Monday, November 16, 2009
I was out for a while to attend the community-based dialogue sessions on human rights promotion and protection between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), and civil society organizations (CSO) and local community held at Ponte Fino Hotel in Batangas City last November 10 - 11, 2009. The event organizers are people from Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. Foundation, Inc. and the Alternative Legal Group or ALG headed by Atty. Marlon J. Manuel. Around 100 participants from the provinces of Region-IV attended the dialogue.
As a result of the alarming rise in unresolved cases of alleged extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the recent years, the Philippines got the attention of the international community and the government was prompted to initiate concrete actions to address the situation. On February 2007, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, visited the country to conduct and inquiry into the killings, and, thereafter, submitted his report and recommendations to the UN. The Supreme Court hosted the National Consultative Summit on Extralegal Killings which was attended by 400 participants from government and non-government institutions. During the early part of 2007, the AFP activated the AFP Human Rights Office (AFP HRO) and in June of the same year, the PNP created the PNP-HRAO under the office of the chief PNP.
The activity I mentioned a while ago is part and parcel of the project which aim to focus on creating venues, through a series of dialogue between AFP and PNP and CSO and local communities towards human rights protection and promotion, where the citizens to monitor the performance of said law enforcers against their avowed human rights promotion objectives. Top brigade and battalion officers of the Philippine Army were there as well as respective provincial PNP directors and their officers from all over the region were present. The IP, farmer and fisher folk leaders including leaders from the religious sector were in attendance.
We devote our first day to what we call preparatory caucus where related problems were initially put into the open including issues and gaps in relation to HR promotion and protection. The second day of the activity was the dialogue session proper. The forum provided a venue to discuss and share information about the efforts of the participating agencies and institutions in said areas of human rights.
It’s a fresh experience for me discussing human rights issues and concerns in front of high military and police officers. Our facilitator did a great job of setting principles before the workshop by emphasizing our rights, responsibilities and skills during the activity proper. Indeed, for true dialogue to occur it needs to take place within a protective environment of mutually accepted rights and responsibilities, rooted in two fundamental values: respect for the human person and trust in the process of dialogue. Dialogue works best when the participants are willing to develop certain skills that facilitate the process. And we kept that in mind during our workshops.
As a Church worker, I was exposed to various dialogues in Occidental Mindoro between sectors of society. In one of his writings, Fr. Charles Morerod, OP, a dialogue expert, said that one basic rule is to pre-suppose the other point of view – even when it seems simply stupid – might sense. Of course one must also be convinced that his own point of view makes sense, otherwise he should change it.
My personal reflection on the recently-concluded dialogue on human rights protection and promotion,- which I was so blessed and lucky to be part of it, is a little something like this : Dialogue is not simply a way to mutual knowledge. For me as a Church worker, dialogue is imperative in every social involvement.
What is needed is clarity for everything said must be intelligible. To magnify my point I want to share you this. Pertaining to a topic in one of my posts, an anonymous commenter posted, “Be factual.” without elaborating what she/he mean by that. I tried my very best but I cannot comprehend her/his comment, really. During my college days, you cannot go away with those “abstract” words without me throwing back arrogant remarks on you. But now, everything has changed. Now that I know that a true dialogue is accompanied by Christian meekness even in disclosing evil ways. Only two decades ago did I realize that a dialogue marked by arrogance, the use of foul, subjective words or offensive bitterness is such a disgrace. Also in a true dialogue, we must all be brave and fair to introduce our self or disclose our identity to the person whom we criticize or when we shoot his message or the ideas sponsored by him.
How could one develop confidence (which is one of the basic characteristics of a true dialogue) if the other party hide his true self? By the way, confidence can be mirrored not only in the power of one’s word, but in the goodwill of one party.
A true dialogue promotes intimacy and friendship on both sides. The dialogue I have attended last week in Batangas brought a giant footprint of unity in our mutual adherence to human rights. At least to us, participants.
Suffice to say that a dialogue is an apostolate and in some way, making spiritual contact…
(Photo : From AVSJ-SSC File; Dialogue between Mangyan Leaders and the Philippine Army (PA))