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Reject Authoritarian Rule, Defend People’s Democratic and Human Rights

Statement on the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

Seven decades ago at the end of World War Two humankind has asserted that the destruction of human dignity in order to achieve power over populations through violence and fear would no longer reign in the world. Thus the United Nations on December 10, 1948 agreed on a Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which would set the standard by which all nations strive to achieve for each of their citizens.

70 years on, the UDHR remain more relevant than ever as the world is now faced with an alarming rise in rightist and populist governments in many countries. Specifically in the Philippines, which has been under the Duterte presidency for more than two years, the respect for life and human dignity had been atrociously violated a thousand times over.

President Duterte has laid the groundwork for wholesale abuse of power by making the war on drugs his centrepiece program. His version of a “strong-state”, is dotted with “kill bills” i.e. lowering the age of criminal responsibility, death penalty and repressive legislation like the National ID System, review of the Anti-Wiretapping Law, SIM Card Registration and granting of subpoena powers to the PNP and the CIDG (RA 10973).

Duterte has made no secret his admiration for the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and strives to emulate his tyrannical rule: He has militarized the civilian bureaucracy by appointing retired soldiers or policemen and has increased the intelligence budget exponentially. He has been aggressively revising the Philippine history of martial law when he supported the burial of the late dictator at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. The late dictator Marcos’ defence minister Juan Ponce Enrile even publicly denied there were human rights violations that occurred during Martial Law despite its victims winning compensation for torture, enforced disappearances, summary executions, illegal detentions, under a Compensation Law which legally recognizes this historical fact.

Information is being filtered through a combination of intimidation of reputed media organizations with harassment suits if not outright threats on one hand while tacitly supporting purveyors of misinformation and disinformation on the other. This serves to undermine intelligent and critical discourse of his policies and programs.

Duterte has declared a State of National Emergency on the basis of a singular bombing incident in Davao, from which he now launched a mobilization of army and police in the provinces of Bicol, Samar and Negros provinces without basis nor evidence of an emergency situation. He saw in Marawi a pretext to impose “unli-Martial Law” in Mindanao. Meanwhile, Marawi’s internal refugees have yet to be allowed to return to their communities while the “rehabilitation” has been sold to foreign investors like China.

In the course of more than two years, Duterte’s relentless neutralization of Constitutional checks to his power by co-equal branches of government (from the legislative and judiciary to the Ombudsman and even the Commission on Audit) including attempts to undermine the Commission on Human Rights and even COMELEC resulted in the weakening of our democratic systems and processes.

Impunity is at an all-time high under the stewardship of Duterte. Small and likely innocent suspects in the drug war continue to be summarily executed while the “big fish”- officials and Duterte associates involved in multi-million peso drug shipments are ‘untouched’ if not exonerated.

The further diminishing political space, persecution of political opponents, spreading misogyny and encouraging gender-based violence, “terror-tagging” and arrests of critics demonstrate Duterte’s willingness to deal the final blow to our dying democracy. He is counting on a public dulled by the economic crisis resulting from his anti-poor policies if not de-sensitized by his non-stop promotion of violence, misogyny and fear. If left unchecked we will only see the situation further deteriorate until every last one of his political allies like the Arroyos and Marcoses are entrenched back in Malacañang and absolved of any and all manner of culpability from past and future transgressions.

In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement calls on all struggling Filipinos to remain steadfast in seeking accountability and demanding government’s adherence to the human rights. These are the best standards by which governance should be measured as these guarantee the real change in Philippine society. In order to realize our full potential as Filipinos we must be equally relentless in pursuing social justice and the rule of law. Let us do away with a dispensation that negates our humanity, strengthen our ranks and specifically in the coming 2019 elections bring forth a true government for human rights.

 

In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement

Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates