Senate of the Philippines
21 February 2018
Warm greetings of solidarity, fellow advocates!
Today we are making a decisive stand for human rights.
Sa simula pa lamang po ng administrasyong Duterte, mahigit isang taon at kalahati na ngayon, ay nasaksihan na natin kung paano ininsulto at hinamak ang konsepto ng karapatang pantao. Nakapanliliit at nakagagalit din ang mga pagmumurang ibinato ng Presidente laban sa mga indibidwal at mga institusyong nagtataguyod sa karapatang pantao.
The obsessive attacks against these concepts and principles, led by no lesss than the President himself, have rendered us, human rights defenders, vulnerable and our work extremely difficult and dangerous.
What is worse – much, much more dangerous than the attack on individual rights defenders – is what this means for Filipinos – ang mga Juan at Juana dela Cruz, ang mga Kian Loyd delos Santos at Danica Garcia – and for the Filipino nation as a whole.
Pag inaatake ang mga tagapag-tanggol ng karapatang pantao, ang tunay na inaatake ay ang mga ordinaryong mamamayan – ang mga maralita, ang mga walang boses, ang mga palagiang inaapi at hindi pinapansing miyembro ng lipunan – sapagkat, sa puno’t dulo, sila ang tunay na ipinaglalaban ng mga human rights defenders. Kung tutuusin, it would probably be easy for human rights defenders – especially those who are in some position of power and influence – to keep silent and just let authoritarian rulers have their way, and to simply mind their own personal interests and well-being. But then, who would fight for those who are consistently bearing the brunt of government abuses? The vulnerable and marginalized, such as the poor, women, children, indigenous communities? The so-called “others”? Who will fight for democracy, truth and justice?
In truth, therefore, the attack against human rights defenders is a bid to turn sovereignty on its head – imbis na kapangyarihan ay nagmumula sa taumbayan, ang kapangyarihan ang siyang ginagamit laban sa taong bayan. It is a bid to give absolute power and dominion over the Filipino people to the powerful, rich and influential – those who don’t care whether the poor live or die, whether they earn a decent living or starve to death. It is a bid to silence the voices they refuse to listen to.
So, I find it very urgent that we come forward and claim our right, as human rights defenders, to be recognized and protected. Not for our own sake – because it would be easy to compromise our values for the sake of our own personal interests – but for the sake of our dignity as a people.
This is the reason why I am filing this important bill today and I also find it momentous that I am doing this a few days before we mark the first year of my unjust detention on the basis of trumped up drug charges of this government.
My case has been a prominent example of individuals persecuted, charged with criminal offense and incarcerated because we chose to speak out against blatant and systematic acts against human dignity. But I am certain and worried that there are many unreported incidents out there wherein unknown defenders have been imperilled given the atmosphere of impunity that this regime has perpetrated.
Sa pamamagitan po ng panukalang batas na ito ay ipaabot natin sa mga kinauukulan na tayong mga human rights defenders ay hindi mga subersibo at terorista, kung hindi mga ordinaryong mamamayang isinasapuso ang ating mga karapatan at handang ipaglaban ito kapag nakakasaksi ng mga paglabag maging sinuman ang biktima.
Governments are often annoyed, defensive and hostile towards interventions of advocates but that should not be the case. In fact, evidence-based output of our endeavours should be welcomed as significant contribution to State’s compliance with its duty to respect, protect and fulfil human rights obligations. This is akin to the significance of dissent to keep democracy alive and authentic.
So, what do we make of a government that not only detests human rights but made it a mission to obliterate it? Shouldn’t we be wary of a regime that rides on its popularity and the discontent of its people to demean human rights? Shouldn’t we be alarmed that thousands of lives are being sacrificed and human rights defenders are being persecuted and jailed to send a chilling effect and perfect a culture of submission among citizens?
Ngunit bilang mga human rights defenders, hindi po tyo pwedeng basta manahimik na lang habang lantarang inaatake ng gobyernong ito ang ating mga malayang institusyon, ang rule of law at ang ating demokrasya.
Let’s make this bill our sober but resolute and potent response.
Let us defend those who recognize and meet the true challenge of patriotism: that freedom comes with deep responsibilities, including the burden of fighting for the rights and freedoms of those who cannot fight for themselves.
Let us defend our rights to defend the rights of others.
Thank you. My office looks forward to a tighter partnership with you as we work towards the passage of this legislation.