Tag Archive: Civil Political Rights


by FRONTLINE DEFENDERS

Human rights defenders are the people whose legitimate work for human rights creates the building blocks of societies based on the principles of justice, equality and human rights. This handbook is intended to give human rights defenders at risk practical advice on how to deal with the attacks which they may have to deal with in their work as a human rights defender. This manual is designed as a quick reference handbook giving helpful and practical suggestions on steps to improve personal security. Front Line seeks to provide 24 hour support to human rights defenders at immediate risk. If you are a human rights defender and are concerned about your personal safety please feel free to contact our emergency number at any time. After office hours you will be offered five language options, each of which will connect you to a member of staff.

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At around 3:45 PM, a man riding a blue motorcycle was blocked by armed men, shoved into a white Ford Cortina bearing government license plates and taken away.  The person would later on fit the description of Fr. Rudy Romano, CsSR.

It was July 11, 1985. He was 44 years old.

Twenty six years later, we still ask the question asked by many on that fateful day, “Where is Fr. Rudy?”.

Perhaps his enforced disappearance was orchestrated by those could not live with his leadership role in the progressive movement or perhaps by those whose interests were threatened by his community organizing and fraternizing with the basic masses – the workers, the farmers, the poor.  Perhaps he inspired resistance against the injustices perpetrated by the forces that be. Perhaps his abduction was meant to silence the growing anti-dictatorship sentiments in the province.

These nagging questions persist to this day. What is certain is that despite Fr. Rudy’s sudden disappearance, his personal struggle for social change has taken a collective form and continues to this day.

For every worker who is deprived of his just share in the distribution of wealth, Fr. Rudy is there. For every farmer denied of his dignity by being denied of his right to till his own land, Fr. Rudy is there. For every injustice, Fr. Rudy is there.

His abductors failed to see this bitter-sweet reality – they only snatched away a man. They could not kill the flames of social change and the movement behind it. For truly, Fr. Rudy represented not himself but the many generations, past and continuing, who yearn for a better society.

Fr. Rudy gives face to the faceless one thousand seven hundred ninety one  desaperacidos documented since the Marcos dictatorship. His disappearance reminds us that the path to achieving social transformation is not only a lonely one but one that treads along the line of fire.

We identify with the cause of Fr. Rudy.

Today, on 26th year of his disappearance we renew our commitment to the aspirations of Fr. Rudy. Today, we confront impunity by remembering Fr. Rudy and by reliving Fr. Rudy.

We give justice to him by carrying on.

We challenge the present Aquino Administration to solve the one thousand one hundred seventeen cases of disappearances, of people still missing.

We challenge this Government to enact an anti-enforced disappearance law to criminalize enforced disappearance, to show that it has not forgotten the stories of the disappeared.

We honor the desaperacidos by remembering them.

As we remember Fr. Rudy, we remember all those who suffered the same fate, here and elsewhere.

End enforced disappearance!
Enact an anti-disappearance law NOW!
Justice for Fr. Rudy!
Justice for all the disappeared!

Task Force Detainees of the Philippines-Visayas (TFDP-Visayas)
SANLAKAS Sugbo
Human Rights Defenders Pilipinas-Cebu (HRDP-Cebu)
Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance-Cebu (FIND-Cebu)
Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralita ng Lungsod-Cebu (KPML-Cebu)
Freedom from Debt Colaition-Cebu (FDC-Cebu)
Partido Lakas ng Masa-Cebu (PLM-Cebu)

July 11, 2011

The Situation:

Human rights discourse is very vibrant worldwide, in Asia, and in the Philippines.  It is the central concern of the disadvantaged peoples together with the human rights workers, practitioners or human rights defenders (HRDs) of the world.  It is constantly challenged by many States and their apparatuses, corporations and groups whose intent veers away from aspirations of people they vow to serve.

Human rights are all about dignity.  They are that which make a person human being.  Rights are basic entitlements a person possesses to become truly human.  They are the minimum expression of human dignity.

Tracing back from the Western scholars, human rights concepts are said to have evolved from the notion of Natural Law.  That, the world is governed by an invisible order which has endowed every person the concept of a perfect justice discernable by human reason; making all human kind equal in rights and dignity.  The doctrine of natural law presupposes the existence of a natural moral code based upon the identification of certain fundamental and objectively verifiable human goods.  The enjoyment of these basic goods is to be secured by our possession of equally fundamental and objectively verifiable natural rights.  Thus, the foundation of human rights, to wit:

The recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world (UDHR, 1948; ICCPR, 1966; ICESCR, 1966).

