[Reflection] What should be in PNoy’s Bucket List?


Happy 2015 to everyone!

I believe this New Year gives all of us a resurgence of hope and energy towards the possibility for change.

As a tradition, some people used to make a New Year’s resolution to make a promise to do an act of self-improvement or something significant for the new year.

I am not really into making New Year’s Resolution. The closest I get is just to come up with a to-do list everyday. Not that I don’t live my days before by fulfilling my personal goals and plans, and that I was just caught up in a flurry of day-to-day activities. However, as my work and personal interest involve advocating for human rights, I feel the need to commit myself more to blog about human rights this year.

That’s why I have prepared a bucket list not for myself but to the Philippine government to remind them how important human rights issues are that need to be immediately addressed.
Here are the 10 wishes in my Bucket List on Human Rights for President Benigno Aquino III (PNoy) to act this year 2015:

1. PNoy must make human rights his top priority by not only making a clear political statement but most importantly by making human rights as an indicator of its development agenda.
2. Pnoy must finally adopt the National Human Rights Action Plan to guide his administration in compliance to its international human rights obligations.
3. PNoy must ensure that all human rights legislations particularly RA 9745 or the Anti-Torture Law of 2009 must be fully and seriously implemented to ensure accountability and ending impunity.
4. PNoy must recognize and guarantee the rights of victims of human rights violations for redress, justice and reparation including rehabilitation by instituting comprehensive programs and services.
5. PNoy should impose a moratorium on mining to avert its ill-effects on the environment and health and livelihood of the affected communities.
6. PNoy must stop the increase price of basic commodities and public services like MRT-LRT fare, water and electricity.
7. PNoy must ensure public health care is focused on providing the best service to people especially to marginalized sectors and not on making money through privatization.
8. PNoy must ensure that the rights of Filipino workers for decent work here and abroad are respected and guaranteed by providing them protection and assistance.
9. PNoy must translate into policies and protection measures the Philippines affirmative vote to a UN Human Rights Council resolution on discrimination and hate crimes against LGBT persons.
10. PNoy must improve the welfare and condition of teachers who are receiving the lowest salaries among the ranks of professionals and are often exploited through long working hours and over-sized classes, and deprived of benefits, even those that are mandated by law.

There are certainly a lot more to consider and the bucket list can be bottomless. But by acting on these issues, PNoy can make a significant bend in the road towards making human rights a reality in the country.

my bucket lsit

Photo file courtesy of www.thecedarsoftownandcountry.com

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[Reflection] MAKING HUMAN RIGHTS MORE THAN A VIRTUAL REALITY By Darwin Mendiola


Five days ago, we commemorated the International Human Rights Day. By just remembering the day was a reason enough to celebrate, but it also gave us something to think about.
In recent years, we have all witnessed  the transforming power of the internet in advancing human rights issues. It does not only become an avenue for freedom of expression and opinion. But it also provides a space for ordinary people to speak up and claim for their rights.
 
It gives the workers a place to show their plight from the brunt of unfair labor practices and job insecurity here and abroad. It gives a voice to the cry of farmers for genuine agrarian reforms. It exposes the detrimental ecological effect of mining on land and water resources and its induced massive displacement of farming communities.  It affords the women’s right of choice and access to reproductive health. It provides attention to the right for sexual orientation and gender identity against any forms of discrimination. It makes us more aware of the rights of children even those who are in conflict with the law. It condemns at the highest level the act of torture, enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings. It reproves inhumane and violent demolition of informal settlers. It provides a forum to demand for a guarantee of standard of living with adequate social services free from corporate greed.
 
HRONLINEPH.com was born out of this necessity.
 
While internet rights are already considered basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, yet they are increasingly at risk. Not only for the fact that people anywhere and everywhere who speak up against any forms of abuses, injustices and violence are often placed in danger.  Access to internet in some part of the globe remains censored or banned. Even in democratic countries like the Philippines, there are already attempts to infringe the right to privacy in communications that consequently threaten the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression and opinion. The recent ruling of the Philippine Supreme Court upholding the decision to prevent two students of St. Theresa’s College in Cebu from graduating because of the sexy photos posted in their facebook account, creates that chilling effect.
 
