On the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, rights lawyers from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) indict the B. S. Aquino administration not only for the continuing impunity for various human rights violations but also for his nonchalant attitude and disinterested callousness amidst injustice for the victims.
The figures speak for themselves. Extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture, illegal arrests, violent demolitions and dispersals, labelling, political persecution continue. With outstanding hypocrisy, it kisses up to the example of Myanmar and joins the multitude of deserved praises for the paragon of freedom fighters Nelson Mandela yet keeps in jail hundreds of political prisoners, many on trumped-up charges and a number of them more seriously ailing than his former mentor Gloria Arroyo.
And what does this administration have to show for its human rights record? A Marcos compensation law that is awaiting all its beneficiaries to die first, a notorious fugitive general that is swaggering around for years, promotions of generals facing credible and serious charges of rights violations, legal fictions & tricks to bring trumped-up charges against activists, lucrative bounty lists that prey on the clueless, a plethora of task-force-this and task-force -that which have yet to deliver, a rights commission that is deafeningly silent if not conspicuously absent when needed most, a sprinkling of pro-human rights legislation that remain useless on the ground, legal remedies that are corrupted by those who should be liable, repressive laws and jurisprudence some dating back to the dictatorship, lack of priority to concretely expedite human rights complaints and give justice to the victims -exacerbated by institutional weaknesses of a tedious, cumbersome & widely-perceived corrupt and double-standard anti-poor justice system that not only grinds slow but grinds those who persist to seek redress-subservient arrangements for dubiously benevolent US troops mocking our sovereignty, a deceptive counterinsurgency program that wreaks havoc to civilians, the criminally inept and grossly negligent if not shameless partisan handling of killer disasters, ad nauseum.
On top of these, it has stuck to its guns in justifying the corrupt and patronage politics of the pork barrel system and looked the other way when legal machinations are employed in so-called land reform programs and in institutionalized labor contractualization. The basic social needs of education, housing and health continue to be compromised for greedy privatization and unbridled liberalization.
Despite its inimitable claim of being a signatory to most of the major international human rights instruments and even a drafter of the UDHR, this government has nothing to be proud of today when it comes to human rights. Nothing at all.
But in the end, for as long as the social, economic and political conditions that breed human rights violations exist, the long arduous struggle for justice will be taken up by the victims, the persecuted and by the human rights defenders who will never tire striving to make a difference in the people’s lives. For ultimately, as history has time and again proven, victory will be theirs. If not today, then in the international human rights day of their own time. #
Edre U. Olalia
NUPL Secretary General
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL)
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Central District, Quezon City, Philippines
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