Human rights protection goes beyond motherhood statements
By Jason de Asis

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, December 11, 2010-The world observed the International Human Rights Day last December 10, marking the day of the 1948 UN General Assembly’s adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As expected, so-called human rights advocates have joined the chorus of those calling for “pro-active measures that would ensure respect and promotion of human rights.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada said that the human rights of the masses should be protected as they are frequently the primary victims of HR violations.
Jinggoy says human rights are the supreme inherent and inalienable rights to life, to dignity, and to self-development, encompassing the areas of civil, political, economic, social and cultural aspects of each person’s existence. He says it is ironic that despite the many laws of our land and the several international declarations and agreements on human rights, violations of these rights persist in our country, and in majority of these instances, the masses – the poor, those lacking in formal education and those living in far-flung and less-developed parts of our country – are usually the victims,” he lamented.
The senator said the persistence of HR violations in the country is largely attributed to the lack of operational systems and mechanisms to prevent such violations, and to the lack of knowledge and information among many people themselves, especially the masses, on the rights that they should be enjoying – and be fighting for, whenever the need arises.
He went on to note that human rights is a struggle in  all fronts – in the factory, in sweatshops, on the streets, in the home, as well as in courts, in jails and detention centers, and in all places and situations where the dignity of the human person is simplified, or even trivialized.
“It is the duty of the government to operate and to institute all needed systems and mechanisms that would give real substance to all HR laws and declarations. In this regard, I am pushing for truly pro-active measures that would ensure protection and promotion of human rights in our country, especially to our people’s most immediate societies: their neighborhood communities, the barangays and the schools,” says the senator.
In pursuit of his HR advocacy, Jinggoy has pushed for enactment of certain legislative measures to ensure protection of human rights such as Senate Bill 917 (Establishment of Barangay Human Rights Action Centers); SB 2475: Human Rights Resource Center Act; SB 567 (Mandatory Teaching of Human Rights in all Public and Private Schools); and SB 530 (Internal Displacement Act Providing the Necessary Mechanisms for the Prevention of the Occurrence of, and Protection from, the Adverse Effects of Internal Displacement).

One can always claim he is pushing for human rights protection and taking the cudgels for human rights victims and no one can question the sincerity of the good senator in pushing for this centerpiece measures. One might even argue that he was himself a victim of violations of human rights when the unlamented Arroyo administration subjected him and his father to political persecution. But are these measures really the solution to cases of HR violations in our midst?

Let’s look at the proposed bills more closely and dissect each measure if it can really make a dent on efforts to preserve and to protect human rights of the individual.

SB 917, which calls for the establishment of barangay human rights action centers, may be a good idea because it brings to the barangay level the attempt to institutionalize HR protection. But can HR action centers wield influence in the barangay where the barangay captain exercises power, authority and influence over his constituency? We have heard of several barangay chairmen committing abuses left and right with little regard if at all to the rights of a person in the barrio. Yet we seldom heard of abusive barangay executives being hailed to court or meted out punishment for offenses related to HR violations. They are always the offenders of people’s rights and if ever we come to hear their rights being violated, it is when some barangay chairmen were murdered in cold-blood supposedly for payment of political debts for having swindled or gypped his mayor and switching loyalty to his political foe for some material considerations.

SB 567, which calls for mandatory teaching of human rights in all public and private schools may be a laudable move but for the consideration of the good senator, some of the most prominent human rights violators and oppressors in the academe are teachers who physically and verbally abuse their students, embarrass them before the class and give them failing grades for refusing to toe the line. Even brilliant students get harassed and slapped with bad marks in school for perceived incompetence when the teachers themselves cannot make it easy for his/her students to expedite learning.

By the way, can we expect abusive teachers to teach HR subjects to their students and pupils who might later invoke the same teachings to get back to their oppressors? Abusive teachers simply cannot practice what they preach in the same way as priests cannot possibly require their flock to be holy if they themselves are unholy.

Senator Jinggoy, for sure, meant well by his proposals but at the end of the day, it is still strict implementation of HR tenets that should count. We have so many laws in this land but with failed governance, these laws don’t have any teeth at all.

By the way, with the death penalty effectively abolished in our country, we have ensured protection for the human rights of killers, rapists and the Ampatuans in our midst without taking cognizance of the parallel rights of their victims. One might say only God gave life and only He can take it away in trying to defend the cause of killers and heinous crime offenders in our midst.

Yeah I agree, they have a right to life. But they have no right to take once life.
Tabla-tabla lang ika nga. (Jason de Asis)