Fernando: Human rights


IT’S been sometime since I wrote about current national issues. But with human rights getting into the heart of discussion today due to Iceland’s initiated-probe on the administration’s drug war, I feel it wasn’t a bad idea to get into the mix. Martin Luther King Jr. did not like the idea of falling in the comfort of silence. After all, we take pride being in the field of humanity education.

The idea of human right is rooted in the truth that we possess a dignity warranted by the nature of our creation. We are created in the image and likeness of God. We have intellect, free-will, conscience that no other kinds of creation enjoy. So, we are not like animals which possess limited functions of intellect and will. We are not like plants which have a different meaning of existence. There is a high level of treatment for which we are entitled.

It is so ironic that, I think, it is for the same reasons why Duterte is so passionate in his anti-drug campaign. I remember one of his street wise statements regarding his fight on drugs. “If you want to destroy a family, make one family member an addict of illegal drugs.” I am not an avid fan of the president due to some of his distasteful words but sometimes it is not hard to see the point of the man.

A drug war oftentimes becomes ugly. It is ugly because it is bloody. Foreign countries have a picture in their minds of this so called “drug war” based on what occurred in other countries which have tried the same. Latin countries like Columbia and Mexico come to mind. Indonesia has their own version of drug war. For most critics, the campaigns were not often successful. For others, they were not successful at all because of the number of lives lost. Innocent lives wasted in the crossfires. Young lives lost in the brutality of the drug campaigns.

For many, these are lives that may have been given another chance to live. The Philippine police have said at least 6,600 people were killed during the first half of Duterte’s six-year presidency, all of them in shootouts with police. But the data from the police was too far compared to the number presented by rights groups who have put the death toll at more than 20,000 since the campaign started in 2016. For human rights advocates, this is beyond vindictiveness.

People are not blind not to see the irregularities of the drug campaign. If the brutal and unjust manners in handling illegal drug suspects have the blessings of the president, we do not know. We only know that despite the goodness of the intention of the campaign, the abuses are also glaring. And these can’t just be ignored or tolerated because human rights as a subject is a colossal concern. The world has seen the devilry of ignoring human rights during World War II. That’s why they made a pact of honoring and protecting human rights through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in which our country is a signatory.

It’s not surprising that other countries, like Iceland, initiates the probe on the country’s drug war because of the human right concern. It does not matter if it is Iceland which tolerate abortion or other countries that initiate the investigation. We know that somehow, somewhere this inquiry will happen because of the transcendent issue on human dignity. This is one thing that does not just pass. Someone must answer.

The president may not have any idea how the police officers handle each drug-related situation, but being the president, someone must be accountable for all the abuses. He has direct supervision of the police and other implementing agencies that were tasked to manage the drug campaign. I do not believe the president ordered the killings and abuses but people always put the blame on the head.

It is hypocrisy if we say nothing good came out from the drug war. Police data showed that crime rate has reduced. The streets became safer. Illegal drug users and pushers were given stern warning. Majority of the people believe in the campaign. The government were tough on them and many are having second thoughts if they ever involve themselves with illegal drugs again. The younger generations now have a deeper awareness on it.

Iceland’s initiation of a resolution asking the United Nations to investigate the country’s drug war is another challenge of the efficacy of the drug war program of the president. Malacañang hate the idea so much. At the time of this writing, the president is “seriously considering” cutting diplomatic ties with Iceland.

Salvador Panelo, Presidential spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel secretary, let out several rhetoric against the resolution calling it a “grotesquely one-sided, outrageously narrow, and maliciously partisan”, a completely devoid of respect for the sovereign of our country, a nauseating politics.”

Out of 47 member countries which are members of the UN, 18 voted to adopt the resolution, 14 voted against it, and 15 abstained.

If there is one thing sure about this issue, it is this. Human rights can never be sacrificed, no matter the objective.


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