Friday, October 7, 2016

Retailing Human Rights

There is a prevailing Filipino culture called tingi or retail and this is due to our financial incapacity to buy items or products by wholesale. Majority of the consumers can only afford to buy small packs of basic items for our daily needs from toothpaste to charcoal. This is how the masses survive the day.

Well, generally the term ‘human rights’ means  a broad spectrum of rights ranging from right to life to the right to a cultural identity. They are basic pre-conditions for a dignified human existence. In a nutshell, there is the civil and political rights on one hand, and economic, social and cultural rights on the other. Allow me to stop at this point for I do not intend here to give you a course on human rights or HR. I’ll just allow you, my dear reader, to self-study the matter and besides, we Filipinos are yet to arrive on a national consensus on the categorisations and classification, concepts and principles and theory and praxis of HR. The keyboards are burning and the so-called internet warriors coming from different quarter debate over theories and practice of human rights in the country.

HR issues are reduced to swords or guillotines aimed at annihilating their critics or political rivals instead of being an instrument aimed at uplifting human dignity. In doing so, we end up valuing personalities than the sanctity of HR tenets and the inviolability and our basic rights as individuals and as peoples. This way of “enlightenment” on HR, HR is reduced to mere instruments of politicking and political stunts. Indeed, our hazy view of HR is manifested by our enduring, hotly contested arguments or disputes about it, especially when Rodrigo R. Duterte was voted to power by 16 million Filipinos last May.

It is apparent that with the explosion of the summary execution of drug suspects by agents of the government is a blatant violation of the victims’ constitutional rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights. The victims, as some of the HR groups claim, were not given due process therefore their civil and political rights were violated, thus the term extra-judicial killings or EJKs.

On the other hand, this administration’s adherence to economic, social and cultural rights is showing a commendable start. For instance, the decisive action of Agrarian Reform Sec. Rafael Mariano distributing thousand hectares of lands which was only partially covered during BS Aquino III’s previous administration. Another is DSWDs giving livelihood jobs and organizing of the Conditional Cash Transfer or the 4Ps beneficiaries into cooperatives as a more permanent measure to alleviate poverty than giving dole-outs like cash allocations made possible by DSWD Sec. Judy Taguiwalo, to cite just two. Though these are initiatives of the progressives in the Duterte cabinet, these praiseworthy actions can also be traced to the president.

Jerbert Briola, a friend of mine, forwarded me a PowerPoint presentation of political analyst Ramon Casiple apparently from a lecture rendered before group of HR advocates days after the inauguration of President Duterte. I will be going to share it to you later. Casiple, by the way, was our guest speaker in the national assembly of an HR network where I formerly belong. The event was held in Quezon City last August 25, 2011. One of Casiple’s slides sent to me by Jerbert reads: “The Duterte administration will have a mixed human rights record. His anti-crime and anti-drug campaign is spawning vigilantism and extra-judicial killings by the police.” On the other hand, he stressed, “His [the president’s] social reform agenda supports many human rights demands and advocacy.” True enough, approaching the100th day of his presidency, Duterte’s human rights record is a mixture of good and bad. More than ever, according to Casiple, it is now high time for the HR advocates to exercise vigilance, undertake popular education on human rights, and independently mobilize support based on specific HR issues therefore, revitalize the HR movement.

Whether they relate to civil, cultural, economic, political or social issues, human rights are inherent to the dignity of every human person. Consequently, all human rights have equal status, and cannot be positioned in a hierarchical order, like what the HR educators have taught. Denial of one right invariably impedes enjoyment of other rights. Thus, the right of everyone to due process cannot be compromised at the expense of the right to an adequate standard of living. 

When human right is retailed, the essence of human being is degraded wholesale…

(Photo: GMA Network)

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