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.  They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood/sisterhood without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.  Furthermore, no distinction shall be made based on the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty (UDHR, 1948).

Today, human rights are continued to be asserted and yet continuously violated.  Even human rights defenders whose noble desire is to facilitate the birthing of a culture of peace and respect are not spared of threats and attacks.

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July 1, 2011

Dato Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak
Prime Minister of Malaysia
Main Block, Perdama Putra Building
Federal Government Administrative Center
62502 Putrajaya, MALAYSIA
ppm@pmo.gov.my

Dear Prime Minister Razak,

Greetings of peace and solidarity!

It has come to our attention that one of our Filipino human rights defenders (HRDs), Mr. Romy Castillo together with other 30 Malaysian activists, has been arrested for joining a pro-democracy caravan in Kuala Lumpur.  Article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) provides that “everyone is entitled to social and international order” in which rights and fundamental freedoms are guaranteed.  It is in this premise that we, in the Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas (HRD-Pilipinas), even as citizens of other country, take with great concern of peoples’ situations and conditions of our neighboring nations; and, in the spirit of internationalism offer our solidarity to the Malaysian people for the defense, protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedom.

Mr. Castillo is the Deputy Secretary of Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM), a grassroots political party in the Philippine.  He is in Kuala Lumpur as a representative of the organization to show and convey solidarity to the cause of democracy in Malaysia thru legal and peaceful expression and assembly.  His arrest and detention together with his Malaysian counterparts put in question the avowed commitment of the Malaysian Government and authorities to Art. 19, UDHR:  “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinions and expression… regardless of frontier” in which the country is a signatory.

We therefore call on your good office to facilitate his immediate and safe deportation back to the Philippines.  Likewise, we call for the immediate release of other human rights defenders under custody by Malaysian authorities.  And, that the Malaysia government guarantees their safety and no further arrest shall occur in the context of the current crackdown related to peoples’ peaceful electoral reforms.

Sincerely,
Renato Mabunga
Chairperson, HRD-Pilipinas

Cc.
–    Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM)
–    Malaysian Ambassador in the Philippines
–    Partido Lakas ng Masa
–    Forum-Asia

Human rights from its very inception are a large and encompassing concept.  It talks about human dignity.  It is all about dignity… and it is for ALL regardless race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.  Accordingly, it has evolved from  the idea that the world is governed by an invisible order which has endowed every person the concept of a perfect justice discernable by reason; making all humans equal in status of rights and dignity.  This concept of perfect justice has fortified both reason and conscience of each person to act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood/sisterhood without distinction, without discrimination.  This makes dignity a relational and a dynamic term and not just an empty concept or an ideal.  It becomes tangible in a relationship.  It finds meaning in relation with others and may be totally restored only with the help of others or of a network.

A network on the other hand, is a complex set of systems, which amplifies a message or a need or a call.  From the viewpoint of Organization Development (OD), network is the interconnection of various systems to take the form of a whole.  From individual HRD’s focal system to his or her organization as sub-systems, to his/her direct networks or the macro and related systems dealing with the protection of human rights defenders and victims down to other external organizations – the mega-system – dealing with human rights and upholding dignity of persons and communities in general.  It is a web of strings from which, one system provides and receives support to and from another system to ensure achievement of a larger goal.  An organization as a system in this regard maybe compartmentalized with various departments or programs doing specific jobs, yet in a larger view, each output serves the “reason for being” or the mandate of the organization.  Such implementation of mandate is the its contribution to a larger network of systems or to the larger whole working for the protection of human rights defenders and the promotion of human rights in general.  This defines the lines of engagement of each organization to a network in the overall platform of protection for HRDs.

This is the ideal role of a network: to facilitate and process information, come up with specific plans and arrive at concrete actions or activities within the bounds of each organizational mandate and philosophy to arrest and eliminate impending threats to organization or so as not to disrupt the dynamism of the “whole”.

