The Philippines: Human Rights versus Culture of Impunity
What are human rights? Why are they important? Why does the government need to protect its citizens’ human rights? What do they mean for Filipinos? What can a citizen do to help in the preservation and maintenance of his/her or fellow Filipinos’ human rights?
The basic premise of human rights is that any human being anywhere in the world has legal rights. They are inalienable and personal. They could not be given to nor taken away from an individual.
People around the globe have the rights to life, liberty, property, free speech, equal rights of women, universal suffrage, education, privacy and other moral and ethical behavior sanctioned by national and international laws. They are important because every human has the right to live with dignity and be free from unreasonable constraints to pursue opportunities to improve his/her quality of life.
The government has the duty and responsibility of upholding its citizenry’s human rights. The Philippines has it the Bill of Rights in Article III of it 1987 Philippine Constitution to protect the basic human rights of Filipinos. The 22 sections of the Bill of Rights are sufficient but not comprehensive.
The incumbent administration has done a lot to encourage and uphold Filipinos’ human rights but the nation still has a tremendous job to do to erase the global perception that Philippines is a severe risk for human rights violation.
Every Filipino needs to be aware of his/her human rights. Knowing one’s rights is the first step to a just, orderly and prosperous society. The Filipinos suffered from grave human rights violations during the 300 years of Spanish colonization, 40 years of American imperialism and 3 years of Japanese invasion. In 1946, the Philippines finally got its independence to end the foreign induced nightmares. Instead of taking the helm to steer the good ship Philippines to less turbulent waters, some Filipinos continued to deny, limit or infringe upon the rights of their countrymen.
Almost seven decades later, the Philippines is only marginally better than when it was under foreign administration. There are no longer foreigners to blame. The country has mostly Filipinos violating other Filipinos human rights these days.
The United Nations (UN) has its Universal Declaration of Human Rights with 30 articles. Philippines is a member state of the UN and is in the 2014 Group as one of the four Asian UN Human Rights Council in the UN Council on Human Rights (UNCHR) voted by the UN General Assembly. Other countries in the Asian UNCHR 2014 Group are: Kuwait, India and Indonesia. Below are the 30 universal human rights explained in as brief and concise manner as possible:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 1. The right to freedom and equality. Wherever you are, you are born free. You are entitled to your own thoughts and ideas.
Article 2. The right to non-discrimination. No one has the right to treat you differently because of your race, religion, gender, nationality, values or beliefs.
Article 3. The right to life, liberty and security. We all have the right to the life we choose, and to live free and safe anywhere in the world. No one should fear that they could lose their life, freedom and safety.
Article 4. The right to be free from slavery. Nobody has any right to enslave anybody. Any form of slavery is a violation this article.
Article 5. The right to not be subjected to torture, cruel or inhumane treatment. No one has any right to harm, torture or subject anybody to cruelty and degradation.
Article 6. The right to have the same right and access to the law. Everyone has the right to be recognized as a person by the law.
Article 7. The right to be protected by the law. The law should not discriminate. The same law should be applied for everyone regardless of demographics, social and political factors.
Article 8. The right to fair treatment by fair courts. Everyone has the right to ask for legal representation and to be treated fairly by the law regardless of life’s circumstance.
Article 9. The right to be protected from unfair confinement, arrest or banishment. Nobody should put us in prison without a good reason or to involuntarily send us away from our country.
Article 10. The right to trial. Everybody has the right to a fair public hearing. The trial juries should be able to reach their determination without undue influence from others.
Article 11. The right of presumption of innocence. Nobody should be ascribed as a wrongdoer until due process has proven his/her guilt. Everyone has the legal right to refute accusations and be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Article 12. The right to privacy. Nobody has the right to impugn our good name, come into our home, open our letters or bother us without our permission or a good reason.
Article 13. The right to move. We all have the right to go wherever we want, be it in our own country or anywhere in the globe.
Article 14. The right to flee from persecution and seek asylum. Everyone has the right to seek asylum in another country if they are afraid about their safety or are badly treated in their own country.
Article 15. The right to nationality. Everyone has the right to belong to a country.
Article 16. The right to marry and start a family. Anyone of legal age has the right to marry anyone they wish to marry and have a family. Men and women should have the same rights when they are married, separated or divorced. The State has an obligation to protect the family’s integrity.
Article 17. The right to own property. Everyone has the right to own things or share them. A person violates one’s human rights when he/she takes one’s property without a valid reason.
Article 18. The right to one’s thoughts and beliefs. Everyone has the right to believe in what he/she wants to believe. He/she has the freedom to choose any religion, and change it if he/she wants. He/she should not be prosecuted for expressing his/her beliefs in private or in public.
Article 19. The right to say what you want within reason. Everybody have the right to form an opinion and share ideas with other people without fear of interference.
Article 20. The right to peacefully meet people wherever you like. Everyone has the right to meet like-minded people, join a group if he/she wants to and to work together with others in peace to defend his/her rights.
Article 21. The right to democracy. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his/her country. Voting age people should be allowed to choose their own leaders and have access to all public services.
Article 22. The right to social security. Every disabled and aged person has the right to affordable housing, reasonably priced medicine, subsidized education, economic aid , medical assistance and other public services available in their country.
Article 23. The right to work and protection as a worker. Every worker has the right to hold a job, be paid a fair wage for the work performed and the freedom to join a trade union of his/her choice.
Article 24. The right to play. Everyone has the right to rest from work and relax. This right should be protected through limited work hours and holidays with pay.
Article 25.The right to live with dignity. Everybody has the right to a life where basic necessities such as food, clothing and shelter are adequate. Mothers, children, aged people, the unemployed, the disabled, and people with inadequate livelihood have the right to seek social assistance and public services that are available in their country.
Article 26. The right to education. Everybody has a right to be educated. Primary school should be free. During the age of minority, parents can choose what their children learn.
Article 27. The right to culture and copyright. Copyright protects creators and their creation from being copied without permission. Everyone has the right to the way of life they chose and the freedom to pursue and enjoy the good things that art, science and learning bring.
Article 28. The right to live in a free and fair world. Everyone has the right to peace and order so he/she can enjoy all the rights and freedoms of his/her own country and of the world.
Article 29. The right to be an accountable and responsible citizen and human being. Everyone has a duty to other people. One should take action to protect their rights and freedoms.
Article 30. Nobody can take away these rights and freedoms from any human.
Even the United States of America is not perfect when it comes to respecting and protecting human rights. The world is familiar with some of its States voting against same sex marriage, the government violating the privacy of its citizens and of some global leaders, and the inhumane treatments of Guantanamo prisoners just to name a few.
The main difference between the US and other countries is: the media and its citizens exercise their right to express their distaste for human rights violations and demand perpetrators to cease and desist and/or be investigated and punished. In fairness, the government and its officials are responsive to the wills of its people. The combination of people courageously voicing their desires and the government’s willingness to listen and act, often bring a mutually favorable resolution.
Every Filipino has the right as well as duty to right wrongs and ask for resolutions. The culture of impunity in the Philippines will not be eradicated without the media and citizenries’ vehemence.
Those who weaken the social justice system to a point where their actions do not carry consequences need to be exposed and punished. The plunderers, smugglers, murderers and other wrongdoers who flaunt their might because they are shielded and protected from punishment by their powerful allies should have their day of reckoning.
The Philippine government’s audacity to fight for its sovereign rights against China’s bullying was praised by the global community. It is time for Filipinos to take their oppressors to task.
Please stop turning the other cheek. Start exercising your human rights.