to act, out of
sadness and out of gratitude, out of a sense of loss and of appreciation.
People were moved by the death of President Cory Aquino for different
reasons. I believe that one of those reasons was her role in the movement
which toppled an autocracy, under which the violation of human rights was
commonplace and abuses by the government security forces prevailed. Those
were dark days under the Marcos regime, and those of us who lived through
that period and were exposed to its arrogance and its vulgarity, its
stranglehold on power and its repression of fundamental freedoms, will not
easily forget it.
Once that regime was toppled and work was carried out to breathe life back
into the institutions of a democratic society, it was vowed that such
grasping corruption, such lack of respect for the inherent dignity of
individuals and such arrogation of power, would never again be allowed to
dominate Philippine society. In this new millennium, it has become clear
that much of what was sought to be prevented in the aftermath of the EDSA
Revolution, has returned.
We have seen the rise of death squads in our cities, from Luzon to Visayas
and Mindanao. Morally bankrupt LGUs are looking to summary execution as a
way to maintain what they call peace and order. Individuals with no
training are being provided with weapons, are being taught to kill, and
are being set loose on our people. Local officials are either complicit in
this or are condoning it. And the phenomenon is spreading from city to
neighboring city, as the myopic leadership in other places looks for a
quick fix and easy solutions, willing to trample the human rights of
people for the sake of political expediency and in order to score points
for the next election.
Proper law enforcement is hard. Proper policing is complicated and
difficult. But we did not elect our leaders in order for them to do what
is easy, but to do what is right. We elected them in order to bring honor
and integrity to our government, not corrupt and denigrate and abase our
democratic institutions. This smacks of sloth and laziness, an
unwillingness to face complex problems with equally complex solutions, and
more importantly a frightening disregard for the value of human life.
This phenomenon makes all of us unsafe, and we must continue to bring this
message and information to the population at large. When we reach the
point where petty criminals are regularly subjected to summary execution,
people had better pray that they or their loved ones are never suspected
or falsely accused of a crime. When we reach the point where it is
considered more convenient to merely liquidate drug pushers and drug
users, people had better hope that none of the friends of their children
are into drugs. When we reach the point where street children and homeless
persons are regularly murdered for the mere fact that they are
impoverished and considered an eyesore, then the value of life will have
become a mere joke in our society, and any person can be salvaged for any
And this is only one of the many types of violations that unravel before
are eyes. There is also the phenomenon of human rights advocates being
disappeared, sometimes for good, sometimes only to be later found as a
corpse, other times able to later resurface but with harrowing stories of
mental and physical torture, threats and isolation, and the sense that
death is only one capricious decision away.
Individuals and institutions, both at the national and international
level, have spoken of the dangers of the current counterinsurgency
program, where civilians are identified as targets, and where civil
society organizations with diverse constituencies and a wide range of
advocacies are labeled as fronts for armed groups. The use of Orders of
Battle to target these individuals and groups has been condemned. This
attempt to lump together civilians with combatants is a violation of a
fundamental principle of international humanitarian law, as found in the
The military cannot target civilians. It cannot carry out military
operations aimed at non-combatants. This is a standard which has been in
place for hundreds of years. It is as old as modern warfare and has been
codified in treaties and in the domestic laws of countries from all around
the world. For the Philippine military to do this is an outrage. It is
shameful. It cannot be allowed and it must be condemned, as it has been.
We have seen how political leaders, members of opposition groups, media
practitioners, lawyers and other individuals and institutions, from all
walks of life, have all been swept up in this net. It is clear that there
is an attempt to instill fear in those who would criticize the government,
and those who would speak out for the oppressed and the abused, the
marginalized and the ignored.
Only recently we had an American, one affiliated with one of the civil
society organizations, caught in the crosshairs of government security
forces. She and her companions were abducted, isolated, and subjected to
mental and physical torture over several days. She was led to believe that
she would not come out of that experience alive. She was subsequently
released. Her American citizenship may very well have had something to do
with this outcome. She has accused the government and its security
apparatus of carrying out the abduction and torture. We have seen the
The government has claimed that the abduction was a fabrication or stage
managed. The government also claims however that if at all an abduction
did take place, it was not carried out by them, but by the New People's
Army (NPA). So which is it? Was the abduction fabricated or was it real
but carried out by a rebel group? These inconsistent answers can only lead
to more questions.
Military officials have also come out stating that she is a rebel, a
member of the NPA. They offer video and images as proof of their
Now, I respect their human right to freedom of opinion and expression. We
are the Commission on Human Rights, an independent office, and our
mandated independence means that we stand ready to listen to all sides,
that of the government as well as civil society. And we stand ready to
advocate for the human rights of all sides and of all people as well.
However, let me be crystal clear. Torture is absolutely prohibited and is
absolutely unacceptable. The prohibition of torture is a jus cogens norm,
or a norm of the highest character under international law, which all
states and all governments must obey. Furthermore, international treaties
to which the Philippines is a party, as well as the domestic laws of
countries from all around the world, make torture illegal.
