Poll bets urged to present clear human rights plan of action

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Poll bets urged to present clear human rights plan of action
Relatives of victims of extra-judicial killings attend a memorial mass ahead of All Soul's Day to remember their loved ones slain in the government's war on drugs, at the Commission on Human Rights in Manila on Oct. 29, 2021.
AFP / Jam Sta. Rosa

MANILA, Philippines — A human rights watchdog called on candidates in the May elections to present clear and comprehensive plans on how they will address the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines.

Amnesty International Philippines relaunched Friday its election campaign ‘Sagot Mo Ba Ako?’ with an open letter asking 52 candidates running for top government positions to address issues affecting Filipinos’ right to security of person, health, education, labor and social security, and freedom of expression.

In the letter, the organization stressed that human rights are still neglected and violated in the country.

“To every candidate running in this year’s elections—for the presidency especially, this is a reminder, a call to action, and a challenge: Show us your commitment to human rights. Prove to us that human rights have a place in your action plans, speeches, and intentions,” the letter read.

Poll aspirants were urged to present their plan of action on the following issues:

  • Government accountability on the ‘war on drugs’: How will you ensure justice for the victims and accountability for the perpetrators?
  • Facilitating COVID-19 recovery and strengthening healthcare system and services: What are your plans to facilitate the country’s recovery from the pandemic?
  • Upholding social security and labor rights: How will you manage the country’s increasing debt while ensuring that vulnerable sectors are not left behind?
  • Accessible, quality and responsive education: How will you support students, teachers and staff before, during, and after the opening of schools?
  • Protection of journalists, human rights defenders, and freedom of expression: How will you protect journalists, human rights defenders and citizens who are critical of the government?

“These issues reflect how the human rights situation in the country took a turn for the worse from one administration to another,” said Butch Olano, Amnesty International section director.

“It is very unfortunate that our human rights agenda now includes prioritizing the most basic rights, guaranteed by the constitution, and that the Filipino people still need to ask for better health care, decent work or freedom from fear and want—these are the bare minimum,” he added.

READEuropean Parliament calls for end to red-tagging, killings in Philippines

Leader with integrity

Amnesty International Philippines said it is crucial that the next leaders share the same values of justice, equality and non-discrimination, “which were almost non-existent in Duterte’s administration.”

“We want a leader who has integrity, who abides by the principles of democracy and good governance,” Olano said.

“Filipinos are all aware of the horrors of martial law, Philippine presidents who served after Marcos’ regime failed at pulling the country from the rut the dictator left us in, Duterte [sank] us even deeper,” he added.

Duterte's administration has been marked by human rights abuses and climate of impunity.

Olano stressed that another leader who disregards human rights “will further bring us to our knees.”

“We have the power to prevent that in May.”

Opinion polls showed the son and namesake of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos as the frontrunner to succeed Duterte. Under the elder Marcos' Martial Law, 70,000 people were detained, 34,000 were tortured and 3,240 were killed. 

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