The first year of President Aquino in office for many is quite a disappointment as it falls short of the expectation to improve people’s welfare and the human rights situation in the country. The people’s welfare and human rights are obviously not part of the new government’s top priorities in the past 12 months.
How P Noy fared during his first year mirrors that of the real state of the nation. While I recognize that the new administration has just inherited from its predecessor the heavy burden of a huge budget deficit, but after a year in office, change appears far from reality.
As the economy is slowly declining, joblessness remains high, and poverty continues to deepen, President Aquino seems to avoid facing the critical issue of land reform and agricultural modernization. These are fundamental reforms which the basic sector, the small farmers in particular, have been demanding from every sitting president. Instead, he is prioritizing mining — just like his predecessor did – which is not only said to be destructive to the environment but also infringes the basic human rights of the indigenous communities inhabiting the areas near the mining sites.
While the Filipino people’s living condition did not only change, those who are asserting their rights are also continuously being violated. Anti- mining groups claimed that anyone who opposes mining companies is quite likely to end up missing or dead. It is seen as a pattern that whenever there is mining operation, there would be extensive military deployment and escalation of human rights violations in the mining affected areas. It is like silencing a dog by poking it with sharp end of the stick.
Human rights violations continue to happen with impunity under the Pnoy administration. While efforts to improve and professionalize the investigation and prosecutorial system are said to be underway, police investigations remain fraught with delays and impediments. Until now, no single perpetrator is yet to be held accountable for human rights violations, and the government has done little to discipline the erring members of its security forces.
The Oplan Bayanihan which adopted a paradigm shift by the military from the combat-focused approach it used in the past to a human security or “people-centered” approach aims at least in paper to give greater attention to the needs of the citizens and the effects of military operations in the communities instead of pursuing armed rebels. But the continuing military presence and abuses on the ground in many provinces make it quite difficult to ascertain when Oplan Bantay Laya ends and Oplan Bayanihan begins. One can only think that this new security plan is no different from the other, except perhaps for a different name.
I believe that the promised change of daang matuwid (straight path) of the Aquino administration can’t be achieved without the guarantee of respect to human rights and dignity and ending impunity.
It is about time for President Aquino to walk the talk.
The straight path where he envisions of leading the nation should be a road that guarantees human rights for all.
But if it is a path where there are people who are only extra-legally killed or forcibly disappeared, subjugated by repressive laws, mired by poverty and ignorance, it will surely lead the nation to nowhere but doom.
- [Press Release] Labor and Human Rights NGO launches book on the Impact of extra-judicial killings on families of victims – CTUHR (hronlineph.wordpress.com)
- [Press Release] Church and workers unity a ‘positive step’ amidst grim labor conditions – CTUHR (hronlineph.wordpress.com)