While we do recognize that with every right, there is a corresponding responsibility, Though freedom requires self regulation, we must intelligently use the internet and technology to continuously inform, inspire and mobilize people to effect real change.
 
We must bear in mind that human rights are our birth right. The rights we have offline are the same rights we must have online.
 
Let us all work together to make human rights a reality.
internet right
Photo courtesy of www.slideshare.net

[Reflection] Ten Facts that People should know about LGBTQ and Hate Crime in the Philippines


By Darwin Mendiola

The recent murder of a 26 year old Filipino transgender woman named Jennifer Laude by a U.S. Marine once again ignited public protest and renewed a call for wider recognition and better protection of the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans-genders and queers in the Philippines.

As a human rights advocate, I firmly stand on the spirit and letter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that recognizes that (Article 1) “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and  that (Article 2) “everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms without discrimination.”

I wrote this article not to get into the nitty-gritty of the case but to simply share these important facts about LGBTQ and Hate Crime for the information of everyone.

This is a product of online research and not solely of my opinion.

But I strongly believe that sharing these Ten Facts that People should know about LGBTQ and Hate Crime can contribute to further promote and protect human rights.

#1 According to 2011 study of the United Nations, LGBTQ people are becoming increasingly vulnerable to crimes because of their sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).

This first ever United Nations report on the human rights of LGBTQ people provides details on how around the world people are continuously being discriminated and have endured hate-motivated violence, because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The report identifies homophobia, biphobia and transphobia as the major motivations for hate crimes against LGBT people.

Reference: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/19session/A.HRC.19.41_English.pdf

#2 Still, 76 plus countries around the world considered homosexuality illegal.

According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), there are at least 99 people around the world who are currently in prison for allegedly violating laws that punish those who are born gay, lesbian or bisexual. While at least 148 other people are awaiting trial on charges related to homosexuality.

Reference: http://76crimes.com/76-countries-where-homosexuality-is-illegal/

#3 As a response to this alarming global gender situation, the United Nations Human Rights Council has passed this year a landmark resolution condemning violence and discrimination against LGBTQ people.

The resolution states that the world needs to take a fundamental step forward by reaffirming one of the Human Rights’ key principles – that is everyone is equal in dignity and rights. It encourages all UN states-members to take necessary legal, legislative and judicial measures to address human rights violations against LGBTQ.

Reference: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2014/09/26/un-human-rights-council-passes-landmark-lgbt-rights-resolution/

#4 Even the Catholic Church is now considering reviewing its conservative stance on homosexuality as Pope Francis called on the Church to welcome gays and lesbians in the community, who “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.”

Pope Francis reiterated this call on the Church during the Catholic Synod or the meeting of All Bishops to tackle a number of controversial issues facing the Catholic Church, including how to respond to changing families and how to better communicate Catholic doctrine. Pope Francis’s famous “Who am I to judge?” position has made him the “Man of the Year 2014” for LGBTQ.

Reference:  http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-29677779

#5 The United States of America is one of the countries that recognizes and addresses the issue of Hate Crimes.

President Barack Obama signed in 2009 the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expands the existing United States federal hate crime law to gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. In fact, the first hate crime laws in the United States were passed after the American Civil War, beginning with the Civil Rights Act of 1871, to combat the growing number of racially motivated crimes.

Reference: http://www.bilerico.com/2009/10/obama_signs_matthew_shepardjames_byrd_hate_crimes.php

#6 In the Philippines, a study backed by the UN has found that LGBTQ people have become more accepted in the Philippines.

