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Thursday, October 28, 2021
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Sanchez: The Beast

Nature Speaks

I'M A human rights advocate. But, as a court annexed mediator of the Philippine Mediation Center of the Philippines under the Supreme of the Philippines. I met many lawyers at the Hall of Justice. Thus, I'm aghast at human rights violations under the Duterte Administration.

Several Negrense lawyers fell victim to his war on drugs. More lawyers have been killed in the five years since President Rodrigo Duterte took office than under any other government in Philippine history.

Data collated by a news website found that 110 lawyers were killed from 1972 to the present. Sixty-one of those killings have taken place since 2016, according to Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch.

A case in point when lawyer Benjamin Ramos died doing exactly what he had always done as a human rights lawyer -- helping his clients free of charge. On the evening of November 6, Ramos was taking a break from assisting a client when gunmen on a motorcycle shot him three times. Ramos was 56 years old.

I personally know Ramos when we joined hands in advocating a genetically modified organism (GMO)-free Negros Island.

Ramos’s murder in the central Philippine province of Negros Occidental is shocking but, sadly, not surprising in a country where impunity for extrajudicial killings and other serious rights violations, including “drug war” murders, prevails.

Lawyers like Ramos who represent the most marginalized people in the Philippines have also been victims of abuse.

For his work, authorities tagged Ramos as a communist. According to the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, which he helped establish, Ramos was the 34th lawyer to have been murdered since President Rodrigo Duterte took office.

The responsibility of national governments to uphold and implement international human rights standards is not in doubt. International human rights law is a subset of public international law, and as such, it engages the commitment of nation states.

The applicability of international human rights treaties to ratifying states is not controversial and there is no ambiguity about the general principle that governments are accountable for human rights standards. There is, however, considerably less clarity about the nature of government obligations. As political philosophers regularly observe, the notion that some actors hold rights implies that others have duties. Within a universal and global human rights framework, individual human beings are the named rights holders and governments are considered the principal duty bearers. But what is the nature of that duty?

The responsibility of national governments to uphold and implement international human rights standards is not in doubt. International human rights law is a subset of public international law, and as such, it engages the commitment of nation states.

The applicability of international human rights treaties to ratifying states is not controversial and there is no ambiguity about the general principle that governments are accountable for human rights standards. There is, however, considerably less clarity about the nature of government obligations. As political philosophers regularly observe, the notion that some actors hold rights implies that others have duties.

Within a universal and global human rights framework, individual human beings are the named rights holders and governments are considered the principal duty bearers. But what is the nature of that duty?

Now, the International Court of Justice is investigating these human rights violations. Will Atty Ramos get justice not from the Ombudsman but from the International Criminal Court (ICC)?


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