[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] 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

[Document] Right to Rehabilitation


This Discussion Paper was made and published by REDRESS in 2009 with the purpose of clarifying the reasons why rehabilitation, despite beingexpressly incorporated in different international instruments such as CAT, the ICPPED and the Rome Statute, remains an elusive form of reparation. Certainly, and as is the case with many other rights/obligations under international law, problems of implementation and enforceability are partly the result of lack of political will of states.

                                                                                                                                                              – REDRESS

REDRESS is an international nongovernmental organization committed to obtaining justice for torture survivors. The objectives and working methods they used focus on assisting survivors to pursue and secure legal remedies and developing the means to ensure compliance with international standards, and in particular their right to reparation. REDRESS consider IT fundamental to advance the understanding of the meaning of rehabilitation given that it is a crucial reparation measure for torture survivors and their next of kin.

For more info, visit REDRESS website: http://www.redress.org/

redress_logo

The Right to Rehabilitation

[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

[Reflection] When money is not enough


A country in a democratic transition must come to terms with its past in order to move forward.

Addressing past atrocities and injustices is considered a crucial part of social healing and national reconciliation. Acknowledging the misdeeds especially human rights violations is one significant step towards guaranteeing the right of the victims for effective remedies.

However, remedial measures take various forms of reparation. One way is through compensation. This serves both as an acknowledgment of the human rights violations and the sanctioning of the state for allowing or for directly committing such violations.

After more than four decades, the Philippine government through the passage of Republic Act 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 finally recognizes “the heroism and sacrifices of all Filipinos who were victims” of human rights violations during martial law and “restore the victims’ honor and dignity.”

Compensation provides not only material but also symbolic political and social benefits. First, it helps bring immediate economic relief to victims and their families and allow them to meet the basic survival needs. Secondly, the monetary compensation may serve as a deterrent for future abuses by imposing financial sanctions for committing such violations.

Although harms or injuries resulting from human rights violations are often irreparable but compensation can help restore the victims’ dignity by knowing that their rights are recognized and the violations committed against them are being atoned.

But lest we forget that reparations are not primarily about money, but to publicly acknowledge the wrongdoings and to guarantee its non-repetition. It is a necessary component of the healing process as it signifies a concrete step on the part of the state to make amends and take full responsibility for the historical tragedies like Martial Law.

Compensation must therefore serve to continuously promote and protect human rights. For money can’t buy justice but it can help the victim to endlessly pursue it.

#neveragaintomartiallaw

irr of ra 10368

[Reflection] Torture Rehabilitation should be victim-centered


For human rights advocates, rehabilitation of torture victims is understood as both a right of the victims and a state obligation. It should play an important role in the broader agenda of achieving justice and respect for human rights.

It must be viewed holistically as it goes beyond physical and psychological care and extend to other types of services (legal, social and economic services, e.g. education, employment, housing, etc.), that enable the victims to restore life with dignity and return to life of normalcy.

However, rehabilitation is more than just responding to victims’ basic needs. It must respond to the real impact of violations in victims’ lives and at the same time, it should be given as sincere efforts on the part of the government to acknowledge the human rights violations and to provide concrete measure of justice to those whore rights have been violated.

The participation of the victims and their families in the designing and effective implementation of rehabilitation programs and services is therefore vital. This will ensure that torture rehabilitation is tailored to each victim’s needs and their particular situation while considering the effects of torture and other violations on families, communities and larger society.

Rehabilitation programs should promote individual, family and social healing, recovery and reintegration. This may include restoring cultural practices, traditions and exercising political beliefs without fear. Working only at the individual level is not enough. There is a need to consider rehabilitation beyond the individual level and to look at social dimension of rehabilitation.

In the Philippines, the passage of the RA 9745 or Anti-Torture Law on 2009 and the promulgation of the Comprehensive Rehabilitation Program in March 2014, did not make any significant improvement in the human rights situation.

Not only for the fact the torture continues unabated, there is still a lack of adequate rehabilitation measures for torture survivors and their families. While institutional efforts are being undertaken to give flesh and blood to this normative framework, the reality remains that rehabilitation services are not yet readily available for torture victims/survivors in many countries including the Philippines.until now, relevant government agencies still have no clear operational procedure and have no budget line for its implementation.

The participation of victims and their families in addressing the issue of rehabilitation, designing rehabilitation measures and seeing these programs are implemented can contribute powerfully to its success or failure.Nevertheless, there is a need to create enabling conditions for victims’ participation that would allow victims to feel that they are valued and recognized as rights-holders.

So in order to have a common understanding of the concept of rehabilitation not only as an inherent right emerging from human rights violations but also to identify its different forms and the necessary operational mechanisms for its provisions, the victims should be at its center.

 

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[Statement] AFAD Statement on International Human Rights Day


10 December 2011

 

Impunity for Enforced Disappearance Must End NOW!

Today, as the world commemorates the 63rd International Human Rights Day, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances or (AFAD) calls on all governments particularly those in the Asian region to stop enforced disappearance and to end impunity.

Enforced disappearance is considered one of the cruelest human rights transgression. It is a multiple and continuous violation of the basic human rights not only of the direct victims but also of their families and the greater society. It inflicts untold sufferings to the victims who are forcibly taken by agents of the States and denied access to legal safeguards by removing them from the protection of the law. It causes ill-effects to the victims’ families, not knowing the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones. Mothers, wives, and daughters are usually left without any means to tend their families. In South Asian context, wives of the disappeared are called “half-widows’ who are stripped of legal status to obtain pensions and other means of support.  Children of the disappeared equally suffer. They are deprived of a normal family and a good future. No doubt, enforced disappearance sows fear and terror in society.

Many governments employ this atrocious practice as a tool of state repression and political witch-hunt. It is a major human rights concern of more than 80 countries based on the 2010 report of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, a thematic UN body created in 1980 to monitor the incidences of enforced disappearances worldwide. Many cases occur in Asian countries, the continent that submitted the highest number of cases.

The Asian region lacks a strong mechanism for redress.  There are no available domestic laws penalizing disappearance as a separate and autonomous criminal offense. Not only are cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances difficult to investigate and prosecute. They recur with each passing day in many Asian countries. Perpetrators can easily walk away from criminal accountability.

Efforts by several governments along with families of the disappeared and international human rights organizations have made possible the adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2006 by the United Nations General Assembly and its consequent entry into force on 23 December 2010. To date, this international human rights instrument has 90 signatories and 30 States Parties.

It is but imperative for all states to accede to the international treaty against enforced disappearances without reservation and immediately adopt effective national laws to abolish this horrendous practice.

While these legal measures and mechanisms may not bring back the disappeared, they can certainly help in finding truth and justice and in preventing cases from happening again. It only takes one small step to have a leap of change.

Ending impunity should both be a demand and a call for unity and action.

For the disappeared and their families, the 63rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will have deeper meaning through governments’ accession to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the enactment of laws criminalizing disappearances and their full implementation.

 

Signed by:

MUGIYANTO
Chairperson
MARY AILEEN DIEZ- BACALSO
Secretary-General