It is prohibited everywhere and every time and with respect to every
person. This is so because torture is one of the most foul abasements of
the human person and human dignity that there is. Subjecting a fellow
human being to the mental and physical agony of torture has no place in
any civilized society. It is immoral in itself, without regard to whom it
is inflicted to, and it is wrong.
And yet military propagandists are implying that when a person is a member
of a rebel group, or a member of the NPA, then torture is acceptable. They
point to her alleged membership in an armed group as if to say that this
means that she has no right to be free from torture. Such is the value of
human life and the dignity of human beings in the eyes of some of our
leaders. Human life is cheap. The integrity of the human mind and body are
mere items to be discarded when they are inconvenient.
It is no wonder then that human rights violations are prevalent in our
society today. When even government leaders appear to condone or defend
acts of torture, then security officers and shadow groups may very well
feel free to commit these atrocities with impunity.
This is why the work of human rights defenders like Karapatan is so
important. In a society where the value of life has become cheapened,
where the dignity of human beings is regularly ignored, and where
frightening human rights abuses are becoming commonplace, you and your
institution act as a bulwark against the spreading darkness.
Your institution is especially important because when the rights of an
individual or a group of persons are violated, many of them turn to you,
because you have their trust. In your suffering, they see their own. In
your experiences of repression and harassment, they see their own
experiences. What your institution and your members have gone through,
mirrors what they themselves went through. You possess a credibility, a
sincerity and accessibility which people seek out and to which they
respond. More importantly, you bear such an incredible potential to
disseminate the truth, even to the many who have never suffered injustices
that you have suffered. Your role in Philippine society is therefore key.
The effort to protect and promote human rights in the Philippines is
difficult and complex. There are many vested interests arrayed against
such an effort, interests who benefit from the current level of violence
and their ability to get away with wrongdoing. There are individuals in
power who would like to see this effort fail, so that they may better
perpetuate themselves in power. There are also institutional and systemic
issues which must be overcome, and most importantly there are many hearts
and minds which must be won.
We are only at the very beginning of a long road, whose end we cannot yet
begin to see. And as we walk down this road, as we work to ensure respect
for human rights in the Philippines, it is best if we do not walk this
path alone. The Commission seeks to better coordinate and collaborate with
other human rights groups as well as other like minded organizations in
the country. We seek to be part of a broad alliance of individuals and
institutions, with different backgrounds and different advocacies, but
united in the desire to make human rights protections real in our society.
Let us, the Commission and Karapatan, further engage with one another,
further coordinate our planning, and further collaborate on our human
rights initiatives and programs, projects and missions. We hope that over
time, a sense of trust will be developed, and the Commission seeks to do
this by carrying out its mandate in an independent manner.
Now we do not expect that the Commission and non-government organizations
such as Karapatan will always agree. In fact, that is not what we want. We
bring different mandates, different approaches and different points of
view to issues of human rights in our country. It is therefore
understandable that we will at times differ, but that disagreement is good
and helpful because we will learn from one another, from each other's
experiences and expertise. We look forward to your comments and even
criticisms of the Commission. What we ask is only that said criticisms be
constructive and fair.
We at the Commission seek to build trust between our two institutions by
carrying out our Constitutionally entrenched mandate with independence and
impartiality. We have carried out investigations, visits to detention
facilities, and public inquiries in order to shed light and compel further
action on violations of human rights. Some of the specific issues we have
been working on include an investigation into the phenomenon of death
squads in Davao, the abduction and killing of Rebelyn Pitao, as well as
allegations of abduction and torture in the case of Ms. Melissa Roxas.
Except for the Rebelyn Pitao case where there has been no breakthrough so
far, some progress has been made in relation to the two other cases, but
as a result of this progress, individuals have begun to push back.
We have seen how black propaganda has been hurled against the Commission
as an institution, and against me as an individual and as its Chairperson.
In Davao, I have been accused of the unauthorized spiriting away of a
detainee from his detention facility. A case has been filed against me for
this, as well as another case for indirect contempt, which was filed by
the person on whose property human bones were found, by the PNP special
In Manila, I have been accused by party list lawmakers of bias. They have
pointed to my family ties as evidence of this. A military officer has
branded me as “cunning and deceiving.” I have been threatened with
This type of response is something that I know you are very familiar with.
Your institution and your members have been subjected to this type of
black propaganda and baseless legal action, and worse.
In the end, it appears that to take a position on the Left, the Right, at
the Center, or even as an independent body which, in theory, rests at no
perceptible end of the political spectrum, results in relentless
accusations of self-interest.
What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, would have otherwise been the
basis for any generic democracy – the freedom of any political stratum to
express its own interests and opinion, to obtain redress, reform and
harmony. Yet, what we have has become an abomination, a power play, where
instead of balancing differing expressed interests, based on trust and in
the good faith of other distinct segments of society, we have distrust.
Heretofore, should we all continue down the same path in the same manner,
nothing from government will seem constructive to civil society, and
nothing from civil society will seem constructive to the government.
And what of everyone else found in the middle of the spectrum?
