De Lima to Filipinos: We need to push back more in upholding human rights

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has joined the world in celebrating Human Rights Day today (Dec. 10), which marks the 72nd year of the milestone document, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), that has set the universality of people’s rights regardless of race, beliefs and status in life.

De Lima, a known human rights defender here and abroad, said Filipinos must come together to promote and protect people’s common rights and freedoms, especially now that the President has been using the crisis to malign critics and harass human rights advocates, among others.

“This year’s theme ‘Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights’ calls upon us all in this time of pandemic to amplify our voices and push back more in upholding human rights, especially of those who have become more vulnerable to poverty, abuses, inequality and discrimination,” she said.

“In the Philippines, while many world leaders have been doing their utmost to address the spread of COVID-19, President Rodrigo Duterte has only taken advantage of the crisis to satisfy his bloodlust, silence dissent, and pin down critics, truth seekers and human rights advocates.

Born from the havoc of the Great Depression, World War II and the Holocaust, the UDHR was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly as “a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to be promoted by education, and, more optimistically, by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance.”

It is celebrated annually on Dec. 10.

In the Philippines, De Lima stressed that having the longest lockdown in the world resulted to the further shrinking of civic spaces and continuous erosion of human rights, freedoms and democracy.

“More killings have been recorded; the filing of trumped-up cases against dissenters have become the norm; an anti- terrorism law was enacted that removed safeguards against warrantless arrests; the largest broadcasting company was shut down; and the arrest and guilty verdict against journalist Maria Ressa was orchestrated,” she said.

“In a span of several months, we have also witnessed that there is no limit to the cruelty and heartlessness of this regime as it deprived a detainee mother of peacefully mourning and burying her three-month old daughter, and months later, arresting another mother who had just given birth based on dubious grounds, while perpetuating the killings of activists, priests, lawyers and human rights defenders,” she added.

While fighting for human rights is more challenging now with leaders like Duterte who has no qualms in his contempt for human lives and dignity, De Lima maintained that there are glimpses of light in the battle to overcome this dark chapter of history.

“Now, more and more Filipinos here and abroad, and people of goodwill across the world have become enlightened in bringing back democracy and seeking justice for victims of abuses,” she said.

“They refuse to be deceived and are making public officials accountable. This is why I remain confident that the day of reckoning will soon come. The evils of society will eventually fall and humanity will triumph,” she added.

This 18th Congress, De Lima has reintroduced the Human Rights Defenders Bill, logged as Senate Bill No. 179, seeking to promote and protect the rights of human rights defenders and ensure that they receive enough support from the government to allow them to fulfill their duty without the fear of being harassed. (30)

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