OUR beloved president made a good pronouncement when he said in front of the UN assembly, that his government "will continue to protect human rights." However, the succeeding portion that qualifies his statement, dilutes, in my opinion, his position. I would have preferred that he end with the mere commitment to protect human rights. Period.

By adding the lines "especially from the scourge of illegal drugs, criminality, and terrorism", he has apparently narrowed down the interpretation, thereby suggesting that in our country, human rights should be nuanced within the context of what we perceive to be the problems on top of our list.

No doubt, it is the task and duty of the government, any government to be clear, to protect people from criminalities and terrorism. However, the same government has the same and equal moral responsibility to protect the political and civil liberties in the process of exercising state power on the premise of law and order.

No one who commits to human rights can be selective in his commitment to it. Human rights which is generally understood to consist of four main domains: political, civil, economic and social cannot but be approached holistically. A government that is selective with its emphasis on one or a few of the domains cannot claim full observance of rights. We cannot overemphasize economic rights at the expense of political and civil rights. No father or mother who has a sound household management can claim that because her children are well fed, they no longer have the right to complain against parental abuses.

The promise of some authoritarian regimes is a better life that is peaceful, orderly and prosperous. All I know is that all of these co-exist only in the afterlife, that is, in the Kingdom of the Most High in the company of all angels and saints. So long as we live we have to deal with trade-offs. The temptation to a perfect society has brought forth not only false hopes but also dictators and autocrats.

Politics is divisive. No matter what there will never come a point, so long as we live in this world, that all people would be unified. Even under dictatorships and the worst tyrannies, there will always be one or more who would resist for one reason or another. Precisely why we should support democracy because it is a system that allows the co-existence of diversities. Democracy allows people to think and say things, and within the context of respect for liberties.

We cannot and should not criticize a system the fruits of which we are enjoying. Democracy is that system that allows us to speak of our opinions, raise our grievances and protest against certain forms of abuses. Precisely why it has to be defended. And it has to be defended not just from those who are directly favorable of authoritarian regimes but more so from those who would try to refashion their authoritarianism into a pseudo-democracy.

On a final note, an observation: there are those who would always say that those who are critical of the government are not helping the system. There's an insinuation even that private individuals better do their job well rather than speak against the administration. This way (by merely doing our job) we get to make our country much better.

Frankly speaking, I find the suggestion to just let people do their share and not criticize -- an apparent manifestation of what I'd call a "civics and culture mentality." This mindset sounds good and fitting for children who are still studying in Elementary. Thus, such kind of mentality is valid a suggestion but only for a specific context in the growth of a citizen's life. Adult citizens however have to grow in terms of their thinking. It is true that we have to do our share. However, we cannot also deny that we build a nation not just by doing our part but also by thinking with our leaders.

Anyone who has seriously studied the social sciences know very well that no society is static. Societies become better because of a constant process of evolution. Social evolution however is not complete without critiques, deconstruction of systems and even revolutions. Truth to tell, stable societies today are enjoying the fruits of the riots in the past. Anyone who insists that people should not criticize may have a point in their love for peace and order. However, there is a difference between those who truly love peace and order, and those who merely want silence.