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Political Dynasties in the Philippines: In My Opinion

Next year’s Philippine midterm elections are fast approaching and it paints an all too-familiar image once again: candidates that are ei...



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JR Lopez Gonzales 10:36 PM 0

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
- Article I, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Today marks the sixty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). It is the statement which affirmed the dignity and rights of all human beings, adopted by the United Nations expressed in the UN Charter in December 10, 1948.

The UDHR is the first section of a proposed three-part international covenant, or agreement, on human rights. The rights described in the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights include: the right to life, liberty, and security of person; religion, opinion; to a secure society and an adequate standard of living; to education; and to rest and leisure. The declaration also affirms the rights of every person to be presumed innocent until proven guilty; to work under favorable conditions, receive equal pay for equal work, and join labor unions at will; to marry and raise a family, among others [1].
Accordingly, this declaration affected the terms of several national constitutions that were written after the Second World War by securing a universal recognition of a whole gamut of human rights.

In the Philippines, the granting Filipinos civil and political rights can be traced during US President McKinley’s First Philippine Commission which studied how a civil government would be established in our then war-torn country.  According to its Report, the Filipino people wanted above all “a guarantee of those fundamental human rights which Americans hold to be the natural and inalienable birthright of the individual but which under Spanish domination in the Philippines had been shamefully invaded and ruthlessly trampled upon.” And guided by this principle, President McKinley, issued on April 7, 1900, his instruction to the Commission that the civil government to be erected in the Philippines must be based on certain “inviolable rules” (which he meant the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution).
Consequently, the Philippine Bill of 1902 which temporarily provided for the administration of a civil government in the Philippines carried the Bill of Rights.  Likewise, the Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916 or the Jones Law which called, among others, for an autonomous government for the Filipinos, contained these guarantees of the US Bill of Rights. And this was then carried over to our various written constitutions in the years that followed.

Our constitution guarantees and protects the fundamental rights of the Filipino people. These rights may be an individual’s social, economic, cultural, political and civil relations. Article III of our 1987 Constitution embodies all these in twenty-two sections. These human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that the Filipinos have.

But of these rights, the most fundamental is one’s right to life. And it doesn’t simply refer to ‘animal’ existence. Accordingly, it is the protection against its deprivation without due process extending to the limbs and faculties by which life is enjoyed. To quote from J. Freinberg and J. Coleman’s Philosophy of Law [2], “As living creatures, we have an interest in self-preservation; as animals, in procreation; and as rational creatures, in living in society and exercising our intellectual and spiritual capacities in the pursuit of knowledge”.

A sad truth in this country is that we have plethora of human rights violations. It is one of the most pressing issues faced by our law enforcers. A societal issue which I am not a stranger to.
In 2012, three years after our graduation from college, my buddy, police officer Jesamm Jed Catacutan was shot dead as he was on his way to his work in Pagadian City.

For the whole four years, I enjoyed his company together with the gang. And with Jed’s shocking death, the group was never the same. Each time the batch gathers, not mentioning him is impossibility. We missed the big man’s funny mein.
Jesamm Jed Catacutan
(June 2, 1987 - February 24, 2012)
I lost a good friend. And the wheels of justice never turned for his side up to this moment. We, together with his family are still clueless on who the culprit was.

My friend’s story is just one of those unresolved cases of unabated human rights violations in the country. We shout: Justice for [insert name of anyone you know who died without closure]. But it’s like shouting in the middle of the jungle – nobody hears and nobody seemed to care. We hoped for “investigations” for closures. But things were just swallowed into oblivion.

It is this government’s task to preserve human rights and justice. Every one is entitled to an equal degree of respect as humans and should not be treated less just because of differing personal, political, or religious convictions.

But from the tumultuous violations during the Martial Law, things almost remain unchanged. Whether it’s Professor Othello Cobal (the MSU prof-businessman who was killed and burned inside his computer shop), or Sir Gingging (the Saint Michael’s prof who was shot dead by ‘riders-in-tandem’) it seems that there’s this failure to investigate and prosecute. From Aquino’s assassination, to the Maguindanao Massacre, or Jonas Burgos’ disappearance – no investigation has ever yielded encouraging results. Life is not supposed to be ended at the disposal of the influential like the off switch in their hands.

Our law enforcement has great failures, too. In clarifying the facts, identifying the perpetrators, making arrests, and bringing the bad guys to trial – and these are just but some. Whether these bad guys themselves are police officers, soldiers or hired gunmen, they should face the forbidding sword of Lady Justice.

Apparently, this underscores the need for an effective whistle-blower program and a strong witness protection program to protect citizens from berdugos and other creatures from the underworld. 

Equally alarming is the indifference of the eyewitnesses to the various felonies committed elsewhere. More often than not, witnesses prefer to be silent. While people expect the policemen to do their job – nobody, on the other hand, volunteers information leading to the arrest of perpetrators.
I’m sure you won’t be glad to lose a friend from impunity like I did. That’s why our people have to be educated on the rule of law. And as the common aphorism say, in keeping this wonderful thing called ‘freedom’, vigilance is a must for our part.

[1] Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
[2] J. Freinberg and J. Coleman. Philosophy of Law (6th Ed. 2000), p. 19.

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