The Filipino public seems to take a rather an open and tolerable view of the gay community, at least judging from popular media and the widespread use of gay lingo. But according to Ladlad, one of the LGBTQ groups in the Philippines. discrimination against LGBTQ still persists and they are becoming increasingly vulnerable to hate crimes. The UN study found hate crimes remained a big threat among the LGBTQ community in the Philippines. It cited that there were at least 28 LGBT people reportedly killed in the first half of 2011.

Reference: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2014/05/12/un-study-finds-gays-increasingly-accepted-in-phillipines-but-hate-crimes-remain-a-threat

#7 The Commission on Human Rights performs a function of a Gender Ombud.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) announced in 2013 that the Commission will look into cases of hate crimes against Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transgenders (LGBTs) across the country which hopefully lead to a better prosecution and investigation of hate crimes.

Reference: http://www.rappler.com/nation/35553-chr-document-hate-crimes-lgbts

#8 Hate Crime is not yet a distinct crime in the Philippines.

LGBTQ groups claimed that violence against LGBTQ people is not treated as a hate crime. There is no specific mechanism that helps identify hate crime victims or makes use of the sexual orientation and gender identity of the person as the aggravating circumstance for the commission of the crime. It is not even investigated as such and just merely considered as a common crime against any person and/ or property. LGBTQ groups lament the absence of an anti-Hate Crime law in the Philippines. The fact that there are no basic figures and statistics on Hate Crimes shows that the government has not considered as such in past years.

References: https://ph.news.yahoo.com/blogs/the-inbox/lgbt-hate-crimes-rise-024938543.html

#9 Just recently, Sen. Bam Aquino filed the Senate Bill No. 2122 or the Anti-Discrimination Act of 2014, which seeks to combat discrimination of any forms. The bill seeks to prohibit and penalize discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion or belief, gender, sexual orientation, civil status, HIV status and other medical condition, among others. Among the acts that will be prohibited are inflicting stigma; denial of political civil, and cultural rights; denial of right to education such as refusal to admit or expulsion and imposition of sanctions or penalties; denial of right to work; denial of access to goods and services; denial of right to organize; inflicting hard on health and well-being; engaging in profiling; abuses by state and non-state actors; and detention and confinement. Under the bill, any act of discrimination shall be fined from P100,000 to P500,000 and an imprisonment of up to 12 years. A similar bill was filed by Rep. Teddy Casino of Bayan Muna, last June 26 which aimed to pioneer a House probe on the growing numbers of hate crimes in the country.

Reference: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/383705/news/nation/stiffer-penalties-for-hate-crimes-vs-lgbts-pushed-after-transgender-s-killing

#10 Quezon City, Philippines’ largest city has approved ordinance that bans anti-gay discrimination.

The ordinance is the first of its kind in the Philippines. It expands the 2003 City Resolution which only centered on discrimination of homosexuals in terms of employment.

The new city-wide ordinance makes it mandatory to educate employers and educators around the city on the rights of LGBTQ.

It prohibits and provides sanctions on any violations of LGBTQ’s rights on equal access to job opportunities, delivery of goods or services, insurance, and accommodation in Quezon City.

Under the new ordinance, establishments will be directed to designate a comfort room that can be used by all genders, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

Reference: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2014/10/02/philippines-quezon-city-passes-law-banning-anti-gay-discrimination/

While immediate focus should be on resolving the significant rise of alleged Hate Crime, much attention should also be given to any forms of discrimination against LGBTQ community.

Though, crime prevention is primary a government’s responsibility, prevention of any forms of discrimination is everyone’s business. It is about time for all of us to get out of the jury box with all our biases and prejudices. It must begin from us. For all we know recognition comes respect and respect begets responsibility which entails accountability.

No to hate crime Photo file courtesy of  www.rappler.com

[Reflection] Pagpupugay at Pasasalamat sa mga Bayani at Martir ng Batas Militar: A Review


Heroes are made not born.

They are those who let no obstacle prevent them from pursuing the values they have chosen. Some simply happened to find themselves at a crossroads, confronted with the turbulent events of their time but chose to take a path less traveled and even offering their own lives.

