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Time for a full reckoning with historical injustices in the Philippines-iDEFEND

Saturday, 20 February 2021

iDEFEND statement on the occasion of world social justice day


The superior virtue, said the late Senator and human rights lawyer Jose “Ka Pepe” Diokno, is not to receive justice, it is to fight relentlessly for it.

These words ring especially loud today on the occasion of the World Day of Social Justice--an international day recognizing the need to promote social justice, including the efforts to tackle poverty, exclusion, gender equality, unemployment, human rights, and social protections-- as we reflect upon the continuing struggle for the realization of social justice and life with dignity.

The UN General Assembly Resolution declaring this special occasion stressed that “social development and social justice cannot be attained in the absence of peace and security or in the absence of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

There is no false dichotomy between development and human rights. The people’s aspirations for a life of dignity rests on the fulfilment of all human rights- civil and political, economic, social and cultural rights.

Our Constitution spelled out our common goal and purpose as sovereign Filipino people the building of a just and humane society ...our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace.”

The framers sought to expound further in Article 13 the State’s obligation to promote social justice and human rights. Underpinning these provisions is the principle of preferential rights for the poor and marginalized.

The struggle for social justice and human rights today has roots in our colonial past. Throughout history Filipinos have stood up against oppressors and tyrants, and repressive policies and laws that threaten our basic rights and freedoms. The drive for development has pitted marginalized peoples and communities against powerful forces that have pushed the exploitation of our natural resources, and plundered the nation’s wealth for the benefit of a few.

These sources of conflict continue today across the nation. Social justice will not be achieved without the recognition and rectification of these injustices.

Amidst a global pandemic that has taken the lives of so many, and threatening to overwhelm public health systems thereby further risking the lives of the most vulnerable among us, the poor and marginalized continue to struggle for access to affordable and quality healthcare. Our medical frontliners, and essential workers continue to fight for decent wages and safe working conditions.

Small fishers of Manila Bay who are struggling to meet their daily needs are confronted with efforts to amend the hard-fought Fisheries Code, in order to remove their rights over municipal fishing grounds.

Amid skyrocketing prices of food and basic commodities, farmers struggling for food sustainability, land ownership and agrarian justice continue to be thwarted by powerful forces-- politicians from the billionaire class and huge corporations-- aggressively pushing for more land conversions, reconsolidation of lands and reversal of gains from CARPER, and massive land grabbing.

Relentless attacks are being waged against Indigenuous peoples including forced entry into, and grabbing of ancestral lands, the harassment and murder of their leaders, as well as the violent dispersals of Informal settlers, and the brutal killings brought by this administration’s bloody war on drugs.

The Duterte government, although duty bound by the Constitution to promote and protect social justice and human rights, not only abandons this duty but actively promotes laws, policies and practices that threaten to obliterate them.

Soon will be the time for Duterte’s full reckoning with his demonization of human rights, for his attacks against human rights defenders, and for his anti-people policies that exacerbate economic and social injustice.

The Filipino people are ready to exact accountability and render justice for their suffering. On the occasion of World Day of Social Justice, we join their march towards the day when justice, the rule of law and freedom finally reign in our land.