On valuing human lives — and human rights

HOTSPOT - Mocha Uson - The Philippine Star

"Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives.”

This is probably the most remarkable statement of President Duterte during his third state of the nation address last July 23. Defending his stand on the ongoing war on drugs, his statement seals the fact that he remains unnerved by human rights advocates. I know it has been a week since the SONA, but this particular line in his speech continues to draw flak from various sources and groups, but this is already no surprise to me.

The Duterte administration has been consistent in its fight against drugs, and as of June 2018, there has been 102,630 anti-drug operations conducted, over 147,802 personalities arrested and 1,161 minors rescued, resulting to over P21.3 billion worth of drugs and 6,652 drug-cleared barangays. Unfortunately, these triumphs still pale in comparison whenever new names are added to the list of casualties of the ongoing drug war – most especially when these are put into the spotlight by media. I am still, and I guess I will always be, astonished at how mainstream media and their cohorts cry for human rights violations against the government, to think the latter is just doing its job in protecting its people from the ills of illegal drugs, and this is a clear gesture of valuing not just human rights, but more importantly, human life.

There are ongoing arguments that say human rights and human lives cannot be dealt with separately, but the government, through the leadership of President Duterte, is dealing with these two subjects as one. How so? In this context, illegal drugs in our country have become a social cancer. People who become involved in substances such as methamphetamine or marijuana are not the sole casualty of the vice, but also their friends and loved ones who have learned to adjust with their choices. How heartbreaking is it for a wife who knows her husband is fixated with shabu, or for a son whose parents are junkies? How should a daughter cope with a father who cannot come to her aid because he is high? Drugs deprive us the right to be happy, to enjoy life and its liberties, and this is exactly what the government is taking action on.

While we are not discounting the fact that there are collateral damage that has resulted from the drug war, it is worth noting that the government’s actions are not just to address immediate needs, but to provide for a safer future for the nation. I am not even saying that these casualties serve as sacrificial lambs; rather, the pronouncement of the drug war should have just been a firm deterrent – a preventive measure against those who continue to join the trade, but they did not heed. They did not listen. Hence, the war has become real, all for the sake of protecting more lives, for the sake of letting those who genuinely want to live, enjoy life to the fullest.

I also do not understand why we tend to brag about our freedoms and yet we do not know how to responsibly use them. In other countries, people are willing to give up some of their freedoms in order to enjoy long-term aspirations, such as economic stability, security and community peace, and these are the countries that are doing very well. Why can’t we do the same and rather focus on what will benefit us most, as individuals and as a society? Worse, many of us have the guts to say we “uphold human rights.”

It is clear to me that the Commission on Human Rights is tasked to investigate all forms of human rights violations in our country, including those who became involved with the drug war. But beyond the mandate to investigate and expose the human rights violations they uncover, the CHR also carries the function of recommending effective measures to protect and promote human rights. This function I believe is the one they need to focus on the most, as how else can we fully appreciate human rights when we have no concrete options and platforms to celebrate them?

We should not be divided between upholding human rights and valuing human lives, because they always go hand-in hand. Rather, we should learn how to respect and dignify human life by not doing things that make it go to waste, such as joining the drug trade.

The President is merely doing his job. He is doing his best to lead the nation toward peace and progress. But he cannot do it alone. He needs us, and it is time we do our part.




  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with