Tag Archive: Politics


Hear the voices of the oppressed

universal-declaration-of-human-rightsSince 1950, the United Nations has commemorated the historic adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a “common standard of achievement for all people and all nations.”

Ironically, on its 64th anniversary today, millions of people around the world still long to realize at least the most basic of this common standard for humanity: the recognition of the “inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

The continuing uprisings in the Arab world, the protests sweeping major cities and urban centers in Europe, the Americas and Africa, the continuing difficult situations in Asia, all highlight deficiencies of human rights in governance and the non-recognition of peoples’ aspirations for inclusion and a desire for meaningful participation in public affairs that affect their lives.

Public demonstrations and assemblies are deeper than mere assertions of the individual’s civil, political, economic and cultural rights. They are demands to take part in decision-making, an assertion of a sovereign power that is abused by many state leaders.

Instead of settling issues through genuine dialogues and consultations, most governments trample basic freedom of expression, assembly and association in the guise of “national interests and security.”

Lately in Singapore, human rights defenders and bus drivers, He Jun Ling, Gao Yue Qiang, Liu Xiangying and Wang Xian Jie, who were employed by the state-controlled public transport operator SMRT Ltd., were charged in court with “inciting an illegal strike” among their co-workers. They protested against poor living conditions in company dormitories and low wages.

In Myanmar, authorities resorted to old violent methods in a clear attempt to silence growing dissent. Riot police attacked protest camps near the Letpadaung mine, setting camps on fire, burning protesting monks and arresting protest organizers Ko Wai Lu, Daw Shan Ma, Ko Myo Chit, Ko Ye Lin, Daw Naw Ohn Hla and Ko Nyi Nyi.

They were calling for environmental protection and reclaiming their lands that were confiscated by the joint venture of China’s Wanbao Company and the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd.  There is continuing ethnic violence in Rakhine state and persecution of Rohingya people.

In the Philippines, extrajudicial executions of human rights defenders and mining activists continue. Armed men believed to be hired goons, or associated with private armies and paramilitary groups, carry out most of the killings. Appalling violations are perpetrated by soldiers acting on behalf of private corporations and/or on mere suspicions.

 

 

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Myanmar’s parliament was to debate on Monday a proposal to abolish a provision in the 1975 State Protection Act that allows the government to restrict the fundamental rights of people suspected of “endangering state sovereignty and security, public peace and tranquility.”

The proposal is the latest among legislative initiatives that are part of Myanmar’s “reform process,” although freedoms of expression, assembly and association continue to be systematically violated.

The purported legislative reforms, with the enactment of several new laws and the review of existing ones, have largely resulted in new forms of controls and restrictions that are applied selectively.

Myanmar’s reform process has resulted in little, if any, improvement on the respect for fundamental freedoms on the ground. It has become largely an empty showcase to appease the international community.

A fact finding mission conducted by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) from October 24 to 30 discovered that the rights to peaceful assembly and of association of particular groups, including former political prisoners, labor rights activists, student unions, and members of ethnic nationalities, are still being denied.

An array of laws that restrict the fundamental freedoms of the rights to expression, assembly and association, including the Emergency Act, the Unlawful Association Act, and the 1988 law relating to the formation of associations, remain.

The right to freedom of assembly, in particular, has been denied to groups that are considered “sensitive” or threatening to the government.

In the last two months alone, scores of individuals have been arrested for organizing and participating in peaceful assemblies.

In September, 13 leaders, organizers, and participants of peaceful assemblies to mark International Peace Day were summoned and subsequently charged under the 2012 Decree on the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession after their application for a permit was rejected by the government.

Leaders and organizers of peaceful demonstrations, including protest actions against a mining project in the Letpadaung region, are also facing threats and harassment from authorities.

However, some street demonstrations were allowed to proceed, including the anti-Rohingya protest actions of Buddhist monks and university students in Rakhine state.

These double standards in the implementation of the law call into question the universal principles of Buddhism on peace, harmony, wisdom and understanding.

The continued violations of fundamental freedoms and new forms of control expose the empty façade of Myanmar’s reform process. Human rights protection in Myanmar will remain illusory if fundamental freedoms are not properly safeguarded in the current legal reforms.

 

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On September 21, the world commemorates the “International Day of Peace”.  All nations, governments, private and non-governmental organizations and individuals are enjoined to observe secession of hostilities through activities celebrating the ideals of peace.  This event coincides with the anniversary of the dark period of Philippines history when the Dictatorship regime of President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972.  The country fell to “silence”.  Peace was fear.

Today, the UN calls for “sustainable peace for sustainable future”, highlighting the use and abuse of land and natural resources in instigating conflict situations around the world.  It calls all its member-states to initiate “ceasefires” and let up to the wanton destruction of environment and the bloody massacre of people defending ancestral domains.  The call falls into silence.  Peace is a dream.

Weeks ago, a Subanen Tribal leader in the Philippines, Timuay Locenio Magda was ambushed killing his 11-year old son Jason by unknown assailants in the Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur.  The incident is alleged to have instigated over dispute on ancestral domain claim with several mining companies on the sacred Pinukis Range Forest – a watershed for 3 major rice-growing regions in Zamboanga Peninsula.  His is the 36th case documented in the area alone under the present administration.

For 6 years now, villagers of Gangjeong, South Korea are protesting the construction of a naval base in Jeju Island, declared the Island of Peace by the same government.  Peaceful protests are continually met with force and violence.

In Cambodia, the government’s abuse of law and misuse of the courts has led to the displacement of the Boeung Kak and Borie Keila communities in Phnom Penh.  Such practice is extended to persecute activists and human rights defenders like Yorm Bopha and Tim Sakmony, who were arrested on September 4 and 5, respectively, on dubious charges.

Early September in Myanmar, Wai Lu was arrested for helping farmers win back their land from a copper mining company in Latpadaung mountain range allegedly under the country’s Religious Offenses Act.

Attacks against communities underscore the connection of peace, human rights and the aggressive promotion of “progress” that misplaces people in the development process.  As conditions of people worsen, governments create further magical illusion covering up their violations and obligations.  They speak of peace and draw a future far from the aspiration of people struggling to survive and live with dignity.  Peace is corrupted by political and economic individualism and greed.  Yet, it remains a symbol of resistance and a source of courage for the afflicted.

Peace and sustainable future describes the legitimacy of the continuing struggle of indigenous peoples, communities and environment activists in protecting ancestral land, their life, culture and future against corporations and armed groups.  Peace provides the assertion of communities and peoples as the center of development.  It debunks the idea of peace as a mere construct.  It asserts that peace is an action fueled by inspirations and sacrifices of peoples and nations searching for a sustainable future.

As the 31st International Day of Peace is celebrated, peoples in various parts of the globe continue to clamor for it, act on it and die for it.  In the same manner, Filipinos are to remember Martial law on its 40th  year (Remember ML@40), the world must recall that indeed, tyrants can be overthrown, people have the power, and peace is a possibility.  As the dark days linger on with peace remaining elusive and a future bleak, everybody needs to consolidate the lessons of history, muster the courage to block its horrors and lay down a solid foundation for peace mindful of the universal dignity of all and for all.

Debt Payments and Under-spending

Almost all throughout post-EDSA era, 1986-1995 and 1999-2012, total debt service exceeded spending for both economic services and social services. Supposed additional funds for economic services to spur growth and for investment in the country’s human capital in the form of social services are instead used for debt payment, some of which for questionable loans.

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For the past five years, WikiPilipinas.org, the Philippines‘ premier online encyclopedia, has been awarding the WikiPinoy of the Year title to the person or group of people who has empowered the public by providing open information and in-depth insights into the more significant issues affecting the country today.

A WikiPinoy does more than information and knowledge sharing. A WikiPinoy’s output is research-driven, meaning, he or she does not just present the facts as is, but probes beneath the surface of each story and inspires people to be knowledge sharers as well. For a WikiPinoy, knowledge sharing goes beyond the comfortable seat of his or her office desk—he or she is proactive.

Unlike in previous years when the WikiPinoy of the Year was selected by the editorial board and staff of WikiPilipinas, the 2011 WikiPinoy of the Year will be chosen by WikiPinoys – the readers and contributing volunteers of WikiPilipinas.

Starting today, December 1, WikiPilipinas readers can vote for one of ten nominees for the 2011 WikiPinoy of the Year by answering the online poll question on WikiPilipinas’ official facebook account.

To vote for the 2011 WikiPinoy of the Year, add WikiPililipinas.org on Facebook. 

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(A Statement on the 63rd Human Rights Day & the 13th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders)

On the 63rd celebration of the International Human Rights Day (December 10), we pay tribute to thousands of human rights defenders (HRDs) who offered their lives in the cause of freedom and dignity of life.  We take pride in the continuing assertion of others amid violent repression.  We salute those who have never wavered for the cause of human rights.

More than ever this year is a witness to the blossoming of human rights as an ideal and value in action.  The uprisings that spring from the Arab world, the protests that sweep major cities and urban centers in Europe, the Americas and Africa, the continuing difficult situations in Asia, all of which highlight the mainstreaming of human rights in governance and the aspiration of peoples for respect, protection, promotion and defense for human rights.  These conditions bring out the core spirit of people to be human rights defenders.  Young and old, male and female or whatever sexual orientation, rich and poor, summon all their voices together in pains of oppression in crying out mantras of non-discrimination, people empowerment and development, equality and human rights for all.

With these mantras, many tools have been mustered to usher effective advocacies and facilitate peoples’ solidarity with those who face persecution.  The social media for one made people see the actions going on.  Captured pictures and videos not allowed in a ‘seemingly’ controlled media have found their way through available modern communication technology, reaching even the remotest areas many people have not known to exist.  Appeals for help and international solidarity are made timely, on time and online.   ‘Revolutions’ for human rights have become virtual reality through communication gadgets made available for ordinary people.  What is inspiring, people have mastered these technologies to spread out the news, the truth and the dream of people to be free.  And, recognize the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world (UDHR, 1948; ICCPR, 1966; ICESCR, 1966).

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