The real and continuing battle for human rights, as I have mentioned
earlier, includes winning many hearts and many minds. Just as a government
that speaks in disconcert, or engages in double-speak, wins no trust,
civil society that appears unreasonable and wholly bent on disparaging
absolutely every effort of the government, wins no trust as well, or at
least the trust of a wider range in the political spectrum. The effort to
bring as many segments of society together must center on a cause that is
neither Left nor Right. Human rights have no political leaning, serve no
particular master. We must persuade everyone from the Left, Right and all
those in between, that the human rights situation in the Philippines
becomes unacceptable just on one occasion of condoned torture or abduction
or extralegal killing. And we all must do this, careful not to impose,
though we may express, our own biases, save for our bias for human rights
protection. After all, human rights have no bias.
The CHR, I must warn you, loses every ounce of its effectiveness, loses
the strength of its mandate, when it is characterized as leaning either
way. If not for the integrity of the Commission, allegations of bias would
erode our very purpose.
It is our Constitutional mandate to oversee the far Right's compliance
with human rights standards. On one hand, when we criticize the
government, we do not side with the Left, but side with the Constitution
and the constitionaly enshrined precepts of social justice and human
rights. On the other hand, while it is not our mandate to oversee civil
society's compliance on anything, should we disagree with the civil
society, it does not mean we side with the Right.
It has become increasingly difficult to put up a polite face when more and
more government officials allege bias. If I ever seem a firebrand, an
instigator, I instigate only for the cause of the Constitution and human
rights. If I do not appear stoic, it is because evasiveness, excuses and
uncooperative behavior do not speak well for a government that openly
declares its promotion of human rights. If I should be stoic, then it
should be government officials who should be less than stoic, nay, shocked
that violations of human rights are rife in spite of every declared effort
to protect the same and they must exert every frenetic effort to get to
the bottom of it.
Thankfully, these allegations that the CHR is leftist or biased are as old
as the Commission itself and are nothing new, nothing the we had not dealt
with before and are nothing but allegations. Moreover, these allegations
represent a dying vestige of old guard thinking, a hallmark of a long gone
dictatorship that was suspicious of human rights. Unfortunately, there
remain many from the old days, who sit in government in the present day
2009, many who have reaped the changes sown after 1986, yet still think
and talk in obsolete tongues, as if we are still in 1972, where hysterical
attributions that Communists were responsible for everything wrong were
Our challenge, thus, is to usher in, to foster a society that thinks
differently from suspicious old guards, a generation of children born to
parents of the matial law years, and the children that came thereafter,
who benefitted from the social transformation of our country. We need not
only civil society, but an broad base of society that leaps to its feet to
clamor for solutions to human rights violations. We need a broad base of
society that is outraged by the disregard of human rights, regardless of
the political affiliations of the victims. Finally, we need a broad base
of society that is aware of the truth, and finds the truth revoting.
Our challenge today is to instill in them the values upon which we had
built our society post-1986, and to bring in more from every segment of
the political spectrum into the fold of these values. And among these
values, one of the most precious, is our human rights.
We at the Commission will continue to pursue the protection and promotion
of human rights, even as individuals and interests push back on our
efforts, and attempt to derail the work that we do. As more and more
resistance is put up, and as more and more offensive action is taken
against the Commission and against my person, we will take these as a sign
of the growing realization that the Commission is committed to carrying
out its work, with independence and impartiality, with fairness and a
sense of urgency.
It is our hope that you will see in the work that we do, and the
harassment to which the Commission is subjected, that the human rights
defenders of Karapatan are not alone, in your efforts and your struggle.
The forces lined up against us appear to be formidable, with their wealth
and authority, their power and their weaponry, but it is my firm belief
that these forces will fall in the face of a human rights movement,
diverse in its make up, composed of people from different backgrounds and
with different opinions, but united in the belief that the government must
carry out its obligations under national and international human rights
Already the foundation on which these vested interests stand is beginning
to show cracks. Informants and witnesses are surfacing. Human bones and
remains are being found. Testimonies are being offered at national and
international hearings. And the face saving statements and empty
assurances being made regarding the Philippines can no longer conceal the
fact that violations are taking place, and that instances of torture,
abduction and extrajudicial killing are real.
Progress is being made and we at the Commission hope to build on this
progress, allied with like minded individuals in government, the academe,
the international community, and civil society, especially
non-governmental organizations like yours.
In the end, we all seek a future where the inherent dignity of all persons
is recognized, where the human rights of all individuals are respected,
and where human rights defenders will no longer be confronted with threats
and harassment, injury and death, as they carry out their mission of
standing up for the oppressed and the marginalized. We all seek to pave
the way to a society where all our children will live safer, where all our
children will live free from fear and want, from abuse and oppression, and
with the freedom to live their lives and to thrive.
The Commission deeply honors the work of Karapatan, thank you for this
opportunity to address the membership, and looks forward to working
further with you in our continuing quest to seek justice, call for
accountability and protect our cherished human rights.
Maraming salamat po!
keynote speech in Word format