One needs not to be extraordinary to do heroic deed. Any Juan dela Cruz, Maria or Jose – workers, farmers, fisherfolks, students, professionals, church people, informal settlers or street hawkers can make a big difference.

But there are many of them who remain anonymous until now. They are the NAMELESS —whose deeds are not known to many. Remembering them may not be enough. But reliving their legacies in us is one way to honor them.

And this is what the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines together with the NAMELESS HEROES AND MARTYRS, INC. and the DAKILA Collectives admirably did when they paid tribute to the HEROES and MARTYRS of MARTIAL LAW on September 30, 2014 at the Aldaba Recital Hall, University of the Philippines-Diliman.

The event brought together Martial Law heroes and the new generation of human rights defenders to commemorate the 42nd Anniversary of the Declaration of Martial Law through a matinee of songs, dances and theatrical play under the brilliant direction of UP Prof. Apolonio Chua.

The songs of protest like Batingaw, Sangandaan, Patak ng Ulan at Huling Awit were once again resonated on the stage by Color It Red vocalist Cooky Chua and the progressive labour theater group, Teatro Pabrika to awaken in the audience the Filipino spirit of patriotism.

May Tibak At May Tibak and Buhay Na Inalay Sa Bayan from LEAN: The Musical which run deep into our Filipino consciousness and stir intense emotions of sensitivities were given new life through the creative dance performances of the Collective Arts of Students and Thespians (CAST) from University of Makati by efficaciously translating the sufferings and struggle of the Filipino people under Martial law into series of movement and dramatic expression.

But what makes the event different from the previous commemorations is that it set the stage for the Reader’s theatre where excerpts from selected literatures were read by character roles with no needs for costumes and props for the audience to relive the social upheavals of that time that gave rise to popular discontent and resistance.

Tutubi, Tutubi ‘Wag Kang Magpahuli sa Mamang Salbahe’ (Dragonfly, Dragonfly, Don’t Allow Yourself to Get Caught by a Bad Guy) by Palanca awardee Jun Cruz Reyes, gives a satirical account of the irrationality of the power structure and how a high school student’s curiosity has turned into a conviction of joining the underground movement.

The “Written to Myself During a Fit of Depression” by former political prisoner, Doris Baffrey, a letter she wrote for herself relating her traumatic experiences while languishing in jail for almost five years which left a thick scar or welt on her very existence in the same way that many survivors of martial-law were plagued by intense, recurring nightmares. Ms. Baffrey was implicated in the PICC bombing during the American Society of Travel Agents Convention in 1980.

A more vivid account of torture was best described in the poem, ‘TORTYUR- Sa mga Kuko ng Karimlan’ written by another Palanca awardee and political activist, Levy Balgos dela Cruz which shows how torture is being used as a form of punishment until it breaks the person’s will to live.

The agony of a wife who has to pretend as a cousin of her husband in order to claim his remains after he was summarily executed by the military is given a human face and heart in the play, ‘Buwan at Baril’ by Chris Millado.

The family memoir, ‘Subversive Lives’ by the Quimpos reminds us of the personal costs at best illuminates an on-going struggle mediated by familial experiences and the sacrifices of those who joined the movement.

We owe it to those who stood and fought against the dictator in order for freedom and democracy to live. Their sacrifices and love for country are the reasons why the “selfie” generation today have the freedom to click and post whatever they want in social media. But lest we forget that the responsibility to make the country freer, humane and just now rests on our shoulders.

Salute to the Unsung Heroes of Martial Law!
Kudos to the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines!
Never Again to Martial Law!

Pagpupugay sa mga Bayani ng Martial Law

[Reflection] Death Penalty is no laughing matter


Once a comedian, always a COMEDIAN.

Sen. Tito Sotto III once again was trying to be funny even he is not.

The good senator, who became the enemy number 1 of women’s group for taking a pro-life stance against the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) Law, is now pushing for the revival of the death penalty.

If before, he wanted to silence the netizens by inserting the libel provision in the highly contentious Anti- Cyber Crime Law, he now wants to silence suspected criminals for good.

