Senate bill seeks to create specialized subject on human rights

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Senate bill seeks to create specialized subject on human rights
This file photo shows a protester holding a placard that says, "Uphold human rights."
The STAR / KJ Rosales, File

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Leila de Lima wants all students in all educational levels to be taught about basic human rights principles.

Noting that human rights education is merely incorporated in existing subjects, De Lima filed Senate Bill 1145, which seeks to institutionalize human rights as a separate and specialized subject in both basic and higher education.

“In a time when human rights violations are rampant and pervasive [i]t is but the State’s responsibility to protect every citizen against abuse both by state and private actors,” De Lima, former chair of the Commission on Human Rights, said.

If passed into law, it will require the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education to formulate teaching modules that will cover introduction to equality, non-discrimination, human dignity, inclusion, empowerment and environmental awareness.

The teaching modules should also focus on personal values, attitudes and behavior that promote one’s responsibility in promoting human rights and provide practical information for protecting oneself from gender-based abuses.

“Human rights education must be taught from early childhood education onwards to build a strong, positive human rights culture where everyone’s rights are fully protected and realized,” De Lima said.

Appreciation level

A 2012 study commissioned by the CHR and United Nations Development Program reported that human rights education in the Philippines was taught at the appreciation level only.

Among the study’s recommendations was to “deepen human rights education and go beyond the appreciation level.”

In a 2018 interview with Philstar.com, Carlos Conde, Human Rights Watch Asia division researcher, said that human rights education in the Philippines has waned since the ouster of dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. more than three decades ago.

“We thought everything was okay now and we should go about rebuilding our lives after the dictatorship. Many of us thought [there] was little point in dwelling in the past so we neglected to sustain human rights education, forgetting that human rights awareness is part of upholding human rights,” Conde said.

CHR spokesperson Jacqueline De Guia also acknowledged there is a “serious” decline in the appreciation of human rights.

“It is a challenge for the commission right now to change public perception and to convey that human rights is non-partisan and we are not anti-government nor do we take a contrary stance against the government,” she said in 2018.

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