Yet given the differences of each political beliefs and the degree of condition faced by each HRD, the ideal role of a network has become more of a challenge rather than a natural flow of relations.  At the onset, it is obstructed by external environment or external systems – the government, its security forces and other instrumentalities.   A case in point is the stigmatization of HRDs as “enemies of the state”.  Modern historical development of this terminology can be traced back when the Philippine government wantonly exerts all energies in winning the “war’ against insurgency.  From way back when freedom lovers were called “guerrillas” during the Spanish, Japanese and American occupation, to being tagged as “rebels, communists and insurgents” during the cold war campaigns and “terrorists and separatists” at the time of the post 9/11 era.  This idea has been galvanized into the psyche of ordinary Filipino people.  That, when an issue related to security of HRDs crops up, organizations have to battle up explaining first the legitimacy of human rights work before it can go into discussing the merits of the case itself.  It becomes mindset for most Filipinos when seeing people doing fact-finding missions, documenting cases, rallying and demonstrating in front of government offices and public places, to mark them as anti-government for reason that existing norm calls it to be so — a nuisance, opt to destabilize the government.

Within human rights organizations or within the network system itself, it is confronted with a much more dilemma.  A strong political and ideological divide impacts on and weakens the overall capacity of the human rights network.  It softens foundation for protection and decelerates resolution of cases of human rights violations.  “Turfing” is commonly the name of the game – those who do not toe the line of internal political directives, has no right to middle into the affairs of a case allegedly under the command of other’s.  Most often than not, the principle of non-cooperation is at work.  Worst, basic human rights principle of non-discrimination is breached.

Mistrust is plaguing internal relationship of the Philippine human rights movement – a reality unconsciously forcing the movement back to the era of sectarianism and highly sectoral perspectives.  It is losing the spirit of human rights for all.  And, by being so, losing the war against violators and thereby losing tract of the struggle for justice.

Thus, given the concrete condition of country’s human rights movement today, one practical role of a network is to help reorient human rights work to include “all” particularly the protection and promotion of the rights of human rights defenders.  Here, organizational vision, mission and programs must be revisited and aligned at resolving conflict in understanding and practical orientation on human rights and human rights work.  Between each network of organizations and defenders is a primary challenge to build bridges rather than continually burning ones.  To do this, is to start with small venues of cooperation – an issue-based cooperation that would slowly eradicate suspicions and initially rebuilds foundations of trust.

In January this year the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) aired its claim of “paradigm shift” in its internal peace and security plan called “bayanihan” with “ugnayan” as the Northern Luzon Command’s (NOLCOM) counterpart campaign plan.  While we welcome the emphasis of “addressing the needs of our less fortunate communities, in collaboration with other stakeholders”, we are wary of the institution’s truthfulness and sincerity with the latest multiple harassment cases in Central Luzon.

From June 1 to 6 this year, residents of Barangay Taal, Purok 1, Malolos City, Province of Bulacan were witnesses to a new round of military operations by elements of the 70th Infantry (Cadre) Battalion, 7th ID Philippine Army and members of CAFGU.  They are looking for members of Aniban ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (AMA), Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) and SANLAKAS (all legal organizations), and alleged these groups have ties to the New People’s Army (NPA).  Families were interviewed and peoples’ organizations were vilified. At least three residents were asked to report to certain Sgt. Mendoza at the camp located in Niugan, Malolos.

The incident brings to fore canny military procedure that sows fear in the communities of Central Luzon.  What is more worrisome is the targeting of human rights defenders – members of organized groups whose only desire is to protect and assert their guaranteed rights under the Philippine Constitution and the International Bill of Rights.

In a landmark study on the protection of human rights defenders in the Philippines, Renato Mabunga, Chairperson of HRD-Pilipinas identified threats to Life, harassment and stigmatization as the dangers for human rights defenders.  These threats are borne-out of military operations’ house-to-house “census”, witch-hunting and vilification proceedings on community and peoples’ organizations.

The latest case in Bulacan undermines the sincerity of the armed forces’ security plan.  It projects a weak command of the military echelon in asserting a marching order of a paradigm shift.  A shift in orientation from the old concept and operation to new cooperative and synergetic actions together with various stakeholders in the community.

Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas (HRD-Pilipinas) therefore calls on the Armed Forces of the Philippines:

–          to immediately stop its “census” and vilification operations in the communities of Central Luzon;

–          Review military actions in the field that breed human rights violations to individuals and communities;

–          Identify and penalize certain “Sgt. Mendoza” and company for instigating actions inimical to the image of the AFP as “changed institution”;

–           to investigate the case of harassment in Central Luzon and other areas of similar situation;

–          Re-orient its ranks and files in its claimed “broader framework of security serving society, acting in harmony with other government strategic policies for peace, security and development.”

To the Commission on Human Rights, to investigate and document this case in Brgy. Taal, Malolos City; and, monitor compliance of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to human rights protection and promotion.

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