In his privilege speech as Acting Senate Minority Leader last Tuesday, Sen. Sotto made a renewed call to the government to revive the death penalty in order to end illegal drug abuse. This was his mercurial response over the killing of actress Cherry Pie Picache’s mother which he believed is a wicked work of those who are no doubt under the influence of drugs.

In fact, he already filed a bill early this year to its effect which is now pending before the Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws as well as the Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

In order to make a point, he made use of the country’s tourism slogan as reference to describe the criminal situation in the country by mockingly saying that “Criminals have more fun in the Philippines.”

However, what Sen. Sotto didn’t seem to know or simply refuse to accept is that the devil is in the details.

The imposition of capital punishment is not a quick fix solution to the problem of the rising criminality. To legally kill a person as the ultimate form of punishment for killing someone is simply to continue the cycle of violence. Killing even if legal or judicial, is no justice at all.

In the country like the Philippines where the criminal justice system is far from ideal, the possibility that a wrongly convicted person could be put to death for a crime he did not commit is too high to risk. It is irreparable.

Even international criminal experts see no clear deterrent effect of death penalty against criminality and believe that the real keys in fighting crime are in the quality of law enforcement and the active cooperation of the community to the police, rather than making the penalty harsher.

What makes Sen. Sotto even funnier is his ignorance with the fact that when the Philippines abolished the death penalty in 1987 and 2006, it gained international recognition as the only country in Asia to do so and has become the champion of human rights in the region.

We do not live anymore in the days of Hammurabi where “eye for an eye” is a golden rule.

The death penalty is a senseless, barbaric form of state-aided revenge which has no place in a civilized society.

So why do we have to be uncivilized again, Mr. Senator? And that is no laughing matter.

Tito-Sotto

Courtesy of all-about-news.com

[Reflection] Five Reasons Why Marcos should not be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani


The commemoration of the 42nd anniversary of the Martial Law Declaration has once again revived the debate over whether former president Ferdinand Marcos should be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery).

Although, President Benigno Aquino III has made it clear that the late president would not be laid to rest at the national pantheon under his watch, Sen. Bongbong Marcos, the late president’s son still expressed optimism that PNoy would soon have a change of heart and would finally give his father a state burial.

For those who were lucky not to be born yet during the dictatorial regime of the late president might be puzzled on what this fuss is all about that is seemingly dividing the country once again.

Some who are fortunate to have lived to tell their stories of sufferings during Martial Law are firm in their stand to deny Marcos of a hero’s burial. Others who have had enough of political bickering are now calling for forgiveness and reconciliation in order for the country to move forward.

However, the controversy here lies not on the very act of burying the remains of the late president at the Libingan ng mga Bayani but whether to be or not to be considered a hero in the context of a possible state burial.

Let me just give you some logical thoughts on this issue. Here are the five reasons why Marcos should not be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani:

#1 Republic Act No. 289 provides the main reason for the national pantheon as provided in its Section 1 which states that, “to perpetuate the memory of all the Presidents of the Philippines, national heroes and patriots for the inspiration and emulation of this generation and of generation still unborn.”

In short, it is reserved for those whom the nation honors for their service to the country. Marcos as a former President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces is not automatically qualified for there is also a disqualification clause that says that any personnel who dishonorably separated/reverted/discharged from the service or who were convicted by final judgment of the offense involving moral turpitude will be unentitled to be interred in the national pantheon.

Considering this very intent of the law and given the historical facts of what had transpired during Martial Law and the way the late president and his first family were chased out of Malacanang and out of the country through People Power Revolution, Marcos would hardly consider a hero worth emulating and an inspiration to the Filipinos and to the next generation.

A hero’s burial for the former dictator is desecrating the memories of our Filipino Heroes.

Reference:

http://asianjournalusa.com/marcos-to-be-or-not-to-be-lnmb-p10455-168.htm

 

If this reason is not enough, we can go to the next one.

#2 Martial Law remains one of the darkest episodes in Philippine history. There were 3,257 victims of extra-judicial killings, 35,000 tortured, and 70,000 incarcerated under Marcos’ dictatorship.

In fact, Republic Act No. 10368 was recently passed by Philippine Congress as recognition for the heroism and sacrifices of all Filipinos who were victims of human rights violations under the Marcos regime.

Even long before that, 9,500 human rights victims who filed class suit against the Marcoses already won $2 billion in damages in a Honolulu court which were affirmed by a United States Circuit Court in Hawaii. in its 2011 ruling.

A hero’s burial for the former dictator is an insult to the thousands of martial law victims.

Reference:

http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/54a/062.html

 

If you are still unconvinced, let us then talk about the economy under the Marcos regime.

#3 The prosperity and progress under the Marcos regime is an illusion. In 1974, the poverty rate was 24%. By 1980 it was 40%. When Marcos assumed the presidency, the country’s foreign debt was US$1 billion. When Marcos fled to Hawaii, the country was heavily in debt with US$25 Billion. The bulk of these borrowed funds, according to sources had been stashed abroad.

Not only that the Marcoses and its associates were accused of plundering an estimated $10 billion from the Philippine coffers, “Imeldific” is now synonymous to extravagant displays of wealth, sometimes to the point of vulgarity because of her lavish shopping trips to New York City with a huge entourage, spending millions on jewelry, clothes, and shoes.

It in noted that as of now, the Presidential Commission on Good Government had recovered 164 billion pesos (about $4 billion) since its creation, including a 150-carat ruby and a diamond tiara, hundreds of millions of dollars hidden in Swiss bank accounts and prime real estate in New York City.

A hero’s burial for the former dictator is a slap in the face of the millions of Filipinos who have suffered in grinding poverty while still paying for the debts of the Marcoses.

Reference:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/03/world/asia/philippines-may-end-pursuit-of-marcos-wealth.html?_r=0

 

If that is still not sufficient enough, let’s see if you really know our history.

# 4 Having Marcos buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani would mean rewriting our history. This will require revision of all history textbooks to glorify Marcos and depict the Martial Law as a peaceful and prosperous period in Philippine history.

It is not only a waste of public money but it will make our historians look like a bunch of fools. Filipinos are known to have short memories and are the most forgiving of people – a character that will always allow thieves, liars, scalawags and rascals to take advantage, but it does not mean we should stay ignorant and be naïve in allowing our history to be rewritten by someone with some personal vested interests.

A hero’s burial for the former dictator is a shameless attempt to rewrite history.

Reference:

http://grantleishman.weebly.com/my-blog/rewriting-history

 

If you are still not convinced yet, you are either too slow to get it or you are just simply stupid to understand that this issue is merely a desperate attempt of the Marcoses to reclaim their old political power.

#5 Declaring Marcos as a hero, would serve well not only the personal but also the political interests of his family. It will definitely exonerate them from their past crimes.

Sen. Bongbong Marcos was quite open with his intention to run for President in 2016. He could very well project himself as THE SON OF A HERO as veteran journalist Ms. Raissa Robles described him in her blog.

That will also lift the burden to Mrs. Marcos from hiding her extravagance – taken from our own pocket of course and will still be entitled with a state pension as if she direly needed it. Not to mention that she is the second richest congressperson behind, only to boxing icon Rep. Manny Pacquiao.

A hero’s burial for the former dictator is a mockery to the intelligence of the Filipino electorate.

Reference:

http://raissarobles.com/2011/04/13/why-the-marcoses-want-ferdinand-buried-a-hero/

 

I can still give more reasons why Marcos should not be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. But it will be a waste of my time if the one reading this post is not smart enough to grasp these five major points. I will just leave it to you, my readers, to make your own choice. But just remember what Edmund Burke once said,

“Those who ignore history are bound to repeat it.”

Marcos burial site in Batac

Courtesy of www.aljazeera.com